Burns

Mood: To milk, sugar has always been a sign of turbulence to come. The violence of stainless still cutting through the surface tension and causing chaos. Unlike a tea bag, that often settles in slowly, infusing itself and absorbing culture – the violence of a teaspoon was the origin of the storm in a teacup (history they never teach us). It is hard to convince milk of the importance of sugar to a good cup of tea.

You know that
you carry their history.
But you also know
you don’t carry their scars.
And that, you hope,
will make all the difference.

You have no memory of ever being young. In your mind you have been consistent through all ages. As if somehow you have always been in there, knowing what is going on. Which is not to say that you have never listened to a story and thought “that was immature, wasn’t it?” Or that you have never seen pictures of yourself. In the inexact way of memory you remember all of these things – you just don’t ever remember being young.

In your mind, you have always been levelheaded.

Perhaps this is why this whole idea of youth is muddled to you. Like a place you know, in theory, but are still learning how to navigate. How to see yourself, not the way you are seen. Not to allow the way their eyes burn touch your skin and set you ablaze. After all, flames fan flames. And if you put two embers and fan the flame the result will always be ashes.

(no, there are no phoenixes in this story, only flames and wind)

Although you’d think one would remember fire.

Except if they’ve always been burning.

Except if they’ve always been burning.

They only noticed you because you were invisible.

You know how sometimes the only reason you get caught is because everything is so perfectly planned? Like how when every story adds up you begin to question whether that’s because it was though through deliberately? Or how you forget to put off the lights so often that your neighbours think you have a roommate? The problem with patterns then, becomes that they aren’t what we think that they are – are they?

But sometimes they are.

And because they sometimes are, then it’s difficult to ignore them. Does that person liking your posts mean they like you, or what you’re saying? Will united ever know what it is to be a mid table team again? Just how many times will billions of shillings be stolen before Kenya is a officially a corrupt state? Does the sun rise every morning on purpose, or does it snooze its alarm as often as I do? All valid questions to ask of a repeatedly occurring phenomenon. Which is to say we know for a fact that the person has been liking the posts. Or that united hasn’t had an idea of how to win a trophy since Ferguson left and so forth. What we don’t know is the possibilities that rise from these patterns. Which is to say, how these things manifest themselves is mostly mystery.

What, however, is apparent, is that these things exist.

Patterns are a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature. And you know this because the only real evolutionary advantages you have as a human being is opposable thumbs and the ability to recognize patterns. And because there are so many in nature it became easy for you to quickly adapt and locate yourself according to the situation.

But this, this is not nature.

And adapting and co-opting are very different things. The ever shifting nature of your co-option made you invisible. In constantly reading the patterns and adjusting yourself accordingly you lost sight of who you are. You, in many ways, became the act of adapting. You existed in a temporal state. Only the version of you that was allowed to exist in any space at any time existed.

And this is why you never go home isn’t it?

Do they know? Do they know that when you go home and sit with your thoughts you have no idea who you are? Do they know that you are only systematically looking through them for traces of where you left yourself?

And of course this is a self fulfilling prophecy.

In constantly changing to fit a mould you are never really sure which one is you – and which one isn’t. Now there is a simple answer to this. They are all you, for you are all these things at different times to all these different people. But even this isn’t the truth. Because you remember. You remember being all these things in these different ways and being centered in yourself.

And not constantly adjusting yourself.

While still maintaining some level of anonymity. A way to disappear without becoming invisible.

Because you knew that’s when you’d get noticed.

When did you realise that you could work against pattern? That with the right questions and pauses in the right places your pattern could be less apparent? Did it make you feel powerful? It must have, at least the first time. How they didn’t quite see you. How their eyes held questions. You could see it. You could literally see them trying to find the words to ask you. But you had made sure to keep even those out of their reach.

 

Secrets,

real or imagined,

rule the world.

 

But, because you were doing it – and you knew you were. They knew you knew. It’s impossible to observe without being observe. And as you saw so you were unseen. Always a question mark. Always a question mark. And another day comes, and the sun stays on time, and they still look at you with questions.

Rugs Needed

“My Freedom and I, we were live to be together.

