Featured Poet: Yannick Marshall

[from Old Friend, We Made This for You]


Yannick Marshall — Waiting for Metro from Baraza Video on Vimeo.


i have a gun

in a Hardo Bread bag

waiting for Metro marching from the marshlands of Suburbia,

to occupy our lands


the snails will no longer be crushed,

by black boots


my sister was sleeping in my mother’s car at the GO station,

you came pounding at the window:

‘what are you doing here?’

‘there have been thefts’

‘where does your mother work?”

‘why don’t you walk home”

it was 1 in the morning,

we live past a dark park,

over quiet streets,

where nobody’s daughter should walk


i carry a gun

in a Hardo Bread bag

for the ones and ones who are accidentally murdered by police,

who are handcuffed, billy-clubbed, prostrated on gravel,

for the ones who are bled and hung from apartment balconies

where mothers with rollers in their hair

leave pots of curry, bend under telephone wire clotheslines

and bawl,

look out through the traffic smog and bawl,

i carry a gun

for those whose blood police carry back to the mayor in buckets,

to wash down the TTC,

to scrub the pigeon shit from the streets

to baptize white liberalism


i have a gun

in a Hardo Bread bag

to protect against white women

who lament that Toronto is becoming Jane and Finch,

Albion mall, Regent park

who squeeze their purse

when we walk past them to the back of the bus


we run from police

above Ojibwa faces cemented in the sidewalks

their totems crouching beneath the powerlines

we jump walls, we lay in alleys, we slip

under cover of city smog,

Until the sun comes up and we slink out into the streets,

Like shell-less snails shivering under the shadow

Of black boots


one day you will look out your window

and we will be there, the loyalist slaves,

knee-length rags, tufts of prairie grass in our hair

standing in your cool, cool Suburbia

we will be there, noose in hand,

hiding behind your blue-bins

heart beating with the tantrum of a terrorist


i have a gun

in a Hardo Bread bag

Mau Mau dreads

soaked with the Talmud

sprinkled a top my head from Kemetic pitchers

happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones,

headlong into their lemonade stands,

pushing them off their tricycles,


happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones


and if I am a racist,

I am a realist


i have a gun

in a Hardo Bread bag

Because as sure as frost removes the nightgown from the Maple’s slender body,

As sure as the loon’s call will forever haunt the great canadian lakes,

As sure as the white wolf sings to the great white moon

we will kill you


They’re killing us slowly,

Shrieks on a wet road, shacks watching like prisoners

As AIDS beats another family to powder

From city lights to the farmlands

Napalm travels to our blood,

Through traffic lights, on wagons,

Leeches are dumped in the drinking water

Till we’re sucked dry

And ribs prod through skin

Like wildebeest carcasses

Flamingos perched on the traffic lights

Bending their wings to make the moonlight rose-coloured

As children are ushered to cardboard boxes on the streets of Harare,

Gassed stomachs and pink foot-bottoms,

Mauve geckos scattered over the markets like old vegetables

By the shed’s light,

(Making toilet bowl water an impressionist painting)

She waits like a model in a window

For a man that will make her body forget the heat,

They crash onto a springless mattress

Pumping each other like septic tanks

Until the steam subsides

And their bodies are matted with the wetness of leeches

Condom puppet shows,

Shiny billboards-

Vultures still nest in the city

Soot sky, lint of night in the village

Ashen moon, crow feathered masks

Black spiral braids

Djembe drummers and wailing

For children quiet as dolls

Stone eyes on the sidewalk

Carried across the sunset

Like the herds of Mogadishu

They’ve stopped slicing up Mama

But left her body convulsing,

And our revolt?

Flinging dirt or laced letters

At vanishing ships

[from Empress]


I sweat with love, heat, I perspire with a fever

That scorches even the mouths of the mosquitoes that drink my blood.

Yearning, fingers like termites ready to gnaw into your soft mahogany,

To people your cities, gush buckets of water over my skin

So the farmers no longer fear the Harmattan spreading my fire to the fields

I Obeah you Obeah me.

Why I stammer, why I stutter, why I scamper to your residence

Like a mongrel freshly beaten, reddened with the dust of Maun.

Tonight is a night to make love; it is a night to be exhausted,

To burrow into each other in pursuit of springs.

A night to hate each other’s bodies, give up to the pain

Like slaves forced to make love in the snatches of escape.

I will speak words that charm your thighs to rippling rivers.

I will use brute force to reign in rain mists from the Zambezi

To pata pata over your yard and send locusts to limping flight…

Woman of the rainwind.

I am waiting at the earthen walls of your Malian bathhouse,

Listening to our love shower, buckets of water dashed over your head

As I imagine your twinkling.

I will re-enchant those stars, make them shiver down to your ankles

Scarring the hummingbirds from your nectar

Woman of the rainwind.

Mock me all you want.

I am not that gaunt dog

Panting like the Kalahari

For love splashed over red dirt

Like soured milk,

I am the rainmaker. My juju is strong.

I will reel in your cyclone from the heaves

Wheel it around my chest and be ever-immersed.

Woman of the rainwind,

Woman of mirages,

I am like the Vodunsi of Galilee.

Like Peter walking on water to the figure on the waves

Waiting to drown

In the rain-blue blasting of your love

_2Yannick Marshall was born in Toronto, Canada to a Jamaican mother and St. Lucian father. He has published two collections of poetry, Old Friend, We Made This for You and Empress. He has also published a number of poems in literary journals and magazines including Wasafirisx salon, and Black Renaissance Noire. He is a third year doctoral student in Columbia University’s department of Middle East, South Asian and African studies