By Kei Miller
This Zinc Roof
This rectangle of sea; this portion
Of ripple; this conductor of midday heat;
This that the cat steps delicately on;
This that the poor of the world look up to
On humid nights, as if it were a crumpled
Heaven they could be lifted into.
God’s mansion is made of many-coloured zinc,
Like a balmyard I once went to, Peace
And Love written across its breadth.
This clanging of feet and boots,
Men running from Babylon whose guns
Are drawn against the small measure
Of their lives; this galvanised sheet; this
Corrugated iron. The road to hell is fenced
On each side with zinc —
Just see Dawn Scott’s installation,
A Cultural Object, its circles of zinc
Like the flight path of johncrows.
The American penny is made from zinc,
Coated with copper, but still enough zinc
That a man who swallowed 425 coins died.
This that poisons us; this that holds
Its nails like a crucified Christ, but only
For a little while. It rises with the hurricane,
Sails in the wind, a flying guillotine.
This, a plate for our severed heads;
This that sprinkles rust
Over our sleep like obeah;
This that covers us; this that chokes us;
This, the only roof we could afford.
Some Definitions for Song
–……the speech of birds, as in birdsong, but with exceptions. Pigeons do not
……..sing. Vultures do not sing.……A bargain, or a very small sum, as in “he
……..bought it for a song.” Think what we could purchase with songs, thrown
……..across the counter and landing more softly than coins. Perhaps then, the
……..origin of the expression, to sing for your supper.……The troubled sound
……..that escapes from a woman’s mouth while she dreams of fire, also any
……..sound that escapes, also anything that escapes; a passage out, the fling
……..up of hands. A prison break is a song. The parting of the red sea was a
……..song. In Israel there are many songs, but there should have been six
……..million more. Across the Atlantic, there are many songs, but we needed
……..10 million more.……Sòng (宋國) was a state during the Eastern Zhou
……..Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC). Its capital was Shangqiu.……
……..Anything that climbs is a song; vines are a song; my father, 70 years old,
……..at the top of the ackee tree is a song; all planes are songs. Song was a
……..low-cost airline operated by Delta. Tourists were flown by Song to
……..Florida. Song’s last flight was on April 30, 2006.……All that pleases the
……..heart. All that pleases the ear. The final measure of joy. When we have
……..lost song, we have lost everything.……A common surname in Korea,
……..often transliterated as Soong. What would it mean if your name was
……..Song?……Song is the third and final album of Lullaby for the Working
……..Class. It was released October 19, 1999. Songs often refer to songs, as
……..in “He shall encompass me with a song”; “Sing unto the Lord a new
……..song”; “Sing a song of sixpence”. Sing a song. Sing a song.
Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet and novelist. He lectures in creative writing at the University of Glasgow. His second novel, The Last Warner Woman, and his third book of poems, A Light Song of Light, will both be published in 2010.