Men live and die,

But a dream can live forever”

  • Lindsey Abudei

“But what do you know of the freedom that you seek?”

Freedom interrogations

Here’s the thing. After minding his business for longer than he needed to it was no longer about minding his business. And no one was really sure where the change at happened. After all, they had only looked away for a second – hadn’t they? And it wasn’t like there was no other thing to turn to. It wasn’t like there was no other way to ensure that the search – futile from the beginning – was brought to a non violent close.

Which was all that they were trying to do – create a non-violent close.

The problem, of course, comes with trying to end the big bang by calling parapet cleaners. And no matter how many workers you employ you will never be able to sweep stardust under the rug. Especially not if the rug you plan to use is an already dusty five by six that was bought at an expat sale for “I have privilege and I don’t need the money from this sale” price. There’s just not enough room.

So of course it was a little cramped.

In fact, it was so cramped that it became almost impossible for him to mind his business. After catching glance blows from all the fights for space, it quickly became important to create space of their own. And, being part of them, participation became prudent.

And besides, it was a little cramped.

But glance blows are designed to only bruise bystanders – and his freedom was yet to experience a full frontal attack.

Still, it was no longer about minding his business. Surely, at the very least, things were about to get interesting.

In the distance

a man placed

a phone call

“Yes, send me all the cleaners you can get.

 

Undreaming

I went

in search of dreams.

Instead I found nightmares

masquerading through the streets.

No one asked me to join the party.

 

What is this of the freedom that I seek? What is it, you ask, of the demons that I know, that I don’t know. That they too must also be seen as the emotional equivalents of 17 cycles, a sore throat and two drops of lemonade? Which is not, of course, to say that lemonade is the work of freedom but perhaps to imagine that art, like all things is about turning nightmares into dreams.

Turning nightmares into dreams.

It sounds like the thing of dreams, until nightmares. Which is sensible right? That nightmares, inevitably, are the stuff of dreams? That the very things that we work so hard to figure out are just evolutionary waves, washing away at the sands of time. Often as silently and soothingly as waves themselves do – if you give yourself a large enough perspective.

The problem, then becomes opening up a perspective large enough to diminish the problem at hand. But how big is the problem? And how large is the solution?

The problem with writing, it seems, is that everything that is written comes out sounding so crisp. So neat and tidy. Organised, neatly hidden between the words of any pages are often years of any real life. But are they worth digging into? I say this not because I think that many of the words above would be worth digging into but rather to ask – what does real life look like?

What does real life look like?

That’s what you’ve come looking for in the lines of a poem isn’t it?

A taste of something real.

Hejinian says that perhaps the work of art is to put us in complicity with things as they happen. I guess its anyone’s guess what we’re doing here really. Turning nightmares into dreams, putting us into complicity with reality, there are many theories. Generally, however, we agree that we are fucked. Artists, non artists, dancers, typists, singers, accountants, everybody agrees that we’re generally fucked.

In fact, we’re so royally fucked it’s kind of laughable isn’t it?

Like, no one’s even arguing about it anymore. Used to be there were some “we’re gonna be okay” guys. You know, the kind of guys who just felt like they had to say we’d be okay otherwise we’d not only be completely royally fucked, we’d also not know whether or not we’re going to be okay in this soon to come state of being fucked right? So now, beyond being royally fucked you have to sit and consider this douchebag’s behavior around how royally fucked you are and whether or not you are okay. Which you aren’t right?

Because you’re royally fucked. 

Sometimes we think

about coming up to breathe

and we hear the crash.

But that’s just the waves.

The waves don’t die.

 

But at the same time, you’re not. And that’s the thing. You’re another wave. And yes, you are going to crash. Hopelessly, probably and with reckless abandon, probably, and drop.

And even as you drop, you get smaller.

And the top gets farther.

Always allow yourself to fall

further.

 

Further.

 

Further.

 

Further.

 

Further.

 

Further.

 

At first, touch will be pain. Of course, to be experienced after the experience of having oneself to yourself will be a mess.

Allow the pain to seep in – it too has its purpose. It will stretch you as thin as you think you can ever be stretched.

Then comes the explosion. A pulse really. You can feel it now. The birth of a moment in space time.

