This year marks the 150th anniversary of the London Underground (the “Tube”). It is the world’s oldest subway system!
It’s also 27 years since a small group of people came up with the clever idea of asking the London Transport authorities to put poems on the Tube for the public to enjoy. Fortunately for us all, they agreed.
This year’s poems all relate to London, but the organisers hope their selection “will also reflect the city in its diversity, a refuge for exiles and immigrants and a beacon for visitors from all over the world.“
One of the selected pieces is by the Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes, and he has kindly agreed to let us publish it here.
That first winter, the true meaning
of all the classroom rhymes that juggled snow
and go, old and cold, acquired new leanings.
With reluctance I accepted the faux
deafness and odd looks my Accra greetings
attracted, but I couldn’t quell my deep
yearning for contact, warmth, recognition,
the shape of my renown on someone’s lips.
Always the canny youth whose history
entailed life on skeletal meal rations
during the Sahel drought of eighty-three,
I lingered in London gares to carry
cases for crocked and senior citizens;
barters for a smile’s costless revelry.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes is from Ghana. He writes novels, poems, short stories, articles and songs. On his website, under-16’s will be directed to the Schools Site, where there is information about his poetry workshops with schools.
Poem source: Free Word