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

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Antrobus has many accolades to his name, including the Ted Hughes Award, Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of The Year ...