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Derek Owusu is a writer and poet. He is the editor of SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, and the author of That Reminds Me – which was awarded the 2020 Desmond Elliot Prize – and Losing the Plot. Associative, experimental and deeply poetic, Owusu’s writing has a delicate edge, lending a lyrical veneer to his poignant fictionalisations of British Ghanaian culture.
Listen to an audio extract from ‘Kweku’
I don’t think my dad ever told the truth, but to himself, I know he never told a lie. He spoke in stories, never complete, one leading into another, pulling you from distraction, and if you tried to interrupt he would raise his hand and threaten to bring it down on your cheek. If you don’t let me finish, he would say. Always a slow crawl to a conclusion, his tongue flailing, as if it was drowning. But I never saw him lay his hands on a soul. Well, except for me, but then I couldn’t bear witness to that. I imagine his palm coming down, the movement an image overlaid on itself, each one a cause to flinch. My dad denies any violence, and when I bring it up he explains his character, and how this memory of mine contradicts who he is. But I have many memories of him, each one the backdrop to a changing man. He lived various lives, depending on who was with him in each moment, who was observing him. And in any one of those moments, I believe, he could have laid hands on me, or my mother even, transfiguring us, our relationships, into something else. It was a change that always felt possible, even without a soul ever being touched.
If I were spiritual, or endeared to myth, I might think my dad altered my memories of him, because I don’t resent him. I want to understand him, his stance and gait, why an unrequited wave would hurt so much, why he slowly stepped in so many directions away from me. My dad could layer a narrative to a point that you’d begin to doubt reality, accept indifference at the effort required for recollection. It wasn’t the possibility of future savagery that kept me at a distance, no, that wasn’t what sealed the outlines of my emotional memory. It was the question: why? Why had he brought his hand down on a nature like mine? Without force or jest? I believe there were two reasons: one, he was an alcoholic, who liked to think all people would change but him; and two, I had tried to kill a tiny spider in front of him. The most far-reaching, strange and enduring lie my dad ever told was that he was Kweku Anansi. And that this was the reason nothing would ever kill him.
Continue reading ‘Kweku’ here. –
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