Archive for September, 2010

The Conference by Yaari

September 17, 2010
by Yaari
Sugar and spice,eh
an’ all dem nice puppy dog tails
dat’s what CSA is made of

Arriving in Barbados stirred all of my Caribbean memories. As the plane dipped toward the island and tiny lights blinked into view, my anticipation increased.

The touchdown excitement had nothing to do with the conference and all to do with the bitter sweet memories that come with the life of an immigrant. Memories, like thick bright colored paintings portraying vague images, lingered as the old me and the newer version collided. Childhood images and sensory memories crowded in and pushing on them were the memories of life in the US. The questions always intrude… Am I happier? Can I come back? Who am I in the US? In the midst of black and brown people, I became someone.

Leaving the plane, I stepped on to the slightly shaky metal stairs and welcomed the warm breezy kiss of the Caribbean. “Home” now is anywhere the accent sings, the people smile, and the colors vary from chocolate smooth black, mingled with caramel brown, repeatedly touched by golden sun kissed sugar, and creamy warm butterscotch.

Routine becomes reminiscing; I have patience in lines; it gives me time to eye mingle with the crowd. I watch shapes of faces, inclines of bodies; I wonder where they go. I recognize with casual acceptance the two customs officers at work and the seven or eight empty booths of promise. For a minute you stewups your teeth and ask yourself, “why dese people goffa do dis, eh. Dey does wait till deh got a big crowd den dey does disappear.” The anxiety creeps into my belly when the bags start to jump out of the hole. It’s the bags; will they arrive I wonder. I hold back and wait. Nervous tummy jumpin’ all over deh place. And, wuh yuh know, deh damn bag nah show up.

I walked over to the airline counter and started to fill out papers. In the meantime, the thought of being in Barbados without clothes did not excite me. (Even though, the heat waiting for me outside might have changed my mind.) Runnin’ tru meh min’ was nuff nuff money spendin’ again.

At the counter my mounting irritability was distracted by the pleasant smile and helpful attitude of the customer service officer. Sche look up at meh an’ smile – yuh kno’… dat eye crinkle way we West Indians does flirt wid friendly. She brought me back home immediately. A warm smile goes a long way to sustain the endurance needed for such matters. Then the forms came and threatened my calm. I managed to breathe in and finish all the blank lines.

Outside the airport my eyes skimmed the crowd and there she was – old friend and colleague from UCB – with a frantic look on her face. Eventually, after hugs and laughter we climbed in the SUV and hit the road. The blast of air through the open window brushed tired away for a while; I leaned back and emptied my mind.

Next morning we ate breakfast and each other’s experiences at the same time. We sat on the verandah with the cool breeze circling and the fowl cocks crowing. Dat didn’t last too long doh. Soon it was swimsuit, sandals and bodies answering the call of the sun and the crash of the waves. Ahh … the warm blue green ocean cradled my body and offered me to the sun. Then I knew that I was a member of the CSA cult – addict to my senses, an intellectual and sensual junkie – always hunting for that information high and selling my body to the sun goddess.

Next day seriousness stepped in and took over. Out the car I jumped; into the hotel lobby I moved among a bustling crowd of orange tagged academics rushing to and fro trying to register, check in and find panels – madness in the making. Keeping it all together was the nervous energy of greedy curiosity – who to see? What to hear? Where’s the bar.. maybe some food too and, don’t forget; ah wonder how meh presentation gon go? Five days jam packed with intellectual stimulation – all about violence. Crisscrossing tiled patios and grassy walkways people moved in all manner of walk and wear – hair up down and dreadlock long.

Violence centered subjects hit the airwaves – lectures, Powerpoint presentations, videos – dance, stage.. all engaging the audience and sending them rushing from one to the other. There was the constant surge of crowded conversations stretching across spaces over food and drink and in between emails to folk back home – other expectations and obligations.

What jumped out at me was the women focused conversations and presentations. The air was charged with necks stretched to see and the uuummm huummms of patient agreement and the hand clapping to control the frustrated excitement of the shared lived experiences of perpetual endurance and the longing for change. Pride straightened my back and stretched out my chest and made it worthwhile to have crossed ocean and the guilty spendin’ of lill’ plastic money. In my head I heard .. yeah yeah yeah, I am woman hear me roar.

Special to me is the chance that CSA gives me to explore and get to know the local folk and hear the lore of oral histories so often ignored. This time it was Mrs. R – 99 years old – born 1911. Laud, the woman could tell a story; she circled me with laughter and in the midst gave me understandings of how race was experienced and community used to heal and endure. She revealed to me lessons of life and secrets of survival that might be useful to us if we listened well and listened more.

