Literature

Captions & A Dream For John T Williams of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth tribe

The following poem by Raymond Antrobus is taken from the Rathbone Folio Prize- and Ted Hughes Award-winning- poet’s second collection, All The Names Given. Responding to a distressing academic paper highlighting the gaps in police and media training in dealing with disabled members of the public, Antrobus continues his literary investigation into language, miscommunication, and brutality

Untitled, 1994. Bruce Nauman

(sound of unstable air)

He fell facing away from the police officer,
four bullet holes on the left side of his body,
hands holding a block of cedar wood
and a three-inch blade he used to carve
canoes and faces into totem poles.

(announcing it is not over)

The police officer said:
I yelled at him to drop the knife.

(sound of something left out)

It took five seconds to shoot.

John T. William’s brother sat
on the pavement. He didn’t turn away
from the block of cedar wood
that still shone on the road.

(careful speech)

The reporters pushed microphones
into his face. My brother was deaf

(sound of no season)

He spoke each word
for the trembling broadcast as if
his brother could still read his lips.

(sound stolen)

They took something beautiful from us

(wailing)

I dream of the crosswalk
at Boren Avenue and Howell Street.
In my dream John T. Williams
appears in a whaling canoe. When
he paddles, the water doesn’t ripple.

I ask if he has a favourite sound. The lake
melts, becomes a narrow street. A kettle
boils silently on the pavement.
John T. Williams points at a house.
There are still keys hanging

in the green door. I follow him
into the living room.
He is setting the table for a meal.
I ask nothing. He pours tea.
There is tapping at the window.

Someone is humming in the garden
by a totem pole, summoning
the sound of hands
leaving
a mark.

All The Names Given by Raymond Antrobus was published by Picador, Pan Macmillan, September 2021.

Please note, this poems formatting has been adjusted slightly from its intended print form due to online restrictions.

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