Sea Child: A poem

 

I heard laughter in his steps
Even when I saw the tears in his eyes
You still could hear a laughter as
He walked by, joy spilling out of him
He had that smile
You know the one that stretch your heart open before
You can say no
I tell you he really could open
his face, his hands and his feet
There was little doubt that
God was singing
And probably dancing too
when He put him together
One nugget of joy at a time
He was all glow, no beauty
But he was a little bit slow to notice it.
On warm days, he would walk in the middle of the streets
His stride wide and sunny just like
The grin stuck on his face
His pink shirt slightly open revealing that manly hair
His sandals barely hanging on to those wide feet
He sent greetings from the left part of his chest to anyone he met
And walked all the way to the beach to sit and wait.
He didn’t know why the sea called him
But he couldn’t resist the call
And no matter he went or did on that day
He would always end up there at the beach sitting and waiting.
He didn’t know that he was a miracle child
He didn’t know that his mother almost
Offered her beautiful but sad self to the spirits of the sea
He didn’t know that those spirits gave her what no man could give
A child
He didn’t know that special gifts came with the notice: Handle with Care
Everyone knew except him
That lady Fate was around the corner
Waiting for the Sea child to be crowned
In order to be born again
One has to die first.
You have to enter the womb and close your eyes
But first you have to kiss Death french kiss like
You can’t afford to be shy with Him
Our Sea child has never been known to be the shy type
So on his 30th birthday, on a little cloudy day, his mother, his blanket, his  secretary of defense kissed his polished, baby soft forehead
That holy place
That pilgrim place
His laughter calling us from afar.
He felt a gap he couldn’t grasp
Confused, he saw himself walk to the beach where he sat and waited.

Clipped voices from his village rose and fell as his day went away

“This is his last day on Earth?”

“What will happen to her mother, Rosa?”

“What would happen to us”

“I will miss him”

“The WORLD will miss him.”

“He was easily a sunshine in this valley of Tears.”

“We can’t let this happen.”

“Who are we to say no when the gotds say yes?”

“Then why give us a flower born in the morning and dead in the evening?”

“Might as well as ask why night comes when when we need daylight?”

“we have to stop him.”

This is not your battle. We are toys in a playground and it’s not ours to say when we have pleasure or anger coming our way.”

He was on the beach

Not alone

Maybe he was

Another man in a crowded street.

They had whispered these things

But he heard them through and through

He felt a gap he couldn’t grasp.

He heard a laughter from the sea

He stood up and laughed back

Father was calling

His clothes slipped off him

A cloud rose from the sea and came for him.

The crowd behind looked and didn’t see what was happening

Sea child was returning to Father

A deal is a deal

When the Sun retires, the stars chime in.

 

One of my all time favorite poems: A ma mère

À ma mère par Camara Laye

Femme noire, femme africaine, Ô toi ma mère, je pense à toi
Ô Dôman, ô ma mère, toi qui me portas sur le dos,
Toi qui m’allaitas, toi qui gouvernas mes premiers pas,
Toi qui, la première, m’ouvris les yeux aux prodiges de la terre,
Je pense à toi…

Femme des champs, des rivières, femme du grand fleuve,
Ô toi, ma mère, je pense à toi…
Ô toi Dâman, ô ma mère, toi qui essuyais mes larmes,
Toi qui me réjouissais le coeur, toi qui, patiemment, supportais mes caprices,
Comme j’aimerais encore être près de toi, être enfant près de toi !
Femme simple, femme de la négation, ma pensée toujours se tourne vers toi…

Ô Dâman, Dâman de la grande famille des forgerons, ma pensée toujours se tourne vers toi,
La tienne à chaque pas m’accompagne, ô Dâman, ma mère,
Comme j’aimerais encore être dans ta chaleur, être enfant près de toi. …

Femme noire, femme africaine, ô toi ma mère, merci pour tout ce que tu fis pour moi, ton fils,
Si loin, si loin, si près de toi !

To my mother

Black woman, African woman, O thou my mother, I think of you
O Daman, O my mother, you who carried me on the back,
You who breastfed me, you who directed my first steps,
You who, the first of all, opened my eyes to the wonders of the earth,
I think of you …

Woman of fields,  of rivers, woman of the great river,

O thou, my mother, I think of you …

O Daman, O my mother, you who wiped my tears,

You who rejoiced hearts, you who patiently bear to my whims,

How I would still like to be near you, to be a child near you!