You watch it spread

As it spreads it becomes everything that is in its path. At first you think this pulse is engulfing, destroying and there’s panic. But, in the end, it is only becoming what it isn’t. Slowly changing to fit the spaces that are being accorded to it.

And then another, behind you this time. Again it spreads.

And another.

And another.

As the pulses increase so do the waves. They violently crash into each other and the waters get more disturbed.

 

You’re frantic now. Having become accustomed to the stillness of solitude the pulses are an unwelcome disturbance. Worse still is that you can’t seem to figure out what is causing them and thus you have no idea how to stop them – the further you stretch yourself in search of stillness, the worse it gets.

 

The thing is, you too are a pulse – and you too are a wave. The more you become, the more the waves become you. Which means that a crash is not only a possibility – it is inevitable. So you reach back, inhale and head for the shore. And with each crash you dislodge more sand. With each crash more of the shore becomes the sea and more of the sea becomes the shore.

And so the dance between time and memory continues. And the dreamers keep crashing and remembering. Remembering that nightmares are only moments before the next…

crash.

 

Mine

And therein lies the lie.

That there is a form a knowledge, of possibility, of being, of doing, that is outside your reach. That there is a way to be that is not only available, but readily tailored to your needs. That somehow, to exist is not only to defy them, but to destine oneself to a life of never ending torture.

And this, as has been created, has formed of itself a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the ways that stories create space for reality the prophecy has made room for itself.

In speaking as if spaces don’t exist the narrative has taken over room. Slowly eliminating spaces around it. Just like it has eaten and depleted physical resources, it has eaten and depleted mental and emotional resources. There is nothing left, there is nothing left, there is nothing left – they kept telling us this. And, in nothing being left, we took the only option we had.

 

Old paths

can only be trod upon

by those whose feet

have met time

and memory

and learned their dance.

Guilty feet

have got

no rhythm

Careless Whispers

 

But a monolithic world is about as interesting as waiting for the internet to come back. And freedom is nothing more but possibility. Imagine we are in a room. We have planned to stay in this room for the rest of the week. If a friend locks us in – have they taken away our freedom? Now imagine a thought. Singular. Independent. Imagine it alone in a void. Around it a sea of nothing. Now imagine this thought is you.

How does it feel?

 

Between the stones

There are souls

 

Make sure your feet are

Clean.

 

Now zoom out until you can see another thought slightly distant from the first.

Move out further.

And another.

And another.

Until all that is left is a sea of independent thoughts bobbing to the ebb and flow of consciousness. Tell me that there is a place in this sea that a thought can’t reach. Tell me that there’s a place, save for deliberate action to stop an idea, that an idea can’t be held.

And thus it is the lie.

 

That somehow it is not yours to take.

 

Weary fingers

can’t grip

fractured souls

 Broken nails

let sighs fall

into the dark.

 Slipping

 

You reach out your hand.

In Search of Words

What, then, is there left to say?

That somehow, amidst creating what seemed to be a path to the beginning that it will begin to implode? Or is it that to begin is not necessarily to understand that there is a step taken but perhaps to take that step. Or is it to say that in the midst of the chaos there was a bird perched daintily on a branch, its feathers glistening in the rays of the sun? That chaos, like all other forms of organized thinking, starts with an idea – and has no discernable end.

If not that then what?

What?

Show me the words.

Give me the vowels that I might mix them with consonants and find a way to quantify this constant – change.

Seventeen shillings, palmed by a boy at a shop, particular care given to the one shilling coins. So easily lost. So easily forgotten. Dropped.

Like a collection of knowledge put to a broken beat and sold for 99 cents on the iTunes store. Like a downloaded album, listened to once and forgotten. Like a song on replay, lyrics held close as if somehow they held the key to the secret of immortality. As if somehow living forever is not only a thing that is aspired to but is also available at the shop for 33 shillings.

As if the fifty bob note in your pocket is enough to buy you freedom – forever.

Freedom.

Forever.

Concepts that neither start nor end. Space and time unchained and set loose on a path that is supposed to lead to the beginning.

Unmoving.

Circling each other.

Anxious.

