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

May 8th, 2020

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.

Mai'r 8fed, 2020

Er cof am Eric Wilson

Mai, mis clychau’r gog, mis gwenau, neu fis angau?
Buddugoliaeth yn Ewrop neu waed
y groth wedi’i dywallt cyn i fab dynnu ei anadl gyntaf

ar dir planhigfa siwgr, yn hollt mewn stumog feichiog?
Mae fy mhartner yn gosod y borfa ffug, dwi’n ddim help
wrth wneud gwaith ymarferol. Y mis Mai hwn, mi gwffiwn angau

fel Walter Tull, y sgoriwr golau a’r Lefftenant,
adawodd siantiau epa am ganeuon ffos y Somme. Tyrchwyd
mwd ar gyfer Eric – ei felys, ddyrchafedig anadl

a gollwyd i Govid. Mae’n dal i nabod pwysau
arch fy nhad. Yng Nghingston, nhw oedd y mêts
a redai trwy law Mai, dau fys V at angau.

Terfysgoedd hil trwy Toxteth a Chasnewydd, ac eto
ar Brydain rhoes fy milwr o dad ei serch.
A wisgwn ni babis ym mis Mai dros golledion anghymesur

Prydeinwyr o liw, yn chwilfriw Covid?
Mae ‘mhartner yn siarsio’r hynaf, ‘fam neu blud,
byth n...’ distawrwydd. Llif ei hanadl gynnes
yw anadl y plant a aned i ddianc angau.

© Marvin Thompson

With kind permission of the poet

Translator: Grug Muse | Cyfieithiad: Grug Muse

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).