- Vol. 08
- Chapter 02
They say never read the reviews. But ‘they’ are not me. And surely ‘they’ cannot be artists?
What others say about your work is a tattoo on the skin.
The sting of the needle fades after the first read but the ink seeps in. The good reviews leave their mark. The bad reviews leave their scars.
Do not read the reviews ‘they’ say but that is all I have been doing. I am trapped in the snare of their words. Your words. The lonely star hurled out by you and your faceless tribe offer no light in this darkness.
Flat. Flaccid. Formulaic. I bet you chuckled to yourself as you wrote those words, enjoying the word play.
I suppose you think that reviews are art too? Perhaps you imagine that you delight like an artist does? That you shock like an artist does?
And so the rot reveals itself. The boil that needs to be lanced.
You are Icarus not the sun. I am the sun. You are the birdman that will fall. I will watch you spin through the sky. My heat will scorch you.
I have started to write a review of my own. It analyses your performance. It judges your imaginative ambition. How many stars should I give you for the fiction you weave for your wife? I admire the scope of your masterpiece. The time it took to craft your tableau of domestic bliss for the Saturday matinees. The kids. The basset hound and the hedgehog sanctuary under the leylandii. All perfectly observed. But all is not perfect.
Deadly. Dangerous. Dalliances. See I can do word play too. My review is almost finished. You’ll get to read it soon. You’ll all get to read it soon.
I do not ask her for money
But post pictures I know she will see
The lace top, one she sent in her last barrel
I wonder if she will remember these paper bags
We had seen them in the market place near the rice vendor
where she’d cringed at the sheet of flies covering the mound of grains
“That’s why you must always clean your rice,” I joked to remind her
that all markets have their dirty secrets, but not all can afford to hide them
We had carried smoked herring and pork shoulder in these paper bags
She kept smelling the fish and smiling, giddy with some maternal memory
Matante Celia would cook it with the onions as she remembered
I pose with the bag over my head today, to fill me up
She once complimented me by saying, in America
“You’d have to walk with a bag over your head,”
I knitted my brows, confused, “You’re so beautiful,
you’d distract the passersby.” I offered her
a toothless smile
I make their pain my own
Through stories written in blood and
Paintings drawn in ash
I feel the bloody past and weep.
These crystal tears
Distort the written word from lies
I am brilliantly alive
Screaming for those who could not scream
Crying for those who could not cry
Bleeding with those who have bled.
Education let me read words
The world gave me one side of a newspaper
I turned the sheet over and
Squinted at the honesty printed
In fingernail letters on the back.
I read between the lines
I speak for those who cannot speak.
Stretched so thick
You cannot see them. The sun
Sets upon your grief and
Rises upon theirs. The ink
Seeps between your page one and
Their page two.
What is shame? she said
And I wrote her a list
On the back of the cereal packet
That poor people buy in the poor people shop
It is the grandmother who cleans her doorstep
Scrubbing, scrubbing to erase the words
Overheard in the bakery queue
About 'those people' living in 'that street'
It is the boy who presses his lips closed
And looks at the pictures and feels the sick bloom on his face
It is the girl who doesn't understand the need
For the right clothes, the right hair, the right face
And the girl who does
It is that monkey on her back, shrieking in her ears
As if their ease, their stares, their mocking weren't enough
It is the fist, that smacks the clever mouth
The needle, bottle, pill
The finger down the throat
It is the mask
It is the tight, small spaces where a person squeezes, breathless, listening
It is Bartholomew, mesmerized by salt as tongues of skin peel and hang
It is, above all, a silence
A space not taken
I look at the list
And scribble out the words
I throw them in the bin
Unfolded from woman, this poem of mine, of truth
on virgin white…
news that is skewed, ‘alternate facts’
offered as truth…
Socially-distanced in mind and body
masked, paper bags obscuring vision…
but a body held
strong, defiant, the folded arms questions the falsity
of centuries of blood and body sacrificed, the blue of the
settler’s eyes reflected in the sky…
the lace of the dress, alluring
frayed, skeins of beauty and bondage,
folded in the steel of woman…
Kayla kissed her mother on the cheek and bounded up the stairs, barely touching the steps as she took them two at a time. She stood in front of her bedroom mirror looking at her blazer and her skirt.
Her hand slipped into her blazer and she pulled out a card, plain white on one with writing on the other. Kayla read the card, gasped and sat on her bed. She read it again. "We have been watching you." Below that the design of a lioness’s head, then, "Tell no one", followed by the sign of a finger across a throat.
She wondered who could have put the card in her pocket? Did it happen at school or on the way home when she popped into the shop? Was it true that there was a secret society of women? It was very rarely spoken of, yet most people believed it existed.
But her main thought was of the library two days ago. She wanted a book on the top shelf, but she couldn’t see a stool to stand on. She stood on tiptoe and stretched and stretched. Kayla floated up a few inches took the book and floated down again. She looked round but there was no one else nearby. Had someone seen her after all?
Kayla thrust her hand in her blazer pocket often over the next few day and studied everyone, trying to identify who could have put the card in her blazer. It was a week later, in her bedroom, that she found another card in her pocket. This one said, "You have been chosen." It was followed by the lioness head, the warning to keep quiet and the throat cutting symbol.Read more >
I had been walking around for days now with an imaginary crown on my head. My enthusiasm, heightened by the idea, of an all-female cast and costumes designed by the textile graduates. I suppose it was slightly foolish to think that I might be offered the part of King Lear but my fellow drama students encouraged me all the way to the audition.
The director handed out the script and we were all given brown paper bags to put on our heads just to get us in the mood. Her innovation was that in this play, everyone would wear a crown. Not with paper bags but with the skill and precision of our text printed on fabric crowns. I was asked to read the part of 'Gloucester' in the middle section of the play, when gradually I felt the brown paper bag slowly glide down over my head. 'I have no way and therefore want no eyes' as I stumbled towards the edge of the stage.
When I was offered the part, I felt a surge of excitement. Who needed crowns and gowns when the words meant so much more?
What am doing here? How did I get to be living in a world of words?
There wasn’t a lock on the gate when I arrived – which struck me as strange.
I was told I’d have to jump the fence if I ever wanted to gain entry to such a place,
But here I am, enraptured by language which longed for my arrival.
The phrase ‘I can’t put it into words’ has now finally escaped my grasp.
An outpouring of expression feels as if it’s at the tips of my fingers.
I am no longer blind to the vividness of realty’s articulation.
I am no longer stuck in the pits of my muddling mind, which now runs and winds with the freedom of a dream.
No more shadows on the walls, no puppets acting tired and drawn out motions.
A shining new clarity, I am submerged in curiosity.
Hey, all I know is what I read in the papers.
What do you think about this article?
I’ve wound it carefully about my head,
especially to cover my eyes
so I can be undistracted.
You don’t know what it’s like in here,
because you’re not me.
I can’t see how you are out there,
because I’m not you.
Nevertheless you can’t sneak up on me—
I feel that secure. If you only knew
why I feel so free,
you can feel the same too.
Well, I’ve given you a few clues,
if you’re interested. At least it seems to me
you can readily infer what the case may be.
This article is particularly interesting.
It’s about a man who wore a magic hat
that granted him all his wishes.
But what did he wish for?
but to strike an enigmatic pose,
and just Be,
behind the newsprint
reading between the lines what everyone has to read,
given the opacity
of modern journalism.
I'm blinded by news.
Struck with awe in some terrible way.
Speechless when I see the words.
Caught silenced when I hear them.
You never know what to expect, but you never expect it to be this.
Your life folded in on itself, one day placed on another, then another, then another.
Until all of your days are just one crinkled mess of a life, sports and movie reviews and business, coalesced into one jumble under a single headline.
You begin above the fold, never expecting to be continued on 13B.
Your life's shining moments, mere advertisements for times yet to come, wrapped in the details of your daily reports.
You're not even featured on the byline.
Someone else, after all, will be the one writing your story.
Somedays, you peruse the obits, reading the final stories of those you have known and loved.
But you never get to read your own.
I always knew this story would show up one day.
I guess I had hoped it would be more of a story.
But even the biggest headlines are just forgotten bold font eventually.
Special exclusives and footnotes for the week torn and thrown together at the bottom of the hamster cage.
Glued one strip on another for a paper mache mask.
Sometimes there is too much news
it wads our brains with wet newsprint
and we flip from one tragedy to the next
skipping to the anecdotal
the lost cats and golden wedding anniversaries.
Sometimes there is so much news
we make it into paper planes
and toss the misery into the sky
watch it nose dive among the daisies.
But sometimes it sits on our head,
wrapping its arms about our neck
a hand over our eyes and it whispers
This is for you
aimed with the precision of a missile
close your eyes if you want
I’m coming ready or not.
Win me over with
just the sound of
your voice, a song
of truth and trust
like a chanted spell
to guide me out
from the dark place
of all those other
And in return I’ll
read to you from
my heart, a tale
to make you laugh
to make you cry
and perhaps like this
we’ll learn to love
not what we see
but what we
If I were happy I'd
start this morning saying
'I thank you God for most this amazing'
And not be lamenting on
'Mushrooms' as much.
