Poems about the V&A: 'The history of silence' by Nii Parkes
praise be to Allah
the cherisher and sustainer of worlds:
scrolls, wall and mats proclaim it
scimitars tapered down in display
according to size
etched with invocations
to heaven via the prophet;
peaceful words glistening
on the violent edges of blood-polished blades
like prayers on the wet lips
of the dying
a clash of words and action
layered into the script of life
in the guise of hand-woven carpets
knotted with years of secrets
beauty hides everything - even truth
covers the floors of rocky pasts
dampens the sound of suffering
colours death in deft strokes
painting battles as fluid graceful dances
while eliminating the stagnant music of pain
so who dismantles the hierarchy of truths
peels away the coloured imaginations of artists:
the creatures of land and sea
coated frolicking onto porcelain plates
breaking the continuity of their white supremacy;
the designs and carvings merging cultures and climates
showing the tracks, trails and trials of religions?
who climbs the delicate steps
of ornate pulpits
from which muezzins screamed
raising dead pharaohs?
who lifts the leaves of gold
tattooed onto caskets of ivory and stone
to find the shadows beneath?
who questions the structured poetry
the multiple motives of writers
the muddy gradations of truth
the sheaves not saved from the fires
of a benefactors wrath?
who opens the alabaster box of pain
beneath the magic carpet of documents
to smell the spicy sprinklings of the past
to taste the futile chemistry of war
to feel the twisted innards of injustice?
who, like me, marvels
that the loud clash of swords in anger
the sustained thunder of battle cries
the breaking slates of betrayal
and the crumbling walls of empires
amount to no more
than the stoned silence of a museum?
About the author
Nii Ayikwei Parkes was born in the UK in 1974 and raised in Ghana, West Africa. He writes poetry, prose and articles and is the author of three poetry chapbooks; eyes of a boy, lips of a man (1999) and M is for Madrigal (2004) and the self-published shorter (2005), which is a vehicle to raise money for a writers' fund in Ghana.
Nii has performed poetry all over the world on major stages like the NuYorican in New York, The Royal Festival Hall in London, Java in Paris and Paradiso in Amsterdam as well as at festivals such as the Lancaster Literature Festival and the Austin International Poetry Festival. In 2002 he completed a six-week tour of the United States, and in 2003 he was given an Arts Council Award for his just completed novel, The Cost of Red Eyes, which was the subject of a recent radio documentary on the publishing industry. Nii was a 2005 associate Writer-In-Residence on BBC Radio 3 and was the featured face for poetry in the 2004 Time Out London Guide.