Seeking asylum from the past

Silence settled; I held hushed fear. Fear of sins returning to haunt. You changed, rearranged, but like heaven and hell, your mark remains in that gruesome book. No forgiveness or recognition, because they never saw your deconstruction and the reconstruction that followed.

I saw the reflection of myself in characters passing by; exploitative, consumptive bodies, self-constructed images dwelling in pools of the commonest stereotypes. Dancing in the sweat of created images, consumed. Gasping for air, I died, drowning in the reality of the foul lies I puddled around me.

My silence and fear. Hidden behind masks, disguised as a character unknown, I grasp at anonymity, watching ­–admiring– guests and relatives new. Fear of those whispers; telegram awaiting; please read out the African tongue. ‘Anyone but me, please.’ I changed, never pleaded forgiveness, though sorry I was, for I turned my back and denied that past. And yet you never understood; my deconstruction and reconstruction. Here you remind me of what I preferred be forgotten, like God on judgement day reminding me of every sin I made, though I regretted it long ago. To you the speech of that African tongue was not a single thing; but to me like awaiting God’s final call. Unrepented sins returning to the mind, your sorrow, your regret, ignored. Just like that, you changed, turned away from your blinded past, but no one can see now. All the same stereotypes; the same offensive view.

A generous brother’s wedding reception, the speeches halfway through. In Afro-Caribbean company, sister-in-law and all, the message from the African state gets pushed across the room. To you, only a happy sign, a message of goodwill, but to me, shaped like a nightmare, ready to curse me for my greed. Read the African tongue; I whisper, ‘What’s the need?’ You hear the message, but I only reflect on the image of my soul. Like softest soul; those stereotypes; purity, goodness, gold. The ist in me, not with hate, but in stereotyping empathy. I wished it lost, and perhaps it is, but in me I felt those who know, see. Old me, same construction, no de or re.

I read the words, pronounced the sounds, but all I held was anger. Memories of other times; sell myself, prove a point, display my selfish greed. Reggae played unnaturally loud in Caribbean company; right on displayed, but actually tastelessly off. Suggesting messages of freedom and equality in ear shot of the passing Nigerian. Telling the South African associate, quite indirectly, that not all your friends are white. ‘Ethnic’ names dropped into conversations, always passively of course. And look around, what do you know? A poster of Martin Luther King stuck upon the wall.

Past times I hoped to bury, immaturity I hoped to burn. Skin used to fight me with words aimed, but I would just deny. ‘That’s not me.’ My fight with Skunk Anansie, but sadly it was me. No guilt of hate, of name calling, or bullying, but guilt of stereotyping empathy. Pages filled with poetry, arguing, justifying; satisfying myself of my very existence; all denial that she had mouthed the truth.

Yet consciousness of colour was not ingrained naturally in me. The saddest irony of all; my ism became from a workshop on the problem of those ists. Through the South African who suggested that white people were generally racist, an innocence of unconsciousness quickly drained away. Now I had something to prove. From an unconscious wanderer, a constructed ist became. But as an ist, I never realised, until I saw the reflection of myself in characters passing by. An exploitative, consumptive body, a self-constructed image dwelling in pools of the commonest stereotypes, I immersed myself to drown. Emerged to be myself, changed and re-invented, but my face was still the same, so you thought I was still the same and, ignorant of my dishonest past, the way it troubled me so, you watched me stand reluctantly and I spoke your words at last.

Honesty? Lying’s the best policy. Mate.

It’s true (if you believe me): lying is the best policy. Why tell the truth when you know that the truth will only hurt? Question everything, but don’t tell anyone. When you’re on that journey of yours, never confess that you’re completely lost. Just smile, grin, and bear it. It’s going to infuriate you, but nobody will understand. In their control rooms, they have their timetables and maps. To them it’s obvious, so why can’t you see that?

