The Hands That Feed You.

“Hard hands knead dough, everybody needs bread.”

Unknown

She has shouldered this burden for years. Life had taken liberty with the course she dreamt out, veering her along a path molded by necessity. Her mornings lead her deeper into a world where the hammer and anvil speak louder than prayer.

Once upon a time she had silken palms, soft hands that busied themselves in acts of freedom. She would spend time lending life to canvas. Her fingers, tipped with magic, painted heaven into blanks sheets. Those very hands have changed, becoming shadows of their former selves, hardened souls dedicating themselves to prying sustenance from the toils of labor. They have become strangers to the paint and brush, her pallet of inks seem weightless in this new world. Having carried more than their fair share her fingertips barley recognize the easel. These strangers are lost to the rhythm of cold work, mimicking the coarseness of a granite wheels that marks time at the old mill. Lost in a colorless world, her palms remain numb to a tenderness she once knew.

Her eyes have been hostage to the low lights for too long. Its been 6 years since she began working at the mill, 6 years since seeing her spirit fade as the earth opened up to swallow her light. It seems as though she has lost touch with the world around her, I have found it harder to pieces together a semblance of my mother in those vacant stares. She is often vanishing beyond the window pane ,prospecting for hope. Though I wonder where she goes, I know the familiar song her memory play, she revisits a time when love was still in reach, Father was gone too soon.

My fathers passing saddled my mother with darkness, to carry on mother had took to working at the mill. To see a whisper of her shine through the shadows of that  building speaks volumes of her heart, a love forever lit, regardless of the odds she carries one.

Ill never know what a life without that pain would have offered her, I only know this version of things. I’m ashamed to admit that I allowed years to creep by before I took notice of the hands that fed me, the way they bartered their tenderness for my sustenance, the way they pieced together strength, the way the carried me away from ever wilting on my feet. Despite the falling of her kingdom she found the grace to raise a King. Those hands knead the hope that feeds my spirit. She is deserving of the world in return.

 

 

Naming Game


With only 7 weeks until we meet, I speak my thoughts to your future. Your mother and I are overflowing with gladness. Our sweet flower will finally find air, our legacy finally finds breath, soaking up a new world through eyes glowing with the muted knowledge of a creator that only babies know. That day can’t come any sooner.

A rose by any name will still smell as sweet. Yet here we are pealing the world apart to find the right words for our blessing. With the thousand words that have shaped your mothers world and mine, we are at odds trying to choose the perfect one for our perfect one. We have been sitting around, pulling at names from old books, turning back the hands of time and revisiting the strongest branches in our family trees, all in the hopes of  anointing your presence. There is power in a name.

I’ve been thinking about calling you Faith, a word that carries weight in my world as well as hers. Your mother and I have learned Faith in many forms, all of which have offered the same warmth, the same strength, the same patience that helped endure so much. Faith has been a lifeline unhindered by any boreders, race, language and culture have never been able stifle its reach. It was Faith that kept us so sold on love, we didn’t stop to take stock of the differences culture would make. It is Faith that keeps us resilient, aiding our journey into unison.

I’ve been thinking about calling you Hope. Everyday I hope to see you grow, not so fast that you learn to leave me, just enough to watch the making of an angel. I hope to one day hear you speak, to see you learn the power of language. I hope that over time my last name wont be an inconvenience to your tongue, that you won’t care for how bitter sweet your name sounds against the tonality of my fathers own. I hope that you will always see, seamlessly, these threads that your mother and I have spent years learning to weave together. The twines of two cultures that bound together will never let you fall too far from love, stray too far from grace, the will teach you that every things that makes you less like them, makes you more like us, and together we are strong. You will always be our little princess.

I have faith that you will learn to see the beauty in a world that seems forgotten here, a world that had enough magic to craft your grandmothers smile. She still holds that magic in her tongue, so listen when she sings the songs that have preserved that world for me. I’ve been fighting to hold to the murmuring beat of legacy, I’m always hoping you grow to know the things I have forgotten. I hold but a few relics from the culture that raised me, I wanted to gift them all to you, maybe you could have worn my mothers name.

Instead of naming you in readiness for the diaspora, embellishing your name with trinkets of Africa, I could ready you for this one life the best I can. Together we can sit back and name this world in the spirit of  compassion and freedom. There is power in a name, so my promise to you is that I will take care in naming this world with you, for you, so every avenue is a door to being the blessing you have been sent to be.That murmuring beat of grace was never fading fortitude but growing power. From your crowning moment you were destined to be the queen of our hearts. A rose by any name will still smell as sweet, so let’s nurture your Eden and feed your petals grace.

With Faith at heart and Hope at heart, I’ll see you when you get here. This world is ours to take.

 

 

 

On Remembering Life

african-hands-around-fire

It’s started to sound impossibly vague.

