about a muslim gentleman with dementia

Who spared a glance
at the man of dignity
striding tall down Portobello
through Thursday and Friday
in a dapper blue suit,
shirt and tie,
black shine shoes,
walking cane and trilby?
Standing at the corner of the Grove
savouring smells;
peas and rice
and that ganja
he never smoked back home
in Guinea Bissau.
Home?  In 1953,
a shack in Bissau City
until stowing away –
a tramp-steaming
cardboard suitcase
teenage Fulani
seeking a future.
First port of call?
Lisbon, Portugal.
A wondrous evening
with a girlfriend, Rosa.
Dining on a terrace.
Jasmine scenting the breeze.
A trio playing.
A woman singing fado. 
Rosa cried when his love washed over her
and wept when he said goodbye to her.  
Strolling Kensington and Chelsea
his eyes alive with memories
of 1950s walls,
white-painted signs hung on doors;
‘No Irish.’
‘No dogs.’
‘No blacks.’
Finding lodgings;
a Golborne Road guest-house
‘No women.  No cooking.  No smoking.’
Shared room twenty-five shillings a week – 
ten bob extra for dinner and gas.
A post card to Rosa:
“Sweet One.  Arrived safely. Got my own
apartment. London streets is paved with money.
England is cold and wet, but rains silver
ribbons of milk and honey.
‘Rosa… Inshallah’
A police patrol cruises at his heels.
An elbow poking out the window. 
A face looks him up and down,
the head shakes,
shoulders shrug.
The car slithers away.
Singling out a limping man – 
a red gold and green
woollen hat grey-dreadlock
walking-stick pensioner,
a crooked finger beckons
the Rasta curses under his breath,
and sighing,
turns out his pockets again…
The police prowl on.
Huddling under the Westway
sheltering from the rain
and slicing cold.
At concrete dawn-break,
asking a lurking stranger
when the Lisbon bus leaves
and where can he catch it?
He takes the old man’s wrist.
His blade taps the watch,
‘I’ll show you, Bruv.’
Humming Exodus
unclasping the strap 
he saunters back
to the darkness
proud of his prize,
Black coffee in the Sunrise Cafe;
Sitting staring through a steamy window
the sights and smells and street sounds
kindle inklings of ‘belonging’.
Assana checks his naked wrist,
‘Must get back to Golborne… cannot be late for tea…’

© coolhermit 2023
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