I never grew up with rainbows, and could never count in colour. I couldn’t read light, the city blurred the borders between hills. Hidden flocks, painting brushstrokes into trees, turned me towards a blessing, a freshly baked promise, hanging from branches.

Stumbling into a congregation of pine trees and water, I watched everything I knew about music stop. A babbling brook, wedged into a gasp, draped its body over pebbles. The neighbourhood around it purred in immutable chorus. Red-breasted poets sang, petals whispered, stinging nettles spoke out of turn. I, all vowel-mouthed and awkward, slurred, trying to teach myself the consonants of forest.

Looking for the laughter lines on trees, I tried to understand its comedy. Did we, I, me, know my England well enough? A curriculum for survival without maps lacked birds and views. The few who knew about them spoke in secret, bird-less feathers knotted in the wild.

I witnessed the other side of the fence by accident, by accident I found paradise as swollen as Eden. I’d gamble the city for birdsong, all the money in the world couldn’t tame this orchestra.  By way of lost footing, I found what I was missing, only a stone’s throw from my brick castle. Fierce acres that swaddle sirens and dims them down to static. Eden taught me how to breathe again.

Photo by Alistair MacRobert on Unsplash

Saili Katebe was the Where are you really from? project poet during 2020. Listen to him reading the poem on this podcast episode, Black to Nature. Read Louisa’s interview with Saili here.