Grandfather Poem

May 9, 2012

Man made of land and oil and parchment,
Man made of tin and maps and Romeros,
Man made of ink and contracts –

Man flecked with Mexican Ambassadors:
His Grandfather served to the Court of St James;
His father, Joseph, his mother, Josephine.

Man made of candles and rosaries,
Man made of monks and suitcases, 
Man made of languages:
French, Arabic, Swahili; English.

My Grandfather served in the Sudanese Government
In the final years of the British Empire;
Post colonial, pre the exodus,
My Grandfather left, before the collapsidus, 
My Grandfather moved to Basrah, Iraq. 
My Grandfather worked for Persian Petroleum,
Pushed a pen, on an Arabian oil field.
My Grandfather listened to oil through a glass.
My Grandfathered wired for black gold bars.

Man made of cocktail hours and tennis,
Man made of cucumber and lettuce.
Man made of armies and men on elephants,
African Nannies in white cloth aprons.

Grandfather, Grandfather, Department of Commerce,
Zambia Professor, University of Singapore,
Grandfather, Grandfather, Kuala Lumpur,
Professor of Accountancy, Institute of Swaziland.

His Father, His Father, importer of feathers,
Made rich on plantations of sugar and fetters.

His Father, his Father, South African Ostriches
Hung up and dyed, like trophies, or hostages

Grandfather, Grandfather, the family motto:
‘Heaven helps those who help themselves’

Grandfather, Grandfather,
My guilt edged mortgage –

My basement,
My brickwork,
My stained glass view.

Grandfather, Grandfather
oh promenades
oh ivory towers –

Grandfather, Grandfather,
our National Health.

Eh shah eh nigh
el hey hareem.


I lift up mine eyes to the hills.
From whence cometh our help?

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