Growth has meant
looking back at
i thought i was sayn somn
but i wasnt really sayn shit
so I’m wondering when
it’ll start to feel like
im actually getting somewhere….
Growth has meant
Alfonso is a handsome bronze-hued lad
Of subtly-changing and surprising parts;
His moods are storms that frighten and make glad,
His eyes were made to capture women’s hearts.
Down in the glory-hole Alfonso sings
An olden song of wine and clinking glasses
And riotous rakes; magnificently flings
Gay kisses to imaginary lasses.
Alfonso’s voice of mellow music thrills
Our swaying forms and steals our hearts with joy;
And when he soars, his fine falsetto trills
Are rarest notes of gold without alloy.
But, O Alfonso! wherefore do you sing
Dream-songs of carefree men and ancient places?
Soon we shall be beset by clamouring
Of hungry and importunate palefaces.
Alfonso, Dressing to Wait at Table by Claude McKay
Closing my eyes
Listening for You
Choosing my path
Renewing this pact
I’m on the right track
I just pray
Jah fill me up
fill me up, to the brim
God bless the people who aren’t afraid to share and live their truths. Ugly, taboo, awkward, uncomfortable, cringeworthy truths. Especially the ones who aren’t so lucky to be born with art to make it beautiful. The ones who have to present it raw to no audience or applause. God bless you, liberators of souls. Truth is light and light is God.
8115 Orlando West, Soweto, South Africa. That was Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s home before Madiba was imprisoned in 1962. I visited with S’Thabiso, Justin, Aunt Samu, Tshepiso, Ndi, Sunita, and Musunga in July 2011 and took with me one especially standout memory.
After we’d finished touring the house (which is now a museum) we sat for a while in the red tiled back garden before leaving to watch a freakishly flexible man dance pantsula in the street. There was another guy hustling print photography for about 150 rand a picture. I showed him my Nikon when he asked me if Justin and Musunga were interested in a photo but Musunga (always one to support a hustling bro) said yes. A little confusion broke out when an elderly West Indian woman who had apparently agreed first stood posing with her son at the same time we began to line up - so she insisted we take the picture together. She asked where we were from - me, the Bahamas, Justin, Turks and Caicos, Musunga, Zambia, and she and her son from Barbados.
I vividly remember her spirit and voice harkening us to take stock of the momentous occasion of black people from varied parts of the world convening there, at that special spot where Madiba once lived. I remember her marvelling at the five of us having survived or descended from legacies of slavery, colonialism, and apartheid to be there together in celebration of this great man, this freedom fighter who’d played an essential role in our collective story of black liberation. She started tearing up a bit, with the sort of happiness old people who’ve been through tough times get after seeing things come to pass that once seemed impossible. She wanted us to be grateful for the blessing of that moment, and we were. We were.
Even though I grew up in church, I didn’t know God. By the time I was 16 I had become intellectually aware of physical truth, history, science, the lot. I went to Egypt. Befriended atheists. I doubted the existence of God because a lot of things they told me at church turned out not to be true. Still I looked, just for truth, in books and wikipedia citations. Couldn’t find it though; not until I started looking within myself. Dealing with my fucked up past, problems, failures, horrors. Stifled by loneliness and yearning to be free, I started talking to the persona of silence I found constantly with me when faux friends were gone. It wasn’t real silence. Real silence is deafening. It was like, the silence between two people having a cold war. Anyway, I started speaking to it…and it spoke back. Not in words, but with a comforting reassurance that it was there. That my loneliness was not a fact, but a separation from Him. That it would go if I simply swam back home. Though he started with me ions ago, I committed to my relationship with God when I was about 19..or 20. Not wanting anything from him. Just talking. Just chillin. Sharing jokes. Confiding in him… all the things I wanted to share but couldn’t find anyone trustworthy enough to give. It started as a simple friendship with me coming back for that indescribable comfort and joy time after time. But I started giving myself to Him and his will and purpose. Finding the reciprocity I’d been desperately looking for and miserably failing at finding. That hole of former loneliness turned into a well of advice, companionship, understanding, peace, and purpose. It’s been the sweetest joy I’ve ever known since then. I still don’t know about religion. I’m still learning about the other stuff, but this is my spiritual foundation. I’m just trying to draw closer him everyday. So when I speak of Jah, Allah, Jehovah, God - I’m talking bout my best friend who saved me from myself. My first true love.
May your journey
from earthly legend
to the galaxies of amodlozi
sit you amongst the brightest
of ancestral stars
Where you’ll continue
shining and guiding us to freedom and beyond -
May you be born again
When you are
into Disdain’s house
come sailing through
where I learned duck and hide
to lie - survive;
where uncles throw laughs
at my battered blue ribs
and heavy shade falls
from fearful elders,
where bros dem piss
and papas recoil from
bishop’s projectile vomit
Where whores hold witch hunts
and traps are set
then ceremoniously condemned
where burning crosses litter the yard
and mothers cry for self
we tiptoe in silence
for pride and shame
You did to me
what I did to them
So now I know
just how it feels.