Like, you might think that you’d just asked them to give you a piggy-back to Bradford. A piggy-back and, perhaps, a million pounds. Standing with only the glass between you and the “I’m pissed off” man in front of you, you ask for a return ticket to Bradford, and he grunts his reply. “WHAT?”

“Can I have a return to Bradford?”

“WHAT?”

You’re just asking for a ticket, but he responds to you as though you’re the scum of the earth. And perhaps you are, but he doesn’t know that, so what right does he have to assume? With him cursing you for asking him for the ticket, you decide against enquiring about times and the platform. Instead, you saunter away in search of your train. Looks like yours has gone, but there’s one stood in a siding with the name, Bradford, in the window. “Does this go to Bradford?” you ask the porter shyly.

He laughs at you. “It says it goes to Bradford, doesn’t it?”

Sometimes it’s a leap of faith. But life’s like that. You get on board and, half an hour later, you arrive in Bradford. At the wrong station. You’re at the bottom of the steepest hill you’ve seen in years, there are two hundred steps to climb and you have no idea how to get to where you were supposed to be, in order to meet the person you were supposed to meet. But that’s fine, because you’ve experienced it before. Except, last time, it wasn’t a train that you were asking about; it was your religion.

Recently, you were going to church every Sunday, hoping a sermon would cure your questioning mind. And one day, your lucky day, they invite the unsure, the faithless, the agnostic, to stay behind after the service, where they’ll explain it to you and make you see the truth. You sit there and wait: you pray they’ll make you see, but soon you discover that it’s not you who’s blind. The preacher arrogantly assumes that you’re just ignorant, that you don’t have faith because you’re ignorant. Because you didn’t read the Bible.

“Well, actually, I was reading the Bible, I just didn’t see the proof.”

And what is the preacher’s proof? He says it’s obvious. Well, no, it isn’t obvious, because you wouldn’t be sitting here listening to him if it was. He arrogantly assumes that those without faith simply have no faith because they never tried and never thought about it. He tells you that it’s obvious, so obvious that even a four year old could understand. But wait. You’re not four years old; the four year old didn’t read the Bible, she just sucked on her lolly and never wondered if the sugar would rot her teeth.

So obvious that when she was at school and her teacher tested her on her mathematics, a genius was discovered. “One equals three,” she gurgled, “but also one.”

You’re better off, for their sake, lying. They’re never going to understand that you want to honour God, but that you need to have knowledge before you can have faith. Like when you were waiting for that bus on the hard-shoulder of the M1, you were only standing there because someone told you there’d be a bus along sometime. Never mind that there was no bus stop, nor even a single timetable. He said, “Just believe me mate, you can trust me.” And, sure enough, a bus came, but it never stopped and it was going to sodding Birmingham anyway.

The next time, you waited at the station, but now there were fifteen different busses to choose from and they all said, on the destination board, “The Truth, via Straight Path.”

Oh well, you said, I’ll take my pick, they all go to the same place, after all. Well that was the plan, but the driver told you, as you boarded, that all the others were lying. Phew, you thought, I was lucky, but as you settle down in your window seat and glance through the glass, all the passengers on the bus next to you are jumping up and down in their seats, yelling, “You’re on the wrong bus! We go to the Truth. Your driver was lying!”

So there were you, moping back to the information desk to check which one was actually going even in the right direction, but all you see is this grey man staring back at you, wining in his public service voice, “It’s obvious. And we’re closed.”

Back outside, it’s up to you, but which will you choose? There’s the one with the go-faster stripes, but not much muscle beneath the bonnet. There’s the turbo charged, rocket powered, cruising machine, with on-suite bathroom for every seat and free Nintendos to wile away the journey. There’s the one polished nicely, no great trimmings, but the sign on the door says, “Nationals Only.” One of them’s obviously rusting badly; it’s covered in patches, its engine’s basically corroded, but there’s some life left in it yet, while the cabin inside has been completely redecorated, seats discarded and replaced with stools. The last one you see in the row tells you to leave your cultural baggage behind. Too much choice, they all have their benefits, but you’re not really interested in headrests or video displays. You just want to do the right thing.