I would be living with the motto
'Do not go gentle into that good night',
not living with the paranoia of
'When I have fears that I may cease to be'.
I would write sweet, aimless letters
and entitle them 'This is just to say',
rather than trying to get people's attention
by 'Not waving, but drowning'.
I would be counting all the ways
'How do I love thee' rather than pondering on
'La Belle Dame Sans Merci'.
I would be hopeful of the future
and say 'Because I could not stop for death'
thus beautifying that experience too...
Time passes me by as I am looking in 'The Mirror'.
and having 'sessions of sweet silent thought'.
I wouldn't dare to tell my friends that
'The world is too much with us',
and would rather say 'To me, fair friend you can never be old'
The feel of paper distracts blindness, yet I see you.
A rustle of fabric, slapping of your shoes, circle from ear to ear.
My lashes brush against the solidity, yet I see you.
The scent of a man, tobacco mingle, reactive fingers to nose.
The uncontrollable controlled, anxiety ignored, yet still I see you.
Breath passes lips. Hair prickles, goosebumps, a shiver reveals my response.
Who are you?
The mind scans as would a database, frozen I see you.
Combine what was seen, unseen. Senses combine in time.
Link the seen, unseen.
Breath deep in. A moment in time is mine.
Silent recall links once more.
Call out your name – you do the same.
A vision unseen greets me.
I see you. Do you see me?
At a party, someone told me the past and the future couldn’t cause me pain. It was my memory and my imagination that were hurting me. The kind of conversation that could only happen with a stranger, at 2am in a noisy kitchen.
Head tilted, he explained this calmly, his lips close to my ear. A voice somehow both gritty and soft. Salt on a heavy snowfall.
I looked down, letting my eyes get lost in the lace of my dress. Looked up, holding his blue gaze, hot and cold. Flexed onto my tiptoes and leaned in, knowing my words smelled like red wine. “How do you know I’m hurting, anyway?”
Someone has a name. I loved him profoundly and pointlessly. It’s a name that only gets bolder and louder the further I try to push it from my head.
“Did you know every time you remember something, you’re actually remembering the last time you remembered it?” It was me who said this. Another spill of early hours words, knotted in his duvet, caught in a shard of streetlight through his dirty window. He didn’t have curtains to draw. His eyes were closed, dark curls fanned against the pillow. A half-asleep nod, a finger tracing the edge of my face and settling against my lower lip.
At work, I cut the cable ties holding the stack of papers. I collect the pertinent headlines, type them up, circulate them to a mailing list of hundreds of people who probably won’t have time to read them.
When I’ve clicked send, I stare down at my fingertips. Blurred dark by newsprint. I reach for my notebook and leave a black smear on the page. A jolt from schooldays hits me, biro letters carefully printed, hearts painstakingly inked, I.D.S.T. If Deleted Still True.
See – she said – see what is not there to see
No, not just behind the billboards
Of feats that swagger in gutsy spree.
Even cupboards with glass doors hoard
Compulsive reckless moments
On their knees, imploring
The Gods of good omens
To appear and transform their boring
Wait for attention. And a conversation.
All this is there for all to see
And even hear their whining narration.
To see is to see what you cannot see.
When you can do this, you will know
That the right to write
Does not always show
How distinct wrong is from right.
See – she said – see beyond insights
That see only what all have seen
In flashlights, floodlights and highlights
That may pierce even a smoke screen.
Close your eyes, pull down your swanky hat
Turn the other way, walk another path
Strike a conversation, have an online chat
Or just have a long and thoughtful bubble-bath
And you may finally understand
That turning inwards is not about more or new
But wiping away to enter the unlearning hinterland
And sipping your own brew.
Papa is in position. He is a tiny figure now in the green pod of the winged armchair, rheumy onyx eyes dead in his face, hands writhing like dying spiders on the wire of his thighs. His sluggy tongue pushes in and out, wetting his lips; he is ready.
He likes me to start on the front page, the Big News, and once I have covered the mild shake of an earth tremor and the faux pas of a politician, butterfly-like, I alight on the small, less significant section, bottom right, barely a beat between breaths.
His knuckles roll like pebbles under his skin as, too late, I am sliding into the story without buffers. A young girl has returned to the village where she was found beneath a tree as an abandoned baby. She is looking for her mother.
I feel the words ‘determined’ and ‘will never give up’ crawl up my spine like an army of ants, and jostle in my skull for space.
Seventeen years ago, the story was tattooed on every paper. Papa had a lot to say then about girls who got themselves into trouble.
My pillow is still spiky with journalistic wordplay after all these years. My heart a bird with a broken wing.
I tell him it’s time to go and touch his cheek with mine.
I drop on to a bench, heavier than I have ever been. The weight has been drawn to my fingertips. I release my grip on the paper. The print is smudged.
And then I have swallowed the sun. My veins glow and each crystal cracks in my blue heart. My arms will be a bridge to my daughter.Read more >
We line our composting bins with newsprint
to ease the dumping of grounds and eggshells.
We give the headlines a cursory glance, read
a few lines of this and that to confirm the online reports.
Some still line their parakeet cages with the front page,
kick back at breakfast to peruse the results of last night’s game.
Nothing’s better than newsprint to start a campfire.
A rolled newspaper still disciplines a wayward pup or swats a fly.
In a recent Korean movie, while under zombie attack,
passengers paste panels of political screeds, foreign reports,
stock market data, help wanted ads on glass doors to blind
the monsters, shields of inky words, to the brainless on one side,
the sharp-witted bricoleurs on the other.
Newspapers give way to tweets, sound bites, online news
algorithmically picked and posted to feed us our biases.
fragmenting into opinion pieces, blogs, a barrage of facts, and fancy.
Information turns entertainment, gets lost in echo chambers,
twists into dark web conspiracies to rival a Stephen King horror novel.
Chucked out with yesterday’s fish bones, the newspaper
no longer spans coasts or cultures, no longer fosters community.
Like the town crier of old, print the daily news slips into archives,
passes into the quaint and curious while we fall into subdivisions.
Outstripped by a cacophony of disjointed bits and dross,
all the news that’s fit to print is cut and mixed like cocaine
with baking soda, facts diluted, full of fillers and coupons.
We no longer wrap our minds around the world of events.
I can't see you
within the covers
of this one-sided cover-up.
Text and graphics are black,
if read between
the lines are white
washed clean of all
but monolithic monoculture.
There is a chemical
stench in the margins
inducing headache hum.
We weave within corruption,
grope in a vampiric void
where no mirrors reflect us.
We pinch each other
to find out if we even exist.
My mind is a sponge
I absorb everything
I only have to read a document once,
and all the information
is categorized and filed
in my head
My mind is a receptacle,
but my consciousness
filters, and reduces
it into simple phrases
Every day, I process
and discern what is important
and what is fodder,
until I have all that is valuable
at my disposal
I am a cyborg,
infused with technology,
capable of utilizing the world’s
at lightning speeds
Anything you feed me,
I digest, duplicate, and proceed.
They try to tell my story
practice empathy, specialise in truth:
like I'm a song to be learnt by heart.
Crap. Their words erase my life.
Their bold headlines, witty phrases
place a summary hat upon my head. Useless,
pulled down low, it obscures my eyes.
They do not know me. They do not ask me
for my voice —
deny space for my choice of tones, nouns and verbs.
They re-define my landscapes, troubles, aspirations
and so, I remain unheard. My lips move
in silence, yearn for ears to hear the poems
of my beating, screaming heart. My blood
rushes to my future, in spite of them.
Rain soaks their pages, covers fall away
as I, surviving child, stride into my own day.
Dating demands a vocabulary
that is constantly expanding.
I hold the dictionary close. I unlearn
and learn the meaning of ‘love’.
A strong feeling of romantic attraction…
I met him half-way through
2020. He crushes newspapers
in his hands to feed me morsels of
multiple times a day.
Words are all we have for
we live over 40 km away.
The Oxford Dictionary chose
over 40 words this year.
Love is my word of the year.
His fingers are bars of dark chocolate.
My mouth waters, I’m a few shades lighter.
India discriminates based on skin colour.
We talk about this and everything that’s wrong
with the world. Racism, child labour,
moral policing…and then what’s right
with us and why we are perfect for each other.
Love is my word of the year.
I guard this word with all my might.
I slip it under my pillow cover
expands our knowledge
of the world and people in it.
As nothing is new the old
gives us all the information we need.
We are unexplorers in an ancient world.
Ignore all unknown areas. Avoid them.
Don't take risks. We move backwards
when there is something to be uncovered.
Keep it covered. Keep it hidden.
Revelation destroys learning.
is weakness. Not to know
is power. Knowledge
leads to prejudice. Don't tell me
anything. I don't want to know.
News is forbidden. Information
cannot be allowed to undermine
society. Wear gloves so you can't
touch. Ear plugs so you can't hear.
Ideally your tongue should be removed.