Too was the chance to ride the island with a dreadlock man of serious contemplation. He raised for me more questions of CSA leanings. As we circled the island, he brought to my attention that more and more walls were going up and he could not longer, “see” in. Dat there were people buying up deh island and, for me there was a little confusion, is who buyin’ up deh island so? And if the buyers are foreigners what den will become of Bajan identity as people get squeezed into deh middle? The Rasta is a farmer and he let me know that he must sell to dem – is a relationship full a caution for him.

The CSA in me wondered about this “trade.” Is this the “free market” experience that is repeating itself in many a Caribbean place? If we are getting pushed to the center of the land; if we are being circled by others; if the dependency grows, what will that mean for the future?

Creative and stimulating associations are necessary. CSA in my pocket; CSA as my compass; CSA as lens; CSA explorations and explanations. I look forward to the opportunity to hear; like Trinidad, Brazil, San Andres, Jamaica, and Barbados, I look forward to going deeper into community, to opening myself again and again to knowing family in the Diaspora.

The Daddy by Yaari

September 17, 2010

The Daddy

by Yaari

She didn’t have to struggle to see her; those memories were clear.

There she was with the big bright brown eyes, the two thick brown braids hanging over her ears to just below the shoulders, the red brown boney body hiding in skinny jeans and a tiny stretch t-shirt, and two slightly oversized front teeth constantly flashing their Bug’s bunny resemblance as she chattered.  No, the struggle was to feel her.  She couldn’t feel her!  Whenever she tried there was a dark, heavy, sinking feeling in the center of her chest.  As she looked back at her little girl, she had to admit that it all started way before the accident.  The accident was the end!  It was the final straw.  The camel’s back was broken.

Laughter spilled from her wide open little girl mouth into the sunny tropical air and skipped over the deep cool bubbles of the red cola water of the creek to join her sisters.  Water splashed over her as her sister took a running dive off of the thick tree stump that stretched over the water like nature’s diving board.  She squealed and with closed eyes and pursed lips took a deep breath and submerged her entire body in the cool water.

Her dad’s long muscled legs passed her on the way to the Rover, the Chitty Bang Bang car of the family, her dad’s baby, and her magical ride.  She rushed behind him to make it to the picnic basket and she could hear the sloppy steps of her sisters as they raced through the warm white sand behind her; they raced toward the secrets of the picnic basket.  These were the days she loved.

And, there were other days, lots of other days.

Excitement coursed through her veins as the “car” transported them to her dreams – places of winding white sand roads that led to deep red fresh water full of darting tiny fish, of long rides as the car chased the wind on gray black tar roads that ran forever along the high creamy white wall that ran along the coastline to keep the treacherous Atlantic salt water out.  Her tiny body, face up to the sky as she lay on the back dashboard, tingled with pleasure, or it spilled into the distance as the wind whipped her face as the countryside rushed by and she caught glimpses of pink pigs wallowing in mud and donkey carts bouncing on uneven paves.

She recalled the seawall.  The tiny red star story told by her father that one evening as they stretched their legs on the pier eventually to sit at the end, they gazed into the sky as he dipped her into her first understanding of constellations and introduced her to Mars.  She was filled with wonder.  The same special feeling that filled her heart with soft love escaped into the air on such nights or, like a warm aura, surrounded her as she watched her father’s tall self-conscious elegance stand on the wall. – the wall where musky men sat for hours deep in politics; where night time cars with clouded windows hid the heated rubbing together bodies of clandestine couples.  Her little heart pumped with guilt and excitement whenever she passed those steamed windows and thought about the pent up lust being released in secret.  She loved secrets!

Secrets were buried deep in her soul.

Looking back at her little girl, she swallowed hard and wondered when, when did the secrets become sad?  Sadness had entered her at an early age.  Yet, she couldn’t quite remember when the laughter turned to inner tears.  Flashes of the bright secrets of Santa’s letters, peeping over walls after bedtime to watch her father creep upstairs with a shiny tricycle under his arm played in her mind only to be overshadowed by memories of the perpetual look of sadness that had crept under her father’s skin and had drawn a frown and wiped the smile away.  She was too young to understand; she just wanted to fix it.  She wanted her “daddy” back.  It all seemed to happen so fast.  One day there was daddy up on his hands wowing her with his spectacular gymnastic abilities, daddy blowing bubbles in her belly; daddy playing Danny Kaye on Sundays, daddy reading papers while she ran around his chair, daddy teaching her to swim, daddy making pancakes, loud daddy laughter, daddy holding her for chin-ups.  Daddy was her life.  When suddenly the unraveling started; slowly things fell apart.

