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Truth in Another’s Mouth

I seem to be on a trend at the moment! I’ve been thinking about what truth is, what belongs to us and what truth belongs to others and what that all means.

I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to lie to yourself and how much it can shock your mind and body when someone speaks the truth you would rather not hear or do not yet have the courage to face.

It’s an ongoing conversation with myself but here are a few random scribbling from my musings today:

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Keeping My Hands to Myself

All I think about is how much I want you to survive.

When you were fourteen, I told you:

You can be anything you want to be, just don’t be a statistic

I told you: “We live on the wrong side of town and I know, they know

Your name not because they want to but because they feel they have to”,

I told you can feel as angry as you like but

Never show it on the streets”

We live 62 miles from London, 78.5 miles from

Birmingham; but when the anger exploded

We made you a prisoner in your own home

Cause it doesn’t matter how far away it might be,

Every siren is an emergency in our house.

When you were nineteen,

You found the right things to say

So I wouldn’t be afraid.

Now, I take it for granted that all your words

Are to be read into –

I listen but look at the margins

to see what you’re omitting.

There are things I will not tell you.

Like what it feels like to stand in Templars

Square and have nothing to say when

The old lady you’ve just spent ten minutes

Talking to turns to the waiter and

Says, ‘this coloured girl’s looking for a job,’

No one knows what to say. So we say nothing.

You’re 21. I’m worried your hair is too long,

You’ve never shaved your beard and the way

Your coat hangs on you says things you shouldn’t

Want to say. I tell you, ‘You should cut your hair.

If you look all wrong, you can get in trouble’

Trouble can mean so many things.

April, 2015: ‘Two men have been charged in connection with an incident of

grievous bodily harm in South Park. They were charged today with one count of possessing

a blade in public and one count of wounding with intent…’

We go for dinner, and talk about how funny they both were.

We talk about what we know, the version of their story that will never make the papers

Because No one else will talk about what they could have been.

This we do for every name we recognise in the paper,

For the ones we don’t

for every knife and gun,

We gather and remember, drive and remember, eat and remember

every name, every story, the ones we’ve heard on the streets

the ones we know personally,

We’re the keepers of tales, we swap them

back and forth so that they rest between us;

We deliberately remember the good,

Because we must.

Because this isn’t London.

This isn’t Birmingham.

The only things visible here are the dreaming spires,

conversations at bus stops about the weather,

history soaking into the skin of our hands

so much so that we dare not touch

the stones lest they crumble;

there’s so much history to preserve here…

I’m 25. Now I only tell you, “Please, try and be home by ten.

Don’t get into trouble.”

*Listen to the poem in full!*

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Musings and An Old Offering!

Hello! I hope your NaPoWriMo is going wonderfully so far! Between work, several ‘secret’ projects, and attempting to be a normal, functioning adult, I have to say my writing has been a little hit and miss over the past week or so. I did however, come across an old thing I wrote a while back and so…here! Old but gold?*

*Not really, but I did enjoy writing it! It was part of an old challenge from my writing group. Feel free to try your own hand at a poem or free write with the prompt below!

PROMPT: EXPLORATION

You look like you’ve never braved this road before;
the fear hammering your chest seeps through and I see it,
in the tremor of your hands and the quiver
in your voice when you ask, “Here?”

Not every path is made for your feet to tread
is what you mean to say with your “Here?”

But yes. Here. This is where all knowing of self begins.
So for love’s sake, mean it when you take your first step…here. 
Let no one explain to you how it is done.
They will only sing about their escapades and really,
what good is a troubadour when your path
might just break the legs right out from under you?

No, this is one you stumble through– mostly alone.
Head high so the doubt is only visible to those
who place worth enough on your struggle to look you in the eye.

Head up because the ones pointing at your shaking legs
and faltering feet will never earn the right to your gaze. 
Head up. Walk. Someday, ages and ages from now
when you brave yet another unbroken road,
this journey will make all the difference. 

Thank you for taking the time to read! Good luck with your writing for the rest of the month, poetically minded friends!

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In Honour of Poet and Playwright Ntozake Shange:

i found god in myself quote

A couple of weeks ago, the world of poetry lost one of its heroes. Ntozake Shange, an American playwright and poet who addressed issues relating to race and feminism and a voice that will forever be unforgettable, gave us one of the most visceral and heart-wrenching collections of poetry I’ve ever read. For Colored Girls (who have considered suicide /when the rainbow is enuf ) has in turn inspired countless other writers, particularly of colour, and set the bar for what you can do with this art form.

I was first introduced to her work through the highly-acclaimed (and somewhat unexpected?) Tyler Perry film (For Colored Girls) by a dear friend and it is still, to date, one of the most disturbing but necessary films I have ever watched; and a sincerely loved collection which now sits at the top of my TBR pile once again.

For Colored Girls was Ntozake Shange’s first work and she premiered it to high acclaim as a theater piece, though it has now been widely shown both on stage and on the screen.

A bold, heart-breaking, humorous, and thoroughly human and unapologetic exploration of black womanhood and feminism in general, there is not a single part of this collection that doesn’t touch you in some way. I still to this day have moments where I flash back to that scene in the film (seriously, watch the film!), smile at my favourite line (I found God in myself/ and I loved her fiercely–read the collection!) and laugh when I remember the dancing in the play (if you ever get a chance to see it staged! DO!).

All this to say, Ntozake Shange changed the game for many and her presence will surely continue to be felt. Rest in peace, Ms. Ntozake Shange. You articulated so much that had been unsaid for so many and we can only thank you for your words.

Ntozake Shange
Photo: Frank Stewart.