Surge by Jay Bernard

Surge

Jay Bernard

Jay Bernard's poetry is an exploration of identity and loss, telling of people coming to Britain, struggling to adapt to life in a new culture. The stories are told by people from the past and the present with specific reference to the New Cross massacre of 1981 and the Grenfell Tower disaster of 2017; history repeating itself a generation apart with no lessons learned. This is a very moving collection - complex and memorable.

Extract

From Proof

I came here when I was six -

I was dark skinned in a thin dress and I loved my grandmother - and she raised me with my three sisters who still stand waving me goodbye -

I was the first to come to England, and when I arrived, I knew - I knew - something had happened to me - I knew that what I saw in the mirror had been darkened, differently arranged - when I looked at myself in my new coat and boots I saw - I saw - something like a net that catches death -

I was the child of two strangers with my last name - who bathed me - scrubbed me with the seawater at the bottom of their lives -
two ghosts rubbing soap on my shoulders -
two dead people in their house clothes telling me to wash my neck -

I feel - I feel like I have to hold on - and say - and say -
I don't want to die in this country - let me die with my grandmother -
I want to be rotted by the sun -
and I want her shadow to fall along my body -
and I want to be shaded by her grief -
and I want the dogs to hanker for my bones -
I want to be eaten by worms and become an ackee tree -
lord, I said - I said it in such a whisper
I could have put the ground to sleep -

don't let me die in England I said to the pavement -
to the sea-black rain -
and never tell my grandmother why I never called -
never called to say that I thought of her daily -
that I suffered with the weight of what she had freely given -

Parallels
  • Too Black Too Strong by Benjamin Zephaniah
  • Darling: new and selected poems by Jackie Kay
  • Division Street by Helen Mort

Books with similar mood

Please Look After Mother

Kyung-sook Shin

The Maid's Request

Michele Desbordes

The Blind Rider

Juan Goytisolo

The Tidings of the Trees

Wolfgang Hilbig

At the Time of Partition

Moniza Alvi

By Night in Chile

Roberto Bolano

Slow Air

Robin Robertson

A Mouthful of Glass

Henk van Woerden

The Daylight Gate

Jeanette Winterson

The Mussel Feast

Birgit Vanderbeke

When the Time Comes

Josef Winkler

Where I Left My Soul

Jerome Ferrari

The Bleeding of the Stone

Ibrahim Al-Koni

101 Poems by 101 Women

Germaine Greer (editor)

Small Country

Gaël Faye

On Cigarette Papers

Pam Zinnermann-Hope

Say Something Back

Denise Riley

The Vegetarian

Han Kang

Skyline

Patricia Schonstein Pinnock

Oh Sweden! Oh Israel!

Stephan Mendel-Enk

Runt

Niall Griffiths

The Swallows of Kabul

Yasmina Khadra

Unaccustomed Earth

Jhumpa Lahiri

Arkady

Patrick Langley

Chasing the King of Hearts

Hanna Krall

The Broken Word

Adam Foulds

Web of Secrets

Denise Harris

Days Like Today

Rachel Ingalls

The Innocent

David Szalay

The Horizontal Instrument

Christopher Wilkins

Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt

Yasmine El Rashidi

A Meal in Winter

Hubert Mingarelli

Foreign Bodies

Cynthia Ozick

My Name Is Sei Shonagon

Jan Blensdorf

The Brothers

Asko Sahlberg

Bee Journal

Sean Borodale

Not to speak of the dog: 101 short stories in verse

Christopher Reid (ed)

The Deer Wedding

Penny Simpson

The Gospel of Us

Owen Sheers