The Long Journey To Claiming Books

I was brought up to treat books as sacred. They were a source of knowledge. You get your education and you’d have choices in life. You’d move on in the world. Have a better life than your parents before you.

Books were the gateway into this Paradise.

Each week, we would walk into town from our maisonette, along the busy dual carriageway. Once in town, we’d go to the market, to the one book stall and pick out a book. They were the tradition fairy tales with pictures and text.

If not them, then Enid Blyton books. For some reason, I felt the importance of books and the connection of them to my dad. He’d read us bedtime stories and I’d just love to be in his presence then. As he was softer and loving. Different from the angry man he was at all other times.

For some reason, who knows what goes through a child’s mind, I took to doodling in one of these fairy tale books. I want to say it was Snow White, but I could wrong.

A whole heap of scribbles and doodles took over the pages of this book. Why use the book when I had plenty of blank white paper? As I said who knows what goes through a child’s mind.

I just know that my father found the book and shouted at me with rage. And beat me. I’d done something wrong. I’d ruined the book. I’d ruined my chances of getting on in the world. I’d gone against the unwritten rule( or was a spoken one?) around how to respect books.

Older now, I hunt for books. I buy my own books. I read then. Some I don’t. Some I keep or give away. And some I purposefully, consciously make the decision to repurpose. Reclaim them.

I tear out pages and I cut these up. I smear paint on the pages left in the book. I stick images in them, tape, stickers. And yes I write in them. I write out my hopes and fears. My desires and dreams. My memories and traumas.

I think I was brought up right. To treat books as sacred. But it’s what you do with those books that count, I think. And a book has multiple uses/ purposes. I think. Multiple ways and means of instilling knowledge and opportunities and freedom.

It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point of choices. But I claim them all.

Under the Pink Moon, The Procession Thrums with Memories of Blossom

The Procession, 2022, Hew Locke

After Hew Locke. After Taylor Johnson

My father would say so much with his eyes and hands. Sitting up in his burgundy armchair like a thorn. He would dress in waistcoat and trilby to walk up the road to the bookies on blossom warm afternoons. And when he was gone, I waited in his shadow for his sing-song step to return up the stairs. And when he didn’t return, I sat there lost like our place in history and the world.

Something was wrong when I left the country. Heart tight, sorrow crawling through the blood. Leaving meant joining an age-old tradition, down dusty roads at the crack of dawn. Humid bodies, sweat mingling fear, ebb and flow red blue and green paints. Thrumming bass behind the truck. Before us, lined streets, roped between black and white bodies. We whine to claim space.

I love the freedom assembled lines give. Celebrate, protest, mourn, and escape: The Procession. My father who packed away home in his grip on arrival; was Roberta Flack who set off a smile. I was left to shift between the gap and practice owning something around blackness. I had a feeling I would never be enough. There are times of melting, with the turn of a record, under a pink moon, when there is so much beauty to live, when I recount memories of love tucked inside.

The Terzanelle – The Gaze

Too often we refuse to gaze
on something unpleasant to see.
Rubs against us all the wrong ways.

I don’t like to see an oak tree,
feel my neck snap. And my heart breaks
when there ‘s something unpleasant to see.

My words, a soundtrack for those taken;
blackmen whipped, flesh-eating scars, pain,
felt my neck snap and my heart broken.

Dead eyes and flashbulb smiles at the slain.
Who wants to look at these photographs?
Black guys, whipped, flesh-eating scars, pain.

Who has to deal with the aftermath
of bodies reshaped by tragedy?
Who wants to look at these photographs?

Callous grins surround,
too often we refuse to look.
Their bodies reshaped by tragedy
rubs us up the wrong way.

7 Reasons Why …

“ I dwell in possibility…”. – Emily Dickinson

7 reasons why me and alcohol are simply not a match any longer: –

1. In case of emergencies and who knows when there might be another one, I don’t want to be incapacitated because of having a drink.

2. Drinking alcohol no longer brings me joy.

3. Lately, I’ve been using alcohol to gain courage and gumption therefore showing up and not being genuine.

4. Alcohol is a gateway to other destructive behaviours and actions.

5. I’m no longer tasting it, really tasting it.

6. It’s been getting earlier and earlier in the day when I start drinking alcohol.

7. I’m drinking for all the wrong reasons.

When the wife leaves Without closing the door

In the shape of a tree,

my scar is painted with code.

Through the letting of blood, I wait

for the sound of my screams.

But what I do not plan for

is the mashed up sycamore spinners,

the trampled copper conkers

and the singed bramble bushes.

Graceless and broken,

I get high on the thoughts

of owning myself; the plumage

of starlings embroidered

on an intimate mind. 

running free

Climbing trees, juicy mangoes

pliant flesh and ashy elbows

to be running free through the long grass

and burrs sticking to legs, gaze widening

no thought for shiny brown skin

causing hate, no thought for others

just green

Englishness

white starched lace dress

sweat between breasts

so out of place it’s painful

at one time, just exotic plants

traced on paper, here

they touch their wide glossiness

English paleskins

burning red

intruders but still

the belief of ownership

I learn to watch, watch and learn,

to stay safe, to stay alive

I know them better than themselves

and yet I’m the primitive one,

the spicy savage

a transaction in their day.

All of Nature is Connected

In case you’re a kid who doesn’t have the right equipment,
and just in case you’re growing too big for your bones and
have to walk around in second-feet shoes,

take a moment to nestle in the autumn chilled grass,
lean in close, breathe in the slack conker smell and squint.
You might not have a magnifying glass but you can still

recognise kin. Ladybirds, beetles and ants.
Creatures of the earth. Overlooked and taken for granted,
caretake as you learn to nurture yourself into bloom.