so desperate to find
the meaning of self
that we fail to see
the ones to whom
we are the meaning
so desperate to find
the meaning of self
that we fail to see
the ones to whom
we are the meaning
i don’t know how to fix
the ugly in the world
but i can love you in ways
that make you feel
all the beauty in it
I’m an unsightly beast
My sooty countenance is hideous
Features so obtrusively horrid
The mirror says I’m too repulsive
It’s been written in the ancient scrolls
Pale skin is the engraved custom
The colour that’s painted the accepted effigy
Our colour is but an unwanted stain
Hair as coarse as an ageing sheep
Appalling noses squatting on black faces
Bloated cushions of coal lips
The swarthy appeal’s no alluring indeed
How marvellous do their features pose?
Poking swords of pointed noses
Skin as milky and white as snow
Green and blue crystal eyeballs
Our thick thighs bulging and pouring
Bloated bellies deliberately protruding
Bulky bosoms tripping the knees
Bouncing bottoms wobbling like jelly
A spectacular frame so organized
Each slim attribute tenderly placed
Figures so gracefully emaciated
Nothing hefty and obese; all’s well-carried
To find beauty is to obey this creed
Our grisly dark skin will be blemished
This coal colour will be bleached
Under fake coiffures, our mops are hidden
Isn’t it how beauty’s always defined?
Pale faces and lean shapes
What a distorted image they’ve painted
Veiling our dark beauty we still submit
Title: Ship Ahoy
Artist: The O’Jays
Date: 10 November 1973
Label: Philadelphia International Records
The O’Jays are known for their smooth love songs, funky and groovy jams and soulful sounds. What some people don’t pay attention to are some of the songs that have at their core political and social relevance. This R&B group has been speaking to their audience and using music as a teaching vehicle through some of their hits. Ship Ahoy is one of these wheels that carried a heavy message and lesson on it.
The song begins with the crack of whips, a strong cold wind blowing and the sound of crashing waves. “…the motion of the ocean…” as they point out in the lyrics. There’s an eerie quality wrapped around the song but they did it so without leaving out the powerful and sweet voices of this remarkable trio. It’s dark and spine-chilling.
Ship Ahoy brings awareness to the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade when Africans were captured and shipped to the New World. Some of the slaves died at sea while those who survived remained alive in unimaginably horrific conditions. Diseases and starvation accompanied them on the voyage to the so-called land of Liberty.
It’s quite a long song but with not as many lyrics, with the repetition of “Ship Ahoy” more than other lines. However, they didn’t need to write out a full, long sermon of lyrics to make a point. The combination of those few lyrics, the slavery theme sounds of the ship and the waves, and the honeyed vocals create a grim yet pleasing gem.
The song is the second track on the track-titled album. The album cover itself produces the clear image of slaves, including the members of the group in the slave hold. The artwork successfully registers with the listener and adds accuracy and support to the song and the title of the album.
This is what I love about music, the ability to speak beyond the written lyrics, to educate, to entertain, to reach out, to bring the hidden or unknown to the surface and to touch us in new and meaningful ways. R&B lovers, people with an interest and social and political consciousness, history lovers, those who die for golden oldies and just anyone who has an ear and a heart for smooth soul or fans of The O’Jays will definitely dig this.
She usually stares at the trees dancing with the wind but tonight they’re still and tense. There are shadows in the room that stare at her in disapproval of what she has done.
No self-respecting human being should belch like this while they sleep. Mavis tries to shift his sleeping position but his massive body is too heavy for her weak arms. The moon laughs at this spectacle and she walks over to draw the curtains even though she prefers to leave a slit that allows the light of the night sky into the room. She usually stares at the trees dancing with the wind but tonight they’re still and tense. There are shadows in the room that stare at her in disapproval of what she has done. It’s too late, she tells them through her thoughts. There’s usually something calming about the stillness of the night, the silence and the dark mask that veils the imperfections of human existence and activity. She debates between opening the windows to let the foul odour of his roaring farts out, and letting the mosquitoes in. Let them bite her even though the air in the room is insufferable.
The night, the perfect companion that she’s become reliant on to share her deepest thoughts with. However, this time the night is judgmental and it turns her back on her. This is the final round of the game, if a game it is. After this all will be reborn and recreated, all the dimness will be swallowed by a light of newness. The shadows in the room mock her. What if things do not go as planned? There’s a possibility that Kgotso could refuse to take part in her arrangements and that would be the end of it all, of her master plan, the end of what she thought would be the genesis of a solution for her broken family.
The baby breathes so peacefully, her nose oblivious to the corrupting smell that her father’s body emits. The baby is unaware of the world around her changing, the tide rising and falling and the possibility of calm waters that its mother believes will be for the best.
“You know what your problem is? You have succumbed to these popular words like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ and you’ve attached yourself to them because, I don’t know, the Internet and your fancy books told you to. Being a little upset or sad doesn’t mean you should embrace these dumb terms,” Kgotso had said.
He will never understand. That’s why the plan needs to fall into place. Tomorrow things will change. Mavis had finally decided to tell him about the diagnoses that had been made every year for the past three years by different doctors. Denial and fear of society’s inability to understand set her off on a journey of collecting different opinions from doctors, but they had all come with the same answers. She had to find help. She hadn’t. Instead she had spent years waiting for the ones close to her to see through her and sense that something in her was melting away and maybe they would reach out. They hadn’t, she had forgotten that they too had lives to live, demons to fight and their own dark places to wake from.
She puts on headphones and listens to music on her phone. What is it about people that makes them listen to sad music when they’re feeling down? Perhaps it speaks on their behalf. Society just makes too many rules on what people should communicate and what they should keep in, in case they are judged or appear to be undesirable to their audience. So these songs speak to them, about them and for them.
