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We like heroes here
I often bumped into the poet Roi Kwabena - a former Birmingham poet laureate - and in 2009 I recall him quite often with a smile as I walk along New Street, like he used to.
Two hundred years on
my heroes walk the firm streets of Birminghum,
the soft arteries of memory dance
in summer shoes,
in poetry, in these stories we tell,
retell and spell out
shout out and celebrate like the loud, joyous peel of bells -
from Saint Martins sing song, bell chambered heart of the city.
Far from water and salty, brave adventure of Nelson’s fleet
I recall, Roi Kwabena
A hero from over the water -
from Trinidad to Birminghum
he came singing,
always singing his way out of central library
“Peace and love my brother,”
“Peace and love my sister”
The obeah man, a griot
I tell you
I tell you so
How he sang!
I loved to know him and
hear him, at home in Birminghum.
The Caribbean sang and blew through him
His Brer rabbit friends, delighted the children
That sat and shared time, and stories, with him
In my faulty memory
In Waterstone’s, in the library,
I remember my brer Roi Kwabena
An awkward English, half Irishman,
I remember Roi and salute him
With my little rhythm,
My little line,
And my own sense of time
well spent with him.
© Adrian Johnson