Welcome to my A-Z 2018, for which I am revisiting Africa, the continent of my childhood and my dreams. The posts are, as always, infoheavy and opinionated, but they are sectioned off - some music, the day’s topic, couple writers, a slideshow from the safaris – plenty ways to cherry-pick. So you may consume just as much, or as little, as you're cool with. Zero obligation to agree with any of my views either, feel free to air yours :)

Monday, 30 January 2012

From behind the wall

It gets said a lot, a door closes, a door opens,
Stuff that stifles also frees up, what’s the difference?
There are walls all around me, razor wires, scrap metal,
Porous stone and concrete, the ruins of a silence.

Did you come to me with a rose-petal velvet
Hope crimson at the edges? Well, don’t give up just yet.
Though the colours bleach as you move towards the centre
And though seeping away doesn’t quite mean quiet.

It gets thought a lot, and the balance of trust
Always quivers in the middle, and not just at first.
The black bend of bars showing up corners of sunlight
For exactly what it is, the broad slices, the cut and thrust.

Did you come to me thinking you’d be my freedom?
Or I’d add up and presently turn out the same sum.
And we’d sit matching the totals? Don’t discount it just yet.
But right now the fine needle trembles at lonesome.

It gets said a lot, but nothing really gets done.
The same doors close after they once creak open.
Did you come to me thinking some key was magical?
Don’t throw it out just yet.  But this is not the prison.
 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Nothing to show for it


I wear my pleated skin like the waves on a lakeshore,
My silence is the silence of many languages.
If there is no beginning, there cannot be an end;
No round pebble shaped words clinking into pledges
No dots between my brows, no conch at my wrist
No evidence at all to show what exists, exists.



But it does, and you can come anytime to me
To the curve of my armpits, to the hollows of my throat
The hardest diamonds and softest dough both have nestled
Between the spaces of my fingers, in the odd hollows of thought.
The creases of my eyelids have learnt only to wait
And made of it a religion, to change that now too late.



There is no beginning, there is no end
And you can come anytime to me
To the hammocks of my elbows as they hold and let go
To the folds of my skin like ripples in eternity.
I can’t promise any proof, of my faith, in you, or me.
This too may die someday, there is no guarantee.



You can choose to wander on complicated paths
Beset with hard riddles, and then come back and lie
With your temples on my collarbone, arm across my navel
Your breathless hand draped on my unselfconscious thigh.
Though I move with you, I always come to rest
Somewhere you can find me, obvious and easiest.



The planes of my faces set hard into ancient canyons
Soft, eroded dreams of twisted limestone.
There will be no end, because I can’t point at a beginning
Love has always been there, it hasn’t been worked at or grown,
Watered and watched over - a purple flowered vine
In a crack amongst the rockface.  It’s always been mine.



And yes, things may die even when not watched over
But you may come to me anytime and verify
The waiting hollows of my thoughts, like thumbprints on risen dough
Touch your lips to my life, rest your fingers on my thigh.
What’s begun before beginnings can only end after all ends
Love will always be there, but I offer you no evidence.

Monday, 16 January 2012

One of those random things


There are places, that you live in, or even visit, maybe frequently and get on very intimate terms with, and then you read stories set in those places.  And you’re like “yes, exactly, I know that crossing/coffee-shop that he’s talking about, he’s got it so exactly right, the atmosphere, my god!”  The book winds its way through the nooks and crannies of those places, the alleys, the shops, and you’ve seen them all, you know them all.   Even though the author might not have stuck to the exact same names, you can’t ever be tricked by that, you know the spaces there better than the back of your hand, who looks at backs of their own hands anyway?



And then there are stories that you read set in remote places which you’ve never been to, no-one in your family or even immediate circle has travelled there.  Read long years ago, and the details of the plots, the drama and the heartbreak, and the happiness of the endings even, have all escaped your memory.  The only things that are still crystal clear  are the features of the setting.  The feelings that the alleyways evoked as you read about them, or the creeks, or a certain way the sunlight fell on the incoming tide or between tree trunks one afternoon.  And nah, you don’t really expect to be able to visit and check it out yourself, how absurd is that?  But at the same time you can’t wait to get there and see for yourself without really even articulating that thought. 



However, you land up there finally.  Somehow.  After a little while or a lifetime. Of waiting or not thinking about it at all.  And the stories aren’t there but the feelings are exactly the same and it’s like you’ve come home already.  Though it’s your first time.  Maybe the only time.   But that’s not really important, what is paramount is that the sunlight is draping the tide in the exact same way, and the baobab or the weeping willow or daffodil or whatever looks uncannily like the one described in that book, what was its name again?  Maybe the author was sitting somewhere here when he got the whole idea of writing the stuff?



Finding unvisited places in the books you’ve read come alive in front of your eyes, and finding the places you’ve lived in and loved beautifully captured within the books you read.  Both so neat, such a rare thrill.  Seriously lucky if you've had both those fit into your one lifetime.

Monday, 9 January 2012

What they don't teach in language classes

A rose blooms over its thorn
And a dewdrop can hold the skies
I’ve read all that and I could have sworn
They’re inlaid into my eyes
Then why is hope suddenly forlorn
And my tissues feel like lies?

The migrants sing their normal tune
And I know it, every note.
The yearnings and the misfortune -
They’re layered inside  my throat
But still, a switch in an afternoon
Refuses to remix distraught.

The spiritual and the con
And I have seen them both
I’ve been the flame that burns on
And I’ve been the moth
But still, a sudden flare of dawn
Whispers something like an oath.

The thorns stay on after the rose
The poets never gave that a space.
The exiles sing, but some of those
Never find a home to embrace.
And they never said of hopes or woes
Which one’s easier to face.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Winter rain


Yesterday, all day long the rain fell
Like torrents of shredded marigold
Fall at small clay feet at the temple.
A little irreverent though, and a little cold.
Tapping out on the terrace, against mossy
Tiles crusted with years’ worth of heedless steps
Washing them in brisk movements and making them glossy.
The coming of winter, the passing of neglect.



I could hear it as I moved about the morning
Dotted with meaningless tasks, the sweep
Of dust from this corner to that, turning
Sleeves inside or outside of themselves, deep
In the maze of my ears, and over the corridors of thought
Broken into pieces by the sound of its whisper.
Even though most of it couldn’t be caught.
The voice of terraces overridden by the voice of the rainy winter.



I had heard it before, a bit of marigold rain
Falling untimely, tumbling with the yellowed, dry
Leaves, beyond the strict borders of the monsoons, a vein
Of lightning throbbing at the forehead of the sky
Many times, falling gentle like a temple offering
By truant schoolboys, a little cheeky yet a little afraid
Focussed obeisance for the terrible upcoming
Exams and beyond that all marigolds instantly mislaid.



But yesterday it spoke low and long of different things
As I moved particles around, dust from the floor
Into the hoover, from the bookcase to the duster so onto the bins
I knew I hadn’t heard the same whispers before.
I heard them only indistinctly, that chill, that irreverence
And all the spines stacked between my ribs and all the dust
Moved around uneasily like those boys in a short-lived obeisance
On the floor tiles of my terraces, scared but focussed.