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‘We count hard currency. We reach too hard for our beautiful, unreachable futures.’

We continue our ‘Introducing . . .’ series, where BooksfromScotland highlight the work of up-and-coming writers, with the poetry of Clementine E. Burley.
Clementine E. Burnley is a writer, poet and community organiser based in Edinburgh. Her work has been featured in Ink, Sweat and Tears, and Barren Magazine, as well as the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology anthology One for the Cows. She’s been in the final selection for various flash and short story prizes. In 2021 she made a video for the Edwin Morgan Trust. In 2020 her work featured in Sorry I Was On Mute, part of the Fringe of Colour Films. She’s an alumna of The Obsidian Foundation and the Purple Hibiscus Trust.

 

On Luing

The scent of early, ripe soft fruit
is unfamiliar among last night’s wreckage
of bottled chilli sauces on the fridge top

He has brought the groceries in before
the slow trudge back into a world
I now imagine

While I work from home
as if work had not gone on at home
all the while

The thing I do at home is called love
the thing he does outside is called work

He has left the fire banked and porage oats in a bowl
He has left the creamy white milk ready to be poured

And later I will point to the strawberries grey with rot
and no more English than the pickers were Spanish
or I, Scottish but here we all are

And later his eye will find
the few good fruit I overlook

 

The lone citizen must save himself

On the first night, the warden flashes a thumbs-up sign. His face is tidy.
His fingers are onion-pale.
We stay cool.
We boil coffee from the Inter store; play music, mock, dance, tease. We knead flour and water, press the aseeda flat with empty beer bottles, clap sticky hands and watch the tiny white plumes spin from our fingers. We count hard currency. We reach too hard for our beautiful, unreachable futures.

Citizens pass back and forth under our single glazed window. She low sings. Époupa é ngéa, a little, perfect tune I will remember in fragments through the months of physical therapy. Head snuggled into her neck crook I draw in the unbaked bread smell. Her warmth penetrates my skin. I know époupa, is rain in energetic motion. Months later, it hurts to see rainclouds.

The second night, eager fists beat a tattoo on the entrance.
‘Tonight’ they chant.
The sour taste is fear. I want to ask; does she snatch at dreams and wake with her jaw clenched.

We pretend. On the other side of the city, open runways await us. We drape our coats over our faces. We escape over the rooftops. The old brightness shines from her eyes, then with a howl, the night ruptures. A thorn bush twines dark tendrils around us. The police stand back, pistols holstered. The warden’s trim figure fades.
This could be our country too; our rage, our inner void, our glut of flesh.

Towards morning, silence mounts like hate. Our medicine as Molotov cocktails rattle the first-floor windows is to make aseeda, gather in the basement kitchen and knead the loose shreds of us, bodies in search of places which no longer exist, coordinates on a map gone missing. We clap.
‘Outside,’ they chant.

 

For Caster Semenya
(After Gwendolyn Brooks)

We  stand tall. We
love soft. We

Boss tough. We
Chase dreams. We

Stay strong. We
Shoot straight, We

Dig deep. We
Don‘t quit. We

Zone in. We
Train first. We

Move fast. We
Kick ass. We

Win gold. We
Die hard.

 

‘On Luing’ was performed as part of the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe of Colour film series Sorry I Was On Mute, directed by Hannah Lavery.
‘The lone citizen’ was published in the 2020 Ad Hoc Fiction Anthology, With One Eye on the Cows: Bath Flash Fiction Volume Four.

You can find out more about Clementine’s work by following her on Twitter @decolonialheart and Instagram @ewokila

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