When I was younger I used to spend a lot of time reading books in libraries. I think Art galleries are similar. One difference is that you can only read the words of a painting with the eyes behind your eyes if its the work of a true Artist. Such a pretentious thing to say but its half true. And the pages of some paintings are left unfinished with or without intention. Thats not as tolerable in books you would find in most books displayed alphabetically in a library. But the abstract ‘truth’ in unfinished paintings often seems much closer to my experience of the world and my perception of reality. The seeing and unseeing in paintings feel more accurate than the specificity of the language conveyed by written words on a page that bends. On the other hand, the written word is crucial. We write so that we might recite. And that is not all. Our malleable eyes are not only made for the glory of painterly visions but for redrafting what we see.
Red as race. Watching our eyes run down adversaries like rivers that walk tall. Red as danger on demand. A button for comfort. Press down to play up the part you were dressed for. Take flight by peddle and dash forwards, a runner knows the pleasure of pain.
Picture a world uncaptured that doesn’t own you, but pays no more and no less than what it owes you. A world without music. A world without light. And picture a boy with a shyness that transforms before your eyes into the magic realism of a world of your own imagination. Paint it with tears. Paint it with the sweat of toil that labors feet that know the joy married to pain, in repetition. Paint it with the blood of experience which betrays our imagination. Paint it with the love of song and dance that flies on the light of a smile returning home from the miracle of being born in the weathered land that is ours to tear up and reimagine. Not a song. Just a chord that strikes once or twice in time.
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.
Some years ago, I spent a considerable amount of pounds to get my hands on a first pressing of this record. It wasn’t the first nor the last time I would splash out for Aretha rarities. I spent beyond my means on many occasions for Aretha records, and I didn’t regret it because I loved her. Its a perculiar thing to say, because my relationship with her was strictly through her music. But I know why I loved her and always will. It goes without saying that she was set apart when she emerged into mainstream consciousness. She was of a tribe and community but yet she was different. Unique. Singular in her genius. She was the Mount Olympus of popular music singers in what is sometimes referred to as the Rock era. Her sound was and is both ancient and future, so the era which she is associated with, could not hold her captive.
I have been reading two books about Aretha in recent months. One is about her album, Amazing Grace, and the other is about the warts and all of her life. I put down one of them and stuck a pile of books on top. I’m slowly advancing through the other. I recognise people in Aretha. People that I love but who will forever remain something of a mystery. There is no book that can be written that will quell the intrigue or reveal her more precisely than her voice and rendering of songs. Lady Soul and her voice belong to the mystery and the wonder of faith in the divine. God gifted we often say. Death is a mystery as is life. And so is love. And so is God. When Job cried out in indignation, he was confronted by that mystery. So it is love and God, the mystery of mysteries that I hear when I listen beyond the pain and pleasure of death and life in her voice. Life affirmed. Resurrected from death. The pleasure coiled around the pain. The sensuality of life. The fragility. The indomitability of the spirit that hollers. The soul that bleeds. Loud. She resembles my mother in a lot of those late 60s to mid 70s images captured by publicity departments and press. Old photographs are things of wonder. And my mother’s face in her youth is as beautiful, vibrant and full of possibilities as Aretha’s voice. All that history is interwoven with all that future, which we can only live to know. Aretha Now. That was not just an album title. Taking heed of a moment on a journey that is still ahead. With hope in God.
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.
“His own perception of himself as ugly derived from features inherited from his black great-grandfather; nevertheless, he persued love affairs with some of the most beautiful women of his time.” – Elaine Feinstein
I’ve been wanting to delve deeper into Puskin for a good while. The so called father of Russian literature was a fascinating guy. Almost as ink worthy as his African ancestor, Gannibal, the ‘great’ Moor of Petersburg. Great as in a man counted worthy of the position and honours bestowed on him. All biographies have to be taken with a pinch of sea salt as it is impossible to imprison the fullness of a human being in words. But there have been earnest attempts that bring us a little closer to the inner workings of people who have turned pages and stamped an impression of something resembling a virtue of the soul and spirit of a human being. If the genius of Pushkin is considered in the fullness of who he was or assumed to be, then words can only reduce him. Yet words were the tools of a craft he mastered and was subsequently made a servant of. Gannibal did not have such concerns, it would seem.
I wonder how much of his ancestor who acquired noble distinction, informed and impressed the young Artist who would become the literary conscience of a zealot nation. Who did he see in his past and future reflection? His children are Dostoevsky and Nabokov, but they were not tainted by the questions in his blood. They inherited his noble literary service to country, comrade, and the human condition. A poetry of conscience which stirs like an insomniac in the restless, earthbound night that writes one side of a story and notion of truth into a fictional world for consuming eyes to reassemble beyond the page. Onegin is not a novel in verse. It is poetry and song restrained by form. Words that speak of lives that burn and crash like waves carried by a storm in rage. Pushkin is a strong drink of passion. Vodka perhaps.
Love is a mountaineer on stilts. No flips. No tricks. No short cuts. Battle hardened. A general and an infantry with the fortitude and frost bitten resilience to march the marathon of bow tied conundrums. And if it rises up like revolutions that combust in the fire of trials made of eternal fears and custodial sentences for the passion behind bars that bend around malleable hands, to hold the heavy length of derision, softly, it rises down like death in the doorway of presumption.
In hands that see as clear as touch, the vision is felt like a fire that cools the head that burns the heart. The why dies before the question is ever asked. The despairing can not make sense of these hands.
White of eyes. Framed in the frame. Blood brother of brutality’s murder rhymes slips off the tip of his tongue and civilisation is lost.
Undigested malady, hoist me on the shoulder of your affection. I do not exhale a priceless thought. You are not reading me. A page has yet to turn, like a neck to see if you are looking back at the beauty which momentarily passed you by. Like life. Like an idea, swift uppercut and pasted on your heart. I have lived your sighs. The marks on the bitten end of your chapters are mine. Dog eared. Black of lies. Yellow on top. I am writing you into me.
They mispoke my name once and again. I am besides those whose eyes can not see clearly enough to fly. Beside pages of pain or painted refrain of ages gone slow, to be born again. The oldest child is the mirror of the man who denies himself the peace of reason and souls burn on the wavelength of insanity. Words out of order. A semblance of order. A reason not forthcoming. The questions of why. The long endings that do not end on goodbyes. Is that true?
True say we say it means something but it is not true to say that we know the answers to the questions of why the white of eyes and black of lies behave the way they do. Greys integrate well with blue beards, if you let them live amongst the masses that breed on unstroked chins. Up is down and down is out but who is counting up the hairs on chins that have not been stroked and greased with questions in bed with questions that plague your head of aches? And the red noise of information which feast on your white of eyes? So green, so low down, so dependant on the drug of knowing. And what do we know? Who are we? What are we? Why are we? A mystery to ourselves. To each other. Yellow on black. Or of it.
Godmother of reality and her children suffer, blows of reckoning, headshots, eyes reddened, and unrecognised as the hugs of Joe. Snatched at death. Woe the tides that come to sweep laughter off the shores of John Doe, lamentable dreamers of our digital days, nightless and wide screened. Wide as fear stretches intrusively into the safe space. Enchanted tears roll back the years of sleep.