My Memory’s Shadow
“…an unreliable shadow of memory” – Italo Calvino
I am the poet, painting images
Out of the abyss of time
And onto the canvas of the past,
Where Myth and History are miscible.
My fork-tongued brush strikes
With the swift precision of a cobra.
To retrieve my memory,
I tame an eagle with my lyrics.
Sung by my blood-red tongue,
The eagle glides over my landscape,
Scanning the rivulets of my bloodstream,
Then veering off my footprint trail.
My hand grasps at the aerial roots
Of a banyan tree as I imagine
An oral lyric swaying back
And forth on them, a windchime
Tossed by the winds of time.
Upon being scripted into
The soil, roots seek an architecture
With a breathing space for all,
Whence I inherit an anticlockwise
Birth in the breach position.
In the preordained
Aural ellipse of a prophecy,
I retrieve myself.
The language we speak now
Once had no fences;
Has rendered it barren.
At the frontiers of my language,
Deployed with insidious intent, sits
A domesticated, formerly stray
Watchdog, its bark worse than its bite,
But tethered well out of harm’s way.
If you frequent my tongue,
The rust on your tongue-cleaner
Can infect to your soul with tetanus.
Teaching an alien tongue in elementary schools
Is like building dams on rivers
Too close to their origins.
The river will be sedated for eternity.
Bitter neem paste
Smeared around my
To wean me away from my vernacular:
For me to go and kiss the world.
Our minds are like a synthetic bedspread
And love betrays us like my muse
Suddenly calling out the name of her ex
It requires an intergenerational
To remove white man’s bullets
From the spine of my poetry collection.
The autobiography of my vernacular
Preserves a few suicide notes,
Transliterated in indelible ink:
Vestiges of the legacy of slave owners
Passed into my hardbound poetry volume,
Once a pedestal for imperial boots.
Served as a tax-free transit point
On one of the world’s distant shores
Down by the Cape of Good Hope.
Now, the history of humankind
Snores in my language.
The Inherited Shade Of My Skin
I delve into the past
wide-eyed, curious like a child
frisking himself in the mirror,
ascertaining how shiny his skin
can be in available light,
and I wonder
if I will ever outshine the rising sun
and how much more innocuous
my name could have been,
if packaged in a different shade of melanin.