Raymond Antrobus

Raymond Antrobus

Language Signs

‘How shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak in the air’

JK Antrobus, grandfather, I dreamt you
returning your reading glasses to your eyes, opening
your bible, pointing at the words you couldn’t say.
You pointed at mercy and failure and then
you pointed at your white hair and your lips and then
at the ceiling of your church as if it were the roof
of your own mouth, and I understood as much as the stone
plaques on the walls or the pews which were wood,
a word that once meant tree.

All the men that raised me are dead, those bastards.
I’m one self-pitying prick of a son. How do I bring
back men who couldn’t speak, men lost in books, drinks,
graves? Where do I turn, knowing they left
the hot taps running? I want to say sorry, come to me.
Cut the hedges on your face so I can read your lips.

This poem is taken from Raymond Antrobus’ forthcoming book, All The Names Given, which you can preorder direct from Picador here.

RAYMOND ANTROBUS was born in London to an English mother and Jamaican father. He’s a Cave Canem Fellow, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the author of To Sweeten Bitter (UK, Out-Spoken Press, 2017), The Perseverance (UK, Penned In The Margins / US, Tin House, 2018) and All The Names Given (US, Tin House / UK, Picador, 2021) as well as children’s picture book Can Bears Ski? (UK, Walker Books / US, Candlewick, 2020). He is the 2019 recipient of the Ted Hughes Award as well as the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award, and became the first poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize. His first full-length collection, The Perseverance was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and The Forward Prize. He divides his time between London and New Orleans.