What is the true determinant of joy?
Is it never having to argue my existence, ever-safe in the knowledge that I am human, worthy and deserving of all good things? I could save my words for wonderful things; shared secrets between sisters. songs in languages I don’t know. cries of unbridled pleasure. I would be free of sorrys, maybes and ifs, my tongue becoming a silver, pointed thing capable only of commands and reciprocated I love yous.
The day got rough seemingly out of nowhere. Tension is creeping at the edges of my brain, kneading on my skull like a desperate kitty. Needing affection like I need comfort now that the wind is the only other sound beyond my clicking on a keyboard. It whirls about recklessly, slinging heavy tree branches and litter in its direction before flinging them back to beyond.
I see brick. Red and brown switching abruptly to dark black that reminds me of a rocky shore, then bright blue that is supposed to tell stories of joy and accomplishment — but really it’s giving displacement. It’s so disjointed, these pieces of the past clashing up against an alternate reality where freedom is a buzzword and a people lose their homes and dignity to alternate living.
I am wearing the day right in the center of my face where the tears tickle and sting before breaking the floodgates. I am heavy with fatigue borne of what, I cannot find in the space to which I am confined. I am here. I am steady in my self. breathing. living. honoring. Loving in the middle of the sheets and out in the open. In honest words not forgotten in heated moments. Out of sorrow, through pain, and into the waters.
Now I hear the birds. I see the darkening clouds welcoming rain, soft at first then harsh and bloody. When the streets are bathed and empty, I will perhaps feel better and venture outside my front door. With a mask covering my mouth, given me a sense of anonymity I have craved for a decade at least. To be seen is remarkable when one is truly seen. Objects, for what they’re really worth, feel nothing from your greedy, piercing gazes.
An ode to Beyoncé and Lemonade (2016)
Som days I look like my dad… distant, and very selective about my outward show of emotions. Other days, I seem to hold my mother more. Codependent and relentlessly empathetic.
I hope to soon look like myself. A self actualized version of the nappy headed girl who could not find a place to fit herself except in the folds of her own hands.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time and the passage of it. I can’t believe 2010 was 8 years ago. That so much has happened and changed, and that I can sometimes still feel stuck. Even with all that’s different about me and mine today, I feel unmoved and perhaps like my old self in a new body. I feel tinges of regret and guilt about choices I made and ones I had absolutely no say in. Feelings that would not have occurred to me even two years ago, when things were different but not so vastly as five years ago.
Today has been a really good day. Nothing eventful has happened, nothing but me filling up my own space and head in the most pleasant ways. This is the most I’ve written in a very long time in terms of consistency (I write every day) and meaningful content. In contrast to my journal entries from 2, 3 years ago, these poems are real, they sit somewhere deep inside me and I’ve really enjoyed writing them. Additionally, I’ve been inspired by a lot more lately than in the past (I’m also in a different space, in different relationships, and I’m older). The biggest thing, though, is I’m not forcing myself to write. I have had the time—somehow, someway—to sit and ponder, which all writers need. All that time to myself opens me up to the poetry of watering my plants, or folding my clothes, or any Nina Simone song.
The woman perched on her balcony breathing nicotine and talking to the trees was called Lady by people of the town. To spirit-folk, governments, and castaways alike she was simply Lady, for her name and ancestors were unknown, and theirs was a town sorely of names and ancestors. Maidens and sir-names were passed around like hugs, stories about their holders shared as frequently and willingly as kisses between lovers. They held weight, told passerbys, who tore her throat to speak life unto a disassembled mess of cells, flesh, and bones. Which body ground her knuckles bare with desperate hope to lay paths ‘pon her descendents to walk. Since Lady had no name—none known to the people—, she had no foremother, no voice, no path. There was never much need to speak to Lady frontly, in fact the common assumption was that she was mute. Her voice box broken and empty, except for the sound of air whistling through burnt up lungs. Her face was nearly always clouded by the swarm of black hair swooping from her scalp, follicles wrapped unto themselves like coils in a vine—a forest of vines. Where the locs parted to make way for her eyes, and mouth, and nose— was shielded by a pair of glasses whose wooden arms framed darkly tinted lenses. She remained behind them an enigma, a nameless cloud of being. Her frame was as elusive as her face, blurred by dark shadows. Some areas dipped, others flattened out then bulged relentlessly—but in all, her body parts were indistinguishable from one another. Despite the mass of her, the palpable weight of her, her feet made bare indents in wet soil and sounds as wispy as breath on tiled floors. Arms seemed to jut out past and through her all at once, mouths feeding hungrily on the space around her shoulders—hunched near her ears—and her stomach—rumbling with angst. None could call to Lady, nor see her, but knew her presence because in the elusivity of her identity—a dark space they made of the complex intertwine of roots and branches within her—they spent their griefs and sorrows. They borrowed chunks of her, never noticing the pieces already missing, for to them her body was but a cloud—a faraway thing that gives and gives, yet never runs dry.
© Ama Akoto (2018)