I wear the blues on my sleeve
Sadness is my music
Grief is my dance
I will love you until you are blue
And it will touch you
Like no other colour.
I wear the blues on my sleeve
Sadness is my music
Grief is my dance
I will love you until you are blue
And it will touch you
Like no other colour.
When he said, let’s break everything, in the name of poetry –
We raised our glasses, rejoiced, repeated – and believed it
I did not expect you to then turn around and break me.
But that invitation did occur to me
Especially when you said you needed to break free
People say that I make sweeping statements
Be careful of what you wish for
And don’t tempt fate
The goddesses are angry and they don’t take prayers lightly
When you swept me up into your promise
I was ready to believe
All the letters and messages and emails and gifts
I accepted them like a first kiss
I did not want to resist
I wanted to digest you
Fill my belly with the meat of you
Let your flesh combine with mine
If only on the off chance that your flesh would heal me
Feed me with all the good stuff that my body needed to stay alive
You promised to keep me healthy
I was scared but I asked – what do you want from me?
This broken body has very little to offer to a person who has had their awakening
But when you flattered me with your love
I drowned in the possibility
That I could potentially be
You’re breaking point.
God did not reveal herself only to leave me alone
She met me there to show me that conversations are a two way street
That religion is not spirituality but faith
And faith cannot be broken by a broken heart alone
Or even a very bad fight
And even though words are violent
Sometimes I feel that speaking them is better than remaining silent
Love is a war fought only between lovers
Love is a battlefield, Pat.
I cannot fight if there is no love to fight for
I would not struggle without something to struggle for
I would not want to die less there was something to die for
When I said – let’s break everything
I heard the crack of the bone in your chest
And I wanted to smash my hand into my own
To pluck out, not that stupid Apple, but a bone
To support us both as we caved into the weight of
The unbearable lightness of our being.
Freedom is a kayak floating, alone on a silent dark lake flooded with fullmoon light
Freedom is a kayak floating
Freedom is a kayak
Freedom is floating
Freedom is a lake
Freedom is the night
Freedom is the moon
Freedom is silent
Freedom is silence
But silence speaks with midnight whispers softly across wooden jetties
Bathing blue crystals for eternity’s sake, for healing
Or on the post- it note silence passes to me.
It reads – I’m so proud of you for coming this far.
And then another – The stars were so beautiful this morning. Meet me at the same place tomorrow before dawn.
I folded the note tightly, put it on my bedside table and set my alarm clock.
When just before dawn I woke up to the alarm bell,
Fearing I had missed her,
Maybe she wouldn’t be there,
I hurried to the jetty and there she was.
I was so ecstatic and relieved
I said – Good Morning!
At first she ignored me, as silence tends to do.
Trying to impress her, engage her, remind her I was there,
Pointing, I said – Look, a shooting star!
She nodded, then hushed me like a baby.
She later left me another note in my room.
It read – You talk too much. Just let it be.
That night I paddled the kayak, alone, floated it out onto the silent dark lake flooded with fullmoon light and I cried, like a new born baby.
Once upon a time, before cities, and roads, and television and the Internet, before amusement parks and cinemas, fast food restaurants, before radio or even music, before animals or you or me there was Air and there was Earth.
In the beginning there was heaven and there was hell. There was the sky above and the earth below.
But even before all that was…
Under the cover of darkness, the black limousine pulled up to the curb and I got in with my small suitcase. As the car drove off, my eyes slowly getting used to the night, I realized I was not alone. The flare of passing streetlights revealed them both to me: a woman and a man.
“Hello Elaine.” The woman spoke.
A woman in her late 70s was dressed in a conservatively black but yet stylish dress, her straight hair cut to shoulder showing her grey. Her neck revealed a small pearl necklace. From her wrist, a jeweled bracelet hung tightly, like hand cuffs.
The man, still sitting in the shadows, said nothing.
I checked my phone for messages. I suddenly wanted to call someone, home, a loved one?
“You’re phone is blocked. It’s for your own safety.”
The limo raced through the empty streets, a pair of motorcyclists in dark helmets rode tandem closely.
“Do you know who we are?” She spoke again.
“I suppose not.” She said and after a beat, “I suspect you don’t know who you are much less who we are.”
I struggled with my phone as the battery died. Trying to relax, I leaned back into the leather seat. Staring out the window, the shadows now appeared like apparitions.
A sense of urgency suddenly came over me. I wished the car would go faster.
She read my mind.
“Don’t worry. We’re taking you to a safe house.” She said.
There was much to fear and nothing at all. I felt safe. There was so much at stake. I could feel it.
“You need protection.”
Who am I?
“You are very special. You are not at you but a living truth and your truth must be revealed.”
What is the truth?
“You are my dear.”
Why is the truth in danger?
“The truth is always in danger.”
How will it be revealed?
“The truth will be revealed through your flesh. Through your flesh people will be able to see.”
Does the truth hurt?
“Yes dear, the truth does indeed hurt, doesn’t it?”
I pressed my hand to my aching chest, the chronic heartburn I had endured most of my life, the constant catching of breath?