Waiting for the right words that they might begin to move.

But what, then, is left to say?

Footrace

The still interrupted maybe, by a question: What do you know of the freedom you seek?

The peace we seek

The silences that we can manage.

The chains that we think we can carry. The weights we think we can bare.

Or, maybe then, freedom is a trap so tight – you can go everywhere with it.

If then, freedom is this – this ever elusive nothing that we chase in the escape of ourselves. This thing that we grasp for and never really touch.

Yes, freedom as a possibility, as perhaps.

Maybe freedom, then, is a thought. At the point. A thought from which thought can sprout. A not yet there.

Or perhaps it is that it is a word, whispered in the middle of the night to the unyielding moon.

Is it a song, that it might be sang and played again on repeat – circulated for a few days before dropping out of the sky?

What do you know of this freedom that you seek?

Where do you go when you search for freedom?

Tell me, what do you mean when you speak of freedom?

What then is it to speak to be heard? To tell stories of freedom?

 

“(I am) the speak with intent to offend offender”

  • Mensa, FOKN BOIS

“Lock my body, Can’t trap my mind”

Jay Z

“What you want from me? Is it truth you seek?”

  • Kendrick

“Freedom freedom, I can’t move, freedom – cut me loose”

Beyonce

You keep running.

Where it Hurts

You will begin to forgive when you understand the many ways in which the world has killed those who try to survive it. When you see how the scars have drawn themselves like maps on their bodies. And, like maps, the scars will show you how to reach the pain. You have followed this path lined by scars for so long that you criticize the quality of scar tissue.

Show me your scars, you asked.

Show me where it hurts.

Here, they said, they came one night and destroyed everything. Here, they said, I was nine years old. Here, they said, I was trying to walk home. Here, they said, I was in my bed – asleep. And there. And there. And there.

You thought that knowledge  – or at least memory – would work as an armor against feeling. Having known it becomes simple to disassociate. That’s what it’s supposed to be – simple.

But nothing is simple. And knowing that fire burns doesn’t prevent scalding.

So while you knew what was coming, you weren’t ready for the pain. Weren’t ready for the scars. Now you continue along your journey – an eager traveler runs up to you. Their backpack looks new and their eyes carry that a brightness that is seen by those who are yet to be touched. Show me, they ask, show me where it hurts. You sigh and sit down.

Here, you say, I wanted to understand.

*pop*

Soma kijana, siku zazidi badilika

  • Sauti Sol

A change is gonna come.

Sam Cooke

 

Of course, to say it is beginning is to ignore the millions for whom it is yet to even touch. To say it is beginning will then be to say that something, that is yet to happen may or may not happen for you in the future. To speak to a start is to speak towards a continuum. Then, for those that it shall never happen – did it ever start?

The problem with bubbles, as always, is their precarity.

So then to begin is maybe to say that there was an ocean somewhere. And to say that somewhere on a beach a child pours some shampoo. And a single drop, praying for foam, turns and says – it begins. And rallies entire oceans beyond to the foam. It is maybe to say that the sky, as little himself put it, is falling.

And thus, like a fallen child with a bottle of soap there is cause. And the cause, and the effect continue to propel.

Still, children have friends. And children make friends easily. So perhaps it is to say that there really isn’t an ocean, there is a puddle. And there is a group of children pouring shampoo into it with the desperate madness that only a child can possess. And that little bubbles slowly rise from the pond singing songs of freedom and liberation. Floating above the heads of the playful children. And that all it takes is a stray…

In the shadows a figure stands. In their hand is a bottle and their voice is enticing. Little child, they say, it’s raining outside. Little child, do you want to play in the rain?

Scene Four

You really want to know what is happening don’t you?

Somewhere between these lines you are looking for meaning, for something, for an explanation, a revelation, a glimpse.

Hope. That’s what you are looking for, isn’t it?

A reason – surrounded by the flames you only hope for a drop of water to place on your tongue.

But you didn’t know did you?

You didn’t know that there are places where, when the evening sets, and the roar begins to come – they are afraid. Unable to protect themselves – they run.

You didn’t know that there are people who can tell you stories of lifetimes and generations that lived in terror.

