Rowyda Amin was born in Newfoundland, Canada, to parents of Saudi Arabian and Irish origin. She has lived in Riyadh and is now based in London. In 2009, she was awarded the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for poetry. Her poems have appeared in Magma, Wasafiri, Notes from the Underground, Rising, Calabash, The Frogmore Papers, and the anthologies Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), Coin Opera (Sidekick Books, 2009) and Exposure (CinnamonPress, 2010). Rowyda is a PhD candidate at Birkbeck, University of London, where she is completing a thesis on the topic of ‘Identity in Arab Diaspora Fiction’. She has reviewed books for Modern Poetry in Translation and the Poetry Book Society website.
Slideshow faces flicker from the station.
You’re following the mood to London Bridge
where taxis cruise black as death’s pyjamas.
The Thames you find is glacier silk, shantied
with booths and carousels. Five screaming hens
speed by in a white horse sleigh. Ballad singers
busk their vagrant lines. Alas my love, you do me wrong.
Crowds scoff hotdogs and candyfloss,
cheer as Punch batters Judy with the baby.
Hog roasts spit fat on the ice, children watching
with faces pink and hot. Thy girdle of gold so red.
Falling snow feathers the whipped bear moonwalking in chains.
It looks at you with marshmallow eyes
and you want to take its arms and zip over the ice,
feel fur on your cheeks, skating against the wind to the estuary
where the ice breaks apart, but you smile, hands in pockets,
and turn to the skittles and acrobats,
sugared crepes and hot wine.
And yet thou wouldst not love.
Previously published in Magma, Issue 45, and Ten
(Bloodaxe Books, 2010).
He stayed behind the fridge until he was sure
there was no one left, then stepped through
the litter of glass and abandoned suppers
to the podium with the Yamaha synth.
He righted the stool and played, as he did
most evenings, the themes from Love Story,
Casablanca and Titanic. Rain squalled
through the empty door frames. A dog
entered, shook itself, licked the cream
from a fallen éclair and urinated on the leg
of a waiter, which was sticking out
from behind the bar. The pianist broke
for a whiskey then switched to show tunes.
Water pooled into the centre of the room.
He heard claps, far off but getting louder.
Ex-lover with Seaweed
Is that you on the shore,
wearing a mask of seaweed
and a wet suit,
slick and dark green?
It looks slimy and is swarming
with tiny fleas that hop
up and down
but never leave your orbit.
You seem to be suffering
in your kelp suit,
you don’t know
how you got wrapped into it, tight
as the bandages on a burn victim
but you lift a corner and pull
to show me it’s not coming off.
You tug at the mask
but the rubbery green
is flush with your lips.
The seaweed owns you like a new name.
I can’t help you, I say
as you hold out
your palm blistering with airbladders.
Your tongue is a green strand
swishing from your mouth,
but I can’t stop long.
Previously published in Magma, Issue 45.
She flinched only as I began
the black frame of the Emerald Swallowtail
poised to land on a blossom of the cherry branch
that bloomed across her back.
When I’d wiped off the rust of blood
and excess colour and padded her latest with gauze,
she slipped her shirt back on
and we drank coffee
while a teenage boy searched through flash sheets
to find the right kanji for his arm.
She showed me pictures of fritillaries
she wanted inked in the spaces
on her lower back and thighs.
The boy settled on ‘death’
and took her place.
See you after payday she said,
but never did except for the night in June
when I woke silver with honeydew
and she stood in the doorway,
her body a flutter of bright little wings
and antennae curling away from her
like cursive script
and the butterflies flew to me,
flattening themselves against my skin,
each eager proboscis
burying deep in the tissues.
Previously published in The Shuffle Anthology (2008 – 2009)
(The Shuffle Press,2009) and Ten (Bloodaxe Books, 2009).
At forty three, Memmie le Blanc
lives by making artificial flowers,
exhibits herself to the curious
and sells them copies
of Madame Hecquet’s Histoire
d’une Jeune Fille Sauvage Trouvée
dans les Bois à l’âge de dix ans.
She stays off the Paris streets,
folds her long tree-climbing fingers
morning and night for prayer.
When she sleeps, windows open
for the breeze, the body she holds
stiff as a nun disappears. Her toes
touch grass and she is the wild girl, quick
as a spring, who chased down a hare
and dropped it, bloody and warm,
at the Queen of Poland’s feet.
Previously published in Coin Opera (Sidekick Books, 2009).
Order Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe, 2010).
Order Coin Opera (Sidekick Books, December 2009).
Order Magma, Issue 45, edited by Clare Pollard.
Visit Rowyda’s website.