Carmina Masoliver – Shaneeka is not your friend anymore

03 Jan 2019 / #Arvon50

Arvon Writer

I was fortunate enough to be taken on a funded Arvon course by Apples & Snakes as part of The Writing Room programme in 2014. Inua Ellams and Warsan Shire were tutoring – two of my absolute favourite poets, who are also wonderful people, as well as massive inspirations, not only for what they have both achieved, but for the incredible quality of their work. Kayo Chingonyi also made a guest experience, another poet I greatly admire since meeting him properly as he worked with students at the school I was working at back then.

At the time, I was working full time and commuting 3 hours a day from south London to east London, and I was so grateful that my place of work gave me this time and space to write. It is hard to put into words how meaningful the experience was, to work with other poets I know, to cook with each other, play games together, and to have quiet time to read and write and edit. I was so sad when it was over, but so grateful that I was able to be part of such an experience that is sure to be treasured by all who were there.

The poem below is one that I remember getting some excellent feedback on from Warsan Shire, which helped shape it into the poem it is today.

Shaneeka is not your friend anymore

You are blowing out candles on your birthday cake.
You didn’t want to celebrate with friends this year; it felt too forced,
like they were sponge crumbs slipping through your fingers.

Your hair is in a low pony tail. Shaneeka once said
when you wear your hair down, you’re in a good mood.
Shaneeka is not your friend anymore.

You didn’t realise she knew you so well. Neither of you knew
that when a daisy chain is broken, some can hold on.
Years later, at the end of school, you sign each other’s leaving books.

But at this birthday surrounded by the rocks of family,
you pool your resources, buried in books and simulation games
and repeats of American import television.

You are slid down the sofa, sat on the floor. You used to
eat your dinner on the coffee table like this, three placemats,
just to watch TV, just to have something to shout at.

You are wearing a shirt with thin sunset coloured stripes:
an outfit much older than your years. You are a teenager.
Already you can’t wait until this is over.

Hope for adulthood is what gets you through each day,
the frayed edges of your family to be fixed, friendships formed
over new yellow cafeteria tables, meeting boys that go beyond butterflies.

You are blowing out candles on your birthday cake.
You are wishing years away like seconds were a game,
or a TV programme, to fast forward, to rewind.


Arvon turned 50 in 2018 and to celebrate we have collected the stories of writers far and wide who have a tale to tell about Arvon. The collection is published in our anniversary booklet and featured on our blog. This contribution is by Carmina Masoliver.


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