A woman’s eyes still struggled with the past.  To grasp the effects of the shock and pain she needed to help her little girl open her heart to her daddy again.

The clouds covered the crack and she couldn’t recall when the axe fell.  One day, it seemed something happened and she and her mother were leaving.  She looked up, not fully understanding what was transpiring, only understanding that home would no longer be home and daddy wasn’t coming.  She looked back at him framed in the window of the house filled with memories and saw his lost lonely face dwarfed by its emptiness.  The look broke her heart and guilt crept into the yawning space.

Depression had made its entrance into her life.  And, it stayed.

It took up a permanent position on her father’s face.  Somewhere along the way when she was unaware, somewhere along the line in that grown up world of harsh politics and race consciousness, reality had crushed her father’s spirit and left a hollow shell.  Emptiness sucked at his youth and swallowed his hope.  He stopped caring.  She held on to his hand in desperation as she tried to bring him back; he held hers back with distracted warmth and a prayer in his eyes that reached out to her from behind the crack.

Slowly, over time, she grew quiet.  Quietly, he let her go.  She took up residence in other houses and he visited.  Her world had come apart; nothing made sense; it was not how others lived.  All the loud laughing memories splintered and fell away leaving pockets of darkness.  She was haunted by the man who was her father.  He visited; his walk was slow, his expression distracted, his eyes vacant at times.  Loneliness seeped from his pores.  His shadow was always there.  It seemed to her that he was reaching out to her love for help.  She was impotent and the guilt grew.  She couldn’t help him and he seemed to know.  The tears she didn’t know were forming crept up from deep inside and slowly saturated her heart.  In her little girl world she knew he was trying to reach her.  He was trying to return to her as her “daddy.”

The bicycle was bright red; a cute Molton with tiny wheels and a long shinny red body.  Guilty, excited little hands took it and still she wanted to run from him.  His face held the sadness she couldn’t erase and now she wanted to hide from it.  The motorcycle rides to piano lessons had become an excruciating mix of jumbled emotions – happiness, guilt, fear, happiness, possessiveness, a need to protect – nothing should harm her daddy!  The motorcycle purred; she remembered the happy past and his love of cars and motorcycles.  “It’s daddy, he’s come for me.”  She’d climb on and wrap her hands tight around his chest.  Her arms and legs spoke of love as she gripped his warm body as she gave herself to the ride.  But, then she’d climb off and couldn’t avoid his face and she’d encounter the sadness; his lost soul.

And, the accidents started to happen.

One day she came home to hear her mother telling her grandmother that her daddy had fallen off of his motorcycle.  Her heart jumped with fear.  She was surprised and frightened.  Everything inside her skin started to quiver.  This was something new and somehow she understood that it was connected to the sadness.  She wanted to stop the world; she knew something terrible was coming.  Again, another scare; he walked into the street, into oncoming traffic.  Why?  Her little girl mind asked; her little girl heart wanted her daddy back the way things were before.  Something terrible was coming.

It crashed into her!  The turpentine smell of the hospital tore at her nostrils.  She felt heavy; her eyes were dry; she stared at the blood, the blood of the man being rushed up the stairs on a stretcher.  Her eyes were riveted on the red of it, the thick red flow coming out of his nose and his mouth.  She followed slowly, pulling one heavy foot after the other.  Her daddy was up there somewhere.  She didn’t want to go.  Everything was cream or white and that smell stayed in her nose.  She didn’t want to breathe.

Suddenly, she was there.  The noises hit her in the face as she stepped through the door.  They were pulling at her from every direction.  Nurses were rushing back and forth; groans were colliding in the air where pulleys of all kinds were holding body parts encased in thick white casts.  There was a bustle around one bed and she hung back.  Her mind and her eyes did not want to see.  It was daddy.

Make it stop!  It rumbled on.

The story was that he’d decided to pick grapefruits for the family.  The tree was tall and green outside the bedroom window and it was heavy with fruit.  There was a tall wooden stick with a nail on the end and daddy knelt on the windowsill and held the stick to pick the fruit.  There were big concrete boulders below left there by the men who were renovating the house.  He slipped; he fell head first.  It was an accident?

The body lay still on the bed.  She looked at him through a haze of disbelief.  She stared at the hole in his head where the weights were suspended.  There were holes in the flesh, the pink and gray flesh.  Her eyes were caught.  From a distance she heard her mother crying.  His belly, it rose up into the air like a pregnant woman; it was distended and then she heard the word “paralyzed.”  It meant nothing to her.  But her mother was beating her hands against her chest.  Something dark and terrible was in the air.

It took six months of her small life.