In the end, you say, sod it, and get on the bus marked, “Hell, all stops.” You’d already established that you were going to hell anyway, so the knowledge that you’re there because you couldn’t make up your mind which bus wasn’t going to Birmingham, isn’t going to crush you. And you can laugh about it too, because those people who treat you like shit, they’re going to heaven because they fulfilled all of their prayers. Perhaps, though, that’s a concession. Leaves you with only the flames to contend with, since their laughter and bitching will be cursing the righteous, seven stories above.

When it comes to those comfortably seated in their faith, you’re better off hiding your honesty. They’re never going to understand that you consider it all the time, but question everything. They tell you that things that are not obvious are obvious. And they say that to believe is as easy as riding a bicycle. Well, maybe that’s true, but when I went to the station, all I could see was one bus after another. So the lesson learnt from experience is this: when the going gets tough, lie.

Responding to Runnymede

The opinions expressed and observations below are those of a number of Muslim students at SOAS, whose responses to the points were mixed. Despite the differences in views, however, there was a general consensus that discrimination on the grounds of religion does exist. While some agree that it is an extension of racism, others believe that it can and does exist on its own. A Ghanaian student who converted to Islam said he felt more discrimination against him now on the grounds of his religion that he ever did before on the grounds of race. The most obvious illustration that separates it from racism is seen in the case of British converts, some of whom feel a certain amount of hostility from family and friends. Statements of ignorance merge with misunderstandings, and questions like, “Why can’t you come to the Pub any more?”

Continue reading “Responding to Runnymede”

Religion: state of mind or state of being?

Is discrimination a challenge for us all?

You can see the colour of a person’s skin, but you cannot see their soul. To some, religion is a creation of the mind, while for others it is as much a part of them as the eyes in their head. But to be discriminated against on the grounds of your religion is a complex issue. Here I examine some of the initial points and asks, “Is religious discrimination real or just an extension of racism?”

Continue reading “Religion: state of mind or state of being?”

Hidden Eyes and Lowered Gaze

Have you ever read the polished floor? I read it every day when I see you. There are words on the polished floor, invisble to your eye, but I read them. Beyond a hidden world, there’s something there. I try to look out, but the words on the floor say, ‘No’. I say, ‘It’s not fair.’ The floor says, ‘Life’s not fair.’ I say, ‘Well I don’t care.’ The floor says, ‘You’re reading me, of course you care.’ Words on the polished floor: ‘Your isolation is your due, beyond this space, less of you; care and admire even more, but the polished floor, never ignore.’

Respect is an elusive thing. Probably sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. Trouble is, half the time you don’t notice it, until it disappears and you only notice dis-. But then, disrespect is an assumption thing. And assumption; that’s a dangerous thing.

See, Neuro did some reading, tried to understand; noticed markers of modesty, privacy and insulation. So, in response, his eyes cast down to read the polished floor. Eyes aside, the wall was grey, notice the grafitti, new since yesterday. Head bowed, he passed on by, hoped he never caught an eye. On assumption, he played respect, drove it home to avoid neglect. One day missed, it wouldn’t slip by, never would he view them through a stray, spying eye.

Assumptions of the right way: well he failed in that respect. Neglecting their assumptions, he continued to read the floor. Their assumptions said he was a spiteful kid, full of hate, holding bias in his pocket. The disrespectful, prejudiced type; a cliche born of their assumptions. Assuming ignorance, expected behaviour was unexpected from a Western kid in a Western world, and so the respect flew out the window.

See, respect is an ellusive thing, but half the time you’re plainly misunderstood. Respect twists into disrespect, and now the truth is buried. Like your eye, in the floor.