“Act normal!”

A fatigued cape that hang low to the floor, collecting dust as he walked around. Weighed down by this cloak tailored by the men and women who had lost the spectrum of their childish enjoyment, eager to fight the cold of a world without play. It had become dangerous to shut his eyes and run free, to forget the turnstiles and painted borders. The threat of losing his footing and falling naked in all his humanness was very real.

“Act Normal!!” They said

He had started to wear his frown comfortably. It was no longer painful to his cheeks to keep them pinned to the scaffold of normalcy. It required no effort to appease his need for mischief when the little voices inside his heart regurgitated an age old song that accompanied his finest memories.  I’m sure he had forgotten how high his lips would leap as his hands would reach for the fruits that teased his gaze, beckoning him through the over hanging leaves, blades of sunlight gifting a spotlight to a hiding place in the tallest branches of his curiosity. It was in the throes of play that he learned the value of a strong hang shake. Now a mere shadow of that grip that kept him hoisted in the swaying branches of his youth, he reaches out his palm to his fellow man with practiced smiles, climbing deeper into the frost..

He learned to walk in fine shoes, toes pined together in leather points, a world away from the freedom of the earth on the soles of his feet. The neck that crafted the songs that lit up the night and mirrored the campfire, had now been tied down by the perfect knot, ready to walk into the empty rooms filled with hollow promises, muted by time. “This is the making of a man,” they told him. He swallowed this medicine as he lashed another layer of normalcy over his shoulders, hiding a horror story of loss beneath the sharp lapel of his double breasted jacket.

Parchments marked by learned men gave him permission to impose his knowledge on the world, now they know he knows.Before he had earned their approval, his words were open to criticism and disbelief. What has been lived and not written was counterfeit in worth to them, they needed proof.

His Grandfathers grey hairs and speckled eyes warmed themselves over the fire as he talked about the worlds he remembered. He didn’t fill his tattered bag with papers to persuade his attention, father time had written enough in the groves in his cheeks to speak volumes, the hardened skin on his palms were always reminder enough that he wrestled his own truth on his pilgrimage into wisdom. The sun sets he had seen  colored his life with hate, with love, with pain, with joy. Even as his mind failed him, his heart was the last to sing this mans song.

Sometimes he’d gift him with yams tilled from the pocket of earth he had nursed for years. They would eat together as his grandfather walked him through stories he had heard as a boy, stories he had lived as a man and the songs her knew that banished the rain. They were the motifs that returned to him time and time again, as compass points, guiding him while he wondered out of the wily maze of childhood.

His grandfather has passed away a few summers back, now the stories that lit those fires are only conjured into the air sparingly. Returning to the land of the living after the sky light was low and the taste of life returned to his mouth once the sterile air of fiscal responsibility lost the power to numb his tongue. His eyes would tear at the punchlines of old jokes that were the sweet nut fleshed out by anecdotes of the campfire. These memories were survived through quiet moments, the power of prayer allowed him to play pretend that man who nurtured his imagination was willing him forward into the fray.

He wondered what the man by campfire would make of this polished world. With no time for fire song, cold hearts are draping themselves in currency to stave off winter. When so much is changing, maybe he will understand. Maybe he would see the sense in bartering the things he had, for the life he had made.

He heard the echoes of the fire inside his longing for his teacher. He knew that his time to teach would come, and the parchments mounted on his walls, vouched for by learned men, would take a back seat to the story that father time will write into his flesh. The music in his heart and the color of his truth would be the fuel for budding flames. He would have to wrestle with his own truth on his pilgrimage into wisdom, till his pocket of this world and feed another hungry heart its fill of laughter and song. Write the notes that would steer their feet through the maze.

All roads will hopefully lead to home.

 

I Call Him Brother 

cole_afterprocessing-web

Raised under the same roof we each earned our names, though I have always called him brother. Children of the sun, sprung from what cultured raised, carved bold under the gold pip of Africa’s scepter. The fiery flesh of that mighty watcher  colored us with grace, showered our shoulder with the warmth needed to see family in unfamiliar faces.

“I am because we are,” Ubuntu was sold to us, and value was offered in. Ubuntu was sewn in us with a power of greater kings, threaded into our souls in the taut threads of culture. We were thirsty, young tongues lapping up the streams of what was learned before us. We heard the drums of dreams from the bosom of the bearded men and the tongue of queens who wrapped there crowns around there heads would sing up the sense to stave off evil spirits. Under the same sun we each earned our names, though I have always called him Brother!

My brothers stubborn features refused to forget the blessings of home. Although the cold days and frosty nights of a new world made horse a voice that has forgotten the rhythms of home, his crown remains thick with the coils of a tightly knit family. I’ve never had to ask if Ubuntu remains known to him, his actions have always reminded me that home is never far from his graces. His tongue may be forgetful but the estuaries of his heart echo with the roar of the mighty rivers that nourished our mothers brothers. There is enough of him in us to always learn a new picture of home.

