While I was tinkering and thinking about whether a Blues guitar solo should share amicable space with an alto saxophone on a number, I was captured by this captivating photograph of Tsehai Essiebea Farrell which led me on a great train of thought for the lyrics to come. Ethiopia had been on my mind recently because of a conversation I had with a great Ethiopian Artist about an awakening he had. A revelation about his place in the world, his vocation, and the micro of the worlds within his wider perception. So much of the telling if not the toiling of life, both in our written past and living present, has much to do with our vantage point and the dubious nature of our muscle memory where matters of the tender heart are concerned. Uncomfortably numb but our eyes never tire of seeing and being seen. Or do they? Do they know? Do they look in on us and play our hand against better judgement? Our windows remain the seducer and the seduced, for perpetuity. It can seem that way. And what is seen is unseen. What is known is a mystery as I am to you. Always the stranger from eye to eye. Yet familiar in some kind of way. Never fully known.
A tower on fire burning lung after the flames were put out and the blood cries out. No Cain at the site of the murder. No justice. Just us. Souls taken up higher than the smoke, fly down to watch the mourners arise to a new day with their heads held up by rage and despair, and hearts bowed down and bowled over by the agony and incredulity of what happened. What really did happen?
We who knew the dead watched the conversation turn to the custody of the truth and the enquiry about the meaning of an event that forever changed the world of those who were loved and unloved in life, death and the afterlife. An afterthought in the aftermath, is the price of life that is haggled in the courtroom. Payment for the life of the dead, is a future for the children of Grenfell. But is it money? Or is it the mercy of confession? A courtroom of lies still engulfs the air, we share breathing space in the now. Two years dead and burried, yet the living have not the forecast of rest. And God be judge of the classified red ink on white papers.
Today is a wedding ceremony. A marriage of possibilities. My cousin has exchanged vows and time will study and tell what it has seen, heard and known under God. Black life like black bodies have long been a surrealistic feast for the voyeuristic eyes of fetishists and fantasists. Joseph Conrad could not open his eyes even behind the safety of his pen, to straddle his imaginative reconstructions of the monolithic burden bearers in the heart of darkness situated in the continent of his mind’s perception.
Baldwin generously invested the deformed and fragmented faces of exotica with the unusual idea that they were worthy of being depicted as fully human, even in a foreign land. The continent is not a country. And a country in this context is not a geographical destination. The poetry of Baldwin is not merely the words sentenced to a page but rather the lives affirmed by his words dancing to the tune past the margins of hate and redeemed by love. In his writings love is the great pacifier even when it sets fire to our expectations and challenges our notions of who is worthy of grace, and the horrors that transgress the invisible inhabitants who are generational custodians of a manifested multifaceted curse with wings.
Barry Jenkins painted the poetry of James Baldwin beautifully in ‘If Beale Street Cold Talk’. Next week lovers around the world will serenade each other with cards, gifts and kisses flavoured with wine and chocolates. Babies will be conceived. Lies will be ever more creative. Truths with be earnest and unsparing. Death will still be in business. Card or no card. Life will go on. Love in its bittersweetness covers the multitude and will endure the fall out. A torn page is the pity that a chapter can afford to lose.
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”
– James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
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.
Niap is a leftie loving bruised cheek. Sober side right will make a grown man cry for mercy. Niap is a disfigured sum of money. Run from the left only to be slighted by oppositional cool. Both sides know drama but Niap swells like old love that filled the belly. You like new love that promises you its promiscuous Moon made high and all the honey you can eat for a day. Niap won’t ever leave you. Everlasting Niap, the darling of foreknowledge, flogs the joy out of pleasure principles, you’ll have to chew on the right side of your heart in the knighted morning. Save some freedom for me.
Sainted night. Pablo’s streets are wise to the cold. Awake to the lights that stalk our shadows. Not a soul to sell. Peepers shut up shop too. I made merry with the easy lay of Death’s past. We jumped over jargon. Word weary on the dry eye. Trouble likes to talk. Leg of lamb awaits the victor. Laid down in your head for a little while. Tried to find you. Pull your straps up, when your done eating the remains of the day. It might be for Balletic fools gold, that the poor courier tarrys long. Easy going as you lay your head on the pillow of song that is cast out of her like the gloom. Night in shining armour, you’ll tempt the morning out of her when she sees you. Hands free. Wired up to Heaven.
Track 9 sounds like trauma passed down Atlantic waters, translated in generations (deep waters are shallow too) by the ignoble scribe. Sounds like holocaust left overs compressed into psychic muscle memory. And the denial is also in the DNA. It sounds like guilt and complicity, because when you suffer long enough you forget that you were once innocent, until you pass by the time that passes by the mind’s eye and come to find that you were never so pure. Holy water flushes your insatiable appetite’s indulgence down to sewage glamour. Survival tastes good when your hungry to exist. The years have had you fooled in the fix of first impressions and belly butterflies. You were born old. You harbour generations (shallow waters hold secrets just as full as fear’s skeletal bones). It’s the itch you can’t scratch off your skin that seemingly condemns you in the reflected gaze of the beholder that holds your imagination captive. Now if only you were born young….Maybe the hump wouldn’t sound so steep. And generations of blood forced out of flesh, left without the host of a body to call their own, might take refuge in the agony and misery and pain projected and regurgitated, in your walking vegitated, agitated, itching, scratching, sloganeering, facade of pride, you are still a conversion in progress. A baptism of unspeakable things. A revolting revolution of ideas. You are upside down and inside out obviously. And you are not on a road or a river. You areally a floating gestation, gesticulating in the clumsy circus act of the affairs of the heart. Traumatic as hoarded desires. What you want might free you. It might kill you too if you weren’t already dead as the night. Black as the opposite. Night as the brightness of attractive opposites. Repeating words like mistakes, like lives repeating, mistakes like words that oppose what is being said, meaning and metre, timbre and diction, tonality and terror, black as light hidden in misread signals, come hither, black knight as white as right that rides a pale horse into the dark night, homeless night, lonesome night, thoughtful fears of what that night could be for us on the otherside of mourning.