Good God! How much gas can one human being contain in them? It must be the bitterness in his soul. The bitterness of not having a son but two girls. The bitterness of having a wife who always seems to have excuses not to attend to his manly needs, “I have thrush”, “My back and neck hurt”, I’m too tired, the kids have worn me out.” “Not tonight because of this and that.” That’s what he keeps saying, that she always looks for excuses to avoid intimacy.
She doesn’t remember the last time it was intimate. Before he fell asleep he had mounted her with the ferocity of a long-starved beast and the urgency of one impatient to get the job done. In, out, release, off. She hadn’t bothered to make a sound. All she wanted was to have him release the tension that was polluting his character, his heart and his behaviour, release and leave her in peace to get on with her final arrangements.
It isn’t midnight yet but it’s a bit too late to text Sophie. She decides to send her a message, if she is already asleep she will see it in the morning. She needs to reassure Sophie that all would go according to plan and to make sure that she won’t change her mind. They were too close to the finish line to back out now.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow.” She sends the text.
Things weren’t always so bad between Mavis and Kgotso, in fact, they were the model couple. Best friends who always knew how to fall back on friendship whenever they fell out of love. When those days came, they were able to face that storm with ease and allow friendship to fence out any form of rot that could potentially ruin their marriage. It all started when she decided to stay at home to raise children. It wasn’t helping that she could see his disappointment of having girls only. He did love them but he wasn’t entirely satisfied and she was surprised that he could be the type of man who would allow society and its traditions to dictate his heart based on the sex of his own flesh and blood. She had left her job, family and friends back in another province It seemed like an adventure at first but as time unfolded she discovered that staying at home, caged and her everyday life consisting of running errands and being continually exhausted from mothering, was suffocating. She needed to breathe and three years down the line, two children later she was still trying to grasp the air for something to open up her lungs and free the chains within. He didn’t understand.
“We are making money now, a lot. I don’t see why you are always complaining. You’re starting to have rich people’s problems,” he said when she had asked to at least re-do the plain and tasteless house they lived in. It had never been a home to her, there was nothing that said home. There was nothing that said she could at least lay her troubles down and breathe. He was always working and she learned that money was not happiness if it meant staring at the stained walls all day and feeding off disappearing memories.
Sophie is her last hope. Mavis loves her husband dearly and her children even more but it’s proving difficult to be what they need and so she has to find something to create a happier life. The girls are still too young and to them she is the universe but Mavis fails to keep being the universe when inside she only feels like the blade from the grass that is drying up and dying from the cruelty of a heartless winter.
Sophie arrives at seven in the morning, the time that Mavis estimated would be perfect. She is a slim woman in her thirties, healthy and beautiful, a cleaner at a children’s hospital and single. She hasn’t had much luck with men; “too clingy” is what they call her. It had taken Mavis a few months to convince Sophie to leave her job and to work for her. They were already friends and equals and so to be her employee had the potential of ruining the special relationship they had. Mavis had pleaded, increased the salary and eventually she won her over.
Standing at the door she faces the man who does not know that his wife has been dying right next to him, each tick of the clock has been the approach of the end for her. He doesn’t hide the red eyes and with a note in his hand he knows who she is. They stand in silence, different thoughts swimming in their heads. While Kgotso is boiling with confusion and a source of blame before him, he does not know that the woman before him was never told she was being asked to be a replacement, instead she had been told she would be coming to start her day as a live-in housekeeper. Little does she know that all along Mavis had given up and was making arrangements for a new wife to take her place.
Title: Your Writing Coach: From Concept to Character, from Pitch to Publication
Author: Jurgen Wolff
Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
Date of Publication: 2012
Number of pages: 279
There are a lot of people who shelter their dreams of becoming writers or better writers under layers of fear and a million excuses. Wolff comes in this book armed with all the tools to break down those walls by getting into the nitty-gritty of a writing career. There are countless books on writing but what a lot of people need is this sort of dissection that Wolff uses in his step-by-step guide.
This well-ordered book goes from shredding fears into its different types, to finding your niche through knowledge and experience, and using these to come up with ideas, marketing yourself and finding the motivation to never lose sight of your goals. The advice given can apply to a large audience; the novice, the budding writer, the discouraged and intimidated and even the ones who are already seasoned can still pick up a few tips.
Your Writing Coach presents its strategies and methods in an organised and easy-to-read manner. The arrangement of challenges, followed by tips and guides, real example stories and exercises makes the read practical and intelligible. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding language that burdens you with heavy words and a need to sound too sophisticated or too intelligent while you’re leafing through what’s supposed to make your life easier. Here, Wolff just speaks to you as someone sitting with you in a coffee shop enjoying a cappuccino. However, that doesn’t rob his content of its ability to approach the dirt of writing; he confronts the harsh realities of rejection, the competition in the field, procrastination, not finding time and space and not finding support.
The only thing that he could’ve given more of—although a complete list would require a larger book—is the different niches in writing. There are so many that writers can match their abilities and interests with but in this book the list is quite short. However, even in that shortage of niches he dives into each and every one he lists without holding back, explores them thoroughly and gives a full and clear direction on how to succeed in them. Overall it’s a gift, a great tool for sharpening that writing talent and making a success out of it.
A graduate at Stanford University, Jurgen Wolff is an author and teacher. He has a wealth of experience in this particular focus, as well as nine other books that are dedicated to honing and toning the writing muscle. His knowledge and skill shine in this work and also make him a credible and well-qualified coach.
I would recommend Your Writing Coach to anyone sitting on their dream of writing – students and non-students, anyone of any age and those lost and trying to find their way around the map of writing.