DiscoverDickens and Quips - Poetry Pod05 Alice Gretton and Kayo Chingonyi
05 Alice Gretton and Kayo Chingonyi

05 Alice Gretton and Kayo Chingonyi

Update: 2020-10-12


Welcome to the fifth episode of Dickens and Quips!

                                                                                         This week we have Alice Gretton on the show and I shall be reading from Kumukunda by Kayo Chingonyi.

Find Alice at @jalicegretton on Twitter and @alicerosegretton on Insta You can also find her on Facebook @alicegrettonartist

Kayo Chingonyi is @kayochingonyi on Twitter.

We are at

Twitter: @dickensandquips

Instagram: @dickensandquips


Prompt for this week is "beehive" and you don't have to be an established poet to submit a poem.

Featured poems:

OCD poem by Neil Hilborn

The first time I saw her,

Everything in my head went quiet.

All the ticks, all the constantly refreshing images just disappeared.

When you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you don't really get quiet moments.

Even in bed, I'm thinking:

Did I lock the doors? Yes.

Did I wash my hands? Yes.

Did I lock the doors? Yes.

Did I wash my hands? Yes.

But when I saw her, the only thing I could think about was the hairpin curve of her lips..

Or the eyelash on her cheek-

the eyelash on her cheek-

the eyelash on her cheek.

I knew I had to talk to her.

I asked her out six times in thirty seconds.

She said yes after the third one, but none of them felt right, so I had to keep going.

On our first date, I spent more time organizing my meal by color than I did eating it, or talking to her..

But she loved it.

She loved that I had to kiss her goodbye sixteen times or twenty-four times at different times of the day.

She loved that it took me forever to walk home because there are lots of cracks on our sidewalk.

When we moved in together, she said she felt safe, like no one would ever rob us because I definitely lock the door eighteen times.

I'd always watch her mouth when she talked-

when she talked-

when she talked-

when she talked;

when she said she loved me, her mouth would curl up at the edges.

At night, she'd lay in bed and watch me turn all the lights off... And on, and off, and on, and off, and on, and off, and on, and off, and on, and off.

She'd close her eyes and imagine that the days and nights were passing in front of her.

But then... She said I was taking up too much of her time.

That I couldn't kiss her goodbye so much because I was making her late for work...

When she said she loved me, her mouth was a straight line...

When I stopped in front of a crack in the sidewalk, she just kept walking...

And last week she started sleeping at her mother's place.

She told me that she shouldn't have let me get so attached to her; that this whole thing was a mistake, but...

How can it be a mistake that I don't have to wash my hands after I touch her?

Love is not a mistake, and it's killing me that she can run away from this and I just can't.

I can't go out and find someone new because I always think of her.

Usually, when I obsess over things, I see germs sneaking into my skin.

I see myself crushed by an endless succession of cars..

And she was the first beautiful thing I ever got stuck on.

I want to wake up every morning thinking about the way she holds her steering wheel...

How she turns shower knobs like she opening a safe.

How she blows out candles-

blows out candles-

blows out candles-

blows out candles-

blows out—….

Now, I just think about who else is kissing her.

I can't breathe because he only kisses her once—he doesn't care if it's perfect!

I want her back so bad...

I leave the door unlocked.

I leave the lights on.

Some Bright Elegance by Kayo Chingonyi

For the screwfaced in good shoes that paper

the walls of dance halls. I have little patience.

I say dance, not to be seen but to be free, your feet

are made for better things. Feel the bitterness

in you lift as it did for a six year old Bojangles

tapping a living out of Richmond beer gardens

to the delight of a crowd that wasn’t lynching

today but laughing at the quickness of the kid.

Throw yourself into the thick, emerging pure

reduced to flesh and bone, nerve and sinew.

Your folded arms understand music. Channel

a packed Savoy Ballroom and slide across

the dusty floor as your zoot-suited twenties

self, the feather in your hat from an Ostrich,

the swagger in your step from the ochre dust

of a West African village. Dance for the times

you’ve been stalked by store detectives

for a lady on a bus, for the look of disgust

on the face if a boy too young to understand

why he hates but only that he must. Dance

for Sammy, dead and penniless, and for the

thousands still scraping a buck as street corner

hoofers who, though they dance for their food,

move as if it is only them and the drums, talking.

Some Bright Eloquence by Dee Dickens

After Kayo Chingonyi 


To the black girl sitting in the corner, surrounded by white friends, I see you. I see you wearing a weave that marks you as a fern among English roses 


I was you. 

This is for you. 

You are beautiful as you are. 


So, dance, without trying to ape the shapes of your contemporaries. 

move as though the mothers of your mothers taught you what your body is for, 

unashamed, unembarrassed, a vessel for the universe to play its music. 

Let your arms embrace the sky as your feet absorb 

the rhythm of the earth, spin with its axis. 


I see you, worried about how you look, absorbing words like thicc so you can embrace rather confront the curves your grandmothers gave you.  


I was you, starving myself so my breasts and backside wouldn’t show in a world that already sees us as inherently sexual, 

Trying to make myself invisible.  

You are perfect as you are. 


So, eat, mango and papaya, and chicken your mates proclaim they’re too white for. Use your hands, and let the juices run down your smiling chin, pity laughing at the ones who have never chewed the meat from a pork chop bone. 


Savour every bite of rice as wild as you are, know that it was sorted by hand to weed out imperfections. 


I see you, struggling to accept your hair, using unguents and lotions and straighteners and perms. 

I was you. Getting perm upon perm, killing my hair to look like the colonisers, anything to fit in, whatever you can to be unnoticed. Please don’t see me, please don’t hurt me, please don’t kill me. 

You are faultless as you are. 


So, get your hair cornrowed, feel the fingers of your grandmothers entwine their stories into your tresses, making them yours to pass along. Tell your stories to girl children who are struggling, make sure they understand, they are stunning as they are. 


I hear you, your voice trembling as you claim your space in the world. 

I was you, whispering into the void of my mirror, hairbrush microphone, falsetto with fear. Fear of being heard, fear of being noticed, fear of the ridicule that comes with breathing, fear of the pain of taking up room, fear of being here. 


So, sing, let your soul resonate, release the pain, the joy, the sheer immediacy of being alive. Open yourself to be a conduit for the ancestors, let your song come from a choir of colour, let crowned black cranes burst fully formed from your chest. 


To the black girl sitting in the corner, surrounded by white friends, I say this to you. 


You are made for better things. Take them. Embrace them. Be them. 









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05 Alice Gretton and Kayo Chingonyi

05 Alice Gretton and Kayo Chingonyi