Guy’s and St Thomas’s

When I’m here in a particular 

character of mind 

any woman of a certain height – 

hair plaited neat 

to meet the working day – 

becomes my mother 

in that year of early mornings 

she worked at GDRU 

close to this stretch of the river 

close to Hay’s Galleria; 

the aquarium that is still here 

though she is not 

to walk with me as we scrutinize 

tropical fish 

laughing in the uncomplicated 

manner that comes 

of understanding. And after, 

a bankside stroll 


a cart-proprietor advertises wares; 

varieties of ice cream. 

It is 1999. My last summer as native 

this side of the river 

where the water brings pilgrims in search 

of a cure for long hours, 

bad coffee, friends 

always catching up 

and rarely giving conversation its due. 

How can I set down 

the passage of time? Who knew a face 

becomes less and less distinct 

the longer it no longer exists? 

How to lift this mist 

from my eyes, that I might see 

this concrete and glass 

for what it is and stop 

writing my mother into it 

that I might let her walk away 

becoming smaller and smaller 

until she disappears. 

from A Blood Condition (Chatto & Windus, 2021), © Kayo Chingonyi 2021, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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