Saili Katebe

Saili Katebe is a Zambian-born writer based in southwest England. As a writer and a performer he is always looking to connect with different disciplines and creative outlets, exploring his curiosity with creativity and recklessness. In 2019 he was resident Bristol Boat Poet and a writer in residence on Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

Saili Katebe

Photo: Sam Cavender


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SS After ‘70

some thirty years since Sparrow
Cove she appeared where she
began on Great Western

old Bristol hollowed and halved
by the fulkand tide, and the
time It took to remember her

first of herself, a stunning
leap into spiting the sea,
all iron blossom and bellowing

we can count the lifetimes she
has ferried from below her
waterline, where she fights the
city air

where she is half desert
half glory, where she sits
avoiding the rust

the people haven't
forgotten there are bones
buried in the books that
build Bristol.

the stench of sea and
copper still carries the
weight, from the blooded

no matter which way you
sailed history is a mudded
with too many names and

the differences blurred under
murmuring inquisition once
Colston was called to the docket

It took a century to redefine
these waterways and build a
dialogue beyond the cotton
our communal emblem
still rests where she began
and beckons the city

to sit in on its chattering
rooms to reclaim the voyage
everywhere to home

long after the cove and scuttling
she still whispers some
waterlogged shanty about freedom

still plenty of story to whittle
from her wood I wish I could
have heard her sing back into

Saili Katebe