Beasts I’ve known

One day, when you are brave enough to dive so deep that darkness becomes part of the landscape, that’s when you will find my fears. They drift about in hopes of colliding into someone or something they are strong enough to digest. Friends, they are almost always strong enough. Love is a catapult shooting soldiers into the darkness, soldiers equipped to hand-grenade fears, but they rarely know where to aim. Aim at me I plead. So few take the challenge, but preciously I guard them, like a heart trying  to protect its sentiments from the mind.

Hate is not the opposite of Love, Fear  is. Hate and Love tend to co-exist like a tree tolerating a vine, but Fear suffocates, it makes Love feel like the enemy, it psychologically dismembers and reassembles a disturbingly low reality of self-worth. Hate explodes, Fear cripples from the inside. Hate is a broken limb, Fear is cancer. Hate is slapping a friend, Fear is never daring to have one. Hate is a relationship, Fear is loneliness. Hate lives, because Love was there first. Fear stops Love from taking its first breath.

It takes courage to overcome Fear, real adrenaline-filling, heart-stopping, breath-hinging courage. I’ve learned to talk them down, but eventually every feeling needs acknowledgement. At some point, I find myself looking at those hungry beasts drifting in the dark.

We know each other well,  I say and throw a Love-grenade.

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What I wish she had said instead

 

Baby girl, mama loves you. You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful that sometimes people won’t be able to resist the way that looking at you just makes them feel alive because you remind them of what God can do; You look like hope to the downtrodden, but, baby girl, sometimes people dream in their prison-cell minds of how this world would better suite their death-in-life if there were no better dressed in hope, or beauty, or God. So watch who you let in. There are armies all around you, armed with the kind of smile that strips skin from skin so subtly that it takes a tidal wave of acidic grins before the gravity of what they have taken from you sinks in. That’s why we’re called to arm ourselves in Him. Some days, this world will pull your gaze to something more tangibly lovely, more welcoming than that age-old dance between Grace and Sin. Don’t forget, my love, even then. Don’t forget that the day you were born, Time could be heard as he breathed his last sigh, and then collapsed, satisfied, into you have arrived! That’s why hearts amass in beat-skipping eulogies each time you smile; you have an hourglass laugh filled with every grain shaped since Calvary. Don’t forget how, at the moment of your birth, shorelines across the earth were simultaneously filled with the sounds of rock defying ocean-tides that night, like the waters knew that they were holding to the foot of a miracle. That miracle was you. The first time you cried, your song set the darkness ablaze. The first time I held you, I could feel a heat emanating from the hearth that God set in place of your heart. I knew then that you would be a flame, but flames can sometimes be too fierce for loved ones to linger in so, when they are burnt by you, when your tears induced by what you have done threaten to douse your spirit, I will pray for you. Though I have never seen an angel, I’ll pray that they swarm to you like bees to a bottle-brush tree and when they do, I’ll pray that they make a sanctified honey of you. That way, when you go back to sooth the hearts you have singed, they’ll find themselves stuck on you. And when you completely envelope them, they will know what it means to live in the spirit.

Baby girl, mama loves you, you are so strong. Sometimes, when I talk to God about who you might become about the mistakes you’ll make and if they’ll look like mine, I smile because baby girl, mama knows that he’s got you. Trust me, when I was my mama’s baby girl, when I watched life leave her like the way to heaven was through her eyes and the doors were slowly closing, when her despair was a photograph of the baby girl that should have been sitting beside me, when I watched her do the math; She made three of us, meant to watch three of us grow and throw ourselves at His feet, but He welcomed one of us home one lifetime too soon. Then there were two of us, desperately trying to untie the noose that baby sister baby girl’s absence offered to her neck, when mama left, He never did. And when I shook my arms, trying to sever myself from Him, He filled my arms with you. So, when I think of your life, and of how many mistakes you might make that look like mine, I smile because he’s got me too. Sometimes, He will speak to you in ways that take years to understand, but He will show you, in time, what the whisperings mean. So, though I know that you –like me- will stay up all night trying to dissect dreams, I’ll tell you anyway to let go. Live free, but don’t misconstrue what that means- baby I want you to know Jesus. He is the standard to live by. Guard your heart, like He tells us to, but take risks too. You will never know how far love can stretch if you don’t. Grace means that we get to try again and again so, when you make that mistake, the one that spells not good enough in cracked fragments of mirror, know that God doesn’t give up on us for anything. Darling, don’t you see? You are far more precious to Him than you are to me and to me you are everything. So pick yourself up when life knocks you down, when days taste like failed tests, like scraped knees and no friends, like burning closets and cobwebbed rooms like nobody understands and being all alone with nowhere to go- not even home, like no missed calls after 3 suicide tries, like what’s your name again? with more than a hint of spite, like overdosing on heartbreak and substituting air with numbness, love with fear, joy with pain. Baby girl, pick yourself up, lift those eyes to the hills and try again.

