This Roman city has been my stomping ground for all my life, and like a woman, it remains a mystery to me. A beautiful and sometimes infuriating mystery. And with all its challenges and failings, it has a beating heart that dares you to embrace it. Its old architecture and industry built from the profits of the slave trade, colonialism and the far reaches of the British Empire are part of London’s legacy. As a post colonial descendant, I am able to harness the history of London as both a symbol and witness of the city’s possibilities. The immigrant blood that upholds the NHS and that has permeated its way into the life and culture of Londoners is only one of many ways in which the history contends with the present. I try to see the beauty, resilience and hope that escapes into the polluted London air. I see the London of the Arts. I think of the fact that London can claim Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye as former residents. Its been the city of visionaries like William Blake. It gave the world the genius pathos of Charlie Chaplin. Its the city of Shakespeare and boasts the world’s greatest theatre scene and tradition. Charles Dickens did not hide the ugliness and brutality of London. Neither did Dizzee Rascal. As reflected in the Grime and Drill music, London has a screw face too. Knives and young lives have not been kind to eachother. But I’ll always be grateful to London because its where I found the great love of my life. She knows who she is. I hope that we will enjoy this city together again someday. A man can dream. I love London.
Fated to believe that it really does count. That numbers add up. The crosses and knives cut deeper than words and silence. Knowing that the count starts before you, runs ahead of aspiration, and the novelistic length of your thoughts. That desire carries you as far as you let it linger. A kiss inverted. You swallow your own lies. But they taste good.
Once upon a time I presented this painting, ‘The Deep Thinker’, as a gift. It was turned down because the person who it was gifted to, said the face had no eyes. And that it was tantamount to bad luck. I’ve never dealt in charms but I graciously took back my painting. It seems the only eyes we recognise more often than not are the peep holes for our iris to take a snap shot of what we percieve in surreality. In real life as we term it, we are blinded by sight or rather blunted. The optical illusion of the vision is only equaled by the delusion of what we choose not to see in plain sight. We are all complicit in the great deception and visionaries will burn at the high stakes of our unseeing eyes.
The Deep Thinker
Acrylic on canvas
Six thirty. You were on time. This time. You were here. I was on my way. Missed the train. Missed the boat too. Burnt the bridge behind the rush hour. Always Knew I could fly. Just needed you to believe. I could fly across the world between your heart and I. On my bicycle. Travelling you has been my greatest journey. So far. So far away. Too high to climb your thoughts. I tried you like you were written by Hemmingway. You were sentences that served me time in the cave of loneliness. I fell down in battle. We grow up in love and loss. Played the hand too hard. Not soon enough. Only time wins it all. Its seven.
Was it fundamental to die before we ever got to learn about who we were? Our second birth gave us skin. We await our humanity on the third go round. The unreturned, who never knew sleep didn’t discern the need to play on the hallow ground or ween on the blood of sacrifice.
Basil chases the child who runs into walls. Transparent heart is planted in a climate of hate. Lucent as the dark covering, lashes closed the eyes they never used. See through your sounds, the blind mouth utters crimes of thought, a berry too sweet to swallow all at once.
Drown deep slowly. You are continents of water. Drown long and timeless. You are bodies of murder. Drown soft, you are but a baby in all your lifetimes spent searching for your soul.
80s was Mr T and Murdoch, Wimpy for the toys that went with the grub, scuffling at the laundrette, Cheetara, He-Man and She-Ra, Ghostbusters and Thriller, Christopher Reeves was Superman, comics were Marvel, Peter Parker made sense to this kid back then, had a Mary Jane of my own wired imagination that bought me a Batman action figure in 89, best friends were Irish, Egyptian, and Indian, literature was Roald Dahl and Hardy Boys, arcades were where we hung out, if I wasn’t at the library (Damilola Taylor and I would have been buddies if our years crossed paths), Street Fighter, Pizza Tropicana was the spot where Minesh and his brother got shook, gangs snatched watches and pocket money, I got lucky one time, more than once, BMX bikes were the wheels of dreams, indoors we drove Scalextric cars, soundtrack was pop, trust was Prince, Vicki Vale was the Kim that rocked our world, View to a kill, old Roger was my Bond, caught the whiff of adventure and grabbed the hat I wear in the present, Indiana Jones, red was my colour, had to be a Jedi thing, Murphy was Robocop and Eddie, the golden child, the leader of a primary school country dance, class of 89, Mary Anne, French as my name, teacher was Polish, she remembered me too, spitting image, Nintendo, a falling wall, kinda spooky channel 4 girl at the end of transmission, never thought much about the doll…..
I see with foresight the burning, naked and aged skin that sheds its fears to reveal a doubt which weighs heavily on the water that contains the boat of promises, still wet and unclean as misguided infancy and the harbour that yields to the shame.
A codependency of misfortune. A child raises its parent, addicted on the imposter serum mislabled as power. Every miscellaneous shell of a citizen has walked the plank. The inquisition has been and gone, and the version of future that is being foretold has cast its judgement on history.
We are the here and now and the dead and gone. Both tied to past denial and the second coming of delusions. What is a country, if its offspring can claim to not recognise its swollen face, with eyes leaning over the balcony to survey the dead of hope, whose bones protest while the dogs strip off the flesh of indignation, clean of evidence. And what of mothers who sought out land within that hostile terrain to make an idea out of dispossession, four walls of tender to tame the patriach’s emasculated by conquest and subjugation? A father’s name carries only the tide and its tongues, of tribulation and tribe but to which child does a country belongs to?
A body of water and blood where we drown our morning sorrows, again. And threaten to sleep with our decaying spouse hung by the terror that was born in us.
Clementine kisses you on the nose. Rose button drowned in your eyes. I drank your milk of kindness through my lies. Red wine and coke, you must play through the madness. Best thing you ever heard in your blindness. Muted tongue on pause bites the lip that feeds you. I remember what mama told me. And I remember you. Oh so tall in stature till they bent you over the bullsweat. They have teeth to match your fangs. And tongues of fire to heat up your secular soul. It burns just as hot on the outside of the inn. Keep it. She’s a keeper said nobody but your gentrifried mind. The flame dies but twice. Let it burn like the bushes of vanity, skin deep and heart swept feet off the ground, you put the foot in the mouth but forgot to bite down on it. Deep dead on it. Liver for the thrill. Killer of sheep you ran through the mill on a goose chase for the ages. Bronzed behaviour patterns after laughter and the clock is tocking.
Some say Blondes have the most fun. Rage is the orphaned child belonging to all and none. Like all theatre there is drama and comedy. On stage there is pomp and circumstance. Scripted and improvised. We live in the deceptive age of personality and individualism. But the bubble wrapped world of politricks and ticks is not conducive for the soul’s freedom of speech in bodily form. Demostatic like the air. Hair is the common denominator. It grows up. It gets cut down. Chemically relaxed and straightened to death or it hangs loose and long. Curly by nature and nurtured by pharmacy. This is the world. An extinction level game.
These streets seemingly paved with gold know the poverty of spirit of so many victims of choice who walk upon the burdened concrete reality. Not galant in stride. Not jovial in the hop to side step a strangerly neighbour. Yet to meet with fate or her match unmade in Hell. Better the Devil you don’t know at the end of the road you never crossed. Mercy’s mistress wets the night with pitiful tears and a Crocodile drys its eyes.