Podcast Episode 15: Heat

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

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You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Today I’m going to read you Tim Fab-Eme’s poem “Heat”.

[Bio below.]

He is also the current poetry editor for Reckoning 7! So for those of you interested in submitting, this is a chance to get a window on the inside of his head.

Tim may be the writer who’s work has appeared most often in Reckoning’s pages. Three different Reckoning editors, including me, have selected his work for publication. I hope you can imagine how delighted I was when he agreed to edit for us. His writing style, the impact it has on me, is hard to quantify, though I keep trying. There’s an intensity to it, a personal closeness that comes from an incredibly narrow-focused first-person POV and always leaves me fairly devastated. He’s obviously interested in form but not bound by it, his lines have a lyricality that comes from rhythmic agility, surprising internal rhyme, and are always informed by his startlingly close observation of people. There’s so much here! I’m afraid I’m too much of a fanboy at this point to articulate any of it much more coherently than that, and with respect to this poem, I think anything else I say will be doing the words themselves a disservice. So now I’m going let the poem speak for itself.

Heat by Tim Fab-Eme


I understand you don’t like talking sex and indoor games

when the Sun is high and the winds take on

the warmth of a kiss. Everything takes the extreme nowadays;

it’s no longer the luxury of race, religion, and politics.

But I’m bored because there’s nothing else to talk about

when the heat is high and my lips crave yours.


Our kids are in school learning new ways to take

more from the world. Do you wonder what life would

be in a century or two? There’ll be fires, floods,

droughts, and pandemics . . . oh, I forgot, you dread bad news.

You think there’ll be more love if we hope more.


We walk around and talk about paradise whenever we want;

I try to laugh loud more every time my mind

wanders away from the lair of a world beyond love.

But the heat is on and I’ve got no way


of looking away from sex, and the heat is much

and we’re afraid our bodies would rain heavily again

and the bed would be soaked and you don’t like that.


So, we sit out under the almond fanning our faces,

giggling the way foes feign smiles, thinking more of heaven


than what we feel now and will ever have. Earth.

Reckoning 7 Guidelines: Poetry

Fela Kuti’s ‘Water No Get Enemy’ is one of my favorite songs about life, and it’s echoing in my head as I think about Reckoning 7. The Afrobeat maestro warns humans not to war with water, because we cook and wash with it, we drink it, and clean both the newborn and the dead with it. In other words, water is life; only those who want to die trouble it, and that’s exactly what we’re doing now. We seem to forget that Earth is two thirds aquatic ecosystems that stabilize the global climate and sustain life. We increasingly unsettle water bodies with our spills, plastics, and the additional stressor of warmer temperatures that drive extreme events like floods, droughts, and wildfires.

Human activities invade species, shrinking biodiversity and engendering extinction. So, let’s sing about crests, let’s sing about atolls, let’s sing about seaward slopes. What’s beauty if not Rainbow Reef, Grand Central Station Chimneys, Great Barrier Reef, and Andaman Sea Reef? What else is beauty? But don’t worry if your work isn’t about oceans, aquifers and springs, rivers and streams, wetlands, bays, and estuaries. Water has no enemy; it’s life, and if you’ve written a poem about environmental justice please send it my way.

Payment for poetry is $30 (US) per page and there are no fees to submit.

Read the full guidelines and submit!

Times and Seasons and Vanity upon Vanity

I didn’t know I could stop and trace the roads

of my palm the way my baby does, and tell

myself that moving fast isn’t everything, that other folks had

walked this path, that Earth isn’t mine alone, that am

not as great as I assumed, that it doesn’t pay

to eat with both hands like crabs, that I’m vulnerable.


I didn’t know I could live without sports and pop

myths, the lure of sex and the wild, the fantasy

of Hollywood and the charm of yachts. I didn’t know.

Please, tell me again: why do you harm your neighbor

for the glory you met and will leave behind tomorrow?