Baby girl, mama loves you, you are so precious. One day, you’ll fall inlove and you’ll get hurt. You’ll discover how heart break has a way of making it hard for you to breathe and all at once you’ll realise the mistake in wishing for someone to take your breath away, but you’ll be okay. Better if you learn to embrace how much heartbreak can re-focus heart things. See, heart strings can make a beautiful sound if only you find a musician who knows how to play. So keep tuning yourself to the Word and he’ll come along with all the right compositions to make that heart of yours sing. At last, baby girl, don’t ever give up on poetry. It’s the lung that kicks in when life knocks the wind from you. You will write about so many things, in some ways poetry will give you courage. In others it will take courage to write that poem. Keep writing. Pens will always be beautiful to you; use them as spades to dig up the ink stuck just beneath the surface of that next blank page. Ask your questions there. Find your answers there. Let poetry be your roadmap to constellations of dreams and let scripture be your compass. Together, they will navigate you away from black holes and solar-flares to a life hand-sculpted by the sculptor of you.

At last, baby girl, know that there isn’t anywhere I would rather be, than here, with you.

 

Singing in the shower is underrated

It’s a big bad world we live in kids, better get your shit together, or you’ll be left in the dust of those that have theirs already wrapped.

Savoury image. Thanks for that…

Baby girl, all you have in the world to depend on is you, so don’t you let anyone in. Build those walls high enough to give China a run for its money, but not so high that they become an attraction -you don’t want to be somebody’s challenge.

I love. I love so openly. I love so openly that even heartbreak feels more like home than never having had a reason to nurse the pain. I will love them all. I will take every beating of fists as a challenge and transpose them to beating of chests.

Don’t live so loud, you’ll draw attention to yourself. 

When I shower, I sing at the top of my lungs -unless a whisper would better suggest the lyrics. When there is music, man oh man, I can’t wait to dance! When the weather turns warm, I sing and dance and play under the sun. When it rains, I splash.

People might stare.

Let them.

They will ostracise you for being too vivacious! Too alive! Too young! Too bold!

I will be vivacious, alive, young and bold still.

They will judge you everywhere! School, home, social circles…

Still.

Even church.

Still.

Still?

Life is unforgiving regardless of whether or not we choose to sing in the shower.
Still.

 

 

A beautiful reaction

Define ‘awestruck’, she asked them. They stared at her, resolved to fill the air with a dumbfounded sort of silence (which is almost the same thing but not quite as profound) as she steadily met their gazes, allowing them to search her frame for any betrayal of that daring countenance she bore as regally as though it were a crown.

And just what did those probing pairs upon pairs of eyes find? I cannot speak for any pair save my own (I was, by default as a student to the lecturer, part of that fore-mentioned ‘they’), so this is whom my eyes met: A lady, around the age of 25. her hair fell like sighing grain that yearns for the support of a shoulder- just out of reach. Her neck held up that grain-framed face with poise and when she unlocked those coffre-fort lips to speak, her palms would spontaneously drift to elbow level and turn upwards, as if in worship of her subject. Her subject was poetry.

She answered her question like she was delivering a ration of some long-kept secret; to be awestruck, she said, is to be silenced because of  an overwhelming feeling that follows having directly been exposed to grandeur.
My mind, as party to the reception of those words, tripped, then raced, then soared. I felt as though revelation had just taken place without so much as a ceremonious “How-do-you-do?” and I was left wrestling with how  best to phrase this one experience of beauty.

