Fahad Al-Amoudi

Fahad Al-Amoudi is a poet and editor of Ethiopian and Yemeni heritage based in London. His work is published in Poetry London, bath magg, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Butcher’s Dog and has been shortlisted for the White Review Poet’s Prize. He is a Roundhouse Slam 2019 finalist, an alumnus of the inaugural Obsidian Foundation, graduate of the Writing Squad and member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. He is the editor for the Runaways London Anthology with Ink Sweat & Tears Press and the Reviews Editor for Magma.

Judges’ Comments

Fahad Al-Amoudi’s Africa is not essentialized, but rather questions “the world” in a lithe, slippery, intricate play of language. His inventive and inviting lyricism finds empathy with a grave robin as easily as it listens for what is sent into the wind and doesn’t come back. And the work sustains a strong sense of history throughout.


Grave Robin             

In these hands, the secateurs divide the day into milliseconds, punishing this lonely abundance of weeds. Tangled ivy chokes the grave. The only evidence of years is the fading name in ash, bent over, kissing the ground. In this winter solstice, a burst of daylight, I reclaim my childhood role. I play at being the dutiful son, tending to the memory of my mother like the poets of old. I see her everywhere in this strange ecosystem– the soil machéd into insects, a stalagmite of roses, a hard enduring metal. I take the blades to this undergrowth and they shiver against the scattered sprigs
of holly. Biting the air, I pluck them with a naked hand into a ball of blood and hair and hunger. When I open, a robin emerges, her chest the shape of a singing bone, curved at the angle of my knees. I am a dirge of apologies, I beg her forgiveness again and again and again. She perches on the felled cross, leaning into my song with her sun-burned cheeks, her shallow casting shadow consuming the plot. She looks at me, as if catching a thief, and together we steal whatever light there is left in the day, our voices, finding at last, one harmony.

Everything was fine before the war

Fieldnotes on the Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum, Addis Ababa, which remembers the victims of the Red Terror under the Derg government.

A deluge of pictures swept the walls, each cluster
of faces a littering of water-lilies breaking the air.
We were safe from the downpour outside, hailstones
large as ankle braces, a sky filled with umbrellas
like jellyfish but who would protect us from this wake?
This city of poor drainage, where bodies collect
by the curb, eyes large enough to cover man-holes.

In the glass casing, shirts panted in their tall columns
as if they too had run in from the rain,
dusted river molluscs from their collars
and shouldered the whistle of the old, violent tune.
Backlight crusted around the security guard,
his dark blue uniform a clotted snot bubble, foaming
at the bottom where his belt choked the lip of his belly.

He looked like the last of his kind with his cap
flat over his bald head, like an iron left to burn
faced-down, the naked curve of skin lacquered
by a blunt instrument. Was he old enough to
remember the last war? Did he don a jacket,
and watch the sibilance of torchlight pin families
to a doughy night, the cobwebs of outstretched hands?

A Silver Child

Baba washes in the thin acetate of my rancid
cackle when he shows me a black and white photo.

Delicate between my fingers I hold this Claymation child,
emboldened with the scars of an unyielding breeze, a kidney-

finish bruising his cheeks and raised blood vessels
girdling his face into this expression:   unblinking.

Here is my father staring down his self-exile.
I think he’s heard it somewhere before, my laughter

jewelled in concave, a soundwave of beaded opal
kids outside the headmaster’s office shimmering in the

lines of his forehead. He adds one part still, two parts sparkling water,
mixes the silver solution in his glass and drinks a toast to the

Never-child. Tonight, he tells me of the classroom and teachers
oblonged in white lab coats, their fingers chalky-grey,

pressing the collars of schoolchildren and pulling threads apart like
qat, their busy voices leaving doors ajar, and electric feet kicking

rubble like spores off the screaming plateau. On these visits,
seldom long, I like to imagine that the Nile divided

the makeshift football pitch; imagine my father emerging, his afro
untouched, the break of the shore filming over his smile,

verdant as the garden at the back of the shop, as Grandma
Weyzero washes down panes of glass in a town on the edge of

extinction. Here in this restaurant, waxed in a frame of candlelight,
years unfold their reams of white space, my father their most loyal