Don't listen so IGNORE THIS MESSAGE.
Thoughts crumple, crumble
Beneath the ebb and flow
Of the Mad Hatter’s message
Reform into stories
Which dazzle and blind
Take the mind to world’s unseen
A Wonderland dream
Of happy ever afters
Offering escape and magic
A tragic outcome for any censor
Forgetting fairy tales have gossamer wings
And can fly on their own
She wore that dunce hat proudly
Like a medieval maiden’s crowning glory
Her own personal henin
Homemade royalty not coronated by Pinterest or Etsy
But regal all the same
Immune to society’s judgement
A Mona Lisa-esque expression
Clad in gentle, lying lace
And blinded by ambition
Arms folded defensively
And mind awhirr with words of caution
Lived words of wisdom echoing
With expletives so profane
That she has learned from the mistakes of others
She solemnly taps out a rhythm
Preparing for another spin around the floor
To her own drummer
Humming to herself
Meanwhile men whither
Before her ice-cold glare
In which she takes such great pride
Serving her well once again
Her angry-woman-death-vibes oozing
Into the invisible pores of the universe
Crowding out all the cells and atoms
Read more >
Feed me all the good and all the bad
and all the evils of the world.
Tell me your fears and fantasies
and all the secrets you hold so deep.
Whisper your plans into my ears,
I shall take them as it is.
Paint your dreams with those all colors,
though sometimes I go color blind.
Borrow my hands if you wish,
better put them to good use.
Take my color too if you are short of one,
but hope you know, what you do.
Fear not and do not fret,
your secrets, your dreams, and fantasies,
plans and pains are as good as new,
and they always will be.
You don’t know me, and I don’t know you,
only that we look alike.
But does that matter anywhere?
I say all this to you now, but
may not do again.
I have learnt to digest all the evils –
my system is very strong now.
My ears are deaf to pain – not to mine –
but to everything not mine.
I see dreams and colors only I paint,
but it might look like yours – it happens.
My hands and my color is always mine,
though the plan was always yours –
still, you deserve no credits.
Read more >
Agin a voracious hunger for knowledge
from childhood to puberty
on through her adulthood
with its perils of parenting,
they surrounded her with propaganda
from a press full of poison
covering her eyes with newsprint
full of gibberish
that could not stain her skin
or etch into her heart.
For her nose could smell truth
while her lips would not be silenced
as she stood upright and proud
crossing her agrarian arms,
that imbued through her genes
to be passed onto her children
and future generations
beneficiaries of a new equality
inheritors of freedom.
Yet her mind remains scarred
her soul bleeds with pain
never to forget the trauma
though in her heart she forgives,
the deprivations of apartheid
Read more >
Nadia’s head is about to explode. She reads the newspaper and knows her surroundings. She is young, vibrant and wants to become something important. A doctor, lawyer or even teacher. There is much to decide and where to go in her brilliant mind. She has visions of helping the poor, building homes, and creating a better life for those in her village. But envisioning is not the same as doing.
Nadia opens the front door and takes her first step into the world.
Oh nameless history without beginning or end
you who can’t remember to forget.
Your neck turns when you hear my approach.
I see you, can you see me
The Ku Klux Klanners moan
when they see your headdress
They notice the likeness though the meanings
are crossed and crumpled
Blindness can be a virtue once you
refuse to turn back
I sense you are calm. I sense your eyes
burning through paper
Against all odds you forge ahead
not knowing, knowing all
Your hat intact, filled with headlines
of the day, adverts of escapism
You wear no robes, no jewelry, but
so clearly your arms are crossed
What happens next is hidden and unknowable
yet you stand, a calm gesture of defiance
You are not going anywhere
yet you proudly persist –
as it must be lest your curiosity stalls
If they cover your ears, say nothing
You don’t want to see too much
’cause if you did we couldn’t
steer you in the right direction
which we’ve carefully mapped
out to maximize corporate profits
with your help and compliance.
We so greatly appreciate all you do
we’re giving you a lifetime discount
on everything you buy from us.
That’s why though you can’t see
what you’re buying or even why
you’re buying we’re here to lend
a hand, an eye, and enough credit
to keep us going at your expense.
The minute you arrived in this intricate mesh
You were told you were this or you were that
Prepared for roles covered in symbols or words.
Your initiation began with rituals and a name
Most choices were made before you could get in the game.
It was good for you in many ways
But you've run along a long, with blinkers on
And you want to peer out and see what’s on the other end.
You want to see if other boxes are a better fit
You are met with disapproval that soon turns to resistance
You might even start a war with your curious innocence.
You are already boxed in.
Where do you stand?
Some are content with words they got.
Some are entangled in the maze of ideas and words.
Some are trying to chaff for truth in the mirage.
Yesterday falls to my feet like forgotten ink. Today is a paper airplane in my chest, on the verge of taking flight— impatient. Tomorrow hides itself, maneuvers like a ghost behind trees.
The news becomes a blindfold. I wear it like a hat, one size too big, until I grow into the knowledge I know not yet how to navigate. I hold truth in my hands, hold signs up as mirrors, refuse to be blind to injustice.
I am, in truth, surprised that you can stay so calm. While it all goes on around you. Around us all. Some of us panic. I’m not proud of that, but I’ll admit it. I don’t find it easy. I’ve been used to privilege, but now none of us have it. You nod your head. As if to say. And that is totally understandable. Why would you want to look at the rumpus? There are other words for it. In Scotland they say kerfuffle. I like that. I have an affinity with the Scots. With the French too, who say brouhaha. Like a laugh, though there’s nothing funny about all this, is there?
You will have a word in your language. Or words in your several languages. We think we’re so clever if we can speak what we call a ‘foreign’ language. No wonder you do not want to look at me. But that calmness, that serenity. Seren is a Welsh name. It means star. I think of a star as a light shining in the darkness. I think of you that way. Though I would like to, well, talk, if we could discover how to bridge the gap. Sorry, I mean if I could discover, why should I expect you to compromise, no I don’t. Except. Except what? Did you ask me, except what? I think this is the beginning.
This. Once. I was in a desert place. With women of the Bedouin. I wanted to know about their lives. I didn’t speak their language but I thought– Well, I thought if I sat with them for some time, quietly, they would tell me, using the words of English they knew, they would tell me about their lives. That did not happen. I had not taken account of the size of the gap. That it would take more than sitting together for an hour. That – and when I think about it now I do realise – that it might take years. And I was not giving them years. I thought, forgive me, that buying the things they made – the beaded bags, all beautiful – was enough.
I have learnt something. Not much, but something. I will not ask you what you are selling. Perhaps I should not even have said that, should not even have thought about buying and selling. Read more >
A hat is not a home, nor what
Most sensible people sport to display
Their head for topicality –
But here I am. And what of that?
Unhomeliness is all the news
Ever is. When the headlines croak
Of what the duchess did this week,
Or put their words around a crisis,
It's wholly dull, inhospitable
Stuff. In their columns, blunt-tongued types
Chew the daily apocalypse.
And as their readers terror-scroll
Down printed lines or smartphone screens,
They witness all life going wrong:
The workings-out of weak and strong.
In reading through these modern runes,
I learn to see things differently,
And, when I'm done with reading, fold
Up the news that at once is old.
This old hat's home. It's blinding me.
Cubicles inside cubicles
Spheres inside the spheres
Turn darker under the grey,
All that the sky smeared
Were different shades
Showered so through my journey
Blinded I stand,
Under the flutter of the giant crown
Beauty sprouts, alongside the deepening of desire,
The eyes hide, that smile
Just once more, all that was, is
Afloat, the colors turn
A fiery blue, if I could
I would, live amid all that was
And is, here
Now, with Me.
You don't know what you want. Your whole world is in that phone and you want to throw it in a lake. There are not even any lakes around. Fine, the sea then. Drive to the beach, throw the phone in the water, drive back home. What would that do? Someone gave you a book of essays, very well written essays and you appreciate that they're well-written but also they are sad, too sad and you don't need or want any sadness. You don't need to learn empathy. Or how it feels to be a woman in this world second hand. You already have the first hand experience. Someone else should read this book. Maybe you should take it to the beach with your phone, but leave it on the sand for someone to find. A beach read. Ha ha. Maybe a man will find it and read it and have an epiphany of what women go through. Maybe. But you're not holding to that hopeful thought for too long. Empathetic men don't get that way by reading. Do they? Maybe if they were reading as children? You honestly don't know. You think of this often, not just about men but also about women and children. What would it take to have no more Nazis in the world already? No xenophobes and homophobes and billionaires? You couldn't punch all of them in the face. Or, joke aside, it can't be that you could just sit down and talk them into being better human beings, can it? Now you feel tired and want to throw the world in the lake, or in the sea as there are no lakes around. The world is in the phone anyways, so that would work. No extra trips necessary.
Our cubist love life seemed like a quaint collage of sharp angles, clever left-handed compliments, right brain assumptions that merged in severe cerebral cortex corners, fed our interminable sexual appetites formerly satisfied by duel posturing, youthful swagger. Incline planes linked; we knitted brows then fashioned a coefficient future together, always with mathematical precision, naïve thoughts indifferent to accuracy.
