Friday Poem – ‘1986’ by Eric Ngalle Charles


This week’s Friday Poem is ‘1986’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his debut collection Homelands. You can hear Eric chatting about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a painting of a young African boy standing in front of a wooden wall. He is wearing a large black hat, blue robe around his waist and is holding a bunch of reeds.

In Homelands, his debut collection, Eric Ngalle Charles draws on his early life raised by the matriarchs of Cameroon, being sent to Moscow by human traffickers, and finding a new home in Wales. Rich in tone, subject and emotion, Charles’ poetry moves between the present and the past, between Africa and Europe, and between despair and hope. It discovers that historical injustices now play out in new forms, and that family tensions are as strong as the love within a family. Despite the difficulties Charles has faced, Homelands contains poems of fondness, warmth and humour and, as he returns to Cameroon to confront old ghosts, forgiveness. 

1986
Red Moon over lake Nyos,
doomsday whispers armed with drums,
survivors like ghosts of the apocalypse,
singing choruses of the end times.
Why have the gods forsaken us?
Red Moon over the poisonous lake,
salutations of umbra and penumbra.
Survivors like Old Testament eremite
from yonder, foretelling tales, turning
ghosts, consumed by gaseous light.
Red Moon, dogs in heat, barking.
One lone, dazed survivor. See her:
standing/stuttering/falling/holding
onto nearby railings. Did she invite
disaster by boiling beans overnight?
Red Moon over lake Nyos.
Noises, clamoring. They went to bed
and never woke up. The few, resurrected,
singing choruses of the end times.
Why have the gods forsaken us?

*Lake Nyos disaster, Bamenda, Cameroon, 1986: a limnic eruption on the 24th of August 1986 killed 1,746 people. 

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 8 with Eric Ngalle Charles is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

Homelands is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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