Johnny Clegg (song of the week)

 

Music I have been listening to since before I was born. I will never tire of Johnny’s work, and he is the only musician I am dying to see live. In his songs are memories which are real and hopeful to me.

 

This song is for all of us scatterlings, adopted children of Africa who hold on to that adopted love.

Notes For a Speech (Amri Baraka)

“African blues
does not know me. Their steps, in sands
of their own
land. A country
in black & white, newspapers
blown down pavements
of the world. Does
not feel
what I am.

Strength

in the dream, an oblique
suckling of nerve, the wind
throws up sand, eyes
are something locked in
hate, of hate, of hate, to
walk abroad, they conduct
their deaths apart
from my own. Those
heads, I call
my “people.”

(And who are they. People. To concern

myself, ugly man. Who
you, to concern
the white flat stomachs
of maidens, inside houses
dying. Black. Peeled moon
light on my fingers
move under
her clothes. Where
is her husband. Black
words throw up sand
to eyes, fingers of
their private dead. Whose
soul, eyes, in sand. My color
is not theirs. Lighter, white man
talk. They shy away. My own
dead souls, my, so called
people. Africa
is a foreign place. You are
as any other sad man here
american.”

memorial to a dead catechist

in a field, far from you

looms a skeletal, rusted cross planted in concrete

an emblem of murder.

Imagine the way

his body hung in the seat belt,

bullets shattered bone & glass

eyes closed in a light sleep

or staring open, haunted with last loss?

Were there people who screamed for him?

See how the blood ran out, over the seat and pooled

probably by the footbrake

grading curve

Part I: Sunday

It is my first day back home. I have risen slowly, taking my time to wake in my own room, in my own yard. Your cries startle, bring my eyelids open, so I shuffle out of my round, thatched-roof room to meet you.

Sunday. Sunday boy, your mother calls you. She waves a sudsy hand up at me – “Good morning!” and plunges it back into the wash basin with our slough of grimy, travel-stained clothes. My tired glance finds you, a little bundle perched on our lawn in the shade, a pile of material around your little legs. Your perfect spherical eyes are glazed over, gazing up at my glowing visage as I tousle my hair out of my eyes to see you more clearly. Sunday boy, your skin is perfect chocolate and you are so cute.

In my dazed half-awake state, I realise that lifting you in my arms is better left for later. I have two months to hold you, I think to myself, smiling in security. I am not leaving for a while. We have weeks to get to know each other. I tear my eyes from yours – brown on brown – and walk towards my morning coffee.

Part II: Monday

I am working on my final paper for the semester, on the night it is due. I am revising my thesis with a friend after a warm meal with guests. A mug of tea is in my right hand and I am glowing with the knowledge of finality, the end of a day and a semester.

My mother gasps, startling us. The next few moments blur by, the question WHY resounds in my bones. They did all they could. It was sudden, unexpected. No one saw it coming; he was so healthy. This is the second child they have lost this year.

The paper, my world of the past few days, lies forgotten before me as the computer screen blends into a single white glow in front of my eyes. My hands shake, and I cannot force myself to care about theories of modernity when I never held him. I never picked up Sunday boy. He is gone and I never held him.

Somewhere, his mother is wailing in the night; I am pressing send on a half-finished paper and we are all crying out to God in the dark to spare us this heartache that has been cut out of us so quickly.

Part III: Tuesday

It is one of my last days in Uganda, and I am waiting, watching in the corner of the back room of the clinic. The doctor is beside me, giving instructions in a loud and firm voice. Our white gloves are sticky with blood and fluids as a woman I have never seen before in my life swears violently on the table before us, clutching her knees as her abdomen heaves.

I will spare you the details, but the first thing we see is his hair. Tight curls, damp against his scalp. Quickly, suddenly, his face squirms out into the world. His cries light up my heart. He is healthy, beating the air with tiny fists.

All sorts of things that I don’t understand are happening around us. Clamps, towels, scissors, and you wailing, little new boy. Welcome.

You are weighed and wrapped, little one. Your reflexes are perfect. You are placed with gloved hands by your mother’s side, where she embraces and nourishes you. Not my hands – I never held you.

Tiny, unnamed boy. Culture says you will remain nameless until it seems you are here to stay.

Stay, child, until I can return to hold you.

Over

Now that I’m back in the states, I have time to catch up on writing about this past summer. Hopefully it will help me focus on the beautiful happy times we had in these past months when I’m buried under assignments and drama.

Namaste.

IMG_1047I want to paint this dog.

mbale (ten days)

My family has spent the past few days in Mbale, the first town we lived in when we moved to Uganda.

The market is wonderful:

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it started to rain and a few drops hit my lens:

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As I was leaving, an old man asked me to take his photo:

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and we rounded off the day by a drive up Wanale to see the sunset (which we missed, unfortunately)

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I love being home.

drowning

When I first went to India, I wrote a piece concerning drowning and being drowned in a culture that was not my own:

“Each of her parents had gone their own way. Her mother had walked out of an icy, damp land, hair blowing in the wind – Ireland, the place she mentioned with longing sighs and wistful glances out the door. Her father had stood tall on the decks of ships way out across the Caribbean, traversing the dangers of South America, a land that had chiseled him down and made him a man.

So it was only natural that, after they’d all been together on the plains of Africa, that she would dive off the deep end and drown herself in the madness of India.

The drop into India was longer than she expected. She fell silently, her eyes open and her arms outstretched, until she crashed into the water with a mighty SPLASH, where it tore at her clothes, ripping out her hair. She sank swiftly and silently, shooting down by her skeletons of dreams and tattered kelpy thoughts, sinking deeper and deeper into darker and darker waters.

She came up for air in Agra, where she found a sort of life raft named Andy which carried her along for a while so that she could wipe her hair out of her eyes and catch her breath. All the water she’d swallowed stayed down, and he told her that she should keep it there because it would keep her alive.”

(2008)

Now I am melting, falling into this wasteland that says I belong,

I am overcome with memories and confusion

this constant reminder of You Do Not Understand,

You Do Not Belong

even though I look and speak like a native

I have perfected this chameleon act, blending

speaking this language to communicate a modicum of thought.

 – And yet, it is never enough.

I am exhausted of getting everything wrong, failing

in work friendship conversation class assignment meeting

I truly just want to get back to a language I can speak fluently,

speaking the truth into every ear, bold in faith

knowing that I am wholly loved and that I love wholly.

Let me fight this current, hold down this fiery water that burns my lungs

offensive, grating, I will breathe it

and swim to summer shores

then from there learn how to breathe air again.