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Louisa Adjoa Parker is a writer of English and Ghanaian heritage, who has lived in the west country for most of her life. She writes poetry, fiction, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) history, and articles. Louisa also works as an equality, diversity and inclusion consultant, and is co-director of The Inclusion Agency.
Louisa’s first poetry collection, Salt-sweat and Tears and pamphlet, Blinking in the Light were published by Cinnamon Press. Louisa’s work has appeared in many publications including Wasafari; Ink, Sweat & Tears; Envoi; Under the Radar; Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe); Closure (Peepal Tree Press); and New Daughters of Africa (Myriad Editions). She has been highly commended by the Forward Prize and shortlisted by the Bridport Prize. She has completed her first short story collection and is finishing her first novel.
Louisa has written books/exhibitions exploring BAME history in the south west. During 2018-2019 she was a New Talent Immersion Fellow for South West Creative Technology Network, and produced a podcast and blog telling the stories of BAME people in rural Britain today. Louisa has written for magazines including Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine; Gal-dem; Skin Deep; Black Ballad; and Media Diversified.
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How to wear a skin
Louisa Adjoa Parker
Louisa Adjoa Parker’s latest collection is an exploration of identity. Mostly set in south west England, Parker explores themes including place, race, friendship, motherhood, love, and loss, as well as what’s happening in society today. She takes inspiration from her own story and the imagined stories of others – a boy at a train station; a woman with a tattoo – and weaves them together in her quest to understand our place in a beautiful, yet fractured world.
How to Wear a Skin asks, what does it mean to grow up mixed-race in a rural English town? As women, how do we raise our children in a hostile environment? Poignant, direct and politically articulate, Louisa Adjoa Parker is that rare poet who writes with simple, bell-like clarity, yet manages to capture the delicate nuance of the complexity around identity and place.
Karen McCarthy Woolf
Next to bone-white huts
in the half-dark, where red and green lights
strung like necklaces, hang
against the sky, I want to tell the woman
with the little boy who trails behind her,
while she calls out Charlie
every now and then as though the word
will reach out, wrap itself around him
like rope; pull him close, I want to say
I lived here once, I lived here, me.
Take Back Control
Take children from their mothers
wrap them in chains and brand their skin.
Take half the world and wash it pink.
Take history, take lives.
Take racism and smash it into chips.
Take gold, take spices, land.
Take food and let them starve.
Take the best bits of other people’s cultures.
Take race and slice it thinly into cards.
Take truth and replace it carefully with lies.
Back to a golden age, a glorious time
of Pakistani-bashing, the stampede
of Doctor-Martened feet, shaved heads
and swastikas; of making England great again.
Back to a time of waving flags,
shouting Go Home to anyone who looks
as though they might be foreign.
Back to a time before political correctness
went mental, and stitched good English lips
with silence, so they had to preface
every sentence with I’m not a racist, but…
Back to a time before England –
like a sober friend –
laid her hand on forearms
in pubs across the land,
said with a pained smile and shake
of her head, Bruv, not cool. Not cool at all.
Control the borders! Build a wall
so we can keep them out. Control
the hordes, the floods, the swarms,
the waves of foreigners who wash ashore
our island. Control the welfare state!
Do not give money to the undeserving.
Control the immigrants
who run around like cockroaches
with pincer hands and dark-shined bodies
taking things that don’t belong to them
– our jobs, our homes, our way
of life – to their filthy, vermin nests.
it ends like this
he wonders why he hadn’t known
but perhaps he did
perhaps the heart of him has always known
it ends like this
him splayed out on the sidewalk like a giant fish
beached on grey sand as a ring of people
watch it flap its tail watch it drowning in the air
it ends like this him face-down on a bed of concrete
his tomb his only view of shoes and legs
listening to the voices of white men hungry for his blood
as they poke their fingers into the soft folds of his flesh
the grandsons of the men who strung
trees with his forebears as though they were lanterns
it ends like this with men pressing the breath from him
an arm wrapped around his throat
like a lover’s final embrace
it ends like this him choking out the words
I can’t breathe I can’t breathe I can’t breathe
Land, Real and Imagined
Yes, I am from here, really,
but also from there. My feet
connect me to this piece of earth
which rolls away in green waves,
this piece of earth inhabited
by people who do not look like me.
This is how I wear my skin:
it tells the story of another place;
an imagined country
with dusty roads, hot nights,
which I have yet to see.
We all lean into the dark
towards our ancestors, who lean
towards us, with bent spines,
trying to tell us where we are from,
where we are going.
Love ends how it begins.
The suddenness startles you
like the wingtips of a late-home bird
brushing your cheek in the dark.
Love, when it comes, spills across,
fills your world like rising seas.
Now it has gone, there is no bright star
out there, loving you, carrying
your heart in theirs.
Like tides, love quickly retracts
– cold water moving over stones.
Whereas once it flooded you,
now the shore is empty
and in the quiet, seagulls cry a name.