california, by Kit Radford

california, by Kit Radford of Yorkshire (@kitrdfd), was placed third in our 2021 Open Poetry Competition, judged by Rishi Dastidar. Congratulations, Kit.

This is what Rishi had to say about Kit’s poem:

The third prize goes to Kit Radford’s ‘california’. This essays, in language by turns sparkling and yet freighted with darkness, a sketch of why the world’s eyes turn to the American state, its attractions and lures – especially the sense that it is where the future is made – and why this could be problematic: “every reckless teenage boy / now dreaming / of how he might destroy the world / with a single touch”. It is an immigrant story too, and this strand is exquisitely expressed, as are the costs of all this chasing after hope: “suffering quietly in meditations / and ugly carpeted prison cells / (disguised as san francisco real estate)”. The poem is powered by some deft line breaks which provide the platform for the gorgeous light-filled images that mean that, when the undercutting of them comes, we are left deliciously unmoored.


california

the sweetness made me sickly
and through all the smiling
i could not speak of where it hurt
the gold rush
transformed into opiates
with every reckless teenage boy
now dreaming
of how he might destroy the world
with a single touch
i did not realise when i came here
that of course
i am an immigrant
falling into all the same pitfalls
and bumps in the road
when the paper you carry says
you are of no value-
for a while i believed it
suffering quietly in broken meditations
and ugly carpeted prison cells
(disguised as san francisco real estate)
with a broken body
and broken mind
dreaming of the pain of america
to loosen its hold on me
but what you cannot escape from
in california
is the ceaseless beaming light
and for every broken cell that ruptured
found ways to repair itself
in golden love
for every gulp of petrol
there is a blooming lemon tree
and it is with full faith in bright citrus
and the shameless cry of colour from the magnolia tree
that there is hope
we may find a way out yet.

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