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.”
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.
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.
Is it the sky that colours the thought that my eyes speak when you look into me? I didn’t try to hide your questions in there. We just got stuck on the tangled high wire of hearts we dared to cross on foot. No fear. Just fools. Just us.
I wore your favourite smile today. It only cost me a tear before the train arrived to put me back on track. Love races the many miles of memories behind a kiss. I had hoped to return it to her sacred place. Sometimes we hold on too long and awake to find that the dream does not always follow us into the morning. And yet the Sky remains as young and dear to me as that devil in green. Or was it blue? And I as old as the grey bearded child I always was.
Ruffled and relaxed mind surfing on stress, caught a wave before his shirt was pressed, pumped iron the night before last, caught eyes before we digressed into nostalgia, a storied face found burried in her chest, smiles couldn’t hide it, the calm before the raging storm, he didn’t have to force it, the rough behind the painted veil.
Like daylight on wings, a year has passed. Facebook didn’t bake me a Cake but its cool. A lot of small deaths have happened since that day. Usually the face stays the same but I find that the neck changes. Oh and I’ve discovered more strands of grey amidst new faces and adopted words. There have been a lot of changes in relative terms and even my own eyes have concealed pertinent things from me when its been necessary to do so. The main thing about the passing year is where I find myself in my ongoing story. I’m happy to say that after a year, a deep wound has healed. The dressing is finally off, and the emotional scar matches the one on my forehead. Its distinctive but not too big. I can’t say for sure that time rubbed the salt in it. Time and I don’t have that type of relationship. Its hands off and head up. I’d say living has a lot to do with the choice one makes to dig a grave or dig the foundation on which to rebuild after the fire which has all but consumed the life behind the projected image that is perceived by everything that leans against it. Long sentences be damned and sentenced to death but not so easily. Death is as passionate as life, but its not as picky. The meat and potatoes of life is first you do what you must to survive. Then once that mountain has been conquered, you do what you must to protect your heart (your love). Then you live forward. By limp, or by crawl. If the back is bent, and that hump is conspiring to keep you down, then you find something to hold you up and steady. Then you walk. In time you may run again, and flying isn’t as far gone an idea if you can pick up speed. Love is a kind of regal audacity. The lighter the load on the heart, the heavier the love. I’d like to believe that I still have the capacity for the heavy love that knew no boundaries. Once was. To see. Once again. To be.
“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.