That water can drown you.

But you were consumed by the flames, and in being consumed by the waves you weren’t ready. And because you weren’t ready no one can blame you.

*

It takes about three to four minutes for the average human being to drown. The first immersion in water is often the most shocking – and the most refreshing. The first few seconds are a relief. Especially if the immersion comes from heat – and the drowning is unexpected. Water has a calming, floating, cooling effect.

Once the body begins to run out of oxygen a nerve ending will send a message to the brain which then tells the body to reach for oxygen. This takes about .008 seconds.

It is around this time that the panic sets in. As the body tries to get out of the water and is stopped the imminence of the lack of oxygen begins to set in. Eyes start darting, trying to find an exit. Hands flay, swish one way and another. The body begins to thrash.

A gasp.

The first gasp, one can imagine, is the beginning of the end.

The lungs give up and expel whatever carbon dioxide has built up from all the thrashing and, despite all alarms going off, still expect oxygen from the outside world. After all, this is what they know – and this is what they were designed to do.

Instead a mouthful of water finds its way there.

This, being not right, is rejected. And each cough up leads to another mouthful of water.

It is in the effort to undrown that we kill ourselves.

*

 

You had read it somewhere – or you knew about it. And, even if you didn’t read it you’d still have known. From how they spoke about water in whispers despite the flames.

From how, even as the world burned down they fanned the flames – a defiance of logic.

*

 

The thing is, there is only one way to reach the end – and that way starts at the beginning.

 

You have been trying to reach the beginning but all you could see was destruction. It’s like somewhere there was a point – and then there was chaos.

 

And no one has looked back since.

 

*

 I’m about to drive in the ocean

imma try to swim from something

bigger than me

kick off my shoes

and swim good

and swim good

 

  • Frank Ocean

 

*

 Except you, like a pillar of salt you stare back in defiance. A tribute to the violent nature of memory. To the defiance of memory. A testament to all that dare remember you stand there burning – oblivious to the violence of your flames.

*

In scene three there is a Mexican stand off. A dog holds a carrot, a sandwich maker holds 3 slices of forever and you stand there with nothing but your flames.

The world dares everyone to move.

The night comes and goes as you flicker.

*

Question: How many things do you know that can make the night go away?

Answer: I know only of the moon and its many descendants.

*

Do the children of the moon need the sun? Is it blessed to bask in the afterglow of a star? Or is it constantly pulling to remind us that it is on our side?

Are the waves the moon trying to end its pain?

*

 

Let’s assume that a dog and the moon met in an alley. In this exchange, that may or may not have happened, the moon might or might not have given the dog a carrot.

Now let’s assume, since we are assuming things, that the dog had previously received a picture of a sandwich maker in the mail.

Would the evidence be circumstantial? Or would the sun sentence the dog to burn?

*

You lost your first slice of forever somewhere in the fast paced streets of the city. No one had warned you of the thieves that lurked in the evening. That the period when matatu fares went up and the shadows came out to play was where you’d be at your most vulnerable.

Your second slice of forever went missing when you went on holiday. You suspect that you dropped it running between terminals at the airport but it’s more likely that you forgot it in your hotel room.

The third slice of forever was taken from you. You know exactly where it went. You were there, you watched. Not a night goes by where you don’t remember the violence. But life happens as it does and sentimentality only gets in the way of production – or so you’ve been told.

Sometimes you try to listen. Most times you’re a pillar of salt.

You don’t remember how long you’ve been trying to find the pieces you lost.

*

How many times must we die before we live?

*

In scene five there is blood, plastic and ash.

*

And when the night came back the third time a bark was heard. At first they thought it was the howl of a wolf, calling to the moon to raise water and put the sun out once and for all. Calling once more on a power that was both insufficient and unlistening. Perhaps not insufficient but without listening power is just sporadic flashes.

And then a blast.

And then a blast.

So when then night came back and the barks filled the hollow of the night they paid no attention. Not even when the howl came with the best minds destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets.

When the night came back they weren’t ready. And because they weren’t ready no one can blame them.

*

How much water would it take to extinguish the sun?

Your lungs burn as the moon tries to force feeds you.