Kalahari Review Igby Prize Submission – “Kings And Queens“
Dear black boy,
I know they segregated your mind to swag, hip-hop and culture. I know they taught you how to rap before you could read. I know your new album confirms your indoctrination. I know your high is not of God, but of the leaf. I know, deep down, that you believe. I know you lose sleep over the dreams you stopped chasing. I know the blood on your shirt means you pulled the trigger. Or is that from fighting the police? I know you sag your jeans as a metaphor. I know your self-esteem hangs much lower than that. I know your “drip” is an ocean of pretense. I know your “ice” is the element you traded your soul with. I know you know how to love a woman, but can’t afford to be seen as less of a man. I know they say black men make poor fathers. I know your father was hardly a man. How could he take care of two sons and his only daughter? I know you know, you can end the cycle. I know you know, that you can escape the prison bars of a limiting narrative. I know you know, because I am you.
another black boy.
I am sorry about your abuse. I am sorry that your uncles forced themselves into you. I am sorry you were too young to fight – too naive to recognize your captivity. I am sorry the bedroom walls turned to prison bars. I am sorry they took their turn on you. I am sorry your screams couldn’t shake the trauma — ricocheting back to your ears in surrender. Where was God then? Or Jesus? I am sorry you lost your faith before you even found it.
Your father chose not to believe you. Your father read the newspaper. As you knelt on the floor begging to be heard. Your father flipped the pages. As you spoke of his brothers. As you suffocated to the memories. Your loss of innocence. Your father jaded your soul. With his disbelief. Killing you softly. With his ignorance. Killing you softly. With his silence. Your father chose not to see the scars. Or the blood. Or the torn apart clothes. Or the arch in your back. Or the pain in your large, beautiful Yoruba eyes. Your father called you a “little whore” for lying. For speaking evil on his brothers. Your father. Your father taught you to apologize.
For being raped.
You found out, years later, that your father sold you. He said your body was never yours to begin with. He died without apologizing. He died, and you found the strength to attend his funeral. You refused to give the eulogy. You let the silence sit with his soul.
May his soul burn in eternal hell.
Your lover kisses your forehead. Your lover recites your name like a sensual poem. Akanni – your legs tremble. Akanni – your loins are filled with fire. Your lover kisses your lips. He knows your rhythm. Slow, yet intense. Your lover is a master at loving you. And you love that about him. He parts your legs. Gentle, yet firm. He caresses your thighs with his hands. Your chest arches. Consumed by desire. Consumed by fantasies about to be fulfilled. Yet. Yet you stop him. Before it goes too far. Before the pinnacle of lust. You tell him of your past. Of your uncles. Of your father. He knows. This not the first you have told him this. He knows. And he is tired. Of rejection. Of waiting. Of not being a father.
Your lover begins to rage. Fire rolls off his tongue. Like Satan’s wrath. You place your hand on his chest. You try to consul him. And gloriously fail. He… he calls you an “old whore”. A woman your age should be grateful to find someone – he says. He calls your body a graveyard. Of love. And hopes. And dreams. The bedroom walls turn to prison bars. Your lover escapes. And you remain captive – to a past you could not control.
my type of love.
thrones your body.
king to your desires.
my type of love.
holds your neck hostage.
love bites to release you,
my type of love.
lingers on the tongue.
my type of love.
isn’t just about sex.
closure for the soul.
eye to eye.
into our little universe.
into — us.
my type of love.
gives a fuck.
plays on the dangerous.
toxic, yet intoxicating.
my type of love.
my type of love.
loves only a certain type.
The face of my forefathers.
men that smoked polygamy once.
and forgot to exhale.
men that –
– like fine wine.
between their tongues.
women that –
– with both hands.
as if forcing a prayer.
into their children’s existence.
as if our lips.
– knew God.
as if we could empty
– the pain.
of father’s mistakes.
of men like.
with petroleum for fingers.
women touched –
– between their thighs.