The world of multiple choice

When bad moods get you, what can you do? I’ve slammed my head in the door before. When flinging your boots across the room doesn’t work and you’ve sliced open the salt container with the kitchen knife, decapitated your flatmate’s Spice Girls and left their poster in tatters, it’s time to get creative. You’re about to burst into tears. You feel about as isolated as a penguin in the Sahara. There’s anger, but no filter, because you’ve recently become a mellow type of fellow. You gave up the alcohol, so you’re not going to go out and get comatosed. You gave up expressing your feelings (because the alcohol was always the cause of that anyway), so you’re not going to go and shout at all those people who screw you, like you used to. No. All you’re going to do is play No Woman No Cry at full volume and blow your worries away.

Five minutes later, you’re fine. Happy. What was the problem? It’s usually a misinterpretation, anyway; yours, or theirs. I mean, what can you do if everything you do is misinterpreted? Live in a box? Well, I tried that. You’re happy, then you’re sad, you’re angry, then you’re mad. Face it, it’s not your problem, though saying so doesn’t help. You feel as guilty as sin and as angry as hell, but it’s not your fault (tell yourself, tell yourself, tell yourself).

Life in that box is a hard one. You spend your days reading the floor because if you look at anyone, it means: a) you have a crush on them, b) you’re insecure, or c) other: specify as required. You’re locked in silence because if you’re nice to anyone, it means: a) you have a crush on them, b) you’re insecure, or c) other: specify as required. And smile: no, don’t do that. Laugh? Hell, no! Politeness? You’re insecure. Awareness of those around you? You’re insecure. Haven’t you got the message yet? Do nothing. Say nothing. See nothing. Be nothing.

The other option: do the supermarket thing. Think of yourself, me, me, me. You’re number one, you’re one of Thatcher’s children, you’re the one and only, so be an arrogant bastard. Be loud, because: a) everyone will have a crush on you, because you’re number one, b) you’re it, and c) other: justify as appropriate. Be the stereotype that everyone loves, you’re one in a million, we all look up to you, and worship you. Down on our knees, we pray to you. While we lick your boots, are you really going to care if a little, little nobody misinterprets what you do?

Victimisation

“Humanity’s single most important role,”
Said the man with no hair,
“Is to claim Victimisation.
You, Mr. B, are claiming it all the time.”
I looked up at him. I felt like a victim.
He was singling me out
From the two thousand men, filling the tent.
“You are always complaining,”
He continued,
“That people are picking on you,
Is that not true, Mr. B?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Yes Mr. B, it is very true,” he said,
“You winge, and whine, all day long.”
I looked around the tent.
Four thousand eyes were focussed on me.
I felt like a victim. They all blamed me.
But twenty-four hours later, I was not alone.
For, every owner of those four thousand eyes
Had been accused of claiming victimisation.
Now we all felt like victims.
“So, you see,” said the man with no hair,
“We all think we are victims, but there
Are always bigger victims than you.”
A black man and a white man
At the back of the tent
Got up and left through the back door.
“Oh that’s right, get up and go.
Can’t you face the truth?”
cried the man with no hair.
Five minutes later a petrol bomb
Flew into our tent and the man with no hair
Turned into a pile of ash, smoking on the floor.
“I’ve been victimised,” he cried.
But the two-thousand men were not listening
For Mr. Authority had told them,
“You don’t have any right to complain.”
So they did not complain.
They just smiled and said,
“Oh well, that’s life.”

The Polished Floor

Have you ever read the polished floor?
I read it every day
When I see you.
Is admiration wrong?
Because I admire,
But it is nothing more.
There are words on the polished floor,
Invisible to your eye,
But I read them.
Beyond a hidden world,
There’s something there.
And I wish I could share it,
But the words on the floor say, ‘No.’
I say, ‘It’s not fair.’
The floor says, ‘Life’s not fair.’
I say, ‘Well I don’t care.’
The floor says, ‘You’re reading me,
Of course you care.’
Is the longing for friendship wrong?
Because I long,
Though I know it’s an empty want.
Words on the polished floor:
‘Your isolation is your due,
Beyond this space, less of you,
Care and admire even more,
But the polished floor, never ignore.’

