Take Me Home

african_woman

(Image: 50/50 by 2020)

I left a trail of heartbeats

Like footsteps behind

That would lead me back home

Somehow, the winds wiped them off

The face of the soil

And here I wander through nameless spaces

 

With the loudest of shouts

My unsure voice is swallowed

Kidnapped by borrowed sounds

That dance on my palate

And wrestle on my wooden tongue

 

I’m ashamed of the swarthy gown

That dresses my bones

I hide behind unfamiliar colours,

Sold to me at exorbitant prices

 

I’ll grit my teeth as you scald my skin

With deluding hair concoctions

To train my wild hair into obedience

Lie flat! Fall straight!

 

Perhaps if I bathe in milk

My skin will play chameleon

If I pinch my cheeks a million times

They’ll burn a bright rosy red

 

I want to return home

Dress me in royal garments of my ancestors

Place a crown of our soil on my head

Adorn my arms in bangles made

From the beads of sweat from my foremothers

Paint my skin with colours

Of their chants to the earth

Cleanse me in their sacrificed blood

Teach me to go back home

Teach me to return to my BLACK home

Your Tragedy

Pockets full of spinning storms

Dilapidated fists holding winds

Eyes crammed with wild snow

Shouting hail piles up within

Pull your guts back in

They’ll find no place to hide

Peace neither whispers nor winks

Cyclonic dirges sung to you at night

You see, you let the rains fall

Into the wells around your heart

And each pulse devours all

Your drowning breath’s an art

I’m the catastrophe churning your mind

The war that kisses your bones with pain

The shiver that wears your skin thin

I am your beautiful hurricane

Rushing To by Ashford & Simpson

The song that reminds us to take a second and breathe. 

musical affair

(Photo: Amazon)

We’re a generation that never sleeps – the go-getters, grinders and hustlers. We live by mantras such as “Sleep is for the dead” and when we think we are taking time out we are still busy trying to be most fun and title bearers of the best party goers and champagne bottle poppers.

I woke up this morning and remembered a song I used to play when I was learning to place the needle correctly when playing records. With a soft falsetto, Nickolas Ashford’s lyrics melt in;

“Where’s everybody going?

Where’s everybody rushing to?”

We’re chasing dreams, meeting expectations and deadlines and rushing after images that we’re constantly in a desperate need to portray to the world so that they can approve of who and what we become. Where are we rushing to? This song is a reminder of the fast lane that we’re on and how sometimes we just need to take a seat and breathe. Just breathe.

Rushing To is the second track from the album A Musical Affair by Ashford & Simpson, released in 1980 under Warner Bros. Records.

If you don’t know who Ashford & Simpson are, just think of some of their most popular hits, Solid and Found a Cure. Okay, you must know those two, right?

You can hear the smooth sound from the flute and how the strings are delicately teased. Ashford’s falsetto is balanced by his wife, Valerie Simpson’s bold voice and what you get is magic and a masterpiece such as Rushing To. The song is filled with depth, so much that it has remained meaningful and timeless from the 80’s to now. It says a lot and should definitely be one of the anthems that we play for ourselves as a reminder to slow down.

Nickolas Ashford was born on 4 May 1941 in South Carolina. Valerie Simpson was born on 26 August 1946. They met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in 1964. The duo had their downs in the music industry at the beginning but over the years their success just kept on hitting the skies. They have written songs for stars such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Diana Ross, and worked with great musicians such as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Teddy Pendergrass, Chaka Khan and many others. They were talented songwriters and performers. They have also recorded an album titled Been Found with the unforgettable poet Maya Angelou.

ashford_simpson_with_maya_angelou-been_found_a

(Photo: hitparade)

Nickolas Ashford passed away on 22 August 2011 from throat cancer, leaving behind his wife Valerie Simpson, their two daughters and a musical legacy.

The Day He Loved Her

When he saw light spill from her pores

The sun lived inside her ribs

Its rays wrote poetry on her flesh

He drank the life from the warmth of her skin

 

The day that all-time favourite songs

The music from the earth’s throbbing cords

Stood nothing against the energies

And the winds of her voice

When she shaped the syllables of his name

As if his name was her prayer

 

The weight in the way she exhaled

The sound of her soul’s orchestra

All her organs, her life’s musical instruments

He found himself in the lyrics of her breath

 

In her presence his religion was found

In the river flowing between them,

Was where his sins were drowned

In the fire of her heart, he discovered God

A Cave of Death

Taken from Poetically Ghetto by Nthepa Moitsheki

I invite the hum of death into this abyss

To collect these unwanted fillings

Wrap its fatal branches around it

And whisper to it its mortal appeal

 

It hasn’t been thirteen weeks

The shameful paunch isn’t revealed

I’m still in my tender teens

And so I invite death to come within

 

The elixir to my irresponsibility

An antidote of my recurrent mistakes

This time’s the third, fourth, fifth…

I guess my conscience’s been defeated

 

To keep it is to beckon more poverty

How shall I raise it in such beggary?

