Malakaï is a writer, producer and director guy who works bare within theatre to promote inclusivity within the performing arts sector. You can find him sitting in a lot of meetings, often as the only brown person, staring blankly while pretending to take notes. Really, he's probably jotting down ideas for a poem, play or essay about gentrification, black masculinity, being sad for no reason or his nan. He is an alumni of the Barbican Young Poets collective, and currently co-runs poetry movement Veranda and is Co Executive Director of The S+K Project.
and Tottenham is at it again.
getting dressed in the dark,
wearing only a trauma-stained tracksuit
with a drawstring wrapped soul-crushingly tight around the waste
of time we pretend to have.
we converse in acronyms bc eloquence is lfm,
and “gmt is the white man’s philosophy” anyway –
tbh, we work better in bmt
all of my niggas is casket pretty,
death crops up the same way as new betting shops –
stifling, inescapable, welcoming –
arms stretched out like the florist whose smile
is a little bit too wide,as if she doesn’t know
ain’t no-one safe in this happy city
I hope you make it —
is a gushing stab wound stitched together on an IKEA bed frame,
life itself falling victim to the cold concrete palms below,
catching the blood dancing through the gaps in crooked wooden slats.
crimson waltzes with the ground to the tune of
a stolen shopping trolley
full of melancholy –
we are nothing but 5p bag citizens,
disposable, toying with suicide
like we do with the wind
and the kids are at it again.
we roam through back streets and market crowds,
marking territory with rusted bikes
and not-quite-empty boxes of chips
littered outside the community dining room of Chick-King, an inconvenience
to the rough edges we circle,
never quite finding a corner to call our own –
left scattered like chewed up gum; spat out and crushed,
forgotten and left to blacken
decaying sweetly in fruit bowls
or prison cells
and the police are at it again.
crossing the road to pree,
and stop and search
for a fucking purpose.
do you taste the neglect on our skin
when your rounded jaws crunch on our wrists?
we make fists out of defiance or routine
and the lines have blurred between you and me.
you walk into bars and
we walk into bars
and get put behind them
and the mandem are at it again.
bare plotting, fare
hopping and scotching, hair
plaited up, conscious
to forget that we actually have one.
we smoked it all away,
we toke the day away
and we zone, 3
-ing our bros internally,
ashing out zoots on c
brick walls in solidarity,
sitting empty like the gums of the high street,
each derelict shop a reminder of this disease
sprawling across n15 + 17.
hope is the burnt maths book on the last day of exams,
willingly destroyed because
when will I use you again
in real life anyway?
• Ask nan why she keeps so much junk in her room.
I think the biggest divide between myself and my nan who I write about in FEAR OF MOVEMENT – excluding the three generations between us – is the fact that she’s a compulsive hoarder. Anyone above 55 in my family seems to think that it’s a millennial / gen z thing to live like a “minimalist”, when in actual fact, I just don’t see the point in holding onto things like school ties or letters from crushes in year 4 (to clarify: the letters that I wrote, it’s not like I ever received any back.)
My nan has an abundance of things cluttering her room that she seems incapable of throwing away; when she turned 80 my mum tried to clear up her room as she entered this new decade, but nan really wasn’t about it. Everything mum had put in black bags in the front garden of the only house nan’s lived in since she came to the UK seemed to miraculously end up back in her room, positioned in exactly the same place it was just hours before. Each wall in her room is wallpapered in a series of floral swirls on a beige-pink background, tainted brown and peeling off in places by years of over-heating the house (central heating clearly gassed her), and off-white in other places where items have hung on the walls for so long.
There are calendars in that room going back as far as 2002, along with photos of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, some of whom aren’t blood related – my cousin’s primary school photo sits awkwardly next to a Daily Express-sponsored William and Kate stock photo –plastered across the room adjacent to ghost-like translucent bags covering suits and dresses that no-one has actually worn since the 80s. She sleeps next to crossword puzzles and remotes still in their plastic casing for TVs that she no longer owns, and is occasionally accompanied by her cat that she regularly misgenders. After spending a day attempting to declutter and being cussed out by nan, my mum realised she was fighting a losing battle.
When I asked nan why she hires a housekeeper to come once a week but cleans the house before they arrive she told me to mind my business. If anything sums up her pride, her resilience and how shady she’s become in her old age, it’s that. It was at that point that I became inspired to continue to question her while I’m blessed enough to have her in my life and note down the responses, despite the one-line answers I get from time to time.
• Find out more about Montserrat.
My nan came to Babylon after my great-grandad did, and he eventually “sent for her” and the children that she had at the time to come and join him. They’re both still very archaic in the phrasing of this expedition, and talk little of the journey itself; grandad will soon be 91 and his memory is going but he often used to go into tirades about the joys of Montserrat, his career there as a teacher, and the relationship with his parents. Nan on the other hand was always a lot more closed off, and often took coaxing with her favourite brand of brandy to talk more about her side of the family. It was only recently on one of these occasions where she started to open up, and I realised why she so often struggles to show affection beyond cooking for the family twice a week.
I know that she’ll buss a whine or a skank to some soca or reggae in the kitchen when she thinks no-one is looking; I know that she was orphaned as a child, with her dad dying at sea and her mum of a tumour in the throat; I know that she’s scared of planes, and hasn’t left the UK since she got here; I know that she has a fear of movement. I just don’t know the whys or the hows; I never know how she feels.
I try to allude to this in the poem, but to capture the complexities of my nan is a fool’s errand – I guess in that case I’m a dickhead for starting to write this poem. Please see below for a snippet of it.
I measure love in
the amount of silence we can carry between us
our arms faltering.
It was by silence that I knew
I could love.
I keep forgetting to edit the name of “The Family Group” on WhatsApp
in order to get rid of the
inverted commas – the only thing keeping us
is Nan’s Saturday soup
and the fragrance of basil in Sunday dinner.
she keeps trying to make the taste of death easier to swallow.
head thrown forward,
adopting brace position, her body is expulsive as
laughter hurtles towards the ground
in the hope that generations to come
can build on the foundations of her humour
instead of the underpinning trauma.
each chuckle reverberates around her body before
it leaves her mouth, rupturing the shell housing her decaying
sense of self.
torso stood to attention,
she lays with ankles ballooning across the bed,
caused by cooking dinners seven nights a week
for seven empty stomachs
for seven children starved of a mother’s touch;
reminiscent of the feeling in her throat
when waving a husband goodbye,
stood at the edge of that island,
chin held high – just like the British taught her –
as not to let the tears fall from her face;
protecting a brittle structure underneath,
deteriorating after six decades of bearing the weight of
sisters, and daughters and mothers. of women
whose journeys men
Malakaï said "I was making these pieces of music at a time where I definitely hadn't found my calling, in terms of the genre of music I wanted to produce, whether I wanted to produce music at all and just generally in the grand scheme of life (I was around 13/14, though, so surely that's expected?). That being said, I feel like these unmastered songs from my iPad somehow seem to connect and fuse multiple genres, which is reflective of me attempting to connect the dots of my tumultuous life at the time. I promise I wasn't on drugs, just confused.