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Us 3: A Poem For Patti Smith Written by Kai-Isaiah Jamal & Rene Matić

Written by Kai-Isaiah Jamal & Rene Matić

Kai-Isaiah Jamal & Rene Matić on Zoom, 2020


The two South London-raised artists, spoken word poets and ‘chosen’ siblings Rene Matić and Kai-Isaiah Jamal came together before the end of 2020 to write four letters to each other entitled ‘Us 3’. These poetic correspondences were written in response to Patti Smith’s poetry and her new CIRCA commission ‘A New Year’ for January 2021. 



I dreamed of freedom like Patti.

like we knew it was good


Freedom like calm like she said freedom like freedom like no fear like fist in
the air freedom

like success that comes from doing it like

freedom of space

space to work space to love like fruit like freedom to not dream it but be it freedom

like being understood like making sense like this is my dance space freedom

sweet freedom

endless materials freedom like roof tops like poets and paint like freedom

freedom like listening and being listened to

like freedom as desire as writing and thought and being alone and being with her and being with freedom

like rhythm and my hips and yours and strong hands freedom

a vase of freedom a glass of freedom a shot of freedom

like dirty like just as you want it as you feel it freedom like your bedroom with the door shut and our living room with

the window open


like before we knew it was white



deserving freedom

delicate freedom

freedom like dub like blue beat like lovers rock rock steady punk rock rock and roll freedom like obviously


like she says

and obviously running running without lungs like lungs don’t exist so we could just run freedom

and chain smoke freedom

and sit and rest and obviously birds and obviously flying and obviously balloons but also standing and stillness and


and everybody freedom and nobody freedom and no body

beyond body beyond and

breaking through to the other side and the other side and the other side and the other side and the other side and the

other side and

I’ve got other sides freedom

No capital letters no countries no flags

no gods no mothers or whatever your tattoo says

but absolutely mothers

loving mothers

and maybe even gods

gods as lovers as fingers as gods

build ups and crescendo’s and

free money freedom awake in the night freedom

no years no minutes no seconds freedom no gender freedom

steel toe capped boots and knuckle dusters and knives in pockets freedom

no meds freedom

no trauma


they can’t hurt you now can’t hurt you now can’t hurt you now can’t hurt you now freedom

no truths

no traitors


plentiful, like she says and she says it twice freedom

formless freedom

falling failing flailing freedom

feel free to stop me freedom

Kai freedom
sky freedom
my freedom
bye freedom
hi freedom
high freedom

why freedom
because is it a lie, freedom?

‘baffled silence’ freedom Patti?



Rene Matić: We give a lead to Britain, 2020


Oh teeny one.

I believe I should have answers as a sibling, in the same duty I should have words as a poet.

But my whole life I’ve known the vastness of nothing. How sometimes to be nameless and numberless and motherless, thus to belong to nothing that knows your name or the scent of what it was before. Is the only way to be free.
How sometimes that does encompass all of the words
that do not belong to our tongue yet.

Freedom, do be what it be.

Anything can be synonym for it
If you believe in all of the words enough —
Especially the ones that do not belong to your tongue yet.

That are breach and trying to be birthed or waiting to be born.

And if it is the right to write the wrong words,
Then freedom is all of the things you are shouting and also the whisper of gaps between.
Freedom is whatever escapes from the gap in my teeth
In my first or final breath.
Freedom is my breath and how it does not ask to be. To be.

Freedom is us. Us just being kids, being just kids and kids forever.
Because freedom is forever which means it might not be here.
Might need to be somewhere a little more eternal.
Where a son I can be the boy the beast and the butterfly.
But that’s cool baby, that’s okay because freedom is today.
And also tomorrow and also as long as our souls keep living.

How long a soul been in a body?
How many bodies has it been in before it’s been in ours?
How many parts of souls belong to us that are not our own?

I wonder if my soul has ever lived inside your body.
I am sure it has because freedom is comfortable. I feel comfortable least but most with you.
When we are talking about a woman that lives in both of our souls
And her own — all at the same time.
Makes you think of a holy trinity. 3 always feels more like freedom. Unless it’s 3 the mandem.
2 is just too tied and tethered and ankles make me nervous

Like freedom is the geography of your body
But only sometimes.
Remember when I was gonna move the mountains?
Freedom is the knife being in the other hand.

Freedom is the knives in pockets
Becoming flowers.
Freedom is the knives in pockets
Becoming flowers.