Why does it hurt?
“Because it is more than most people can take. That ache in your chest is more than just personal pain and suffering, it is an immense ocean of love and grief, of life and death, of endings and beginnings, the infinite, the universal crushed down into one being, one organ, one atom, one word – one.”
“You do not have a heart. You have a whole.”
Something huge was imploding in my chest as she spoke, expanding as I tried to breathe in. I felt the black hole begin to consume me from the inside.
Soon we would all just be particles.
Breathe you in
Was this the beginning or the end?
“This is most definitely a beginning. Try to breathe normally. It will only hurt more if you try to hold it in.”
Let go. Let go. Let it all go.
As a child, I found calm in holding my breath under water that I would do it all the time.
“You can’t stop it. Just try to breathe.”
The importance of breath – all I want is to breathe.
Hyperventilating, I pressed down the window. The wind was still. I gasped for air.
Where are we now?
“We are moving.” She said.
We are constantly moving, backwards and forwards.
Outside the limo, the streets all looked the same, like being in a loop, a spinning loop in time.
What will happen when it explodes?
“Then there will be light.”
There were no stars in the sky that night.
Without light there is no reflection.
Taking hold of my hand and leaning into me, she whispered, “The stars can’t shine without you, Elaine”
A tidal wave of love suddenly overwhelmed me, and as I gripped her hand more tightly, love flooded all around us, drowning my face, and my hands as I tried to cover my tears.
The woman pulled the mask from my face, I dropped my hands to my lap.
“Don’t be afraid to show what you are.”
I am everything.
Outside the window the world began to blur out into speed trails.
“We won’t make it to the safe house,” the woman said to the man. He nodded.
I think it’s very hard to centre yourself in a relationship because things are constantly changing with two individuals trying to live their own lives independently at the same time as trying to be in one life, together.
How should you live in one life together?
What is this yearning to live one life?
the world is indeed a wondrous place.
as your words cut me
I do bleed
But it is not me that bleeds
But my ego
Because nothing can hurt the universal me
I know the you that you know is hurting
and that my words hurt you too
and even though the intention is not to hurt
we do because words are like paper cuts
shallow but excruciating
i see you
and through you
and pray to the goddesses that one day
you will see yourself
as i see you
i see you as you are
everything that hurts
and it hurts to be you
and it hurts to be me
words cannot understand
that you in me
and i know you prayed for this
and i know your prayers were not in vain
or ego stained
and i know you wanted to be
as i wanted to be you
the thing is
we are already
remember your prayers
the goddesses were very generous when they said yes
but they cannot abide by ungratefulness and laziness
i know now
abundant and beautiful
has a shadow
nothing is given freely
this is the nature of the universe
all things need balance and must be appreciated
i am blessed
to the recklessness of my habits
and to the truth in my heart
do not mistaken your suffering as mistakes
they are simply reminders
that you do not exist
only the universe does
and it exists at her generous will.
the cloud is not me
your soul does not hate me
only the ego hates
to be destroyed is the most painful transformation
but it is inevitable
i am suffering
i know you know how this feels
i cry everyday for my old self
it is physically unbearable
but I know now
I know now
I know now
that this end, this destruction
is a prayer waiting to be fulfilled
a wish wanting to be granted
to set the universe in its rightful balance.
July 25th, 2000
San Mateo, San Francisco
Conrado is my new friend. Found him on North Beach. He is a photographer. His friend is from Brazil or maybe he is. He offers me his name, it’s free, I take it and give back mine. It’s a fair trade. We trade stories. My life, his life, their lives, only little bits. Highlights, City Lights, Insights. A photographer, eh, what do you like taking pictures of, I ask as he snaps and steals my image. I’ll never see that again. I can’t help but react. How to be yourself? They laugh. Brazil is obviously used to the attention, Conrado’s got an exhibition on in Vesuvio’s/ It’s a nice pub, just across from that famous book store, Laurence Ferlenghetti’s. Beatnik, Beat Poet, Beat Generation filling station. One by one I meet the North Beach Mafia, Jerry an Irish man, his friend wears a baret which comes from Basque. He shows me it’s many uses. It’s a versatile black hat worn by a Sicilian elder. He lights my cigarette with matches that he owns but he himself doesn’t smoke. Nobody smokes around here. What is with California? It’s freezing, the wind’s picked up and outside Puccini’s Cafe my cappuccino has gone cold, the froth has sunken. The Sicilian begins to rant – what is art? What is Talent? Because I tell him about this exhibition I saw at MOMO earlier on that day. Bill Viola – 25 years Retrospective, video artiste. That’s not art, I could have done that. That’s what they all say. Concepts, it’s all to do with concepts, I insist slightly playing Devil’s Advocate. He begins to tell a story about a guy who made copies of famous works of art. He copied Van Gaugh’s with some success, like Midnight Cafe and the Japanese owned Sunflowers. Now that’s talent, he exclaims. I couldn’t do that!