Eat Food

The Neurocentic’s invaluable guide to life in the big smoke. The question is, can you live without it?

Eat food, that’s my advice. When you’ve done your monopoly board trail of London it’s time to get started on your snakes and ladders. The supermarket, that’s a great place to start, because there you discover ultimate invisibility. Do not, under any circumstances, assume politeness, patience, willingness to assist or satisfaction. Collect basket, ignore existence of all other life forms and be a selfish shit. Hurry, hurry, hurry. You know it’s a slippery slide; stop to let the mother with her daughter in a pushchair through the gap in front of you and the woman with the shopping trolley rams it up your backside. ‘Hurry up, get out of the way, I have to get to Kipling’s Cakes before they sell out of cherry bakewells.’

There’s a special device above the door in supermarkets that sucks out your brains as you pass under it. That’s why we’re all zombies focused on buy, buy, buy, and sod everyone else. I cast my dice, get out of there, two bags of shopping (one and a bit to you), take six steps, oh, there’s the ladder; let’s cook something real tonight, no more KFC. But wait, I get home and there’s a message on my carton of orange juice: ‘If Foil Seal is missing Return to Store.’ Well, I returned to the store, but what now? Didn’t I do my shopping an hour ago?

Eat anything, that’s my advice. Avoid shops at all costs. Make loads of friends and invite yourself around to eat their food. Make fourteen good ones and you won’t be back for two weeks. How could they catch on? Snakes and ladders, up the stairs to the highest flat, your prize is waiting for you. Snakes and ladders, down the road to the kebab shop underground, you hit a snake. Fifteen hours on the bog (have we been here before?), you should’ve stuck with KFC.

One more thing, you have another option; if you don’t mind food that isn’t real, you can get a Vesta curry when you enrol with the Union. Packet soup, just add water. Dehydrated caviar, just add water. Powdered water, just add… bother, that was going to make me millions. But, students, please remember: Pot Noodles are not the special variety found around the Pool Tables in SOAS Bar, but, apparently, the too gorgeous snack not to be missed if you really can’t be bothered to cook / eat out / eat with a friend / eat food. (Also note other complexities of the English language: A joint in the oven usually refers a leg of lamb. Coke in the fridge refers to your empty bottle in the door with only traces of the brown liquid at the bottom because I invited my friends around and we helped ourselves to your food.)

Cooking is not a problem, buying it is what stinks. So here’s your final plan: Ring your friends, tell them you’re having a dinner party, get each of them to bring something. An onion, a bottle of wine. A tomato, a bottle of wine. Half a zebra, a bottle of wine. That kind of thing. Then when they say, ‘Anything I can do to help?’ give them those little jobs: peeling onions, stirring the stew while you check your voicemail, measuring the rice. Sit back, relax and serve, with four bottles of wine. You were the snake, you climbed the ladder, now you’re home and dry.

The E-Mail, the phonecall and the hydroelectric dam

When the thunder clattered and the rain lashed the ground, the power went off and SOAS library’s computer network ceased to function. There was no rain in Tanzania, the power went off, but it was more than the computers that suffered.

Michael Franti of Spearhead fame, the hiphopster on a mission of musical literation, would like this one. Africa Online and Food for the Masses. If this makes no sense, then here’s the summary: Franti’s latest album was the Chocolate Supa Highway and he questioned what the leaps of technology meant to the African continent. Was the internet relevant? His scepticism of our hi-tech, material, civilised world. And now the connection: E-Mail messages from Tanzania until they turned the power off in the middle of October.