One day he asked me, “Whose brother am I?”

These were bitter seeds, they grew sour on my tongue as I watched him question his blessings. As I watch him question his world I am forced to swallow his truth.

“Whose brother am i?” he asked.

My Brother was lost.

You see it seems to some that he wears a counterfeit crown. Because their pictures of his brothers are painted by men, finite and foolish, they draw borders around love and leave him wanting for a home. They don’t know there is a brush whose strokes paint wonders into a mans heart, words are worth too little to count who is kin to your kind. Be kind to your kin lest your mind swim with waste as you allow tall walls to stifle the flow of a love that runs deep. Brother, they have mistaken prison bars for castle gates, yoked their eyes to there tongue, they have forgotten the warmth that recognizes family in unfamiliar faces, pay them no mind.

I am because we are. Their mothers brother might never have looked like us, every part of their soul shares our spirit. Raised under the same sky each of us must earn our own name, though I would always call them brother.

 

Mi Princesa 

 

Dear Carla

I promised to be home soon, but now this home soothes nothing without you in it, I don’t know what’s keeping me here.

I came close to finding hope but there is no hope inside these tall glasses. It’s ironic, I thought they’d help me find my spirit. In times of grief these bitter spills make me less likely to stand up but more likely to stand myself. Your mother lost patience with my hatred for me a long time ago. I blamed myself for you leaving the way you did, I knew she did too. Her leaving was all she could do to keep herself from helping me finish my wicked work.

I was only gone for a minute, but I guess a whole life time can pass you by in a minute. Trying to make it right I have found myself writing again, sadly these ink blots are only crude maps of heaven, you’d have to tell me what it’s really like someday. The scattered lines on tattered sheets are all plotting my route to find you. I could read you all the new stories I’m writing just for you. Isabella and the shrew get to go on many more adventures, there all here in my notebook.

Your mother is safe with Abuela, she prays for you everyday. I know there are parts of you that are stained all over her hands and it’s hurting her, she has trouble letting you go. You had her smile, so you’re always on her lips, her eyes cry out the truest shade of you, I see more of you in her every day. My niña, please come home.

Baxter misses you too. He is happy that I don’t yell at him for sleeping on your bed anymore. I’ve found it easier to lay in it with him instead, he seems to like your stories just as much as you did. If you promise to come home I promise I won’t be mad anymore. Let’s draw our own Jurassic park into these hallway walls. I don’t like these new monsters I’m dealing with, they have teeth that eat away at my sleep. They don’t fade away easily, no matter how hard I rub at them. I’ve tried soaking them in something stronger than these bottles but they are always able to find me when I wake up.

If uncle Richie hadn’t called for that favour, and I hadn’t been quick to leave, my “I’ll be back in a minute” would never have meant you’d leave me forever. I still see your face looking up at me from the water. They were your eye but I knew you weren’t there. Your mother found us on the floor, I was holding you, robbed of my precious voice, my Princesa was now a story I’ve been repeating to empty room.

I’m Sorry!

Carlita, you’ll always be Papa’s little Angel. Watch over your mother and Abuela. I promise to see you soon.

Love

Papa

Him for Her

There was a cruel miscarriage of justice written in ash and embers. The amber glow of spent vigour twisted the vines that once hugged the old tree. Once brilliant with chlorophyll and teaming with life, the luminous veins were the symbol of a hope that lived before the sky summoned it’s executioner. Now ashen and frail they lay strewn amongst the blades of grass, robbed of vitality, bearing no semblance to there original beauty.

From the speckled screen of privilege, I was kept safe at a distance, watching the ruckus unfold. The storm would rile itself up with that thunderous call and response that claimed the stormy nights. The room would shake as the air, taught by the rain and imposing clouds, was cut clean by the limbs of lights that stretched down. Outside my looking pane, out of reach of the reality of it all, nature was claiming its dominion over nature. My mother told me that lightning never strikes the same place twice. I’ve heard the words repeated time and time again, now looking on at the remains of the old tree, smitten by the sky, I prayed the heavens would spare that patch of earth another bout of fury.

I can’t remember when it was that I stopped running from those thunderous claps. I never took note of the way the fear molded itself into fascination. I out grew the cowering and faced into the storm from the safety of my window. A veil clear enough to never hide whats there to see, but veil enough to to ensure I didn’t taste the sting of the moment.

The elements wear their emotions on there sleeves, never resigning themselves to the judgment of onlookers. The thunder has been praised and vilified, none of this had altered its readiness to do its bidding. Staring at the remains of the old tree I see that beauty has hidden bite, nature has hidden might, the sharp sparks of heaven could strike as marvelous, or touch upon earth with ugly hues of destruction. There is a pantomime of ether that will wind to unfold in unexpected endings, in unexpected beginnings, unexpected majesty and mourning.

