I did not know that depression was the undercurrent. I always thought it was the tsunami. But no. It is hidden beneath the skin and pulls me outside in. I’m twisted and flayed time after time. And I wanted someone to catch me but there was no one. I fell in and was pulled under. The undercurrent still has me and I don’t know what to do.
Leaves conspire against me and cling to the shadows they cast. The future is impenetrable. Like the fog he conjured up in front of my face. Dusk is moments away. I look up and see half the sky bathed in a tangerine pink haze. The other half is a tragic indigo. It mourns itself. Should the rain fall right now the drops would be tears and the water would wash away the meandering stains on my cheeks. I can not get out. Beyond each corner is a wall of forest green blocking my escape. I was in too deep. I didn’t know how to exhale because he’d had his hands around my throat for such a long time. Eyes bulged and the veins at my temples squirmed like worms under the skin. He let me go. Chose not to murder me. Seemed bored by it all. By the small deaths. I still couldn’t see clearly and walked right into this network of traps and illusions. I look up. I’ve missed it: the sky blinking. Now all of a sudden it is nighttime. And again I can’t see the woods for the trees, the leaves for the maze, the night for the dark. I can’t see the way out. Still, I must forge on.
I have no other tongue but this one.
No rising intonation singing a tropical song
Then turning in a flash to lash.
No deep belly switching of codes
No knowing eruptions.
It’s root was severed
like Beloved’s head.
In my babe’s mouth tears fell as blood
and my tongue
I grew a phantom.
Pink and white it blossomed.
Hungry for all the crannies and crevices.
It sought out walls and confines.
Found it could move and throw words out into the world.
Singular and wide
my tongue held onto English sounds.
Comforting and complete
not fragmented and impenetrable.
We adopted each other in the ether
while mother and father
tongues turned away.
Each to their own
leaving me an orphan.
My heart dances to soukous
but moves deaf to Swahili.
Shona is only a thundering vibration.
I still speak with a timbre.
My voice still finds it’s way home.
But my once new sprung tongue
is of this isle
And when it lashes, thrashes and loops
It is unashamed.
My tongue is mine own
And I claim it fiercely.
Inspired by ‘Epilogue’, Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Woman’s Poems, 1984
Beloved ref to Toni Morrison novel of the same name.
*Shona is spoken by Zimbabweans
*Swahili is spoken by Kenyans. It is also spoken in other East African countries.
Retrograde plays in the pitch
Palm rests centre of rib cage, fingers upon my breast
And I vibrate with each out of sync heart beat.
Under each eyelid I can see each rise and fall.
I can hear my own silent song
Base notes strong and faithful.
Stretched limbs let the sounds take over.
Blake’s echo fills the room, swirling and at once I am under the wave
Warm and suicidal I let the water slip like syrup into my lungs.
I surrender to the arrest.
Then the tide subsides
And the black summer’s night returns.
A hollow velvet.
It is time to tune out, to sleep.
Here take my hand child
Don’t be afraid
Don’t gaze up at me suspicious
Don’t you recognise my face?
Think, think child. See me.
Don’t you know my name?
I was there when you were born child
You and I are the same
I saw you when you were lonely
Cried when I found you in pain
Got you up in the morning
Made you catch your train
Watched you clean up the mess
Again and again and again
I rubbed your brow when you were sleeping
Felt you going insane.
From listening over and over
To the same tired refrain.
Not to worry I am here now
No child don’t you fret
Your cheeks will dry in time child
Your path is not set
I’ve always been beside you
Even when all seemed lost
Saw you holding an abacus
When you were counting the costs
Come home to me baby
I’ve always been here
It’s time for a new chapter
It’s time to shift up a gear
Let’s face the future together
Let’s go to the moon and back
Let’s compose a new beginning
Lets mix a brand new track
I’ll step up to do the vocals
You can hop onto the decks
It’s time to surrender to the music
And let life take care of the rest.
What do you do with a life? When corners are filled with wrong turns and regrets and the room of it, for you feel boxed in some days, seems like a badly decorated, tight cacophony of mistakes.
What do you do with a life? When you survey the scene and don’t recognise how you got here with such an assortment of pieces, some broken others aged, worn.
What do you do? When the collection of people and places before you seem alien and you want to exchange a thing or three or refund the whole lot. When you want to take back even the young fragile coffee tables that you didn’t really know what to do with and can’t remember now why you purchased them on a sensible whim in the first place. What. Do. You. Do?
Most things won’t go back. The low coffee tables with their short legs are non-refundable. But they amuse. And come in handy when you just need a place to rest a weary brew.
What will I do with a life, my life? Perhaps first I’ll find the concealed door and let myself out of this one room. I’ll pack the bits and bobs that I have to take with me and head on out. I’ll open up life and be more outdoorsy. I’ll set up camp somewhere where the sky is above and the sea is below and I’ll tread water. I don’t want to keep my feet on the ground I want to keep moving so that walls, ceilings and floors don’t hem me in and lock the light out.
The suffocating migraine of years gone by promises to make my brain implode and seep from my ears. Running like a gazelle into this life is all I can do to stop the hot hot molten aftermath from claiming me.
I’ll take this life and fling it wide open. My life won’t be a box it will be without form. Infinity must have a centre, a starting point so I will be my own beginning and there will be no end. Possibility will stretch in every direction.
I know what to do with a life, my life.
I must live.
I have never been a fan of fairground fun or rollercoaster rides with their plummeting see saw motions. And yet this brief affair has pulled me down and left me weightless with butterflies and mosquitos flitting and fighting for space in the pit of my stomach.
It’s over but what a thrill it has been. I think I got carried away and stayed too long. I looked up and then was surprised to find everyone gone and myself alone. The walk home will be a little hard but at least I don’t think I’ll get lost. And there’s always music. It was a love affair of sorts but this time instead of being paralysed by heart break I’m dancing to the end of love. Swaying and spinning my way home until the fair is back in town with a new attraction.