Outdoors we persisted, allowing newspaper visors to shield our romance from unflattering sunrays. Daily attitude adjustments seemed spirited by insincerity, yet amorous beach lounge antics morphed into degrees of compassion. Transcending our gradient relationship, recapturing exploited emotions—squandered opportunities—as rainclouds harassed us with dire, protractor earnest. Creatures of habit, eyes half-shut, we slept on edges in rooms where burnt sienna ceilings met beige plaster walls, mirrors hung everywhere like a carousel sanctuary.
Calculating fractal dimensions, our abstract affair connected avant-garde aesthetics via geometric forms. Meticulously measuring and critiquing each other’s opinions—polite, punctilious ministers of decorum—we celebrated harmony, yet honored all differences as gravely as free-floating Green Lake lanterns.
Look at the crease, positioned between my eyes,
you can focus there without awkwardness.
Even if I could see you, it would be as if
you were making eye contact, as if we were
in dialogue, as if we were on a level.
Some people say the eyes are windows
to the soul and so for both our sakes it’s easier
this way. No one need pretend. No one needs
to act polite, to concentrate hard, very hard,
whilst moderating their voice, their body language:
all so unreliable, so open to misinterpretation.
Instead, here I am in black and white –
You can read me like a book and what I say
never changes, except in your perception of it
in your consumption of it
in your ownership of it.
The grey areas are yours, all yours, right
where you can regulate them, which is good
because the soul is untamed, unregulated, above
politeness, because brown skin gleams differently
in the light to pale skin, because my mouth makes
the same words sound different to yours.
Look at the script. Look at the text. It’s black.
Look at the background. Look at the paper. It’s white.
White and neuro normal.
A headline in the morning,
To break the fast
Eyes divert from dream to dread.
‘Lady slipped on the red carpet’
‘President smirked at the refugees!’
Plus a full length essay on ‘How to harvest pure honey from bees!’
Surveillance with a hint of surgical strike,
They dance tirelessly,
On rhythms of politics and vintage wines.
Reports on ‘Health and Sickness’ tell a different story
‘No one is dying, illness is a myth’ – Gets diverted to
‘How to make an Indian curry in only 5 minutes’!
In far fetched lands,
Plenty of bodies fall – of hunger and panic.
Fortunately – none of it reaches their White Busy Houses.
Defeated. I sigh!
Seeing the ironical battle of tales,
My eyes say goodbye.
Prepared for a blind future of fake trains,
That crisp paper hat, numbs the neurons of my brain.
Still in search of truth and reality
I fold the 15 pages of paper – they call News,
Into a boat of Callousness of merely adulterated views.
I see you not as a body but a language
not understood, as an animal untamed,
as a lover careless, but these things faded
into knowledge like spiral waves of the sea
mother's joy uneven on a night the stars refused to shine. her tears unraveling the pains of this world & her
grief was written as headlines with cries
from the underworld.
it was said the brightest star shines the shortest time
but what of the ember dying inside fire or
the goodbyes that were never said & will
never be said?
a word does not make up a poem, a fact
does not make a pool of knowledge.
All that was needed was a face carrying strength and joy.
They seep into your mind
So use each compliment
To cushion every insult,
With words, educate yourself
Argue your own case
Don’t wait for others to
They are lost in their own word maze,
Struggling to escape life’s wounds,
Facing the world, only
When they’ve painted their faces,
When their masks are
Caked into place,
When they're lost
In their construction
Of a painted smile,
Hiding tears, hiding shame
Don’t, don’t take yourself there
It's dark, monsters lurk under beds,
Whispering opinions of
Who? I rest my case,
Those who opine
Are scared, more scared than you,
Will ever be,
Your educated mind
Wraps you in words,
Read more >
When I cease to be, what will my head-lines read?
What words will be written on this page I cannot see?
Who will sum me up in a page a column, or row?
Will the headlines bleed betrayal?
Or paint a picture of my soul?
Will it summarise my failures
Or celebrate my wins?
Would it even be a fair assumption if they failed to see me, from within?
Would they choose to write with basic words, thus legible to all?
Or will they dance with words, on all four pages, like I’m Cinderella at the ball?
Will they create a saucy gossip page, so every word is read with care
And assume that people faintly read, if dirt is not laid bare?
Who would really,
care to read,
my TRUE daily life affair?
When the truth is somewhat boring, and propaganda wrapped around my hair
I saw it in the paper, it opened up my eyes
About the latest who and where, and the corporate mindset whys
I wrapped my head around the news; it’s now all in my head
I needn’t look around the world; at least that what it said
So now I stand for what it stands and follow where it leads
A generation blind to truth and blind to what it needs
“The tone of the news hasn’t really changed yet, has it?”
“No, I guess we’re getting lucky for now, but it is shifting. We have to find a way to keep them hopeless though, blind, after this momentum fades, that is.”
“Yes, blind. These last four years were eye-openers for so many of our foes, because we showed, no, exposed ourselves. We work so well in the dark my friend; the spotlight is our weakness.”
“I kinda like the spotlight.”
“Well that’s because you are our poster boy, Sam. Of course, we need some light, but I feel like the one I carry is enough sometimes. On the other hand, it’s also sufficiently dim, for our intents should always remain obscure. In fact, I cherish my light. Luminous, for the herds to read that empty plaque, dim for...”
“Sure, sure, sure. That’s all mighty and poetic now, but how do we blind ‘em?”
“Easy. They’ll blind themselves. Because Liberty will always steer the cattle in the wrong direction. And when Liberty is so insincere, it’s all the more satisfying to watch it in action!”
“You imply I’m a narcissist, but let me tell you, I’ve never heard anyone get so aroused by just saying their own name out loud... So, how will they blind themselves?”
“That’s what’s even more amusing! They will blind themselves in the name of Justice!”
“Yes, our dear associate. You see, as long as they give us a fair chance, they will be the ones pulling the blindfold over their own eyes! High on their horses, morally superior and whatnot, when in fact they’re just making it easier for us to exercise our righteous power. Read more >
I try to wrap my head
Around your words.
But they wrap around me
And blind me instead.
I see no truth
I see what you let me see.
I speak no words
Except those you've given me.
I pretend to be strong
I stand resolute, stand tall.
But you can't see the fear,
The insecurities of a fall.
I pretend to rule the world
With a crown on my head
But my eyes are closed.
My mind's dead.
o moon, ever so cryptic,
as if propped on carbon paper –
have we lost the originals?
i think i know why poets look up to you,
and that is because even in your solitude
you illuminate us.
with the tip of the index finger
to the tongue and then turn the page;
we've got ink on our hands –
but what if we just said it
instead of highlighting it
instead of describing it
instead of defining it
instead of repeating it
instead of translating it
instead of explaining it
instead of poetry –
why can't we just say it?
She had been praying so long for rain to come,
wilting under the glare of the punishing sun,
she took her eye off the ball, the first time that week.
A drop bounced off her head, trickled down her cheek,
an unexpected tear in the thick dust of the dry season.
Monochrome clouds rolled in fast across the sky,
and another raindrop hit her just above the eye –
it was time to find shelter from the coming storm
in an open space place that’s desolate and forlorn –
and there it was, caught up in the sand and weeds,
someone else’s old news, words she could not read,
to fold into a dunce’s hat to cover up her head.
Thinking under paper, the news sinks into my head. A new style is here. For now, I am seeing shadows through newsprint. With pursed lips, I consider options. Creases and crevices make a new wrap. My new hat is readable. Lace covers my body as I gather the facts. Jargon keeps on flowing in print.
I still get up drenched in sweat
waking up from the nightmares of
the scarcity of essentials during the lockdown
and the woeful empty deep freeze
the chef hat donned reluctantly
has become my present identity
I know which side of my bread is buttered
I am not blind to realities
I try to stay focussed on the present
news headlines don't bother me
all I worry about is
the free flow of commodities!
So you know me.
I'm an open book.
You know my thoughts
Before I've thought them.
Is that right?
You know what I'll do.
Before I've done it.
Do you now?
My heart's on my sleeve.
Is that right?
So it must be as
I must agree with what
I must accept your control.
Is that right?
Is – That – RIGHT?
Cameras click, ballpoints scribble, pen caps drop, and printing presses run.
The daily news hits hard. Wrapped in rain-drenched plastic on doorsteps
city wide. Tucked in coat pockets. Forgotten on the Number 9 bus. The Number 5, too.
Black and white images brush patio bricks. Coins meet metal and cash changes hands
at corner newsstands. Pleasantries pass as news is consumed along with Snickers, Three Musketeers, and Mountain Dew. Aluminum cans are recycled, as are expressions.
Not again. Too bad. Too soon. Hurry now, it’s pick-up time. On to the next stop and the next story. Presses must recycle, too. Five-point font on front and back sides. Detailed depictions of wars on all corners. Yet, blinders are everywhere.