I’m home now—the pandemic struck too fast for me

to shield myself as I always do when others mourn

the loss of the things they love. I’m quarantined from

all the things I bleached the ozone with my chimneys.


Reckon, there’s a time for everything: a time for pollution

and a time we’re chained from messing as we pleased,

a time to worship wealth and a time to croak


health is greater, a time for folly and a time

for duty, a time to crave the grandeur of greed


and a time to love everyone and everything as yourself.


—July 5, 2020

Unnatural Selection

You must know Darwin—not any darwin

in forums with telescopes on his eyes

always singing the beard like a puppet,

or one having his tag by accident;

I really mean the God of chance—

he respected me, no, he deified me

not because I once mirrored his incubation

when we sat alone on HMS Beagle,

but that I surpassed him in jest—


this, too, he dismissed when I reviewed

the Origin long before it absorbed us.

I had asked as throes gripped him,

what he would be after the time—

My friend, he called, there is no death

but transmutation, and we laughed at sophistry.

So, Darwin never died as you presume,

and not only he, but every extinct thing:


do not compose elegies for Tiktaalik roseae,

dinosaurs, Raphus cucullatus and golden toads

or remind me of Suyá and Ostrogoth,

St. Helena olives and Sri Lanka legumes—

they have, indeed, been transformed—I know

he would agree wherever whatever he is,

that the Holocene extinction is natural selection.


He knew I detest praising friends privately,

I sing them loud as a thrush

I laud public approval, which he adored,

and I told him in undressed words

that I did not share his lust

and how he swore in the name


of greed and in its night-birthed misnomers

we give all the things that limp

backwards into the beautiful door of love;

the stubble smiled and laughed at me,

yet he did not stir my head


to make differently how we should live.

I never meant, friend, to distract you,

to cut new pathways in your mind

to discredit or credit the new whiskers,


and believe me, I wonder every day

as I walk across shacks and skyscrapers

how many of us daily go extinct


by our fatal greed and inverse love

that wet the long lungs of death—


and which of us, Malthus, is next?

Niger Delta Blues

You don’t know what it means to live unknown,

to smile in the market square as a stranger

haughtily spills your mother’s name on a pig’s head

and you become a boil on Miss World’s lips.

This is how a mangrove lives without prop roots:


a branch is starved until its pregnant leaves become

ghosts of IDPs walking backwards to Oloibiri Well 1.

def.: Oloibiri is the longing of a surrogate mum

e.g.: She died birthing crude oil for the outsiders.


You don’t know how it feels when a foe

owns your child and you bow calling him, Lord,

while your neighbours cut your neck with snail shells;


you can’t protest because your life’s a nursery rhyme



and the other poisons that eat me away daily.

Papa’s Scary Talk About COVID-19 and Pollution

Again, Papa drags the TV remote from my little girl,

his grimace listing all the ills of our nowadays children—

true, such headiness didn’t exist even in my own time;

and once they start the territorial dance of Agama agama

I quickly zip my lips and run into the kitchen

before his festering eyes ask how she became a dictator.


Mia’s a swashbuckler—I feign cackles and cheer her CBeebies.

I don’t know why Papa likes cold wars. Maybe, he

envies her for having all the things he only read

about in his own childhood. But I don’t bother him

about the things he couldn’t give me in my childhood.


Papa pressed the remote the way Mia traps roaches. CNN.

COVID-19 has hit world trade. Nigeria would learn to drink

her crude oil, to stuff her lungs with greenhouse gases/

It’s a beautiful thing, you know, Papa announces. I shriek.


But people are dying, I say. He shakes his head

like a mantis. There’s less pollution now, you know. Silence.

Good walks with evil—and that’s a fact, you know.


I nod and Papa plays on: Our globetrotting politicians being

home with us is wonderful, you know. Silence. Think, son.


Papa talks the way Mama talked the night she died.


—April 1, 2020