Kiswahili conversations between a father and his daughter; the father somewhere in England, the daughter in Dodoma, Tanzania’s administrative capital city. On Thursday 9 October, his mailbox revealed that Dodoma was facing the beginning of a famine. The rains had not come and now there was a shortage of water. Food prices were rising and there was little information beyond their region to say that that was happening. At the time, according to the E-Mail, there were only eighteen inches of water in the dam above the turbines. Those were the turbines that were supposed to generate the majority of Tanzania’s electricity. And if there was no rain in November, the E-Mail said, the country would slowly begin to shut down.

By Saturday, the electricity was off. The father received an early morning telephone call from his daughter in Dodoma. Time winding handles, hoping for a connection, Vodaphone may be whispering from Sri Lanka, but not here; the electricity is dead. Saturday 11 October, the electricity had now been turned off because there was not enough water in the hydroelectric dam. The effects would be felt all over the country and in the major towns, including that far coastal city of Dar Es Salaam. Now the fading voice on the telephone said there will be delays in the distribution of food and relief. No electricity, no power to the mills that ground the maize. Tanzania off-line, need food for the masses.

Stupid messages on my voicemail

Tim. This is Mimi. Um. I came across a quote today that I think, I think you should hear. And the quote is, “In a world of comparisons and conformity, make your own statements, honour your own truths, have the courage to be yourself, risk speaking your own thoughts and claiming your own emotions. Share your vulnerabilities, fears, doubts and insecurities, let the others experience the real you and have the courage to be yourself.” Tim, I was reading a couple of your poems, um, and I really like them. I really, really, really did. And I’d really like to sit down and sit down and get to know the real you, the one that you are inside. And, I guess this quote just made me think of you, because it was just so appropriate. So, call me when you get this message and we’ll talk. Bye.

What, then, do I do?
“Just be yourself.”
I am myself. There is nothing more to me.
“So say so.”
She wants to dig deep inside.
And if there’s nothing more, she’ll see.
And then she’ll throw me away.
“Get drunk Tim, forget about it.”
I feel so empty. What if I am nothing?
“Lie. Tell her you’re an astronaut and you collect butterflies.”
Do you think that’ll work?
“Sure. She’ll love to see your butterfly collection.”
The real me?
“Yeah, just be yourself.”
So, where can I get these butterflies from?
“I’ll lend you mine.”

Put on weight. Hairstyle. Muscles, laughter, clothes. Conversation, wit, style. Be a musician. Genius. Rich. Generous. Never cry. Be shallow. Be vain. Never tell your secrets to anyone. Smile. Drink beer. Be rude with the lads. Disrespect the ones your friends are disrespecting. Be a leader. No sheep here. Be carefree. Demand. Don’t try to understand. Be artificial. Be popular. Sit in the pub with your fourteen other friends. Laugh at the guy who won’t fight back. Impress the girls. Know your music inside out. Never get mad. Never, ever get sad. Try to be bad. Now see where you stand. Don’t that just feel so fine?

Lines in the palms of my hands

There were lines in the palms of my hands. I have to be careful from now on; in what I do, I mean. People want to find out what’s inside my head, but I never find out what’s in theirs. I’ve made mistakes telling people things that are too private, too personal. Things I shouldn’t tell anyone. Just yet. There is daylight and there is pain. There is sorrow and not much laughter. Let me in, I hear them cry, but I don’t want to let them in because it won’t last. When I let them in, I let them in and I never throw them out. My biggest failing is patience. I will hold on. And hold on. Maybe one day they’ll remember me. I’m always here. Is that my failing? There were lines in the palms of my hands.