To be unseen, I know you – by name. You are
empty guest lists at dawn and dusk services
blank lines for next of kin
numbers with no names
names with no addresses
warm spots of concrete just to the left of subway grates
dark sunglasses worn on cloudy days
extra settings at wooden kitchen and dining room tables
unanswered voicemails and expired passcodes
comics before obits
crosswords with no answers
razor thin papercuts and generic band aids
obligatory pauses before conspicuous consumption
Always hungry for more. Soft pretzels. Bakers’ dozens.
Read more >
If Taylor Swift’s ‘Paper Rings’ Was Written By Pushkin Who Had Also Been Hit Over The Head With A Large, Dull Rock
I wear just now a paper crown,
Would paper you with paper rings,
Would offer you my paper vows,
For what are we but paper things?
I hide my eyes with printed news,
I find greying there true better views.
I oft seek out the glint of shine,
Diamonds, darkness, diamond mines—
But you I’d have in matted paint,
No satin slip nor velvet gown,
Nor lamplight glimmers in our vows.
But you I’d have in paper faint,
True as evening and as pale,
Your hand in mine, a paper trail.
Their official words
wrapped around my hair and strained across my temple,
until their ink bled blue upon my skin.
Their words obscured my vision,
made it challenging to see, to walk,
without tripping over the flapping tongues of my too-large sandals.
rustled at my ears and tore apart,
laughed with satisfaction,
insistent that they knew what had happened
and my body in a room no one else had been
that my words did not hold up in court
(as they had not held up before)
in a room no one else had been
that my statement was but white paper
that I was willing to wear
in the street
and in the stand,
a hand made crown
that they could ridicule
that they didn’t have to meet my eyes
Indigo ink flows through the fine ballpoint pen. And settles into neat patterns of pre-ordained words on the crisp paper, which morphs into a carry bag at the news market. The one which cost her extra five rupees.
The bag mutates into a cap in her hands, as if by magic. A cap which she dons with flourish. The cap covers hers eyes and ears and frees her tongue off the weight of unknown inhibitions. She is free to talk.
Finally, she thinks, the end of my troubles.
The indigo words on the cap transmogrify into a route map, helping her navigate a vicious convoluted world. Many times, by shutting the harsh, grating noise of sorrow, pain and injustice. At other times by helping her see only the good. Hear only the pleasant.
Sometimes, the cap is a debilitating weakness for she feels vulnerable in its absence, open, to the dark realities of existence. Those children under the flyover, shrouded in tattered blankets, too cold to sleep. That innocent under trial who languishes in the prison without legal aid. The girl, almost her own age, watching her from that non-descript corner in the underbelly of that red-light area.
Images that have escaped from her mind return to haunt her at night. She lies awake on those nights, paralysed with the weight of inaction. Apathy. Of the system and her own.
But, most times, the cap protects her, shields her, helps preserve her sanity, just as she had predicted, just like she had hoped it would.
Wake up – you volunteered.
Wake up and do something before the very last minute and then shove any old thing
onto the customer.
But the designers had tired of the catwalks
And fashionista …
And slept on, dragging out the boozy dream of utopia
Where people would just Fosberry flop off
and leave them alone
to mope about lockdowns and the illogic
of bankrupting BUSINESSES
SO CHILDREN – when not striking for climate –
could be educated to take their place in an economy
which by the time they qualify
Would be as much a Shangri La as the boozy dreams.
Prime carriers are set free maskless and without
Measure of distance
And it’s a surprise that the fictional R rate rises?
Wake up – you volunteered.
But the dunce slept on beneath a cap
made of press releases
and costly stats solicitation.
Neither hat nor mask nor crown
I wear this newsprint
Like a pledge
Not to cover but uncover
What goes hidden
In plain sight
To use words like the lens
Of a microscope
That finds the invisible
Worm of contagion
In what seems transparent
Innocent as water
To use words like the lens
Of a telescope
Measuring the distance
Between worlds dying
To use words like bridges
From dark confusion
To potential light
To use words like scales
Weighing lies and promises
To find words strong enough
To peel the scales
From my eyes
Read more >
purrs at the tip of her tongue
abides in conscious dismissal
retreats in mindful assent.
Poet, shed the hood of disguise
distill the soft inks of dissent
where the lush overlay of lace
appliqué reveals a warrior’s
glow, release the Leonian
grip, the cat’s stealthy hold
with claws at the tip of your
clear-sighted, plainspoken poem.
Yes, I choose
Choose not to be blindsided by the facts
printed in the reams of the newspaper daily;
salient facts spoon-fed by the national media
that every man has a voice
a life created equally
When the invisible virus guts this town like fish
bones out the fears seeded in every living soul;
revealing that breath of yours might be the last one
the truth forgotten for years
has finally been brutally told
It tells us that every breath is
indeed a privilege
life is not marked by
the color of skin, creed, and religion;
blinded by the false narratives for eons
breathing the lies is the false supposition
The truth breathing its last
filling the corrugated skies
thick with blood and smoke;
Caught like a deer in the headlights
facing the end of a police gun
bodies piling up the streets
when the protectors start to devour
C’mon, she says, you promised you’d share. Can’t you at least give me one?
I start to say no chance in hell but Addy holds her hands out like gimme-gimme and makes those big old puppy-dog eyes, which I know shouldn’t work on me but my God they do. They really do.
Alright, I say, just one.
I hand her the paper cone and she breaks into the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, and I just think to myself, eff it, if it makes her that happy she can just have it. So we both pretend we don’t notice that she takes three chips instead of one.
They’re my favorite chips, too, from the shop on the corner of High and Victoria, right next to our old school. At first we only went cause it was convenient but by the third or fourth time we were like, wait a minute these are actually wicked good. They come in paper cones made from yesterday’s news, so you can read it after you’re done, if you’re the brainiac type, which I’m not. It’s damn near impossible anyways with all the grease stains. Addy always does, though, unfolds the whole thing and lays it out flat and tries to piece the story together.
Sometimes she makes me little cranes and flowers after she’s done. Origami, she calls it. When she gives them to me I tell her that’s grody or that smells like a deep fryer or that’s gotta violate some sort of health code, but when I get home I put them all in a shoebox I keep at the bottom of my closet.
And now she’s laughing, and talking, probably telling me about some book she read or some film I just have to see, and she doesn’t even realize that I’m not paying her any attention. I don’t want to focus on what she’s saying. I was never any good with words. Read more >
in this broadsheet your destiny go search she told me every word
I examined pieced together clues puzzle codes headline riddles anagrams palindromes
laid on skin slipped under pillow finger-traced the white between its columns sought rhythm
in the syllables drowned in smudgy ink till word blind & head fuzzed I fashioned
a battered paper pipe that slipped over my eyes & there I left the suspect places
the smooth fools’ faces for the peace of constellations accepted the wax & wane of dreams
We paper over guilt
Like a gully trap
Catches approaching wastage
Headpieces filled with the
Infestation of death
Where words make a killing
Desirous of an exposé
A full frontal pastiche
Of severed linguistics
A sui generis mishmash
Almost like a typographical passage
Where wounded words are in rehab
Infused with the elixir of dissolute
Walking into the verdant gardens
Of cryptic messages
Incomplete musical notations
Left half way
A prison sentence given
The songbird chirping in lieu
Of the spring
Words hanging on to their
Thoughts carelessly tossed
The spells cast by forgetfulness
Read more >
You’ve got me blindfolded
Wrapped around your finger
Yes, people throng and clamber and fight
For a glimpse and a glance of me
They do so much more
I can sense them
Hear the derisive catcalls
Feel the lecherous fingers grasping
Smell the burns of feral toxicity
Taste the distaste for a woman
Shutting my eyes won’t help no more
I see you
Through and through
Through countless hands it reaches me each morning
Passing as bucks to be stopped at the doorstep of gullible fools
Erudite and thinking men in high plush offices,
Men with thoughtful eyes arrange words strategically on white sheets
Such that the monochrome letters appear to reflect colors of the world
Dished out like a cake from an oven, hot, fresh and awaited
It is in fact a magic mushroom that pops out
Of the debris of fabrications and stories hushed up, brushed under
‘Will cause serious illusions regarding reality’ – they never give warnings
Every day, it tapes itself to my eyes and covers my mind
I can’t see light, just lies dancing in front of my eyes
I can’t hear a word, just half-truths burbling into my ears
Fighting for a way out as a player in a game of blindfold,
I try to track light like trapped in a derelict mansion
The silver lining is, I still have my lips untaped
So, I indulge in the sin; I commit the contemptuous act –
I open my mouth and ask
Shoot questions as sharp as arrows
Fire opinions as hitting as bullets
I think, I probe, I analyze, I speak, I ask
I deny versions of truth; no, nopes, naw, nein
I refuse to accept the common lies in circulation
So what if my eyes and ears are stuffed with their words?
I will still open my lips and
And more questions.
Money in hand, football at feet, late summer afternoon air mixing with the cloying chip shop heat.
Joan has one arm over the counter and is looking over her shoulder at a small black and white TV up in the corner, barely visible in the glare.
