what’s hobbling the beat (a soliloquy in three rhythms)

didn’t my mum and dad slave away through gritted teeth on hands and knees
in the corner of some cooked plantation so their son could clean offices for $10
an hour — yo sit back — until their hands became a cocoa field of blisters
so why you be surprised brother when we can’t take the weight when we can’t

dance from within when our brain be playing in a key that skips the feeling and

the beat — yo tuck in your lip so I can get at this beard proper — anyway so
they put a spell on Vince and now he don’t talk much hasn’t said a word
in months holed up in a secret eden off limits to the world because he stopped
talking after the drum machine inside his chest was over it his black heart

started to wilt in a rhythmless cage his black heart was humble enough to step
away and say enough is enough and I’m not saying Vince done right to go build
a box of silence so he don’t have to talk about it find words for it name it
admit where it hurts — straighten up a little — but why be surprised by the wake

of slavery busting our arse for $10 an hour on hands and knees — yo tilt your head
away from the light — busting our arse inside the shipwreck of our arrival here
to breaking point so that every time brother Vince come got his hair cut
the spell was written all down his face enough to make a brother crazy enough

to lose my head but I can’t give no one no reason to ship my arse back to Africa. I last

seen brother Vince play that piano out the back of Kelisha’s — hold still — playing
the blues out in the open with the swing of song spiralling with humour and
gloom the restless meaningless daily grind turned to laughter in the stilted jazz
of his hands never heard so much tenderness for a moment there we forgot

what blisters were we forgot for a moment we were strangers in this promised land



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Brian Obiri-Asare

Brian Obiri-Asare is a writer of Ghanaian heritage. Born and raised in Sydney, for the most part he lives and works in central Australia, on Arrernte country. His work swims in the territory of blackness and the larger racial order that structures our literature and our lives.

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