This then is how I processed that experience: I derive beauty from hearing her definition of awestruck. The word itself is not particularly beautiful, but the exposition of what it could mean, is. Awestruck is the description of a reaction- a reaction to grandeur. The potential of grandeur to be beautiful, is truly what I find beautiful and perhaps what it stands in contrast to; the possibility of never actually achieving that potential. The fragility of balance in that conflict is beautiful too, is it not? 

I chose to write about this gem that passed- almost unseen- with those sand grains that separate our pasts from the rest of time, because I thought I owed it to that ever-growing cycle of experiential beauty.

Sonnet 01

A wounded Pride will not rest ere Revenge,
The cold, the savage, the bitter to taste,
Has pressed its cracked lips to a smiling face
And felt such soft skin- from the broken- cringe,
As that of petals hoping to bloom again.
Those broken lips rip holes through petal-space,
like nightmares through a young dreamer’s rib-cage,
And Pride lets slip its control of Vengeance.
So, if flowers are prey to chasm kisses,
Then Hope is a soil for fleurs to steep in
And Revenge can kiss like a strong pesticide,
But for all blackhole and nightmarish threats
There is a garden, with a dream growing
Of Love and of lip-balm and a healed Pride.

Gros bisous

Darling, we are worlds apart but I think you beautiful. My words after the years have allowed us to drift from memory and pain and longing. Still, I will love you. Ton prénom sera dans mon cœur d’aujourd’hui à toujours.  I will trace the ways we’ve watched the stars like late-night conversation constellations and dream of how I used to dream about you. That night I will dream of you again, and wake up to tears that touch my skin as gently as your breath once did. Oh, how I will miss you when I have had my full three-score and ten. knowing that God somehow gave me the strength to do that without you will still give me shivers and I will wonder what your years looked like; if you are glad of how they blossomed. I will wonder what our blossoms would have looked like together. Tell me, love, would our garden have been full as beautiful as you? 

When I am seventy years old, I will not wonder where the years went, or mourn the fast-approaching end of my story. Instead, I will have a library of sentiments to share, I will be a vessel of well-lived- a crumpled poem, worn at the edges. Mon cheri, I will think of you often, with tenderness, but I will be happy and hope that you are too.

I will have written an anthology of poems about you and not all of them will be sad, or tinged  with that bitter hue of what might have been, had you let it. Eventually I will stop trying to blame you for the story we never got to create, or for your leading me to believe that our story had already lived through its infancy. I will have forgiven you then, not in patches of I love you, I hate you, I miss you, don’t touch me, stay with me, leave, come to me, forget us, forget it, forget everything, but fully.

Yes, when I am old I will regard you with all the wisdom and understanding that such a feat as age bestows upon a person. But I am young still and continue to idealise our small handful of kisses as a tragic love-story, though it’s duration was scarcely longer than that of a lone candlestick. There is beauty there, somewhere, and I feel that If I could only dig a little deeper in this poem and a little farther in that, then I will surely find it and have peace. It is a noble task, I think.

Breathe, girl, breathe.

Sometimes I forget to stop holding my breath. I’ve dived, touched the bottom and resurfaced, but have yet to tip my head back and fill my lungs with life. Perhaps its all the pollution in the air that causes me to desist from sucking in the potentially bitter fumes- even if that means sacrificing what I need, at least I’ll die with a clean, however empty, chest. Mais c’est bizarre, ça. Maybe, if I back-track, I’ll figure out what caused me to dive in the first place, so I close my eyes and let my life play out its farce of a narrative.

 

The curtains part, and there  I am- smaller than a mustard seed.

– I think I hope I fear that I was made in love. If this [look in the mirror] is the best that love can do, then fairytales need to stop filling little girls with hope. What awaits is either a broken spirit or a broken arm, both as a result of learning the hard way that no matter how loud you shout “I believe!”, no amount of sawdust is ever going to make you fly. Neverland does not exist. It never did. Ergo, love fails.

Exit.

Enter: 18 month old me.

– Today I learn not to take parents for granted. Mine are traded for a more capable pair. Love wins.

Exit.

