Curtis’s hands were important. Not more than his heart. When he recorded his last album he had only the use of his neck and the head attached to it which housed his genius mind to do the work of breathing out hope into a world that had tasted too many losses to inhale the optimism extolled through music. His heart still functioned effectively and the evidence of soul and spirit was still audible. Lying on his back he recorded one short phrase at a time. Phrase by phrase, a word became a line of lyric. Phrase by phrase, a line of lyric became a verse. And then a chorus. And then a bridge. Curtis’s hands remained still and silent through this process. The eyes watched and waited for something that the hands knew would never happen again. Curtis could not find feeling in the physical form of hands that had mastered a style of guitar playing that was unique to himself. Hands that shaped sounds for Hendrix and Marley to study. Hands dramatically and unwillingly put to rest. And this is why those hands are a great teacher. In their absence of use he martialed the figurative hands that survived the destruction of his body, from the neck that shouldered the weight of his head, with a voice which expressed his deepest feelings in song. A lifetime’s worth of wisdom and openess to the mysteries of life. I remember listening to New World Order and being humbled by Curtis’s generosity of spirit, and in awe of what he accomplished in terms of sonic life affirmations in such desperate circumstances. The testament of the spirit when it intersects with the divine is all one can hope for when one puts in the work of exhalation. Curtis Mayfield’s musical soul holds the hands that raise up the weary hearted head of hurts. Unbowed.
Wettest eye watering skinned brother on the inside, arachnid crawling out, side eyed, hunger bites the heart of fear, and the killer, mother knows best, knows not the fright that drives him to stomp small creatures and their secrets, like vaporous confessions that rise up with death.
Smoke city. A body burns, like nations, like bodies burning nations. Iraq hid in flames of refutation.
Web swinger, entrapped in the ganda, hung to dry on the rope that pulled him up to the measure of Spider men, climbed into company love of misery and a tail wagged for the milk of magnesia and human kindness, as mythical as the love that murders with good intentions to broadcast.
Charity. Just spare me the charity of words like the vain in life who speak of the ignoble dead, fishing in blood rivers. Dead as purpose of Pompey. Restless in peace.
Patriots are foreigners too. Like poets. Dead ones seem to outlive the living. Their words are the ideas that dreamers cling on to for a fictive future.
The living are dreamers at dawn. Walking on corn toes. Curved. Running the zig zag. They are pragmatic with crayons. And they laugh loud and unclear like the noise they speak.
Home is where the heart is heavy. If you cut through the chatter and chit it’s all bullsweat. Now if you knew where to bury the living, I’d hand you a shovel. No words. No songs. No honour to purchase.
They’ve got that one day exclusive on offer. Get your love at half the pain. All foreign currencies accepted. Faces are guilty but eyes are blameless.
Swig, swallow, continental considerations drown in a cup of consequence. He couldn’t chew water fast enough to save himself. A cup of struggle. Suffering. Swirl it around. Swirl the pain around us. Inside us. Pour us gently into your cup of fear like liquid love with empathy. Taste that chocolate treat or trick and buy a melted moment’s peace of heart.
I don’t remember when I first became aware of Daley Thompson. Somewhere in the timeline of my childhood it would seem that I would chance upon him either through my own research and the footage of his exploits on replay at every global Track & Field championship aired by the good old BBC. Old commentators whose prime like Daley’s was behind them, would remind the nation that he was once the world’s greatest athlete. They wouldn’t say arguably, though they knew that Carl Lewis amongst others had a legitimate claim to that unofficial title, but it was merited. He was an imperious performer on the biggest stage when the Decathlon determined who was the heavyweight champion allrounder of athletics on the ground. It wasn’t just winning, but the glory was in the audacity and cheek of his dominance. There is the iconic image of him standing over the field of his adversaries who all lay prostrate on their backs after a race at the end of a grueling competition. Thats the Daley Thompson who merited the moniker, ‘world’s greatest athlete’.
For his 60th birthday, he launched a pop up gym session in the Southbank and as coach and co-host he drilled amateurs like myself in one hour sessions to push ourselves physically and mentally with the emphasis of dream chasing. My patched up body took on the challenge aided by the might of spirit and temperament. I took it all in as I gave it all up. He chastised me and I smiled warmly. He mocked and scuffed at my ruined rotator cuffs that limited my mobility and I smiled harder and kept on pushing through my pain threshold till it could not go any further. My partner was equally game and exhausted at the end though she faired better than I. The experience was pleasurable after a bit of rest and recuperation. Daley challenged my manhood as if I was an inferior rival from his glory days, but it was good natured and as much about entertainment than anything else. His charisma and machismo is still in play mode and its good to see that he has not let all those years of input and endeavour go to waste. It was a privilege and honour to train with him and see where i’m at. Then Pizza, Belgian Waffles and Hot Chocolate restored vitality to my bones. A lot of water too.
“And In the half light, see me as I am” – Jeff Buckley, Opened Once
November 2nd came close to her door. Too close. Stood in front of it for a heartbeat and watched the years fade away. There was no welcome parade in the sky above. The stars hadn’t arrived yet to light my way back to insignificance. Just the black on black of an Autumn night. I was back there again. Inside on the outside. She was inside me again. Behind the fortified wall built by muscular fears lay remnants of our transient lives lost in the fire where we danced the Kamikaze Waltz with our dreams and nightmares bound as one. Memories.
Tell me I got it all wrong. I won’t deny it. Naivety shrouds the slow development of cynicism, but I was guilty from the womb, cause it was those same infantile tears I cried when you closed that last chapter of our story. I was your open book but somehow the plot and character development got too heavy to make sense of. Stunted growth or premature maturity, I couldn’t tell. I mean love was all I knew back then. That silly love that some men and women try to hide from, lest it be taken for weakness or granted. I couldn’t hold it in. When that water rises up from the deep, it takes down all in its path like a rapture with contempt. It must have been scary for you to have to contend with that brazen, cavalier young man, though you loved me too even when it manifested in the most self destructive way. Pushing me to despise you was an exercise in vain. I couldn’t turn away.
I think I understand it now. You had to escape my love. You would never have survived it. To be loved the way I loved you would have cost you your identity and anonymity, because as Baldwin said, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” So you chose to remain a mystery, and kept me on the leash of your shadow. My best friend and a stranger. I embraced the mystery and all that volatile beauty that came in the package of your body, mind and soul. That’s what you were to me. Beautiful. And I was right there for all that pain that kept you a prisoner of your secrets, though I couldn’t heal you with words or kisses. Like you, I was a wounded creature on insecurity highway. With the blood flowing I still found cold comfort in your touch. With your lips you ushered me into your labyrinth world and left me with hand me down hopes of a future together. The same hands that gripped my back would cast me back to the poverty of your absence from my life on that Rocket ship that Stevie sang of. And when you offered me your precious temple without regard for its value, you might remember that I made it clear that I couldn’t afford your “spoilt goods”. You were more valuable to me than any ambition I could conjure up in the folly and virility of my youth. You were all those nights of dreaming, and praying, and longing which turned into years. We were lovers before we ever were. You knew that too. We were the half of each other. We were the unspoken words in a glance across tables of chattering friends and escalators on opposite sides. We were the solace in a momentary embrace which felt like a lifetime. And when we held each other, when we rolled in that roller coaster of emotional chaos, that took on various forms of passive and reactive aggression all the way round, I saw you hiding in there. I saw you naked in the dark. Did you know that? I saw you as you were in true likeness and I knew that I would always love you.