Friday 30 July 2010

Skeletons of War

The thing about skin
is its ability to break,
bruise, even
bend around things.

Bones need skin,
for a while.
Without skin
bones have no face,
but skin leaves
without a trace -
bones stay forever.

The colour of race
is thin skin,
a soft, changeable glaze,
a passing karmic phase;
but bones remain,
on land, in land,
bones stake their claim.

Zimbabwe's bones are colourless
structures of the earth.
Injustices preserved
can wait patiently for years.

But bones breathe.

Bones will speak
and their stories
will be heard.

-© Shaista Tayabali, 2010
a re-post for dverse poetics
Chenjerai Mutasa, Zimbabwean sculptor, recently created a five-work piece with Biblical and Rastafarian connotations called Future Seed. The sculptures are made from found objects, used materials, depicting the interaction between the living and the dead, and the bridges of healing.
The politics of Zimbabwe are too sensitive and complex for any poem of mine to fathom but this wrote itself soon after I watched Mugabe and the White African. There have been so many farms and lives lost in the violent 'land re-distribution' policies of the last ten years; what transfixes the viewer is the dignity of Mike Campbell and his son-in-law Ben Freeth. It cuts through terror and fear and beatings and translates through race and time until all you hear, all you remember, is the sound of a land worth loving, struggling and dying for.

Friday 16 July 2010

Missing the Bouquet, Avoiding the Crush

My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
- Sonnet 22, Shakespeare

The first wedding I ever attended was when I was five years old. It was exciting. New dress. I felt important. It was dramatic too - my younger brother, in his excitement, slipped off the sofa he was jumping on, fell against a glass table and cut open the skin near his eye. He was three; he still bears the scar. A memorable first wedding.
I couldn't have known it would be two decades before my next weddings, and then they would come in a rush. Something about that alarming age of thirty. All girlish things at an end and boys no longer the annoying presences in classrooms but worse, future husbands to be obeyed and cherished. I don't know if there is something wrong with me (apart from the hungry Wolf of course) but I don't seem to be able to see him anymore. And when they (the blushing brides) throw the dreaded bouquet over their shoulders, it's all I can do not to run and hide. Maybe I am a coward. But why would anyone want to catch a bride's bouquet? Why??

Husband, if you're out there, you have to find me. And if I am old and grey and full of sleep, it will be entirely your fault.

Meantime, I am enjoying the turbulent freedom of the uncaught bouquets - that deliciously silly teenage phenomenon called Crush. And it's on an actor (eight years younger than me), playing a vampire (eighty years older than me), frozen in time, at the tender age of seventeen... (confused?) and so what if we can never meet? This crush too shall pass, and fast, but not the freedom that goes with it.
And tomorrow, a hen party extravaganza at Chatsworth, where the BBC filmed Pride and Prejudice. You know, the place where Mr Darcy leaps out of his cotton whites and into the (probably freezing) water? Sigh.. literary noblemen, literary vampires, literary perfection... what more does a woman want, thirty years old or not?

Thursday 8 July 2010

The Cloths of Heaven

On his birthday my father says
his wishes have come true.

He asked for our happiness, and lo, the cloth was embroidered in just such a way.

He asked that love would come as it had for him, and it did, and his youngest son married with just such a love, and to his beloved three children is added a fourth. (Father always wanted five children... one more marriage should do the trick, but two more would be even better!)

He hoped our paths would weave right and true, that our feet would walk on the carpet of our dreams, and lo, the weave is more magical than he dreamed, and he surfs and rides the wave with us, our inextricable traveller and guide.

This is my favourite portrait of Dad -
done by Mum in a style she reserved just for him.

And the Yeats' poem that inspires it all.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.