“One scallop please,” I say, with an impetuous confidence born of familiarity.
“You an’ all?” asks Joan flatly, without looking.
“Yeah,” Lee chirps, “an’ can I ‘ave scraps?”
The fact that the purchase of one scallop – a battered slice of potato – scarcely warrants free batter shavings goes unaddressed. Joan draws back from the counter languidly and plucks scallops from a pile that have been sweating under the lamps behind the glass counter.
“10p please”. Clatter of till. Joan glances back at the TV as she hands me my scallop. I don’t know what she is watching – it's just boring talking.
As Joan scoops scraps onto Lee’s paper she sniggers coldly. “Silly buggers. Can’t hear the truth for the words. It’ll be chip paper tomorrow.”
Joan laughs her horse cackle. Lee reciprocates unconvincingly, bellowing an obviously sarcastic laugh as he gives Joan his 10p. We walk out sweating into the street, now laughing for real.
The black letters drip into the white spaces
so that it is almost impossible to decide anything
to jump off the fence
they hail Unilever but what is a pledge
to women with hair that frightens white men
what is any union if
counties will become toilets
what is an end to this pandemic
when two million families are destitute
the grey descends like mist
it is the space between things
that is why they call it grey matter
that is why we see everything upside down
and we cower under grey clouds heavy with hate
fleeing for cover
and shake our heads, thinking, but
is grey not simply
I've often wondered about the rashness of slapdash ink. About the innumerable words churned out by machines. On endless repeat. Night. After night. After night. Producing words that threaten to engulf. Click-clack-click out too late, skirt too short. Reproducing narratives that identify only to diminish. Click-clack-click asking for it, was she not? Trapped in the distance between "beauty" and myth. Click-clack-click fair and lovely, oh so gorge. Producing, silencing, reproducing.
I've often wondered about the purposiveness of ink. About how its receptacles pander to its tales. Day. After day. After day. Click-clack-click gold-digger. Momentary distaste. Click-clack-click all hail the supermom. Flipping the page, moving on. Click-clack-click on and on. Ignoring the violence of its design. This architecture of print in its prime. Seeing, and yet unseeing.
Producing, silencing, reproducing.
Seeing, and yet unseeing.
Set the camera to exposure,
Set the light to burning,
Re-run the lines.
Around the worn track,
A thousand times.
Take breath beneath breathing.
Read the daily briefing
Lay the track in your mind.
And re-run the lines.
Recycle the daily briefing
Take breath beneath breathing
The lights in your eyes
Re-run your lines.
The light set to burning
The camera set to exposure
I’ve prepared the daily briefing,
I’ve re-run the lines.
Let’s meet at end
of the track in the mind.
The shutter it opens.
The light it exposes your eyes,
At least a thousand times.
You can run if you wish
Remember these lines.
Look I posed for you guys!
Looks good right?
Am I eligible for the A class parties now?
The cultural hub, the writers’ hub parties you throw.
Please tell me, yes, I need wine, good wine that is
I’m severely broke.
What else do you expect from writers?
We have always been starving,
Starvation, after all, is food for poetry
Not for the soul though
The soul wants to be free
Free from succumbing to apple polishing you guys
From your obnoxiously biased journals, reviews
Which glorify your agendas, your rapport,
Your sense of fulfillment
Of being part of the global literary scene
What really do you know about literature?
I understand that I perhaps know less and I curse
And I don’t make sense, but do you know more?
You did not understand Kafka
You said Dickinson lacked poetical qualities
None of you gave a damn about Poe during his lifetime
And had it not been for Shelley, you would have perhaps never bothered to read Keats
I could go on but I think I have made my point –
I despise you, all of you critics
But I’m broke, I’m severely broke and I need wine, good wine that is,
And for that I’m wear your reviews
over my head like a bag and attend your parties
Read more >
Cover my eyes with paper
or with close cotton cloth.
Blindfolded by darkness,
thoughts are clearer; unbound
bruised wrists sense relief
and shoulders slacken,
even lungs sigh.
With an internal expansion
thoughts take on geometry—
triangles and squares at first
then diminutive worlds
slowly replace what was
and once seen.
have you snapped yet the wand that christened you a
that dubbed you a doer of the dangerous,
she who splintered sinews just for the thrill of watching veins crackle
under a microscope of the male gaze on thin skin?
have you yet taken that magic wand by its handle,
seized it in the fist and split it down the middle –
kindling for the fire of your rage?
I would capture every scratch of your beauty,
even if I only had a leaking ballpoint pen
stolen from the stationery cupboard
of a mid-range insurance firm that no longer employs either of us.
You'd laugh if I told you,
an explosive joy I would save onto tape,
lamenting a lack of cassette player,
whilst remembering my lack of artistic talent.
Poems should be written about your unexpected,
the way you go left after veering right,
your desk perfect harmony and pockets overflowing
with proof your days expanded farther than that place.
If I could only see you again
—give me fleeting minutes, chance encounter on the street—
I'd document your smile for this last time,
second last chance to say goodbye for good.
A second degree in Eighty One:
she might be 2 or 3 days
older than me.
Did I say days?
In the old Celtic reckoning.
With age years have become like days.
I remember the old legend
of Rip van Winkle, he falls asleep,
at once his twenty winks become
as many years long: wasted years.
Or not wasted, perhaps just spent
beyond the fellow’s cognisance,
in latent recognition.
Sometimes a story is an allegory
and sometimes it is just a tale.
Sometimes the story is told after the fact,
details changing to fit the present.
Sometimes the story is told before,
and then we have to live our lives
the way they had been proscribed
in the telling.
When faced with the anger of my mother
When faced with the disappointment of my father
When faced with adversity
I close my eyes, cover them,
fight blind like Jean-Claude Van Damme
in the movie Bloodsport
It worked so well for him
he used it again, a year later, in Kickboxer
Does it work as well for me?
How the hell would I know,
my story hasn't been told yet
and I can't see with this
newspaper covering my eyes.
If I don’t look with lights on,
beneath the black and white of It,
If I turn away at windows,
dismiss the wrong and right of It,
If I sidestep puddles
—ignore the fight flight bite—
out of sight of It,
When it’s time,
She always had a better place to be, and Cynthia loved her for it. 'That is what older sisters are for,' Cynthia coos to her youngest child now, when the child motions after her sibling’s careless freedom. 'Older sisters are for going places.'
Cynthia’s older sister went to New York, Washington, Paris and Berlin. When she came home for birthdays or other celebrations, or perhaps for a pause between exciting opportunities, she looked like she was too big for the place. Her suitcase sat in the hallway for the duration of her stay, gifts and notebooks and cables spilling from it onto the wooden floor. Everything about Cynthia’s sister was exotic, and temporary.
When she first left home, Cynthia longed for their evenings in front of the TV together, or the boring camaraderie of the time between dinner and bed. But after a year or two it was impossible to remember her ever having lived here. When Cynthia thought of her sister she only saw the traveller: a short-term visitor who dropped by to share a large laugh and a new shade of eyeshadow.
And so, when Cynthia’s eldest daughter was born, cuddled and cradled within the same, magnolia walls that had kept Cynthia safe, her car seat scratching new messages into the hall floor, Cynthia knew that one day her daughter was going to leave. The baby’s limbs reached out of the Moses basket and up to the sky. This was only natural. This was the natural order of things, as natural as the downy hair that grew on the baby’s back and started to shed when she was a few weeks old, marking her move from her first form of confinement. As natural as a voice that turned strange with the tones of another country: an American accent, played on the strings of an English one.Read more >
Almost as soon as I was able to read certain people told me never to believe what was printed in the newspapers. Although I took the advice fully on board myself, I guess I was one of a small minority because those newspapers seemed to have sufficient credibility amongst the general population to drive the political agenda and even effect the way people voted. That was until the playground free-for-all of the ever-expanding universe of online discourse began to swallow them up and their influence waned alongside their circulations. Then, in the wake of the tsunami of misinformation, bizarre theories and outright lies constantly rising from the depths of the internet and breaching the walls of public understanding, I gradually started to reassess my views of the printed press. Of course, the Fourth Estate had always been a stranger to objectivity but at least they had generally started with actual facts before twisting and decontextualising them to suit their ends. In the digital world nobody bothers with such subtlety and coyness. Just make it all up from the outset. You want truth? We don’t handle the truth. Facts? As obsolete as faxes. So, when the decline reached its inevitable conclusion, I got me a copy of the last edition of the very last newspaper and I fashioned it into this hat. It’s one of a kind; perfectly designed to be fractionally too large for my head so that, when I wear it, I am temporarily unable to see a world that no longer has any other use for its source material.
Pandora found herself wrapped up in the news, day in, day out. She would wake when the sun was still low and let her face be illuminated as a finger lazily scrolled through article after article. It was the most subtle form of self-harm a person could perhaps perform on themselves, idly warping reality to reflect the headlines. This was how the weather began to turn.
When the sun got higher, Pandora would roll over, turning her back on the violent, turbulent world depicted on the screen. Here, she could hide away and pretend a quiet existence was worth the price of security.
