by Ameet Vaghela
From a landlocked country on the dark continent.
Northern Rhodesia. One Nation.
Where the crash of the mighty Victoria Falls thunders
And the golden sun rises and sets in rhythm.
The air is hot, hot, hot
And the dust suffocates the city
Gasping for the rains to stamp it all out.
Where the colour of your skin does not matter
But it does.
He knew he did not belong.
In a place where his type is not allowed.
To be free.
And so, he left.
Left it all behind
Destined for the kingdom that is united.
To the land
Of bangers and mash
bubble and squeak
fish and chips
toad in the hole
cups of tea
with a biscuit
pints of lager
packets of crisps.
To the country where they say
thank you very much
oh! so sorry
the traffic’s chocka today
mind it’s a bit nippy out there you best wear a cardie
bob’s your uncle
it’s all tickety boo!
Sent to boarding school
Castaway and rejected
Stiff upper lips, icy winters and bland, bland food.
Where did he come from?
Does he speak English?
What is he wearing?
To be brown. To be white.
To fit. Not quite.
And yet must.
Why is this so difficult?
To be gay. To be queer.
You don’t belong here.
Just keep my head down.
Study hard. Just get through it.
Gay .friends are my real family!
Pink angels in public school hell.
Is it a wardrobe no it’s a closet!
No Narnia, warm furs, hot chocolate or Turkish delight.
Exit. Come out and play.
Much older. Less wise.
Under the Arches at Heaven
Opens my eyes
To the glitter ball sun in the sky
of the clubbing dancefloor
Where the boys sashay in sparkly, skimpy tops and sequined skinny jeans
Sipping gin and tonics through stripey straws from tall flutes
And boogieing to the thumping beat.
Paying respects to that Queen of Pop.
Putting love to the test.
And boy can he dance!
Dance and house.
You and me.
Different villages. Same people.
Something magical in the air.
You spun me round to that Kylie tune
Are sweet dreams really made of this?
Echoes of Pet Shop Boys.
What have I done to deserve this?
To deserve love.
From the ancient land of yoga and wisdom
Of rotis and chai, sweet spices and saris
The Empire, the Raj and the Jewel in the Crown,
Belonging to the soil but not quite the people.
Yet, he’s too different.
Not quite right.
He. Just. Did. Not. Fit.
To be free.
And so, he left.
Too young to seek his tribe over there
He ended up over here.
To seek the common weal
In the land of milk and honey.
You don’t belong here!
Get out! This is our land of hope and glory
Paki poof. Queer batty boy.
Tank-top bumboy. Crop top pansy.
Go back to where you came from!
We’re here because you were there.
From where? Hated here.
From there! Hated there.
Where do I belong? Who am I? What am I?
It’s a sin. Is it?
And there’s so much shame.
That Wicked Witch of Grantham
You. Me. Us.
Are not allowed.
Respect. Give us some.
Traditional. This is not our tradition.
Hate is not a family value.
Ministers debate age of consent
Solicitor General barks
“Recruiting into perversion, are we?
Your lot have no right!”
Who is right? Or is this wrong?
To be brave
To be powerful
To be proud
To be himself.
And then, later
And happen they must.
Civil partnerships and gay marriages.
Pink triangles and rainbow flags.
Small town boy
Squinting in the bright lights of the big, big city.
Eyes shining and teeth baring
A grin. A smile.
I have arrived.
Is this my place? Are they my tribe?
The night so dark
And the club is so lit.
He stands there. Glowing. Looks at me
A twinkle. A shimmy. A giggle.
Who is he?
Could he be?
This night is special.
And full of magic.
You look nice? Shall we dance?
Let’s do that again. Fancy a…
And so, they met
First date. Second date
Date after date after date.
Move in with me?
Yes, is my answer!
Hallelujah and God Save Our Queens!
Music does make the people come together
Bring on Diana Ross and her chain reaction.
The ups and downs
Tears and fears
You get me. I get you.
Should I propose? Is 10 years too soon?
It feels right and yet it was never wrong.
We must be out of our minds! You’re mad!
What will everyone say? Let them say
It’s about time. Bloody hell it took you long enough
What shall we wear? Pink? Blue?
Scattered fresh rose petals.
Hangs in the air.
Alice in Wonderland theme. A little too much? Or not enough?
For this Queen of hearts
‘Eat me’ chocolate truffles and ‘Drink me’ champagne
And those Tiffany rings
Diamonds are truly a gay’s best friend!
My heart is pounding. Butterflies everywhere.
I love you.
Will you marry me?
Time stood still.
The clocks stopped.
You are already
My North, My South
My East and My West.
Yes. Yes, I will marry you!
Sing your queer hearts out
Trumpets and fanfare
Silk bows on white doves
Peacocks and swans
Unicorns and mermaids!
Love does last forever, Mr. Auden.
Maybe we just lose sight of it.
For the moment
Let’s shout it out – loud and proud
Let’s celebrate with a song and a dance
and a drink!
Let’s put the kettle on!
For a cup of tea.
With a biscuit.
Some rainbow cake?
Ameet Vaghela (he/him/his) was born in Harrow, London. He was brought up in Lusaka, Zambia and completed his studies in the UK. He is an NHS Respiratory Pharmacist in Brighton. Ameet enjoys singing with the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus, origami paper folding, watching dystopian films and getting to grips with Twitter! He is proudly married to his husband, Tarun, and they live in Portslade, Brighton. ‘Staccato’ is his first published poem and was selected as one of five finalists for the Pharmaceutical Journal’s Annual writing competition in 2020, read out in their PJ Podcast and included in Writing Our Legacy’s ‘Covert’ magazine. Follow Ameet on Twitter: @acvaghela