245: Push the Week

245: Push the Week

245: Push the Week

Push the Week
by Jackie Kay

(for P.)

If I had cash, I could get some cassava gari
Down Great Western Road, shop in Solly’s
And make some sukuma wiki, stretch the week.
But this card don’t buy me African food
Or let me shop in Marie Curie
(although they have nice things in there).
Only in the Salvation Army Store.
(Where the clothes are a bit of a bore.)
You think just because you’re an asylum seeker
You don’t care what you wear?
And from eating the wrong food, my stomach’s sore.
If I didn’t just have this card to use
I would buy some maize meal flour, avocado, yam.
If my mother was here she would say:
That woman is not my daughter.
If I had cash I could buy some corn pones,
Dried fish, beef . . . curried mung beans . . .
Kachumbari, my God, how I wish!
Expand the chest. My spirits would lift, eh?
Ugali would make me less depressed!
Not so homesick. Nyama Choma.
No cash for cane row, no Makimo,
For monthlies, for sweet potato.
The week repeats. We are scattered families.
Now it’s HIV. No TV. Just CCTV — watching me.
Non-stop scrutiny. Anyone shouts Asylum Seeker
Bash them with your saucepan. Man Stealer!
(I have yet to see one to write home about)! Cassava!
In your imagination, you have new friends to dinner.
You picture a cooker. A table. You light a candle.
You shine some cutlery. You see your face in it.
And you say Stick in till you stick oot, and you say,
Help yourself. Go ahead. Have some chapati, mbazi, gari.
Here’s what we eat in my country. You see.

"Push the Week" by Jackie Kay, currently collected in BANTAM. Copyright © 2017 Jackie Kay. Used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.

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