Jackie Kay

You might forget the exact sound of her voice
Or how her face looked when sleeping.
You might forget the sound of her quiet weeping
Curled into the shape of a half moon,

When smaller than her self, she seemed already to be leaving
Before she left, when the blossom was on the trees
And the sun was out, and all seemed good in the world.
I held her hand and sang a song from when I was a girl -

Heil Ya Ho Boys, Let her go Boys
And when I stopped singing she had slipped away,
Already a slip of a girl again, skipping off,
Her heart light, her face almost smiling.

And what I didn't know or couldn't see then
Was that she hadn't really gone.
The dead don't go till you do, loved ones.
The dead are still here holding our hands.

Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay (pictured, left, preparing to read at the launch party for Julia Darling's Apology for Absence) was born in Edinburgh in 1961, to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father.

The experience of being adopted by and growing up withing a white family inspired her first collection of poetry, The Adoption Papers, which won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a commendation by the Forward Poetry Prize judges in 1992.

The Adoption Papers was followed by Other Lovers and Off Colour. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies, and she has written widely for stage and television.

Her first novel, Trumpet, published in 1998, was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. She has also published two collections of short stories, Why Don't You Stop Talking and Wish I Was Here (2006), a novel for children, Strawgirl and, in 2005, a further collection of poetry, Life Mask.

Jackie Kay lives in Manchester. In 2006, she was awarded an MBE for services to literature. She has been keeping a blog for the Poetry Society, and has just finished editing Julia Darling's weblog for Radio 4.


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© Jackie Kay: used with permission.
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This page last updated 29th November 2006