 

 

There was a cruel a miscarriage of justice written in ash and embers. The amber glow of unchecked rage, rattled off in storms that ate away at her. Such jagged diction, then taken as norm, was gifted thoughtlessly until they touched on the sinews of that lone soul brave enough to stand tall in the open, weathering the storms.

I hate that I wasn’t the only one watching as another cloudy day claimed her smile as the hope that coursed her veins was claimed by thunder. Her voice was lost in the wash of a horse wind begging her to “Remember her place.”

“What place?” I thought.

Sadly I knew.

There are only so many storm that privilege can shelter me away from. With out the rain on my back I’m numb to the reality of the stand, I forfeit forever my watching post.

My sister. I will be counted in the forest that will grow around you. I will be there to stand by you when the world is all raindrops and fire. I will stand tall, rooted deeply, footing firm and far reaching so every storm will tread tentatively before washing the ground around you. She fights for her right to stand tall in the bitter air. She stands tall to outlive the roar of the witless lumberjacks chains, intent on binding her strength. I have watched those branches tapped for way too long, limbs leaking with majesty, bleeding your sustenance dry. Your crooked bark outlines the story that was written in silence, the broken Armour that recounts the nights fighting against the storm.

When the sky is all raindrops and fire, I promise to stand with you.

His Fathers Son

It was around that age

When young soldiers begin

To grab hold of the world around them

in hopes of moulding their wings,

That he was met with silence.

That echoes cackled,

Crackling against the walls

Of his mother’s house,

Whispering secrets that speak with

The knowledge of a world that

Lived Before the empty rooms and picture frames.

Before home was a safe space for two,

And he woukdnt think twice

about befriending the stranger half of his name.

You see

For Little man….

Father was “him”,

a string of tales told, then cut cold,

Once he was old enough to shoulder the hymns.

Hed follow the djinn

Into whirls of make believe

to prise the gospel of a ghost from the relics

That littered their home.

An old watch,

A broken guitar and

his mother’s broken smile.

She sang sweetness into a stale story of kinship.

Sip by sip

Offering peace

A lucid liquors of speach

To Blur the lines of a character

Long since removed from action

Too broken a fraction to make whole

Every story told

Seemed mightier than the man frozen behind the frames

Folded under her tongue was a name

She learned to handle with care.

She sang

A crooked verse.

She sang

To settle his soul.

Sang to settle his soles,

His feet,

Were teeth,

Chewing up ever mile of yarn she spun,

Pacing to piece together pictures

Of the world before the silence.

She sang to seal the silence.

Singing

Until the sliding scales of her fiction

Settled into soured notes

And silence choked her diction

A friction yoked her

victim to the boats we rock

When we venture out in search of new worlds

The sickness of a sea

Sewn into peaks and valleys

She would have gladly kept hidden.

But still,

He was always the last one dancing when the music stopped

Always the last one sipping at the bittersweet tonic,

Of a time gone by.

Not yet introduced to the weight of the morning after the fact.

His mother

mused in melodies fraught with confusion,

Tracing her notes with care to show his father was no illusion.

Yes his father always moving,

And its hard to pin down shooting stars,

Just to save him something to wish for.

The Cadences in her carry ons of this phantom faced kin,

We’re wild with dissonance,

clouding his innocence,

Sometimes

I think,

she thought

He was him.

Because

He has his eyes, they say,

He has his lies,

they say,

He has his,

spirit,

but there is nothing in it

Because he can’t remember his ways.

The man was a fugitive.

Always on the run.

Avoiding in laws, never involved in trials,

Slipping into the night seeking solace in gile,

he knew the exits well.

Exit wounds swelled with reasons for his

leaving and never knowing him well.

The cloak and dagger deviant, cut the holes in family ties.

He left a home that taught the bond that only family ties.

You see

For Little

Father was always “him”,

a string of tales, told, then cut cold,

When I was old enough to shoulder the hymns.

But

He will be always tied to his truth.

He is his father son,

And everyday I worry what that would means for him.

Because

He has MY eyes they say

But shouls he should have MY lies

They say he has MY spirit

But there is nothing in it

If I cannot show him the way.

I have paraded with patch work pride

So as to hide my broken half.

Walking the four corners

To fork honour

Into a mouth full of words I can share

With this budding king

Blood and kin of a fool

I wish I knew

How a jester can do just

To be a gesture of love and legacy.

He’s been looking for a father,

I have been looking for sense.

I have shattered so many memories

In his mother’s heart

Why would I wait and watch start

To paint his pride on they way I did.

Watch my seed twist into the crooked sun

Of his father fire

I am tired

Of watching broken men

Raising broken sons.

I am tired

I am broken

I am “Him”