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.
“You’re jealous of God!” That’s what the voice inside his head told him to say to me. Of course its a lie. Why would I be jealous of a sick man who is not God but is constantly being told that he is by the demons that hang out in his mind? Exactly. However the tormented still need to be fed. I made rice so that we would at least agree on something. He had two helpings of boiled hope on a plate. It doesn’t matter if my brother remembers that it was made by me. What does matter is that he survived today’s attempt on his life. If he was God i’d blame him for his insanity but that is not the case. Madness doesn’t need a disclaimer. Nor does pain. Nor does love. Nor does charity. Nor does mercy. We do what we can and sometimes what we must. And in between we eat what is cooked. Unceremoniously. Circumstance usually stays for dinner. God has a plate too.
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.”
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.
Somewhere pouring out his heart like rain on the parched land of sorrows. The sky is crying for you and your majesty waves the flag that words unfurl for dew. I soaked in the crisis and breathed us out into the mystic. I took the bridge less burned and crossed the heart like fingers that didn’t lock out of luck, and hoped to live once your majesty, death, is served. Now where’s the rest of him. Don’t wear that dress for her. Now all the news is old, like all your thoughts as grey as days that wait to terrorise holy hooded babes of the the wood that lash at life. Pray you turn the knife that struck you deep in the fear that spins your dred head back on track, your majesty awaits.
Spring departs like the kisses that dressed you down to play grown up games with fisted fears. The visceral image collapses as your heart attacks the mirage we were. I had to write this twice. Say something sweet and spit on it. Then put a foot on it and twist. Fast and hard. That’s how words work. Quick as the sinking sanded song we wobble on in chordination. I had to tie my hands behind my back so that it wouldn’t cheat the eyes that nourished our hopes. Living the lie was almost too good to be true. Work the hips, grind the wrist into action, wreck the moment, burst the balloon, and pop the lock of your bubble headed majesty. Oh we play hard ball with twisted tongues, daring the heart to watch the flight of our shooting Star as it explodes inside our cocoon. I almost caught her watching me lose her to my fantasies. The kink in my armour, comes undone. I almost found me watching her lose us in her astonishment that I could love all the things that made her loathsome in her own eyes. I only loved her soul because I couldn’t afford the possibility of everything wrapped around it. So I lusted after her flesh to make a man out of me. I bit into the fruit of her neck, carefully so as not to tear open her sacred honey coloured skin which illuminated the Temple of her Spirit, to mark her as mine. And I watched her marvel at the pleasure it induced which became ointment for the pain. She dared me into the whirlwind of wreckless abandoned and I surrendered to my nature’s intent. I watched her watch herself knowing it couldn’t last the storm to come. Those secrets between the high fiveing thighs were not the children we had hoped for, but they were ours to burn on the altar of love, for better or worse.
Boomed and baped with that machine gun funk fire, boppers wore saggy jeans in 94, baggy from the seams to the screams of black bodies dying. Head nodding, beat rocking beds and boats, blunt rollers toasted, cops and the killer East coasters, Mingus cool and the ugly beauty of colloquialisms, native to your borough, drop deep like the lyrics held captive in the flow. It’s unbelievable.
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.
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.
“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.