Ten years pass, ‘bullied’ is my least favourite verb. It’s also my most familiar. Enter: Me.

– I have spent many break-times devouring pages in an effort to avoid less kind words from my peers, or his peers, or him. Hermione is teaching me to desire intelligence. Obelix says it’s okay to be fat. Roald Dahl assures me that a recipe for happiness, or better dreams exists, so I’ve started experimenting with abstract ingredients. I started looking more closely at the girl framed on my wall, she doesn’t say much, but stares back at me like she knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t trust her. Horse-riding makes me happy. My definition of love is inconsistent.

Exit.

Enter: Me, 12 years old -to the day.

– Birthday’s are not important to me anymore. Today, we’re moving to a different city so no celebration. I’m okay with that. People treat me better here, although I highly suspect their kindness forms part of a ploy to catch me off-guard. I’m rude to everyone, just in-case.

Ex-

– I think I like a boy..

Exit.

Grade 11, the day I meet my dad (for the second time). Enter: Me, scared shitless.

– I’m trying to make sense of a man that abandons his children twice, but still has the audacity to ask for forgiveness. God all but hands me a mirror and asks if what I see is really better. I shakily forgive my dad. Love wins.

Exit.

Enter: Me

– I will never forget the week I turned 19. I dive.

Exit.

Enter: 21 year old me.

– I’m told by my reflection that I should suck it up. I envy her moral-detachment; she doesn’t have to go through the suffocation, she only has to play the part well enough to convince me that It’s possible for me to face my fears. I fear her. Society has granted me permission to use the phrase “I’ve been through a lot”, and maybe I have, but I’m perpetually aware of those that have gone through worse and come out better. I’m not sure that I want to drown anymore. Finally, the girl framed on my wall speaks; “breathe, girl, breathe”.

Exuent.

I’m learning to separate the life-giving air from the suffocating stuff. My hope is to be better. I want to be better. I choose to breathe, even with the risk of choking and being looked down at by the habitual clean air drinkers. Ça en vaudra la peine.

Failures and learning to do better.

Today, I look around me. I see good and I see bad. I see friends and I see strangers. I see the fulfilled and I see the destitute. This world that we live in, the world I live in, is filled with bitter-sweet. I’ve been disappointed a lot by various things; missing parents, sibling rivalry, broken bones, broken trust, broken relationships, sweet nothings, failed attempts at charity, bruised ego, etc. The list has no end, really, but what all of these disappointments, in the many facets of my life, have in common is that cheated feeling with which each of them flavours my pain. The words, not good enough, are smeared across my failures and the failures of those around me.

We can do better than this.
Life is about more than just taking what you want, without giving a damn about the consequences. If the cost of your happiness is the loss of somebody else’s, then find a different avenue, because that one would be so badly done. Put yourself, for a moment, in the shoes of the person or people that you’re about to disappoint. Look at yourself the way he, or she, or they would look at you. What do you see? How ugly are you from this perspective? does selfishness become you? or are your features disfigured by the sinful veil obscuring this vision of you? Do better.

I’ve been reflecting over my most recently acquired scars and I keep asking myself, how did this happen? How did I get here?  The answer is obvious, I let this happen. A broken heart is a heavy burden to carry and I now understand, with all the new insight that a wounded spirit provides, why Proverbs 4 v 23 is so important:  Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life (Amplified Bible).

Guarding your heart is important. I would have far fewer scars had I taken heed of the wisdom in that verse more often in my life. So, this is who I am now; tainted, sinful, scarred, unworthy and alone. But God offers something greater; In place of all I have tainted and all that has tainted me, He offers a fresh start. In place of all the sins that I have committed and those that I have yet to commit, He offers redemption. In place of my scars, He offers healing. In place of my unworthiness, He offers Christ, in whom I find my identity, my worth. In place of my solitude, He says I am here, walk with me.

In place of not good enough, He gives us the courage to do better.