Freedom is everything being a poem
everything being something else.
fists becoming knives becoming flowers becoming cocks freedom is believing nothing of it at all.
But trusting you.
and trusting Patti.
and trusting that my liberation
is in your little legs
And my long little legs.

And look I’m running

And not away.
And look we are running
Look we are jumping and dancing toward’s the sound.

I’ll meet you both there. We’ll taste it I promise.

The vinyl hysterically screams.


Kai-Isaiah Jamal courtesy of Browns


my just kid kai,

thank you for getting back

i don’t have gaps between my teeth,
i used to though,
i gave all the gaps to my dad.
but that is for another day
another year
‘unblemished by clouds’

we write so much like her, enit?
maybe tonight i’ll dress like her, enit?
white shirt black tie


perhaps that is all a soul is is
similarity familiarity freedom

have you ever bought a record from a charity shop and found the previous owners name on the sleeve? i like that
that is a body that’s been

there is someone else’s name on my ‘easter’ album. there was someone else’s name on you for a while

likkle freedom

vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore freedom

rimbaud said something about us all once
‘a thousand dreams within me softly burn’
like chidera’s rose petal joints
like paris is burning
when silver spoons aren’t there at least knives are
or fists
or flowers
or freedom

it was edgar allen poe that said
‘and all i loved
i loved alone’
and this is patti for me
for you
when we’ve been lonely

and oh god

we are so often lonely

and when we are lonely
we look for things to love
and so we find our 3
3 always feels more like freedom

It’s funny you mention our legs because you look so much like legs to me every part of you has the ability to move

so let’s move
like we moved that day so separately so together
i think i was 17 or something
field day
2015 freedom
2021 freedom

happy new year baby


Patti Smith, CIRCA 1970 by Frank Stefanko


Even when your ears aren’t listening,
Your body is.
I told Maggie the other day, whilst you were in the bath
that I love being called a kid or kiddo.

Makes me feel like I belong there

[right there]

in someone’s mouth.
Even if they don’t have a gap like mine.

Being called home.

That’s all I ever write about init?

Making it or shaping it or breaking it or ruining it or reclaiming it or not having it or coming to yours and taking up some space.
I keep all my bags half-packed like i’m going somewhere
Everything in piles ready to throw in cases —


I am always packing a bag. I am always in preparation for what is to come.
I am already fist up, tenderly at times.

Isn’t freedom just unpacking your bags?
For ever.
For forever
or some time that feels a little like it.

I have. I also write notes in most records, in hope that one day someone will find it.
Maybe then I have always been writing for you, unknowingly but earnestly.

All in preparation for this.
The holy trinity standing in Victoria park

I had enough time to drop my backpack
Into Jem’s tree house that day.
And all I had was the money in my pocket,
the tobacco at the bottom of the dark green pouch
and a hand loosely in mine.

And there was even less in the backpack
nothing to unpack, really no purpose.
Which felt so fitting. I was carrying a lot of dead weight that summer.

But I went freely into it;
Owning nothing.

Owned by nothing,
with a backwards bruised heart.

Patti says
‘i don’t do nothing perfect’
‘i only fuck up perfect’
on stage
And I know what it is to be home.

Red stripe in black hand.
Surrounded by so much white.
But compromised no green below my feet. Stood my ground to see.
Because if anyone does black and white
It’s Patti right?
And Robert.
And white shirts.
And black ties.
And dark rooms.
And me and you Rene.

Im gonna write
‘Baby Rudeboy’ on my Horses cover
Blood is just permanent ink. You my blood.

Freedom is marking what’s ours.
I would have always found you. We have always been an arm stretch away. Two sides of a stage.

Le monde est à nous.

We know who said it best:

“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”



Kai-Isaiah Jamal is a poet, whose work explores learning and unlearning, identity and the often unspoken. Their voice carries power: to move, affirm, comfort, question, call to action. They are a model and public figure, navigating both spaces in a Black, trans, politicised body. They are a visibility activist.

Rene Matić is an artist, writer and poet based in London. Their work brings together themes of post-blackness, glitch feminism and subcultural theory in a meeting place they describe as rude(ness) – to interrupt and exist in/between. Matić takes their departure point from dance and music movements such as Northern soul, Ska and 2-Tone, using them as sites to queer and re-imagine the intimacies between West Indian and white working-class culture in Britain.