A hanging leaf puts its heart on the line to be noticed.
We’ve only made eye contact.
Soon to touch.
I wouldn’t dare to try and save a hanging leaf.
Soon to fall….
Please don’t watch.
A hanging leaf puts its heart on the line to be noticed.
Inside. You are an outsider and the room knows it. You do not belong to them. The walls stiffen in defence of the inflammed human heart that is present. You will never be of them. The wall knows this fate you bet your fears on. Too swell. Tooth picked. You tilt your hat before they turn you down. You haven’t asked anything of them. Yet. The floor sucks on the sole of your swift footed analysis. Daring you to overthink the feeling that is stirred up in the forest of invention. An idea. What is an idea? Just like us. And nothing alike.
Wet of eyes, the paint sounds the welcome. They despise her too. And her ghosts. Colours come for real. Want all the sparks. All the action that imagination can fire up. They want you to want them too. And you know how they like it. The thickness. The trust in the thrust. The oh so bitter sweetness of us at our worst best. You would buy them if you didn’t already own their desire to have you or the image they paint of you in reflection. And what are you?
Outside. You are an insider with no throne room for Benin’s bronzed hypocrisy, but space for double bedded love making with case sensitive words for a thousand books and one. You make the way, they see through you, what they think you are and never were. Rust of Scarlet, blood conscious to a fault, who would have doubted the waters that ushered you into this world? If you were I and I knew how to speak, I would not paint you into the absence of mind that silence suggests. You haved loved loudly in your time, and the ground will not forget, even if you are never spoken of. All love is memorial but all is not lost. Except to time, when bound to art and held captive by the memories of those we have longed for. And have hungered to know intimately, the internal walls of our lover’s throbbing heart without the shades on.
Breaking through to be inside of you and all you aspire to breathe out into damnation when you dreamed us into the merciless canvas of mortal life and the infinite glory of Agape. How cruel, the truth convicts the dead as though they were sentenced to life in unfinished paragraphs. We have only fallen in love with ideas and risen in the acceptance of our fallacies. The multiverse. The continents. The ocean of oceans that we are. It carries all the Hell and Heaven that resides in us. With us. For we are hung up in the awakening terror of love’s gallery for the broken and torn apart.
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.
It dawned on me this week that its been 20 years since I’ve been writing songs. Over that time I’d like to think that I’ve learnt a few things about music composition and myself. I’ve always loved creating and over the years I’ve enjoyed painting, sculpture, and various genres of writing, but nothing has been as rewarding as seeing the germ of an idea travel through the universe of my heart, mind and soul into a song. It is a thing of wonder. At one point in time I was meticulous in keeping records of my work. Dates and places. Not so meticulous about equipment. I’ve worked with a variety of keyboards on the low bracket and three guitars. I’ve worked closely with one songwriting partner for a period but mostly alone. The gift and the curse is that an idea can take over your life. You persue it, in or out of pocket, whether its affordable to dream it into reality or not. You dream about what a song can be when given its wings. I’ve studied the work of many songwriters, famous and obscure, but when I create, its from the blood of my soul. This year I had the pleasure to complete the recording of a song that meant a lot to me at this stage in my life. I had to wait almost two years to get the artist I wanted to breathe more beauty into what was already the apple of my eye. I still can’t say I’m done with it but the journey is its own reward. I feel fortunate to have written it and the hundreds of others. I am also grateful for the people who have helped me in collaboration. Musicians and engineers. Friends and hired hands. The inspiration has come from every conceivable thought, memory, feeling,…all corners of the human experience. I thank God for my inner ears and the organs that work together with the spirit in me. Curtis Mayfield is one of my many teachers, and I know I wouldn’t have become the songwriter I am without the lessons I learnt from the craftsmanship of masters like him.
July juxtapositions strangers and life is an exercise for eyes that lament the unanswerable. Streams of thought drown out the intrinsic fear to ask of who they are and what they know. I often wonder about what they have seen when they gaze at the wind or the silence that screams their middle names out of view.
A man wrestling is a man whistling.
Do you always see ghosts and tell of their whereabouts? Hiding places are the low tide. I never question the voices unheard in the storm of ones incoherence. Or the certainty of the unbelievers in the masquerade. What burden of proof will you wear today? And how will you dress down your despair? Welcome is a mask without a face to invent. I wear every doubt you’ve ever had about me with pride. Shameless like you wouldn’t believe. But then again, most of us were reborn naked. Some of us will die that way
Oh but Confucius was wrong. Life is not simple and we did not make it complicated. We as in the debtors of this world and the situation we found ourselves in on arrival. Almost everything is chance and timing. An unearned providence. The will of the free is the slave of choice. A long hope is the length of a day times the width of perspective. Some will wait untill the mouth of reason yearns to feed that stretched out and guilty hand of reality. And breathe out the future we rolled the dice to inherit, when their nose of indifference has swallowed up the fragrance of time to drown out the noise of our silent tears stretched across the canvas of our fate. Such violence was born of light returned to sender and unclaimed. Crown your eyes with the love of priceless things and count the cost backwards.
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.
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.