At work – her desk set up haphazardly in the corner of the living room – she would find her finger straying to different tabs, where strangers would shout out their theories and truths and doctrine. If the headlines were the first drops of rain, poisoned with modern living, social media was surely a torrent. A storm was not far behind.
Sometimes, of course, she would find her way to the eye of that storm – a beautiful piece of prose, a show of support from a friend willing to wave a placard in protest, a picture of a cat set among flowers – only for the halcyon moment to pass, and the wind to pick up again.
Eventually, the day came where the storm painted the sky a dark grey, and the drizzle on the window seemed all the more poetic given the tears she'd cried over the news. Death, plagues, loneliness, rebellion, politics; roots were set deep in her mind, and these were all Pandora could consider.
She had, if she was being honest with herself, become blinded by the way the world was spun, each tale a reflection of somebody else's truth – somebody else’s pessimism. Pandora blinked away another tear and turned the screen away so that she could be alone for a moment.Read more >
“Hold on, who is this?” A body, stiff, frozen, with skin which has lost its colour. “She looks familiar, she feels familiar, yet I cannot place the void between us. Is she me? She is me!”
I glide along to the corner of the morgue, trying to gather my thoughts. “I have to remember; I need to remember. The other side is calling out to me, but not yet. How did I end up here?”
I stare at the blood-stained label 'Unidentified Protester'. “Who was I?” Putting my luminous hand under my chin, I unravel pieces of memory. A father gone, a brother loved, a widow’s struggle, an abuse, a scholarship, a graduation. A plant sprung out from a rock with thorns impeding its growth.
We held our placards, chanting at the top of our voices. We cried out for change and accountability: stolen funds, broken systems, and a blatant disregard for the plight of the common man. Our country had failed us, but we still had tomorrow. Except I didn't.
The lights are off, and the air is stifling with teargas. I hear the sound of guns. I run, but a biting pain hits. I fall to the ground, red fluid oozing out of my head. I didn't realise I was going to war, I thought I was going to a protest.
Her face flashes in front of me, her gleaming eyes and captivating smile. I am not an unidentified protester, I am Amaka's daughter. I am Amaka's dead daughter.
i don’t read newspapers anymore
it’s the same old tale
blood and gore
bomb blasts scams
crooks roam free
the innocent land in jail
so much of negativity
shouldn’t go with the morning tea
so in the rainy season
i make little boats
with old newspapers
and watch them float
drift and sail
romance and fairytale
because when truth hurts
lies are good
when ignorance is bliss
it’s folly to be wise
The ransom note arrives, slightly worn in transit.
Opened, her face appears, half obscured,
(though everyone in the room knows who she is)
sitting there, within words, a statement
read and forgotten many times in this actual newspaper
proudly dated Everyday.
Determination holds in the fold of her arms.
Unseen eyes and pursed lips are the headlines
that give away her location – an open secret for so long
that nothing around her needs a name.
She has been missing forever –
less, though, than the life of the inky print
that has begun leeching its future onto the reader’s fingers –
leaving words that can no longer be ignored:
We have you where we want you.
Send us her future in marked bills.
There is no ‘or else’
so call the authorities and do not come alone –
Afrocentric, arms folded, paper head wrapped
On paper with pen, when I saw you I clapped
Applauded the tenacity of your pen work
A labour of love which made my senses perk
The deliciousness of the message it brings
Fills me with joy, elation and as my heart sings
I feel myself growing with pride, standing taller
Disregard those who want me to feel smaller
Them: unsettled as they can't look me in the eye
Me: Exposing the biased news and those that lie
Refuse to be objectified by their gaze
Hold my ground, proud, do not let their actions faze
On the shoulders of my ancestors, tall, I stand
Pan African, Afrorealist, in command
On the ball, on point, in black and white and blue
June Fest head dressed, the real deal, not a preview.
All my evening spent sepia, and then you took five steps on some garnet earth. Choosing so wholly your own body you pressed your fingers above my eyes. A touch of salt and sweat and waves, the kind that are stillborn.
The same prayer in the set of your mouth. You were wearing white and I said don't bring more white into the room. I said baby. With tenderness. And watched like inkblot how a night could go blue. Staining the surface. Holding to be held.
You told me you don't take shit and it's good. Crumplemouthed shittalker shittaker, is how you put it when I asked: is the machine going to break? You were out of quarters. Prowling at the hindsight of me: seeing for one moment, unseeing the next.
The dream I tuck underneath my upper lip and under my lower one, too, and in those sharp edges of my molars and in eaglewing of my collar is to know you. Be kept still by it. Riveting. Take a spin around the back alley, and tell me what you see.
The world is hidden from my sight,
With only words of violence dampening my light.
Pictures and puzzles are all a maze,
Perpetual vision lost in the gaze.
Complexities through issues arise,
Leading me to tan out my facial stride.
Holding back my power from them
I feel the greed and anger begin to devour my head.
Slowly as though, a mountain flare.
I see myself battling glares.
Slowly as though, a shadow queen,
I find myself battling gleam.
Hoping for a paradise,
In a world of chambered hell
I lost my sight in this mighty prison cell.
Taken away, pulled apart.
All that’s left of me is a murky dot.
Hidden under a masked veil.
What must I do but wait and conceal?
What must I do but not reveal?
As the world is hidden from my line of eye,
And the conmen have risen.
My hands are tied.
They crown me a queen
With their paper words, they
Seem aged to me, recycled
Like a handed down dress
Whose time has gone
They crown me, with
Should I be honoured that they
Love me, now
That love’s in fashion
Should I listen to
Their dying murmur, now
That tides are shifting
Blind to the old
I only dream the new
The mornings and evenings are ripened blue, with flashes of white and bits of glittering skies.
I sit up in my chair, looking out the window. I try to tell time from the shadows and philosophize the air draughts and the passing clouds.
I live. I know there is a world out the door. And yet I know nothing.
I wait until the bell rings and those sheets come home. I feel them in my hands and know that I hold words from the corners of the Earth and from Space.
I know the Pacific, I know deserts.
I know the heart of a mother looking for her child, I know the diktats of governments.
I know microbes, I know the difficulties in securing two square meals.
I cover my eyes with the paper. And yet, it uncovers my eyes.
I KNOW, I say emphatically. But is “knowing” truly knowing+ seeing+ feeling? Is it understanding/ empathizing? Does the paper open my mind?
Is the written word always true?
I feel sorrowful about the misinformation and disinformation spreading these days. I try to look up at the Sun and glide into the Night. I hope the black newsprint sketches the transparent Truth and blocks the false glare coming off so many screens, knotting the threads of Humanity.
I hope I can see myself reflected in the eyes of my Neighbour as clearly as I see myself reflected in the Mirror.
I hope no one spreads lies about anybody.
I hope the paper is crisp, dry and a wealth of knowledge and not dank with the moisture and stink of secrecy, propaganda, conspiracy.
My hands feel the paper, but so does my Soul.
I await in my chair the evening Star and morning Glory: in a News Story.
I am Justitia, blindfolded lady Justice,
a moral force in this world of oppression.
I come to redress the wrongs of centuries,
armed with a sword, its blade swift and final
and a balance to weigh the evidence
that continues to accrue against you
even as you protest constant and loud.
You looted my people from their homeland,
stowed fetal in fecal ship holds across oceans,
sold and bartered, considered fractional humans.
Blithely you unraveled and rent families,
with whips and chains and threats,
growing rich off their sweaty toil,
planting your seed in their wombs.
You pillaged my continent,
your elaborate mask cast to the winds,
greedy for wealth, you divided the spoils
feasting on us like ravenous hyenas
ravaging, raping, ransacking, reneging,
torturing, killing, mocking, and monetizing,
flaunting eugenic superiority as justification.
She leaves the paper on her face.
She’s forgotten how to see.
A thousand little cuts,
she chooses not to see.
There’s too much judgement in her mind.
“You should look this way, not that way.”
“If you acted more like this,
Then you’d be less like that.”
The pessimist in her mind takes up permanent residence.
And before you know it,
Those lashings become little cracks, a huge tare,
Until she convinces herself there’s no proper way to feel.
She keeps the paper over her eyes,
There’s nothing great to see.
The feeling of flaws, weaknesses,
The immortal internal battles.
Feels more like a place of work than home.
What’s more to see?
Is this all that’ll be?
With every piece of texture invading her skin,
She gives herself a thousand more cuts.
Then a thousand more,
Until she doesn’t know herself anymore.
Give me a pen and a paper please?
I need to feel what I am writing to see
Give me a paper and a pen please?
I need to see what I am writing to feel.
Let me trace out to see,
With my pencil, my paper and with you,
'Cos all I see is wound around my eyes,
All I know is bound around my head.
I am locked away in my world of news,
Temper, temper, if I don't seem to see you and your views.
For all I need to see is wound around my eyes,
All I need to know is bound around my head,
All I need to write is tapered to my mind,
All I need to see is to see to see,
'Cos it's right before my eyes.