“If you get irritated with every rub, how can you expect to shine?” ~ Rumi
Behind the streets in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro children sing and play to an African infused drum beat. Forever immortalised in Fernando Meirelles’s film, City of God, a stylish but extremely critical look at violence and crime in the slums, the favellas are reality for a large portion of Brazil’s population. Like in so many other societies the blackest and poorest are pushed to the extremities of life, left to fend for themselves. This is a place where a subculture of music, martial arts and dance can nurture and grow: enter capoeira.
In Brazil, the acrobatics and music were once used by Angolan slaves to disguise combat training while their oppressive masters thought they were just dancing. Five hundred years on capoeira has remained a past time mostly for the poor and black peoples of Brazil until recently that is, say the last 30 years, where it is now indulged by the whiter middle classes.
Far from being mainstream but potentially extremely marketable, Capoeira is Brazil’s answer to all those East Asian ass kicking/spiritually guiding martial arts as endorsed by the Karate Kid, Bruce Lee, Crouching Tiger, Mortal Combat and the like.
Little is known about this incredibly spirited acrobatic dance perhaps because it does not appeal to our western tastes for instant enlightenment. It is not immediately recognisable as one thing or another, game or fight, dance or sport and it cannot be understood simply as one ideology or religion or philosophy, but it is quite obviously a cult and perhaps just too ‘ethnic’ for most palattes. Players of capoeira, for example often describe their mestre’s as great thinkers and the game itself, in terms of a metaphor for life and most popularly, as a ‘conversation’ between two individuals, one where you need to listen to survive and learn.
Two quite distinct styles have emerged with very separate ideologies but what binds them together is Mestre Bimba. Bimba is taken to be the father of modern capoeira and has always been passionately committed to capoeira’s musical traditions; the playing of the berimbau (capoeira instrument), bandero (tambourine) and atabaque (big drum).
With his guidance and deep understanding of the traditions, Bimba has helped capoeira evolve into its current duality.
Also integral to the practice of capoeira is the oral tradition. The songs are just as, if not more important than, the actual dancing because it creates the atmosphere, or, as they say in capoeira, the energy. Without this energy of song coming from the singers and instruments the game could not exist. They are simple and naive songs but often tell tales of oppression and joy and sometimes they simply express the players’ love for the game. And like the exaggerated and mythologised Big Fish story, capoeirista will always have one or two to impart upon his fellow capoeirista, be it a tale of a great game once played or a story contributing to it’s lively history.
We can already see capoeira’s influences on contemporary culture in break dancing where many of the moves are directly inspired by capoeira ones (or vice versa) and of course, like capoeira and it’s traditional songs, break dancing would not exist if it weren’t for the unbreakable bond it has with hip hop music, a style of music also forged out of a reckless and hapless urban landscape
Capoeira is spreading as an emerging international fitness trend. Capoeira schools can be found all over the world. Scotland, England, France, and Amsterdam among many many others can all boast groups of their own which are both healthy in size and talent. And that’s just Europe. Look on the internet, type in capoeira and you will find a plethora of capoeira groups as far a field as Malaysia, all crying out for some kind of recognition and integration with other better known schools.
Capoeira is all encompassing but not (yet) consuming as it seeks to include and intervene. Even on the shores of a Moroccan beach you can find a small but significant roda (the circle in which you play). Even there a group of men join each other everyday at sunset to exchange capoeira tales and skills which they may have picked up once from a passing Scottish or maybe Israeli, the foreigner subsequently becoming their master.
They know very little but it is enough to have a game, play and have fun. With the odd back flip and to the beat of a drum, a cartwheel and a kick are woven together in the continuous seamless movement of two agile bodies flipping and spinning in the sand.
Coming full circle, capoeira is now being used as a tool for social integration and inclusion. Trainers are recognising capoeira’s potential to intervene and help mend fractured communities especially those marginalised ones. Capoeira may be a cool lifestyle trend to some of us but to the majority oppressed, it remains, as it was originally conveived, a fight for freedom.
“Are you Malaysian?”
“No. My mother is.”
“So you can speak BM. It is your mother tongue?”
“Uh, no. English is.”
“You don’t speak your mother tongue?”
What is my mother tongue?
I have my mother’s tongue. I speak with it – forceful and opinionated, emotional and irrational, loud and intimidating. It was not my first language, though. I learned to speak it after many years of listening to her talking. My father’s tongue is far less passionate, but strong and sure all the same. I can speak his tongue too, but it takes far more effort and practice, more awareness. I guess that makes me bi-lingual.
Language is such an odd concept. Having to learn to find a way to communicate with others so they can understand you and vice versa. Not knowing someone else’s language is of course a huge disadvantage. But often others don’t see it that perhaps it’s they who don’t understand yours. Language is political. People use or don’t use it to make statements, gain power and control. Being able to speak someone else’s language can illicit either derision or gratitude. Being able to speak only a little can provoke ridicule and hate. As if just because I cannot speak your language fluently, that makes me a fool?
Whose mother’s land is this anyway? Whose tongue did you learn to talk with? What is your mother tongue? I’m sure most mothers would not be proud of the words that usually come from our mouths. That is not a language she ever spoke.