Skin A Cat

     Wah gwan ah ere, nah gwan ah hell, ‘cause the devil will not 

      Allow it. 


My dad 


My mum talks about death like family 

members coming to visit; 

she wants the carpets cleaned and the walls 

in the corridor painted before they arrive. 

My father lets if Gad speer mi life stalk sentences like a shadow, 

or the dot beneath the bah. 


On the top of my mother’s coconut-flesh coloured wardrobe, 

over the compartment with her church and wedding hats with  

      the lace trim 

that looks like cobwebs the way that dust clings, 

pushed right to the back is my mother’s hospital grip. 


If you were to pull it down, 

dust it off, fiddle with the rusting latches, 

the top would flip back and you would see 

silk pyjamas, night dresses, full slips and petticoats, 

a washbag with an unused flannel and a pair of pink slippers 

      with a bow 

look at how prepared 

for death we are, how close to dying we are. 


As a kid before I left the house, I was told to cream my legs 

and make sure my pants were clean 

in case I had to be rushed to hospital. 

Years later I realised the world sees us as dirty, 

and maybe my mother thought some 

Vaseline, Pond’s or Palmer’s shimmering on my legs 

would buy us shreds of dignity. 

Make the person handling my limp body think, 

She is a child worth saving, a child that is loved. 


Sister Fiasah said she’d always dress her little girls with gold; 

it said to the world they come from a home. 

Our parents were always thinking of subtle ways to preserve 

      our life 

yet in the same breath preparing to die. 


I bought you into this world, and I will take you out 

was used to scare us kids into submission. 

Rather you fear me than go outside and risk making mistakes that 

      end your life, 

like wrong place at the wrong time, right place at the wrong time, 

Being Black in your skin. 


We are preparing to die, 

and I’ve known this since the day I was born. 


But to be murdered took me longer to understand, 

murdered like Yvonne Ruddock, Sarah Reed, Shukri Abdi, 

different means, same death. 

Skin a Cat - from That Day She’ll Proclaim Her Chronicles (Burning Eye Books, 2021), © Muneera Pilgrim 2021, used by permission of the author.

Muneera Pilgrim in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.