Baldwin

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

As I Am Today

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.fb_img_1475612103961

20 Minds Late

Past, pretense and future hindsight dares you to pontificate on your escape, they’ll point if she caters to your fate, and ask whose burying the next round, and when do you return from delusion to find that you are twenty minds late? But you ask as if the answer lies in the knowing, when love lives in the dying, yet still you are young in the grey of years past to believe that your vision and my survival are dependent on each other, like a Teller bound to a story unfolding with the falling and rising of eye lids, opening revelations and shutting down imagination’s excesses, banished to the kingdom of Sleep, unchartered chapters of mystical and mortal men’s premature strides, running like percussion through dark forrest into the cycle of death, birth and bastardisation, where beginners and old masters are disowned and abandoned by the twisted night to be discovered by the creased morning of wall scaling daylight dreams, pressed into purposeful and pleasurable copulation, the greatest sex they ever had felt like dying and being born at the same time, and yet she never touched him, fifteen minds before he fell from her grace into your bed and out of my heart, transfigured into the maroon shadow that haunts our love’s memory.
We were merely the reflection of consequences put into place, tall before our eyes first met, unmatched in the first desire of seductive impression, and ten minds before I drank in the light of her archaic beauty, and with mine eyes seeing the glory, and ceasing the moment, painted her on the fragile canvas of my soul, I stole a solitary glance and whisper of her breath from the air we shared, inhaled deep into hungry lungs that devoured it like a secret to hide from evil relatives, the envious paws of strutting organs that sought her for themselves. What the heart wants, when the liver needs, her beauty and my kidneys tangled, tussled up, cries of triumphant oratory for down strokes that reach further than vocabulary allows, vying for her attention, detained by my intent. Everything is in her, and everything that she exudes raises the stakes and cuts through the drift that my thoughts float on, my impulse finds itself in a maze with courage and it’s stomach locked out with fear of what awaits above the trenches, outside of first and second skin, the surgical dissection of my emotions turn from blood to the colour purple, and my hand reaches out again to be met with indifference and a smile worn back to front, five minds before she stood infront of me without a face, to be written into existence and drawn with experience, who she never was, to be, yet to be, lost loved, a travelling mystery through time on the grand tour of life, her hair long as eternity with strands swept off her head by the wind onto her shoulders, and further up to the ground beneath my clay feet of hope that she would find my unwritten face, and tell my fast, tense and determined future in her sight….

The Want (Dabbler’s Hand) – A Short Film by Napoleon Dozier

In July 2003 I composed and recorded a piece of music called ‘Dabbler’s Hand’. An amalgamation of Piano and Synths descending violently on top of each other in confined space, struggling together on a bass line holding the pocket, with percussive late night intensity, in their attempt to exist and be heard. The music was the manifestation of my hypersensitivity and Synaesthesia (coloured hearing). During that period of time between my early teenage years and mid 20’s, I seemed to feel everything deeply. I wanted to absorb everything emotionally, to feel what was felt by others. Not so much the pain, but all the yearning, longing and desire of youth and maturity.
Some years later I added the music to footage I recorded of the high streets of Central London, from the vantage point of the top deck of a bus. I kept the camera rooted in one spot like a picture frame with masses of faceless people moving in and out of it. The footage is hazy. Every face being passed by the camera symbolises past, present, future, loves lost, forgotten, remembered, drifting in and out of your life or your memory. Those faceless masses also symbolise Time and the idea that we are constantly in motion. Time doesn’t stand still. Infact, Time is one of the two central characters in the film.
As the film nears its end the music stops. Eventually an ‘old’ man comes into the frame of view, with the focus on him. He is not faceless like the moving masses who represent ‘Time’. He walks forwards slowly, as people breeze by him. Then he stops and pauses for a lingering, metaphorical moment. The ‘old’ man is a representation of all our humanity because he has been young and is now advanced in age (Youth and Maturity), knowing all that comes with both distinctions. In that brief moment with Time (the helter skelter faceless masses) passing him by, he represents all the yearning of young and old, the desire to exist, to have our face remembered. He is the embodiment of our desire to withstand the test of Time, and our attempt to transcend it, as we cannot halt its forceful hands. In that moment he reminds us to pause and consider our lives and loved ones, and even strangers that pass us by. As insignificant as we may seem, we matter. People matter. Every life matters. In that brief moment of stillness, he cuts through the drift of Time. And then he walks out of the frame of the camera. That’s where my camera battery (and the film) ended, as if composed and directed with foresight. I called this film, ‘The Want (Dabbler’s Hand)’. In some ways we are all dabblers. Amateurs in the game of life, taking a chance at something or someone, and hoping that we’ll survive the roller coaster adventure and find some resolution if we should fall. Again and again.
The Want (Dabbler's Hand)