Surge 3

When they lifted me my neck snapped

and my head landed cheek down

I saw the officer’s foot jump back

his hands shook as he wiped the soot

I noticed the rudded gold of his watch

how pink his nails gleamed through the gloves

the white-gold ring like sausage string

on a near translucent finger

He paused and seemed to see me watch

him searching for a gaze to meet

He darted out his hand and grabbed my

head and dropped it in a plastic bag

I glimpsed myself beside the bed

saw for a second my stiff black hands

no nails or thumb or life line left

no heart tattoo or amber palm


the room was black the sky was black

the smoke came through and breathed us in

the house we knew the friends we left

up they went in dust again

I heard they found that boy you liked

but couldn’t say if it was him

until they locked his mother’s door

with a key found winking in the ash


They put me on a table beside my photograph

a rubbish one that showed all my spots

They blew it up so it was just my face

But remember you were there to the right

and remember how that afternoon we

put our fists together and checked

who was dark and who was light

I was the darker one and wondered

why it was I was not like you

Why I hadn’t been born browner or white

When it did not seem that hard to do

extract from the early version of ‘Surge’ published in Beacon of Hope (New Beacon Books, 2016), copyright © Jay Bernard 2016, used by permission of the author and the George Padmore Institute

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