It arrives early each morning
freshly pressed on you doorstep,
which needs repainting.
- Unfold it
- Hook your hair behind your ears
- Slide it past your eyes
- Slot your smile below, stretched tight from left to right.
Teeth straight and uniform
You are happy.
That's what it says.
Your newspaper helmet becomes light,
as you ingest the words
on your journey to work, the school run etc.
They slide down your gullet,
graffitiing themselves on the walls of your stomach,
stamping the tracks of your intestine.
Coursing bold and loud through the rivers of your being.
Inky deposits crowding the fibres of your mind,
slipping between skull and brain matter.
No longer do you see the shadows of sunlight,
which lick the fields in hues of gold and green.
Muted are the bumble bees that dance between the gemmed heads of buttercup and wild daisy.
Ignored are those whose newspaper crowns sag and crumple,
the ink trickling and pooling into forced facial dimples,
dribbling into the starved divots of exposed clavicles.
The world divided, two-sided.
I'm in the center.
We all have the same blood.
one seen as the sinner.
Blessed, not denying I got privilege.
But you aren’t gonna get news, without coverage.
My skin used to be humiliation,
now they’re paying for this pigmentation.
This democracy works against the minority,
they never make people a priority.
Not fixing the system.
They’re protesting black lives matter,
trying to pity the victim.
Pick Red, or Blue, but never purple in the middle.
Always forced to pick sides, but in reality, we are looking in a mirror.
Focused on extremes, trying to rip the shirt, without breaking the seams.
Everything right in front, but people want to be selective with what they see.
Not enough action, too many words said,
pain in their veins, patience hanging on by a thread.
Weight of the world, eyes tired,
brick walls, barbed wire.
Same lines ingrained in their mind,
having to purge out the mass,
while paying tribute to what they left behind.
Laces, unique patterns,
describes the places, the paths that lead back to shadows.
Read more >
You've placed your words in my head, now on it,
trying to cover my eyes, guide my view,
but I look out from underneath the edge
I can see through your efforts
even if the wall of words blocks my vision
now and then.
You will not succeed in shaping my mind into yours.
Those words you have poured into me,
they may have clouded my brain momentarily,
but like the bent words of the funnel hat of news
you have pushed upon me,
the loss of my own view is only temporary.
I am crossing my arms against you now.
I've set my lips, poised to find my own words,
words that do not echo you,
words from parts of me you have not reached.
My glow will not be dimmed.
I will be heard, with my own words,
shaped, spoken from deep within.
Day comes again, unexpectedly.
No need to rush out of bed to make coffee or fight for a spot in front of the mirror.
Toothbrush, blades, shaving cream lie over the white ceramic. There was never enough space.
Your clothes still scattered around the wooden floor, marked by your endless cups of tea.
I can eat what I want. I can watch what I want on TV.
I can choose where to go on my next holidays.
The piles of laundry can wait until the following day.
I drag myself into this new life, like a snake peeling off her old skin.
Traces left behind in the hot desert, which no one else can see.
I sit in front of the bay window overlooking the trees we planted together.
The golden leaves slowly coming down, like falling angels.
I have a cup of coffee, and I make a paper crown out of your newspaper.
Now, I am my own Queen.
Afternoon soon knocks at the front door.
The garden is blooming, in spite of the Autumn’s fall.
I decide to cycle into town. I ended up entering the same old restaurant.
The waiter recognises me, and he asks surprised ‘Table for one?’ I hesitate, ‘Yes’.
I sit down. He suggests, ’The usual?' I reply firmly, ‘No’. (I always wanted to try the new menu.)
Read more >
The words cover my eyes and seep into my mind, weaving a story of who I might be and where I sit in this world, a world I no longer seem to have any control over.
Do I absorb all the words, believe all the stories that others write about me. Or do I rise above and tell my own story?
The way I look, the way I speak, the way I sound gives others expectations that may be contrary to who I am. Contrary to the woman I am now and the woman I want to become.
I am a ‘woman of a certain age’, but that does not mean that I am finished growing. It does not mean that I am fully formed and that my life is over. I go into the world to hear new words and see new things and learn new lessons.
I choose not to accept all the words or fulfil all the expectations the world has of me. I choose to stand up and speak my own words, the words I have written to express my own truth and my own desires and I hope that as I listen to and learn from the world, the world will listen to and learn from me.
I choose to stand up and shine a light on who I am. I choose not to be blinded by the words that others write about me.
I choose to stand up and speak in my own voice.
I choose to teach the world who I am as I continue to learn what the world is.
We journey together in partnership and pain to become more than we are now.
She reached out and told someone she was in pain.
But that was all in her head.
Her delicate lips were painfully stitched shut when she tried to ask.
Ask for help.
Asking for help is what she needed.
Deep down she knew that she was starving herself,
Starving herself of happiness.
She had lost the sparkle in her eyes and her smile that could light up a room.
She wasn’t herself anymore.
The screaming in her head had swallowed her.
She was being drowned by her own thoughts.
No more hanging out with friends,
Only sleeping while worrying about what she was missing.
No more giggling about boys in her class,
Only watching romantic movies.
Romantic movies that only made her want to cry about what she didn't have.
Food comforted her.
But how would she get food if the only place she feels comfort is her warm sheets,
Not her kitchen.
She hoped that it was all a dream.
She would wake up and it would be five months earlier,
When she had emotions.
Read more >
On a plain December day, things that you did say,
carried by the wind, blowing the other way,
unacceptable to the blobs in the doorway,
finds a place in heresy.
A paper top hat, adorning the head,
a measure to contain the thoughts you had,
now filled with the voices of the dead,
speaking about the incandescent dread,
of the things these people did, things these people said.
You voice their chidings, their setting Kafkaesque,
shouting in their voice, about the freedom they never had,
for which they fought, for which they bled,
for which the blobs never had any respect.
To shut it out, their hands crumple the hat
to kill the voices, they thought they could, just like that
the hands cover the eyes too, to calm the maniac
but the voices then show you the world in a new format.
They tell – there is no point in your fight, no point in your revolt,
You are fighting the wrong people, society by default,
because the hands that crippled your freedom, the hands at fault,
lived under the same roof, shared the same salt.
If I told you to describe me to a stranger
Where would you start?
With my colour, my gender, my clothes, my hair?
How would you draw my features?
With crayon, a paintbrush, ink or pen?
Cover your eyes! It’s a party for the lonesome
Are you less judgmental, your senses heightened?
Listen to my voice, its tone and timbre
Breathe me in. Breathe me out.
Is the aroma expensive, generous, cruel or kind?
What if it’s only you who can’t see, what then?
Would you still trust me in your space?
Does the easy prejudice of others intimidate you?
There’s a party for the lonesome.
I think you should go.
blinded by depictions
to intrinsic worth
as depicted by
Your glowing, golden eyes
Pouring hearts from the rainbows
Wherever you go
The sun smiles, sprinkling tiny fragments
Oh, the moon smiles back—
Shine on eternal beauty
Wherever you may be
Your golden eyes glow forever
Iridescent through eternity
Through the opaque veil…
Sneaking a peek
Of angelic spirits
Going about their everyday lives
Soaring, spinning, singing their la la la's
As the bead of an iridescent tear
Splashes onto the green earth
And love and life blends into
Chaos and struggles in-between blurred worlds
In your mind…
The words overflow
Like faucets with broken handles
But from your mouth,
That the same ink they use to mark
me in some box or other
makes my goosebumps rise
and the lace whorls spin
That I could be made beautiful
by an instrument of bureaucracy
Like a queen ready to rebuild her kingdom
after all the lies have fallen
That the artist can direct your gaze
in such intimate ways
you feel my presence
by what is absent.
You used to make purple velvet in your dreams, arrange
the sky ever since you met her. You watch her from afar / you ink her name
on your tastebuds. But she can't see you (again). Can't feel you.
She is fighting—for leaving the stories untold. This thing
crushes you, but like some things, it also makes you.
Maybe you will understand why your love story did not make it to
The New York Times. She's owning the truth, weaving it, making it hers.
Folded arms—map that stretches from the country
on her head to the one in her eyes. In these papers are the purple velvet you once dreamed, the ink you once admired, the stories not told, truth crumpled, decorated with the bold fonts everyone want to see. & the tiny ones never seen, spoken of.
She's happier. She left it all behind—remembering moments / ignoring days.
But your life felt shapeless.
Your favourite video game comes to the rescue.
Breathless, you ask, “What's the problem? Tell me. Got my text?”
Anxiousness has smoked you / out of your strong emotions. Dreams of a worldview thrown out of a window, reviewed by flying birds and fiery darts.
“Why are you causing me so much pain?”
You ask her in your last phone call / She laughs / Your phone laughs too.
It's a funny question. Funny questions are not to be trusted, even answered.
She's happy. She's been long gone—happiness, found in stories untold.
You keep her folder / maybe one day she will realize there is no same love, same story. How do you shape an object that has gone out of shape?
You will sing the tune of erasure, to erasure, nostalgia that
she will keep fighting.