Questionnaire

If you’re with your other friends,
Will you deny my existence?
If the time is right,
Will you laugh at me?
If the pressure is on,
Will you reject me?
If the sky is blue,
Is the sea blue too?
If you want power,
Will you reach out to me?
If you’re feeling vulnerable,
Will you ignore me?
If I get too close,
Will you push me away?
If it gets to much,
Will you lock yourself away?
Can I ask you a question?
Can I listen to your voice?
Can I lend you a shoulder,
When you need someone to lean on?
Can pigs fly?
Do you cry?
Are elephants real,
Or just made up?
Are you happy?
Are you sad?
Are you angry?
Are you mad?
If I tell you a secret,
Will you spread it around?
If I pretend I am nothing,
Will you believe I am nothing?
What’s your favourite colour?
Food?
Pop star?
Language?
Will you be here tomorrow?
Were you there yesterday?
Overall, how do you rate your life?
How do you rate mine?
When words get too much
Do you buy a gun?
And do you shoot the world down
Or do you change yourself?
Do you have an identity?
Do you really need one?
When will I see you again?
When will you see me again?
Do you have memories of the future
And remember seeing them in the past?
Do you have any bold memories?
Do you have anything to add?
You have the right to remain silent.
You have the right to remain silent.
What do you really think of me?

Hiding my head

What if I wanted my life to be private? Would you let me be silent? Would you let me hide away and stay away? On days when I do not want the world to see me, I wear a black hat to hide my head and my long coat. I know that it does not really make any difference to the world, but, in my mind, I feel at last anonymous. I feel at last in that private world.

Sometimes my silent world is what I want. Sometimes I can be a loner, in the midst of crowds, and sometimes that is how I want it. With no smile in sight, and my eyes reading the pavement, perhaps I am in that private place. Hiding my life; a desire for anonymity. When you do not question my ways. Sometimes I hide my face. I hide my thoughts. Sometimes I cover my head beneath a black hat and it is my sign of privacy. Sometimes.

When I stand up straight and look around. When my head is raised and I look at you. You will know that I have emerged from that secluded world. You can say hello to me.

Deleted

I wanted to hide away
And be anonymous.
I wanted to hide away:
Delete my face.
I wanted to be hidden,
I wanted a private world,
I wanted to be in my world.
I wanted to hide away.

I wore a black hat,
Though the sun was hot,
For it covered my head
And I felt anonymous.

I chose a silent world,
Though the world was fine,
For, in my silence,
I felt anonymous.

But as I tried to hide away,
As I slowly, slipped away,
My thoughts became intense
And the pain was immense.
I had a real reason
To hide myself away.

I concentrated my hurt
And I focused my mind.
Three weeks of aimless wandering,
Venting irritation on my friends,
There came the time
When I was ready
And found out what was wrong.

I intensified my feelings;
I poured each tiny one out,
And struck an arrow
Through my victim’s soul.

Standing now,
I was hidden away,
Anonymous and hidden from view.
My face, beyond recognition;
Deleted face.
At last I was free:
Hidden away.

I wanted to be hidden.
I wanted my private world.
I wanted to be in my own world,
So I made myself burn away.

At last, I am nothing.
I don’t see them smiling at me,
When I know the truth,
That they have no trust for me.
At last, I am anonymous.
I don’t hear a dishonest “Hello.”
At last, I am truly free,
I don’t see what they think of me.

I wanted to become nothing;
To become invisible.
I wanted to hide away;
To be, silently, free.

And now that I’m invisible
And hidden from their eyes,
I feel a kind of freedom;
An unknown, quiet peace.
Now that I am invisible
I can leap and fly away.
I have no place in that world;
I will spread my wings and fly.

Blame makes it all Right

Two years ago, I sat in a concert hall in Grenay, northern France, while the mayor of the town used our performance as a backdrop for his political speech. According to him, our orchestra was ‘a fine example of how the youth of today were the people who would break down barriers and share their qualities regardless of nationality’. (A lie, he would have seen, had he witnessed the xenophobia of a number of our group, walking through the streets that morning.) The slogans dominating one end of the market place, displayed that the Communiste Municipal Party were playing for the votes in that town.

