No one taught me how to play Chicken Foot Dominoes


A woman shooed a pigeon from her cafe, but defiantly, the pigeon waddled across the floor and hopped the stairs towards the exit rather than take flight, as if taunting her. A short while later, a pigeon returned. They slapped down a hand, unsettling arrangements of bones, jumping table, startled wings flapping and—ha ha ha—feathered voices scattered a timeline, layered, modular, moveable, dispersed between purpose, reason and objective—infinite solutions deducing from whence the next round will arrive. Guinness is served from a paltry pension, and who collected it for you? Whose round is it? Unless the party don’t start until later? Someone told us, then we heard, echoing dank alleyways, that the party would be later—much later. They raced ahead in lieu of knowledge as to which bones scattered across lands for which they lacked vocabulary: bones of ivory or pearl, one or two now discarded beneath the table, each marked with a sum of black spots sold into aggregation of those now retired to this world's long shadow, and formulas of partnered conquests sat in opposition, where whispers and osmosis revealed who would remain, who would win. The party was supposed to start later, much later, but it is here, and it is loud. I heard one of the old players recognised neither party and got lost in their boorish jubilance, somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. He dropped something fashioned from bone. Feet all around stomped his confusion into firm ashes of memories razed and crumbled beneath fallen tower blocks: family dinners, arguments, and dancehalls, within jerk chicken smoke, we’d hang low to sniff the nape of our dance partner’s neck— which smelled sweet, of exuberant burning, no tropes, reflective rhetoric, or dark circles of inertia, representing them or us, or ‘I & I’. Dirt formed into mounds, mounds poured into moulds, moulds; geometric, orderly and tessellating, from foundational blocks to the tiling of a game of experimental formulas; juggling and juxtaposing donations to purpose, spinning hope’s wheel, twisting fate as if anything else were statistically possible or even inclined, but an increase in value to geometrically moulded earth piled high, craning towards breathable air and the touch of a filtered sun against their skin. There used to be a record shop here, from way back when—when the BBC wouldn’t pay reggae.

Man was chilling in the back; was mad rammed in there, nuff man, pressing and chirp-sing,

nuff gal ignoring, bare sweat bare respect for DJ smashing them tunes our parents, and young grandparents was listening to in the ends. All them man is up on the roof smoking, jokes caught a fog of coke breathed skyward, tongues locked like challah bread, Nah, its cool innit, my mum is Jewish, my dad, Jamaican. Used to live around the ends, but now he’s somewhere up north

locked in a Tyneside suburb, I think, he wasn’t given much choice; the Co-op disappeared, forgotten,

and Mum, never held another

does any of them faces remember faces all merged, any discernible difference beneath them gravestones, logged and recorded into an invisible decision-maker, my choice architect, nudging, pressing dad and me under because, they knew way back when, they knew how to implement hostile policies, releasing slithery whispers down the pub, a long fog of war indiscernible to my naked eye sending shivers down part of the nation’s spine, even if they didn’t know it, the rest could care less, they can remortgage, get fat, fuck fuel, get electric, and clean reclaimed wooden floors, shimmering, polished. I can see my face

Michael Salu is a British-born Nigerian writer, artist, filmmaker, editor and creative strategist, working creatively and critically with new technologies. He is the author of Red Earth (Calamari Press, 2023) and his writing has appeared in several literary journals, magazines, art and academic publications, including the Paris Review, Freeman’s Journal and Sleepingfish. As an artist, he has exhibited internationally and he runs House of Thought, an artistic research practice and creative consultancy focusing on bridging creative, critical thinking and technology and he is part of Planetary Portals, a research collective.