– sweaty nights.
– other women.
– emotional tides.
– sons like.
– fire extinguishers.
– putting out.
– mothers burning.
– from your.
Everyday, I watch the quiet rising of the sun, and arrive home just in time for it’s setting. I enjoy the cycle; the motion of light and darkness that reminds me that one day, I too, will be resting as the sun — cold, dead and remembered only for the light that used to be my soul.
John Updike’s once said: Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead.So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?
I share his frame; in that death is as common as the breath we take, but I fear this negates the biggest problem of them all: the choices we make in the face of it.
We sleep eight hours a day, engage in the same deprecating thoughts, slave through tedious jobs to earn a living, only to pass at night for another eight hours; and dream of electric sheep. If we be so lucky as to inherit my grandfather’s genes, we would all live up to the age of sixty; that’s a fine twenty years spent unconscious, and entangled in formless mirages.
Do you not realise, friend, that over hundred thousand people pass every day? Do you not see death’s hands in the passing of time? In the hymns of history?
Remember your mortality; remember that nothing separates you from the bounty of death — and live wisely.
The price of anything, fortunate or not, lies in the amount of life given into it.
Do you feel anxious when you use the bathroom with someone else? Are you the type to keep their shirt on at a pool party? You used your college savings to impress Kathy on a hot date? Do you cross the street to avoid that homeless dude, Al? Are you afraid of adding more salt to your mother’s frothing soup?
If you answered yes to all of these — congratulations! I write this to say; you strongly need some sense. Your spineless self may also be happy to hear, you aren’t alone — in fact, the whole world is filled with an army of self conscious, ever uptight Joes with carrots up their nether regions — they call themselves — society. You are nothing but a spitting image of good ol’ social conditioning.
Now, before you argue it’s all reasonable and scientific, Einstein — let me sit down first. Your ear-shuttering thesis probably falls in the line: we act in such a way to procure a social status; procreate with someone who can either maintain or uplift this — never demise, and start a family so that our genes stay on the brim of survival. Any faulty behaviour, say drinking late with your pals when you are student president, could ruin this. Your social devaluing will, ultimately, be the death of you.
This is completely accurate, in the sense that most people live with this mental bias; even some of the people reading this, but it’s also nonsensical — in that history decides to remember the exact opposite.
Let’s skip fifty years into your conformist lifestyle; your bones are white and dried up, and there goes Julie, your seventy year old wife, about to give an opening eulogy: Jimmy was such an incredible man. He never spoke during dinner and paid his taxes on time. He never argued with those closest to him, and never asked for a raise either. He lived a good life.
— sounds just about exciting as the detergent advert I’m watching. Will miss you, Jimmy!
I’ll go out of my way here and say, you probably should pay your taxes on time; the point lies in that there’s nothing exciting about Jimmy’s life — or Jimmy himself for that matter. He never stood for anything, never challenged the very fabric of his ambitions, and most likely, never made passionate love to his wife — I mean, thirty plus years of marriage and that’s all she could say? Jesus.
I’m not saying be a Malcolm X and burn the mall down because your maths says there’s more white than black shoppers; but I am saying free yourself from the paradigm of how to live — in whatever way is meaningful to you.
Be comfortable in a bathroom full of strangers — your body is the eighth luxurious wonder; shake it off! Take your shirt off at the pool party, or don’t. Tell Kathy you have five dollars on you right now, then kiss her hard. Give Al, the homeless dude, some warm food; tell him he’s worth so much more.
And for god’s sake, add some salt to that soup — the soup that is your frothing life.
“The self is a style of being, continually expanding in a vital process of definition, affirmation, revision, and growth, a process that is the image, we may say, of the life process of a healthy society itself.” ~ Warren Robert Penn Warren.
If, my younger self were to inquire from me what is constant of life, I would be absolute in saying, firstly — nothing, lastly — change; then laugh at the simplicity of this paradox. The beauty of life, at times, lies in the endless plateaus of growth that must be climbed — for one begins to shed away any weakness, in the pursuit of the perfect, indefinite power that is creator.
In ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, Carol Dweck notes the presence of two types of mindsets: i. fixed and ii. growth mindset. The fixed mindset conceives everything to be of a static nature: “if I was raised slow in thought, surely I can never be an intellectual.” He then, after a many half-hearted attempts, stops seeking in order to maintain this rigid sense of self. This is the boss without any plans, the friend who refuses read and the president that never steps down from power. Those of a growth mindset are entirely different creatures — these are the scientists, the philosophers, the renaissance men that dared to invent, and of course, the daily readers.
You must be quick to notice, that the fixed mindset denies the most concise and perhaps, in my regards, the most potent of life laws — the law of growth, which culminates itself as change. Ultimately, if one chooses not to grow; one denies life and, due to consequence, one must die — in body, mind and spirit.
True personal transformation comes then, from the willingness to accept this, and to persistently improve — upon your ideas, behaviours and perception !
“Indeed, one of the highest pleasures is to be more or less unconscious of one’s own existence, to be absorbed in interesting sights, sounds, places, and people. Conversely, one of the greatest pains is to be self-conscious, to feel unabsorbed and cut off from the community and the surrounding world.” — Alan W Watts
It is timeless wisdom that, to be fully present. My old dog barks every time he looks in the mirror, and I always chuckle at his absurdity; “How could he be so ignorant, as to not realize self?” Yet, when I too, stare blankly into the mirror, I am reminded of the same inner struggle.
You have come to know and hunger for the feeling that mother nature endows upon you: the kiss of wind on your face, the peace of early morning and the mysticism of a full moon. I am estranged, as to how mother nature cocoons her gift to us; the gift to dissolve human error.
As my pen strikes this, I realize self consciousness is a darkly cancer, one that defiles your interconnectedness with the universe — leaving you to fight for survival, or wear unpronounced clothing to justify your self worth. It takes courage, admittedly, to step outside of self.
My dog is now rolling in the dirt; and for a moment, I escape my endless stream of thoughts. He stares slightly into my gaze, and in a moment; I shift uneasily to his timeless wisdom — breathe, and be fully present.
You are unconscious of what you don’t know, so you believe in opinions. I am pleased with the epiphany, that this is why children frighten us; in the way they question our deepest convictions with such unnerving curiosity — wide eyed they ask, “Why’s the sky blue?”, and you realize you have lived twenty years without knowing yourself.
Sadly, this is the condition of the tired and eerie creature named adult (or any human being for that matter); he puts the sugar in his cup first before the boiling water, sends his children to school to learn things he has long forgotten nor care to revise, and watches reality shows at the dismissal of his only and unforgiving life.
The journey for answers to him is unbearable — a test of character he fears may disillusion his very sense of self. In fact, he despises it so much so that he exchanges misconceptions for truth: Buddha, my dear friends, was not obese; medieval Europeans never believed the Earth was flat (to the contrary), and Napoleon Bonaparte was not short. This, of course, is but a euphemism for our inability to ‘think’ — in the truest sense of the word.
Evolutionary science would have it, that we form opinions in order to direct most of our attention towards more demanding tasks. In fact, the Nobel Memorial Prize recipient Daniel Kahneman defines this rather simply, that there two types of thinking. Type (1) is the fast and unconscious form — you know, how you tie your shoelaces without much thought of it. Type (2) is of a slower and more conscious form.
We have opinions then, to flee from the light of conscious thinking; even if it means forming a biased perception of someone else, or anything else for that matter. What scares you the most? — the demand of time and effort needed to find truth or truth himself?
It goes without saying, that much of our thoughts are but opinions — till proven otherwise. Unfortunate, it stands to seem, that the vast immemorial of the opinions we have of ourselves are of a negative connotation, and given enough time — these solidify into beliefs.
I, therefore, urge you to start thinking.