Continue reading “Blame makes it all Right”

Graffiti

I read the graffiti on the wall. In big, bold letters, scrawled a foot high, it said “APNI MARZI KARDHI!” I didn’t understand. Next to it, written in white correction fluid, the words, “THE POOR CAN TAKE NO MORE: RESIGN”. My conscience was jolted and I took a pen from my pocket and wrote, “The cure is an elixir in a small glass bottle, but only god knows where it is”. There were other words on the wall. “Hold me tight. Don’t let go.” “You don’t own me. I have rights too.” “Fahari wawili wanapo pigana nyasi ndizo ziumiazo.” “If you treat me like shit, you’ll have to live with the stench.” “I love…” and “Sal was ere B4 U”.

The words expressed people’s thoughts. I left and returned a week later, but now the words were gone, lost beneath another layer of cream emulsion. There was a single, new message.

“PRIVATE PROPERTY”

Friends

It is when you feel down that you really realise that the friends you have are worth more than anyone else in the world. It should be obvious that the friends you have are worth more than the ones you don’t. I was so, so down one evening; I had hurt someone in a desperate attempt to become anonymous and to be someone that I’m not. Someone who was arrogant and carefree. Someone who could blame someone else for his own mistakes.

I had become anonymous, for the other person ignored me, but she despised me too. And no matter how I had denied my guilt at the time, now I felt as guilty as sin. I spent hours cursing myself, wishing that I could slip away and become truly invisible. Wishing that they would forget me and lose their recognition; truly invisible.

In the end, I found the courage to phone a friend, just needing someone to talk to. And that friend listened, advised, told me to pull myself together and that I had no right to waste the talents I held, by running off. Fifteen minutes on the phone transformed my misery into understanding. Fifteen minutes later, after I tapped the four digits into the phone, I realised what good friends I have. As for the mistake I made, I just have to accept I make these. A friend told me that.

Hold me

I don’t deserve you, but I want you.

I’ve done nothing for you, but I want you.

I’ve done nothing for the world,

But I want the world.

I’ve taken all my life and I’ve never given back.

I don’t deserve you, but I want you.

I’ve had everything I wanted

And I threw most of it away

I wasted many years

I threw it all away.

I don’t deserve my friends, but I love them.

They give and give to me.

What do I give to them?

Stories about my sorry life?

My sorry life?

I was given everything I wanted

But I threw most of it away.

Look at me and listen.

Listen what I say.

I want to change everything.

I hate what I see.

Me.

I hate what I see. I want to change me.

I want to hold you. Not for me.

For you.

I never give. Now I want to give.

Hold me.

One Hundred ways to Hate

I wanted to hate her because she made me feel like nothing. I wanted to make her feel small because she made me feel small. I wanted to hurt her because she hurt me. I thought of a hundred ways to hate.

Now I am reduced to a mad, psychotic idiot, crying, lying down in a cold police cell. Now I am reduced to nothing, but a man capable of only hating. I am small and weak today, but I felt powerful and strong yesterday, when I held that gun in my hands. I shot the world down. Because the world shot me down. Or did I just imagine that? Was I really alone? Was there really no one there? Now there is no one there. I could think of one hundred ways to love, but it’s too late now.

The War

The war was over, but the scars remained. Pushed together, the people lived in compounds scattered across the vast landscape. It was better like this; not much better, but better than the urban squalor that faced the returning refugees. The compounds were a sanctory from the ever threatening outside world: The minefield hell holes. The pitted landscape filled with cluster bombs. The poisoned lakes. And the dead land. The dead land that was good for nothing any more. Poisoned for a million years; a graveyard of a once fertile land. The compounds offered saftey.

How to hurt your friends

I offend my friends in what I say
I offend my friends in what I write
But they never tell me,
But I know.

I offend them because I write too much
I offend them because I pour my anger out
I write everything down
Like the Blues
Only it’s more like purple,
Because my anger is red.
I offend them,
But they don’t say.
Too personal, they think
I shouldn’t read it out, they think.
It offends them, but they never say.