For Tyrone Givans
The paper said putting him in jail
without his hearing aids was like
putting him in a hole in the ground.
There are no hymns
for deaf boys. But who can tell
we’re deaf without speaking it to us?
Tyrone’s name was misspelled
in the HMP Pentonville prison system.
Once, I was handcuffed,
shoved into a police van. I didn’t hear
the officer say why. I was saved
by my friend’s mother who threw herself
in the road and refused to let the van drive away.
Who could have saved Tyrone?
James Baldwin attempted suicide
after each of his loves
jumped from bridges or overdosed.
He killed his characters, made them
kill themselves— Rufus, Richard
Black men who couldn’t live like this.
Tyrone. I won writing awards
bought new hearing aids and heard
my name through the walls.
I bought a signed Baldwin Book.
The man who sold it to me didn’t know
you, me or Baldwin.
I feel I rescued it. I feel failed.
Tyrone, the last time I saw you alive
I’d dropped my pen
on the staircase
didn’t hear it fall but you saw and ran
down to get it, handed it to me
before disappearing, said,
you might need this.
from All The Names Given (Picador, 2021), © Raymond Antrobus 2021, used by permission of the author