The father’s in no known vicinity

So shall death be my ill-fated remedy

 

How many corpses do I keep within?

Counting shall only bid my lunacy

Remind me not of my strained fecundity

Choice is not one of my privileges

 

It’s all done and over with

Just when I think I shall never repeat

I’m of child again

But this is the last, I promise

A Little Bit of Love, Maybe

There’s a bitterness in the taste of me

All evils coalesce at this spot within

If you want to dine with the devil

By all means,

Fall as deep as you can for me

 

Two walls and a little way in between

No light to lead your way

But the moon’s wink and stars too shy

To shine you through this alley

I call my heart

What lies between beginning and end

Is the mystery

 

Love me anyway,

If you must

Without the fear of solitude

Or the pleasure of mystery

Love me because even dark places

Need to be loved and filled with light

Love me because even the deepest waters

Need to be crossed

And the hardest of paths need to be walked

Love me because even the ones like me

Need to be loved

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Published: 1958

African Writers Series

IMG_1920

Okonkwo is a wealthy and respected warrior of the Umuofia clan, who is known throughout all the nine villages. His achievements are driven by his fear of becoming like his father Unoka, whom he considered a spendthrift and a weak man. It is this weakness that haunts him and propels him into his hard work. He’s a clansman, a farmer, a warrior and a family provider who never shows affection or any soft emotion as that is a sign of weakness. He equates manliness to rashness.

Okonkwo is very hard on his eldest son and heir Nwoye, whom he fears shows signs of being like his grandfather, and so is hard on him in order to make a real man out of him. A serious matter arises when a daughter from his village is murdered at a market in a neighbouring village. In a settlement to avoid war, the neighbouring village compensates Umuofia with a young man and a virgin. This fifteen-year old boy, Ikemefuna, is placed in Okonkwo’s care. The boy lives with them for three years and in that time Ikemefuna becomes the ideal son to Okonkwo and his influence over Nwoye pleases him. He calls Okonkwo his father and Nwoye looks up to him as a brother.

Tragedy arrives when the oracle advises that the boy must be killed. Ogbuefi Ezedu, the oldest man in that quarter of the village pays Okonkwo a visit and advises him not to have a hand in the killing of the boy as he calls him his father. When the day arrives and Ikemefuna is taken away, Okonkwo is one of the men accompanying him to his fate. As the other men attack the boy he pleads to Okonkwo for help but he does not wish to look weak before all those men, and so he kills the boy. He sinks into depression.

Another tragedy follows when on the day of Ogbuefi’s funeral, Okonkwo’s gun accidentally explodes and kills Ogbuefi’s son. This is a crime against the earth goddess and Okonkwo must take his family into exile for seven years for atonement. He goes to his mother’s natal village Mbanta, leaving behind his buildings which are burnt and his animals are killed, in order to cleanse the village of his sin.

Later on, the arrival of missionaries begins. Their leader Mr Brown tells them that their gods are false and that worshipping more than one god is idolatrous. Mr Brown’s aim is to convert the locals but does not do so aggressively. He is later replaced by a completely different man to him, Reverend James Smith who is intolerant and strict. While he is in charge, a lot of things happen such as elders being thrown into prison. Okonkwo is furious with all that his happening and seeks war, they must fight.

His years of exile come to an end and he returns to his village but he finds that a lot has changed. His clansmen are not willing to go to war. He later kills a leader of the court messengers, leading to an unexpected end. 

Things Fall Apart is a portrayal of the clashes between the Igbo people and Nigeria’s white colonial government. Chinua Achebe did a fine work in showing a clear picture of Africans, different from what we read most of the time as a colonial account of Africans. At the end of the novel it says that the District Commissioner plans to write a book where he would write a paragraph on Okonkwo and he says how “one must be firm in cutting out details”. This shows the different perspective or account of stories before and during colonial times and writers like Chinua Achebe do justice in revealing details fairly by representing both Africanism traditions and history, and colonialism in a clearer and balanced light.

Things Fall Apart shows a struggle between change and tradition. It is still something that many individuals face, whether one should abandon traditional values and practices in the name of change. Some of the village members are excited about the opportunities that come with converting to Christianity and so they abandon their traditional beliefs and practices. The story also shows us the perceived idea of manhood through Okonkwo’s character in how he thinks rashness and anger equate to bravery, strength and manliness. The story is a true window through which we get to learn about the difficulties of abandoning ideals and beliefs and adopting new ones, about culture, traditions and language as important parts of identities and how history has been shaped.