Poems to share

May 8th, 2020

This poem is accompanied by two short improvisations by jazz pianist Robert Mitchell. You can listen to them below, available by kind permission from the musician © R.Mitchell/Bucks Music Group

Is May The Month Of Poppies


In Kingston, they were buds that ran through May rain


For Eric Wilson

Is May the month of bluebells, smiles or death?
Victory in Europe or womb blood
spilt before a son takes his first breath

on a plantation, a pregnant belly cleft?
My partner lays the fake grass – I’m a dud
at DIY. This May we fist-fight death

like Walter Tull, goalscorer, Lieutenant
who left ape chants for the Somme’s trench songs. Mud
was dug for Eric – his sweet, soaring breath

was lost to Covid. He still knows the heft
of Dad’s coffin. In Kingston, they were buds
that ran through May rain, V signs raised to death.

Race riots blazed Newport and Toxteth
yet Britain was my army father’s love.
Should we wear May poppies for the disproportionate deaths

of Britons of Colour, Covid bereft?
My partner tells our eldest, ‘Fam or blud,
not n…’ Silence. Her warm and flowing breath
is the breath of children born to out-run death.

© Marvin Thompson

With kind permission of the poet

Marvin Thompson

Marvin Thompson was born in London to Jamaican parents and now lives in south Wales. In 2021, he made headlines by winning the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition. His debut poetry collection, Road Trip, is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Telegraph selected Road Trip as one of the Poetry Books of the Year for 2020. It was also shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year Award, 2021.

Robert Mitchell

Robert Mitchell is an award winning pianist, keyboard player, bandleader, composer, teacher and poet. He has released 10 albums and is a Steinway Artist. He has performed with Billy Harper, Courtney Pine, Dayme Arocena, Julien Lourau, Alicia Olatuja amongst many. His music has been performed by the London Sinfonietta and Bournemouth Symphony Chorus. He has toured to 40 countries and was MD on the Broadcast Award winning ‘Jazz 625 Live : For One Night Only’ (BBC4) - shown regularly since 2019. Robert is a Piano Professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (Jazz Dept).