“Place de la Nation (III)” by Jason Allen-Paisant

For Ahmaud Arbery


You leave the house and head to the gym. You ride the metro.

You listen to some music. You read a novel

———-try to act cool              Like

you belong here     you’re so



You travel in the underground    going from side to side of the city

The darkness helps    the white noise in a crowd

———-The crowd must be thick

or    you will see your body


———-raising suspicions by walking

——————–you do not want that


But then you get to another part of the city

and re-emerge, and you’re hit with images again

of yourself in the space, and yourself


———-is two beautiful dark-skinned children

just innocently sitting on a bench waiting, not bothering anybody, just waiting &

you want to weep because they are so beautiful

———-and nobody should be wrong to be

so beautiful in this world & that beauty lies there knowing that one day it will lift

itself from their bodies like a question

You mourn the future loss of this being,

——————————————————–so full in space, so occupying, so sitting before                                            ———————————————–you on the bench.




They’re from Mauritania they say,

brother and sister,

They sit there on a park bench

along the busy way &

look at me

with doe eyes

a look of discovery


A hunger awaits

in the fine grain of skin

the perfect lines of teeth

the stillness, as if


no language

had yet been made

as if the first day on earth


you are fully with them

your eyes water

so does your skin


angry because of this thing dormant

not yet knowing itself

in their eyes


eyes actually

looking into this world

deciding whether to enter


nobody should be wrong to be

so beautiful in this world




                                   And he’s running right now…

                                   There he goes right now!


So you try           not to act too muscular not to look too big

———-muscular looks very threatening on your skin

you want to walk hard       jog hard

be hard

but today you think about your mother


you owe it to her to protect her from this

—-what you can do     what can be done to you


you’ve just come out of the gym     you feel fit

you feel strong     you feel large and full of blood


but you small up yourself and keep going

you read endless messages about your body

you’re eating your body

—-all the images fill you


Jason Allen-Paisant is a Jamaican-born, UK-based poet. He graduated from the University of Oxford in 2015 with a DPhil in Medieval and Modern Languages and joined the University of Leeds in 2016 as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and now serves as the Director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. His debut poetry collection, Thinking with Treeswas published in June 2021 by Carcanet Press and named by The Irish Times as one of the Best Poetry Books of 2021.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *