News / Edward Colston

Bristol’s city poet bids farewell to Eddie Colston

By martin booth, Monday Jun 8, 2020

Bristol’s official city poet has written about the toppling of Edward Colston and his dunking in the docks in her own inimitable style.

Hollow by Vanessa Kisuule recalls the events of Sunday from her own vantage point.

Kisuule is Bristol’s second city poet, following in the footsteps of Miles Chambers who recited an emotional poem on Sunday on College Green before the beginning of the Black Lives Matter march.

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“I’ve never been prouder to be Bristol City Poet and to offer a poem to my adopted city than I am today,” Kissule writes as an introduction to the new work.

“This piece is called Hollow and I hope you like it… Rest in shame, Eddie.”

Hollow by Vanessa Kisuule

You came down easy in the end.
The righteous wrench of two ropes in a grand plié.

Briefly, you flew, corkscrewed, then met the ground
With the clang of toy guns, loose change, chains, a rain of cheers.

Standing ovation on the platform of your neck.
Punk Ballet. Act 1.
There is more to come.

And who carved you?
They took such care with that stately pose and propped chin.

Wise and virtuous, the plaque assured us.
Victors wish history odourless and static.
But history is a sneaky mistress.

Moves like smoke, Colston,
Like saliva in a hungry mouth.

This is your rightful home,
Here, in the pit of chaos with the rest of us.

Take your twisted glory and feed it to the tadpoles.
Kids will write raps to that syncopated splash.

I think of you lying in the harbour
With the horrors you hosted.
There is no poem more succinct than that.

But still you are permanent.
You who perfected the ratio.
Blood to sugar to money to bricks.

Each bougie building we flaunt haunted by bones.
Children learn and titans sing
Under the stubborn rust of your name.

But the air is gently throbbing with newness.
Can you feel it?

Colston, I can’t get the sound of you from my head.

Countless times I passed that plinth,
Its heavy threat of metal and marble.

But as you landed, a piece of you fell off, broke away,
And inside, nothing but air.

This whole time, you were hollow.

Main photo by Ben Wray

Read more: City poet pens poem to Park Street

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