Every day, dressed in the green and white uniform of her primary school, she entered the yawning gates of the hospital, found the dark wooden stairs, and walked toward the light blue sky of the veranda overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  The view was clear and pure.  She moved toward it and then turned into the room facing the veranda.  He was staring at it too.  Nothing moved.  His eyes pivoted; one hand shook; everything else lay still.  She had been coming to the same place for weeks.  She held juice with a straw; he pulled on it slowly.  She watched his eyes.  And, she fell into the depth and the darkness.

She couldn’t remember when she had stopped feeling.

Somewhere, sometime she’d stepped off a cliff and she was still falling.  Nothing mattered except forward movement.  She walked; she talked but there were no memories being made, none that glowed.  In the hospital she sat and stared.  She knew she loved her daddy, but she couldn’t reach him.  She didn’t know how to or who was on the bed.  No longer could she touch him.  It frightened her; she thought she’d hurt him.  She sat and watched the nurses roll him; she saw the rotting flesh of the bedsores.  His eyes looked sick; he didn’t want to be there.  And, slowly she found herself wishing he’d go.  Go where, she didn’t know.  She just knew that, again, she wouldn’t be with him.

Day after day she trudged up those steps, reluctance pulling at her shoes and guilty love moving her forward.  She watched him melt; she saw the skeleton emerge.  She looked into his fading eyes; she sensed he didn’t want her there.  But he never turned her away.  Some days he tried to smile, but it flickered and slipped into the darkness.  Silently, they prayed for the same thing.  His eyes told her he wanted to go; he wanted out; he wanted peace.  She kept the secret.

Time stood still.

As she watched the stranger in the coffin, nothing in her moved.  She noticed that his hair was slick against his head; that was not her father.  She noticed the powder on his cheeks, the hollow spaces; that was not her father.  The man in the coffin had a twisted jaw; someone had tied his face and twisted it; that was not her father.  Whoever he was, he looked sad, he looked lonely, he looked cold, he looked gray.  She stepped back.  She no longer wanted to see the face.  She turned away and moved into the crowd.

And then there was a graveyard.  She stared at the concrete tombstones and tried to imagine that someone who had life was locked in one of those cases.  She vaguely recognized the faces and the whispers were a distant hum.  She stood and stared.  Everything in her body felt solid and heavy; she felt laughless.  She’d stopped dreaming, stopped reading.  She just waited.

That night after the graveyard, daddy sat on her bed and tried to explain why he had to leave.  She tried to reach out to him, but he wasn’t there.  That night, like never before, she got down on her knees willingly and over and over again she prayed.  “Dear God, please let mummy, me and my sisters all die at the same time.”  Over and over again she prayed; she pressed her little palms together and with forced breath she repeated the words hoping that God would understand the seriousness of her situation.  She climbed into bed with her memories; she wrapped them in her pain and tucked them away.  Eventually, the darkness came.

She never cried.

Goin’ tru a ting by Yaari

September 10, 2010

SHORT TEMPTATIONS: A RELATIONSHIP

TIME: MY TORMENTOR

Have you ever started over? I do, almost every day. Teaching allows multiple avenues of reality …. many roads to fictitious excitement; a place for unconditional love; an arena for healing; a venue for layers of unexposed emotions struggling to break free.

Broad shouldered and thick, he comes into my classroom and, immediately, I remember long ago days. I smile. I know immediately…. he is a baller. His body bulges under the t-shirt; the legs, thick and big, solidly encased in blue jeans, slide into the chair and settle in a wide open invitation. A smile cleaves a familiar path deep inside as I reach back into memories.

They come in numbers…, these boys oozing new sexual confidence… ouch.. the seductive gene, and questionable self assurance!

My first encounter with his species was over 20 years ago … I remember him; here again is another younger version just as precocious and dripping with sex.

I conduct the class .. the air rippling with vibrations …. the physical awareness of masculinity, my female listening; in minutes he has me in his hands … young wickedness etches itself into his face …. male boldness says to me … deep in debate …. directly into my eyes; “uuumm..” he says, “but I’m different; I’m nineteen going on forty!”

His grin widens and I thought, “my God, he makes me forget that I’m 48 and he’s just 20.”

I look at him; hunger stings my eyes and a tender caress stirs on my lips. Leaning forward in my chair, my hands reach toward him…

Suddenly, I think of you and how you killed me; a cold wind enters and no passion rips through me. I recall the start …..

Slowly you aim at tiny places; your barbs are pin like, stinging just a little. You don’t touch the nerves …. your aim gets better, the weapons grow sharper.

Fortunately, I am high on love; so high that the adrenaline pumping in my blood dulls the pain; I am not aware of reality …. of a slow manipulated kill – time wounds.

