when the sound of my own breathing reaches my ears. and my skin is warm. and time attaches itself to my brain. vulnerable. i am my most, here. now. inside sheets reeking of aging dreams and dying hope. there’s too much valley here. when do i start climbing?
Sometime last August, I was contacted by a colleague writer to share my art process and the importance of the narrative with a group of students, as part of the Nkabom Literary Festival 2017. Knowing myself and how lowkey I am/try to be, the first word that came to mind was FLEE. The second word that came to mind was WHY. Then HOW. And then WHAT. The questions kept rushing into my head and I started to think up all excuses so the cup could pass me over. I thought, “how can I share something I haven’t mastered?” No, I haven’t mastered the art of writing, I’m not sure I ever will. I continue to learn and practice every day. But then I also thought, maybe I don’t have to master the art before I can share with others. We can learn together. We can all learn to be lit at this writing distin.
I woke up that Saturday thinking of what I was going to say and how I was going to say it. I said to a friend, “I want you to go with me, but I don’t want you to be there”. It sounded pretty stupid, I know.
When I was asked what materials I needed for my session, I simply said, “Well, it’s just going to be a discussion, nothing formal”.
That was exactly what it was – a very constructive 2 hours (?) of my Saturday morning with art lovers talking various forms of creative art and the industry in Ghana.
In the end, I was grateful I made it.
Now, here’s why I feel it is imperative that we tell our stories.
- Storytelling is identity. Just as what you say can reflect who you are inside, what you write reflects who you are on the page. It is self. One’s own distinctiveness.
- Storytelling is continuity. Anything that has an identity needs to be etched into history. Without you, your story won’t be told. Your voice matters, and by telling your stories, you are giving them longevity.
- Storytelling is activism. It is involvement. When we write poetry, or whatever, we are taking an action, a stand. We are telling people about something they didn’t know about, or reiterating something they didn’t quite understand or grasp before, or something that has been there all this while but they’ve been failing to notice, we may even be telling people about the little things happening all around them – the joy, the anger, the injustice, the love, the cultures and traditions.
- Storytelling is your truth. Tell your truth how you want it to be told. How it actually is.
- Storytelling is the memory and the mirror. It is history and the future, present in whatever art form you take on. Be it poetry, fiction, painting, photography or music.
Do you agree?
your first love’s
tattooed on your heart
and it burns, still burns
like it was just yesterday
they decided to be fire
instead of water.
How many more scars
do you need on your body
to remind you of the existence
of some dark place?
To remind you to not
stray too far
To not bring along people
whose hands cannot build home
or hold one down?
While you’re painting survival
with your blood and tears,
do not forget that this war you fight
began with your permission
and will end only when you decide
that you have seen enough
of your own blood being collected.
“Our minds love sound. Our minds remember sound. Our minds recreate sound.”
Nothing you want will ever come easy. Why don’t you go back into time, think, was there anything you really wanted, truly wanted, badly wanted, that was just handed over to you – that was just uprooted from its pre-designed space in this world and planted in your hands like a gift, just like that? No.
You ought to know, by now, that things do not work this way. Things do not arrange themselves or shift themselves or package themselves in this manner. Something has to move them. Something has to touch them. Something has to brush against them that will cause an alteration, a change in position, belonging, and ownership.
Things don’t just happen, you have to make them happen, and if you think you cannot make them happen because you lack the expertise, or that you are undeserving of the re-positioning of things, then you have to create an atmosphere for you to deserve it. You have to create an existence of the want and tell your mind about it. You have to tell your mind that you deserve it. That you want it. That you’ve been waiting for it. You have to make your mind hear you speak.
There’s something about sound. Our minds love sound. Our minds remember sound. Our minds recreate sound. Take the sounding of a bell for instance. It rings and rings and rings so that even when it’s no longer ringing you can hear it. You think you can hear it. Or even the buzzing of a mosquito or a large green disgusting housefly. It whizzes past your ear; makes that irritating sound that makes you bend your head sideways. Still, seconds and minutes after it’s gone, you can hear the buzz, even feel it such that you want to fan your ear.
The mind is an interesting thing. Perhaps we should encourage people to speak more to themselves instead of leaving that aspect to be explored only by those roaming naked on our streets. But of course, it actually depends on what you’re telling yourself.
there’s a way you hang on to words
even after the last letter has escaped the lips
even after the last pause
even after the last exhale
that is you being expectant
that somehow the lie will be given up
and the truth will, for once, make an appearance
and when it doesn’t
when it dawns on you
how much you’ve always known this person
there’s also this way you look at them
some i-told-myself-so jumps up from within you
your insides are on fire
you begin to think of the many definitions of a fool
beginning with you.
War is raging in your body
Oppression of all sorts under your skin
The same that tore your mother down
and your sisters, too.
The same that will break your daughters
because you have not been taught how to love yourself
but everything outside of your own.
down to your birthskin and into immersion,
water resuscitated all of your unjustified guilt.
Bathroom mirrors scrutinized more than just your upper body
And you lost
Crumpled to pieces at your own reflection
– not enough strength to pull yourself from the shame
Not enough will you hold your head high
and look you in the face.
You have long made excuses for this repression
Worn it like a crown upon your head
Adorned it with your diamond tears
Even given it face
Given it home inside your most sacred places.
But if you will wake
Give yourself some of this love you give to others
You will find an army sitting inside of you
ready to help you extract freedom from any kind of oppression
You will be done fighting
Because you will love
And you will heal.
Your walls will go up again.
And this time you will swear it.
You will swear to keep them standing.
You will swear to protect yourself.
You won’t break like tired wood.
You won’t fall.
Your bridges won’t burn
because there will be none – no crossing to the other side.
No marching against yourself.
You will surrender to yourself.
You will belong to you.
Not to the promises.
Not to the waiting.
Not to the wishing.
Not to the lonely nights,
or the dying lights.
Not to self-destructing habits.
Not to people who aren’t or things that aren’t.
Not to what you’ve lost
or what you will never gain.
You will be yours now.
Yours to guard.
Yours to defend.
Yours to secure.
You will come home, to rebuild.
Like adrenaline pump life. Make us woke.
In just enough time to do foolish things.
Because one-night stands are stories we swear to never repeat
Until our bodies catch feelings and we attempt to burn evidence of it
In several wild sexcapades.
There is something about a person needing several shots of it.
Before sanity scrapes the folly off their eyes.
You’re alone in this bubble and it’s going to burst. Run.
But you can’t.
The last of it hits you.
As if you’re anesthetized and time contains you.
In a room that feels that like it’s just been torched.
Your stomach turns. And crumples. And kneads
Like the diarrhea it announces when you’re anxious or too nervous.
Only this time there’s less physical awkwardness
And the pain coming is from a place beyond the soul.
On its own it triggers bearable harm.
What makes it insufferable is the thought that we ourselves, might have been guilty of giving it all the venom it needed to destroy us.
Like when I thought I could love you enough for the two of us.
To balance out this rollercoaster relationship.
This, fucking love.