The wind is rising

“Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!
L’air immense ouvre et referme mon livre,
La vague en poudre ose jaillir des rocs!
Envolez-vous, pages tout éblouies!
Rompez, vagues! Rompez d’eaux rejouies
Ce toit tranquille où picoraient des focs!”
– Paul Valéry, Le Cimetière marin

The above is an extract from an incredibly beautiful poem which, although it is extremely complicated and peppered with ambiguous imagery, resonates strongly with me. I feel that it speaks of choice; to live, or to die; to mourn, or to celebrate; to be blown by the wind, or to run with it. I love the story it tells, of a ‘climb to revelation’ and what it reveals to the narrator about himself. I found this poem when I endeavored to track down the line; “Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!”  which features in the film The Wind Rises, by Hayao Miyazaki. it means the wind is rising! . . . we must try to live! This film resonates as profoundly with me as the poem does, but why? I’ve explained to most people, with whom I’ve had the conversation, that it has to do with simplicity, but now I think there might be more  to it than that. The film follows the life of an aeronautical engineer, as he pursues his passion in his career. There is not much about the story that excites awe, or fear, or the combining reverence, yet it is beautiful and inspiring to me.

Put that thought aside.

Throughout my life, I have been labelled a “day-dreamer”and justifiably so; my mind has wondered through as many worlds that exist, as worlds that do not, with a common goal for both: To make sense of my world, where sense is lacking, or to create nonsense where there is too little of it to properly get lost in. I recognised that without sense, my world would function in a way that rendered me almost entirely passive, as I would never know what to expect, or how to prepare for it, or what to do when it was upon me. I recognised too, that with only sense to govern my world, life would never hold a mystery to excite my passions. All would be expected and prepared for, so that wouldn’t do either. All my days of daydreaming served to develop a keen understanding of the importance of both sense and nonsense in the world.

Put that thought aside too.

Charlotte Brontë writes, in Jane Eyre, of a plain girl’s journey to womanhood. Throughout the novel, the reader enjoys the thrill of being directly addressed by the heroine of the story, as she recounts her journey from her own perspective. This style of narration results in so many social roles, that society feeds off, to be cast under the most scrutinising gaze of the young miss Eyre. Simultaneously, miss Eyre’s ability to be so reserved and courteous in her scrutiny, forces the reader to revisit his/her own ideas of the potential of plainness v beauty. In short, plainness wins and by the time it does, one finds oneself rooting for that very outcome.

Hold that thought.

So, a poem, a movie, a dream and a book; what does it all add up to? It’s a sort of life philosophy that explores what it means to fully live. The combination teaches of rising above the situation you find yourself in; pain is inevitable, but you have some say in what hurts you and the only say in how you choose to react to that pain. Life moves forward whether we want it to, or not so, will you be blown by the wind, or run with it? I’m choosing to run with it, but that requires a measure of belief in the nonsensical because I can’t see where I’m going and I have no idea what to expect when I get there- but I can prepare myself for it.

And now to put it all together…

What better kind of preparation for a life that runs with the wind than to wholeheartedly trust and commit all desires and fears to Jesus? That’s the sense in my world, where I’ve learned that even the most sturdy of friendships can change over night. Placing your hope in anything that relies on human beings- in all our imperfection- is a mistake and that’s what I see in every one of the fore-mentioned art forms (yes, day-dreaming is an art). I think what moves me in Valéry’s poem, is the recognition from the narrator that he is flawed. In Miyazaki’s film, I find a breath-holding thrill in watching a life pass, knowing that how it passes (only) is in the main character’s power, but he has no power over the fact that it does pass. In the case of Jane Eyre, It’s her ability to remain faithful to God that fascinates me. Too often, when happiness has offered to enter my life, at some small cost to my integrity or self-respect, I have thought myself blessed and gratefully welcomed it, but Jane does not. Instead, she runs from what she recognises as temptation in the guise of blessing (ie, a wolf in sheep’s clothing) and for her faith, she is rewarded with true blessings, ones that don’t hold a bitter after-taste. The beauty of Jane’s faith puts all other offered concepts of beauty to shame, because hers is the only kind of beauty (in the novel) that matters. I want to be like Jane.

I think it’s time that we recognise our potential to do great things. Imagine living a life where you know that where you are right now is exactly where you should be, that you couldn’t be worth more doing anything anywhere else, than doing what you’re doing now and here. That’s the kind of life that God calls us to- He calls us to run with the wind, so get up and go.

What are you waiting for?