Pleasure keeps knowledge at bay; it allows me to shake off nagging needle points of worry ….. bubbles of liquid easy adoration heals fast the wounds nipping at my heart. Sensual sounds clear the air of any warnings …. of coming despair. It surrounds my ears with promise and keeps me distant from disappointment.

The wounds grow wider; they grow deeper; they start to fester and denial seeps in; it takes over; the years come and go.

I understand the cancer. I’ve found an ancient cure … when the nausea enters my belly; when it pushes against beauty; when it causes heart break… retreat gallops in on printed words.

I hurt, not because of ignorance, but because I know too well why it is that I flounder. It is bitter sweet. I keep up the clamor of caged words, the chaos… and I avoid… I avoid.

Confusion rushes in and plays painfully on heart …. tears well up with the smiles and, not knowing fully where from or what they mean, I find an inane something… a shallow book, a light movie, a physical non-intimacy … I get lost in other worlds.

I am bitter that there ever was… and then I am frightened there will not be.

For the life of me, for the first time with you, no not the first ….. but the first this way… I am weighed down with pleasure and pain of the heart; I try to stay with feelings.

I tumble into an abyss of lessons learned… the rollicking human pain of again falling into ordinariness, obligation, and disappointment … not just wanting… but fighting in panic to make something special …. a real thing.

Do you ever wonder about change? Change and people? Change and feelings? Change and time? Love’s inability … to work …. an enhancement… a blossoming… a rose garden always in bloom!

Words can be so damning.. so dangerous… so alienating… they can do damage; or they can lift and soar… to dizzying heights… never imagined or felt… awe inspiring …. it reaches in and stills your breath.

One word.. or two pushes me into spilling … across paper… into confrontation with my inner most self; my wailing wall; my painter’s brush and vibrant colors… pushes … me.. two balking identities.. rasping, stuttering intellect and the quaking heart.. the tremulous and humble human, the bleeding thinker…. trying …. like always, to find a modicum of understanding…of this human condition.

I reach out… again… for time.

RUNNING

TO

MEMORIES

I wake up deep in memories.

Fireworks in the darkness of night rivet me as the explosive beauty of colors hit deep blue sky and explode into tiny sparks… like words hit my mind and, again, I believe I have purpose… that there’s talent… they come to me as a way of finding treasure…. of some kind… or the chance for deep exploration.

I find the elements of grace.. again…. I find the niche of life… a way to breathe. Like the 4th of July, I’m alone, on top of grassy hill, surrounded by warm summer air.. enthralled by the images high in the sky with their simmering images dancing on the ocean below. Pushed by a wave of possible sadness, memories hit the darkness of my mind… and explode; like fireworks they light me up with spectacular wonder.

My jaw drops.. my lips part.. a sigh escapes…. I am standing deep in the warmth of my coat, leaning forward against the wall of bridge Pont Neuf…. gazing at the dancing sparkles of lights on the Seine..

I am in Paris!.. again …. my eyes drink in the jagged angles of the Notre Dame…gargoyles snarl their smiles…. I hear the buzz of people… I shift my eyes slowly as I elongate my vision …. my eyes grasp the vision of strolling people along the quays ….. the lights jump at me from deep within the many cafes and restaurants.

I arrive on the magnificent hills in the heart of Hilos… in the air soft whiffs of salty ocean… the dew and dank of dark green grass….the soft stares of red Hibiscus, the sugary sweet scent of flowers fill my nose… and I lose myself …

Eyes linger on the light blue expanse of forever moving above my head and with a little fight they slide down to drink at the well of the never ending emerald green ocean…. Mother Nature is a gorgeous creature…..

An easy spiral and my heart is racing … I melt into a crowd of brown gendered beauty… the arms of Salvador de Bahia … Brazil wraps me up and walks with me into a park filled with smiles of recognition …. a willingness to share as fish jump in ponds and trees kiss each other as they reach to the sky.

Eyes blink …. letting lid kiss lid with a prayer for happiness enclosed in capsules of memories… I stand on the solid pavement of the Bond… China!

Cool breeze caresses my arms …. they wrap around my torso and squeeze themselves in wonder while I stand on a seawall looking at a snapshot of bright light….

In China I am thinking of my mother… she creeps into my vision as I capture the amazing structure rising in front of me.. a sample of Chinese brilliance and creativity. I want my mother with me and I reach out….

Nova Scotia beckons and I run… across the street into a botanical garden heavy with scents and colors, crisscrossed with white laced bridges over shallow ponds… Band stands rise up above the ground and I hear an echo of horns and trumpets… reminders of a long ago childhood guided by the warmth of a father’s hands.