Simple woman, woman of negation, my thoughts always turns to you …

Oh, Daman, Daman of the great family of blacksmiths, my thoughts always turn to you,

And yours at every step with me, O Daman, my mother,

I wish I still be in your warmth, be a child near you. …

Black woman, African woman, O my mother, thank you for everything you did for me, your son, faraway, so far, so close to you!
 

Niota

Niota

There’s that imprint that you left last time.
I found red lipsticks on the cup you left
Years ago and that our Niota used to try to match
Her lips for yours
Niota for whom I made a map to trace our pain and mark it.

Now and forever.
For no one to forget.
For no one to go on without her ghost by his or her side.
The whisper of her name hanging above us on summer days and winter nights.
Remember that time when you thought you saw her and I didn’t want to say anything?
You ran after that poor little girl while I stood there in the rain
My heart racing with your legs to embrace that little girl that looked like ours,
My hands clenching and asking for one more caress of her soft skin,
You came back to me with
A reopened wound and a fresh one next to it
Not knowing that what you did to you, you did to me too.
We stood there in the rain hoping to catch sight of her ghost walking behind that girl
Hoping that the girl was in fact our Niota and that she would turn at any moment and run to us.
“Let’s go home” I said.
Even when home was an expensive hotel
Where we drowned slowly, too slowly ourselves in alcohol and sex orgies
Using our flesh to quiet our heart
Breaks.
And every morning I cursed the Sun for
Coming out his room
When darkness had swallowed us whole
we would lay around naked, licking our wounds, keeping our drug bottles empty till the night.
We waited for the night like guards wait for the dawn
Like the addict twitching and swaying until that next fix.
All we had left of her was in her pink suitcase
The house was already sold, our dreams buried in her casket.
In our rare moments of lucidity we would put on gloves and go through the suitcase
Walking backward through the halls of memory
Letting the apple , mud and rose smells retell the moments and
give her back;
a little of her; anything of her rather than the abyss we lived in.
A couple of months later, we were put on the streets.
Our families stood aside like family members to lepers
Loving us safely at distance,
Afraid to catch whatever it was we had
We were free birds
We drank from rain
We ate from the drain
we spoke our minds
we gave everything and expected nothing
Except Niota .
We parted our ways when we were thrown in the streets.
I kept the cup and you took the rest.
Last time I saw you, you were trying to talk to strangers about our little Niota.
If you are looking for me, you will find me at the corner of North Killingsworth sitting there at the entrance of the freeway.
Asking if you have seen my Niota.

Garde a vous !

Boots are not allowed on holy grounds.

I see them marching, marching, and marching

They greenhouse these sticky, smelly feet

That beg and seek and knock for open air.

A little bit of wind, a little bit of dust.

To hear the Earth moan as they step on Her.

To be able to pick the longest grass

Between Big toe and biggie toe.

Slowly rising it, a sacrifice unto the Lord

Unholy smell, unworthy sacrifice

Using Cain’s instruction book to the letter

But for you, leave your boots at the door

stand them at garde à vous like empty eyed beefeaters

Come barefoot or undone.

Have a pleasant evening

Sometimes I have voices in my head. Voices of characters that are built from the amalgam of the thousands of TV shows, movies and books and my life so here is a sample of the result of letting them speak:

“May I talk to John, please? I’m his mother”
“Hey mom”
“Now John, I taught you better than that”
“Good evening mother. How lovely of you to call at this fine moment, I was anxious to hear your voice today”
“Oh please John, you ought not to show such excess of feelings. Its unbecoming of a man like you”
“Which is it mom? Am I a man or a boy? Because you always trying to tell me how to talk?”
“Don’t be melodramatic, son. I just wish for you to talk like I taught you and leave for others that plain and lazy talk”
“Plain and lazy, got it. How may I be of service tonight?”
“Well I just received this erroneous notice telling me that I have spent $2,000 at Game Crazy. Now we both know that it’s only by luck that I ever know how to turn on my computer, so why on earth would I go on a frenzy shopping at that Game whatever you call it?”
“Hmmm, well, I think…Hold on”
“Oh please take your time. I have nowhere to go this evening.”
Few minutes later.
“I can explain, but I think it’s better if you talk to your favorite son”
“Hey mom”
“Good evening darling, why is it that your brother thinks you would know something about these expenses?”
“You know him better than I do, he’s trying this surprise I have for you”
“Oh a surprise? Don’t divulge anymore, pass me your brother, would you please?”
“Hey, so did he tell you what he did?”
“Now John, I know you don’t always get along with your brother, but your attempt to ruin his surprise is unlike you.”
“But mom…”
“No I do not want to hear it. Have a pleasant evening and one last thing: I really like that girlfriend of yours, what’s her name again? Carol, yes that’s right, pass along my greetings to her. ok, bye bye now.”

“Hey Carol !”

“Yes, John?”

“We are done, I’m breaking up with you. As of right now I’m done with this relationship. It’s not me, it’s you.”

Shopping list for Valentine’s day

 

She said I can’t see you. Yet

I said I will die if I don’t see you. Soon

our love would burst into flames

The sky would turn dark chocolate, the color of your skin

The birds would sing mournful tunes to Nature

The highway cars would stroll quietly to their destinations

The high end clothing stores would give away their best to the poorest

The salons would cater primarily to homeless people

The flight companies would give away free flights to narrow minded people

Our best singers would give free concerts to retirement homes, prisons and hospitals

The music companies would stop being evil

The TV shows would stop being so predictable

Any of these gifts would be great for valentine’s day, she said.

but all I had to offer is my heart and everything with it.

Sweet and sour

Our love was sweet and sour. we met around a sweet and sour chicken noodles plates. She was sweet. I was sour. By sweet, I mean she had a sweet tooth. For me, like you might have guessed. By sour, I mean I was under the weather. Feeling pulled down slowly by this gray weather. This was our 5th month together. We were not a couple. We were not lovers. We were something. We liked being something. No names. No strings. No baggage.  Just something. We liked being this ambiguous indeterminate thing that loosely kept us free and yet connected at the same time. Just this moment. These two warm of sweet and sour chicken noodle plates. Our hands tied together. We just couldn’t take our eyes off each other.

We had finally come close to what you could call relationship. We had our routine well established: Meet after work in the evening, stroll in the park then espresso con panna for both of us. The coffee wasn’t all that exceptional, but we both liked how it slipped so easily on our tongues: espresso con panna. An exotic name for a not so great coffee. Maybe that was the spice that was lacking in this relationship. We will never know. We never got that far to be asking all those hair pulling questions. We both had our burdens that we refused to unload on each other. We never needed it. We seemed to be soulmates also in our suffering. Whatever it is that has happened in our past has come to shape us in our lives since we had both lost contact with our families, were both working in the health care field, and lived alone except for a plant that we each had adopted separately as pets. These similarities were reinforced by the way we were able to finish each other sentences too. If there was a God somewhere, He must have made us next to each other.

Then one day, she told me that she was leaving for Haiti where she will be volunteering as a nurse for six months. I knew and felt what she wanted me to say, but instead I simply said: “Congratulations, those kids really need help and I know they will be in good hands.” “Thanks for saying that” and that was it. Even though I saw a shadow go by her face and I knew that she knew that’s not how I felt. We never had needed words to know how each other felt and we were not about to start now. So she left. I called in sick on that day to simply walk around the park hoping she misses her plan and come join me in this park that has become the closest thing to a home we had shared. But she didn’t. She was gone for six months. She might as well as have been gone forever.

I don’t know what love is. The closest thing to it that I have known is the espresso con panna that I shared with her during those six months. Before she left, she had promised me to call when she returns. She didn’t. and I didn’t. One year later, she called me out of the blue to tell me that she was engaged and she wanted me to meet her fiance, I congratulated her and told her that we could double date because I would like for her to meet my girlfriend too. The next week, we had our dinner at this French restaurant that’s just opened up and above and below the conversations that took place, we resumed our soundless connection, looking into each other’ s eyes and reading in each other what has been going on. Our dates didn’t see and couldn’t see what was going on and it didn’t matter. Nothing else mattered.

I was hers and she was mine.