POEM by James Baldwin

Some days worry

some days glad

some days

more than make you 

mad.

Some days,

some days, more than

shine:

when you see what’s coming

on down the line!
Some days you say,

oh, not me never  !

Some days you say

bless God forever.

Some days, you say,

curse God, and die

and the day comes when you wrestle

with that lie.

Some days tussle

then some days groan

and some days

don’t even leave a bone.

Some days you hassle

all alone.
I don’t know, sister,

what I’m saying,

nor do no man,

if he don’t be praying.

I know that love is the only answer

and the tight-rope lover

the only dancer.

When the lover come off the rope

today,

the net which holds him

is how we pray,

and not to God’s unknown,

but to each other  :

the falling mortal is our brother!
Some days leave

some days grieve

some days you almost don’t believe.

Some days believe you

and you won’t.

Some days worry

some days mad

some days more than make you glad.

Some days, some days,

more than shine,

witnesses,

coming on down the line!

 

James Baldwin

JAMES BALDWIN : HIS VOICE REMEMBERED; Life in His Language

Date: December 20, 1987, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 7; Page 27, Column 1; Book Review Desk 

Byline: By Toni Morrison

Jimmy, there is too much to think about you, and too much to feel. The difficulty is your life refuses summation - it always did - and invites contemplation instead. Like many of us left here I thought I knew you. Now I discover that in your company it is myself I know. That is the astonishing gift of your art and your friendship: You gave us ourselves to think about, to cherish. We are like Hall Montana* watching ”with new wonder” his brother saints, knowing the song he sang is us, ”He is us.”

I never heard a single command from you, yet the demands you made on me, the challenges you issued to me, were nevertheless unmistakable, even if unenforced: that I work and think at the top of my form, that I stand on moral ground but know that ground must be shored up by mercy, that ”the world is before [ me ] and [ I ] need not take it or leave it as it was when [ I ] came in.”

Well, the season was always Christmas with you there and, like one aspect of that scenario, you did not neglect to bring at least three gifts. You gave me a language to dwell in, a gift so perfect it seems my own invention. I have been thinking your spoken and written thoughts for so long I believed they were mine. I have been seeing the world through your eyes for so long, I believed that clear clear view was my own. Even now, even here, I need you to tell me what I am feeling and how to articulate it. So I have pored again through the 6,895 pages of your published work to acknowledge the debt and thank you for the credit. No one possessed or inhabited language for me the way you did. You made American English honest - genuinely international. You exposed its secrets and reshaped it until it was truly modern dialogic, representative, humane. You stripped it of ease and false comfort and fake innocence and evasion and hypocrisy. And in place of deviousness was clarity. In place of soft plump lies was a lean, targeted power. In place of intellectual disingenuousness and what you called ”exasperating egocentricity,” you gave us undecorated truth. You replaced lumbering platitudes with an upright elegance. You went into that forbidden territory and decolonized it, ”robbed it of the jewel of its naivete,” and un-gated it for black people so that in your wake we could enter it, occupy it, restructure it in order to accommodate our complicated passion - not our vanities but our intricate, difficult, demanding beauty, our tragic, insistent knowledge, our lived reality, our sleek classical imagination - all the while refusing ”to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize [ us ] .” In your hands language was handsome again. In your hands we saw how it was meant to be: neither bloodless nor bloody, and yet alive.

It infuriated some people. Those who saw the paucity of their own imagination in the two-way mirror you held up to them attacked the mirror, tried to reduce it to fragments which they could then rank and grade, tried to dismiss the shards where your image and theirs remained - locked but ready to soar. You are an artist after all and an artist is forbidden a career in this place; an artist is permitted only a commercial hit. But for thousands and thousands of those who embraced your text and who gave themselves permission to hear your language, by that very gesture they ennobled themselves, became unshrouded, civilized.

The second gift was your courage, which you let us share: the courage of one who could go as a stranger in the village and transform the distances between people into intimacy with the whole world; courage to understand that experience in ways that made it a personal revelation for each of us. It was you who gave us the courage to appropriate an alien, hostile, all-white geography because you had discovered that ”this world [ meaning history ] is white no longer and it will never be white again.” Yours was the courage to live life in and from its belly as well as beyond its edges, to see and say what it was, to recognize and identify evil but never fear or stand in awe of it. It is a courage that came from a ruthless intelligence married to a pity so profound it could convince anyone who cared to know that those who despised us ”need the moral authority of their former slaves, who are the only people in the world who know anything about them and who may be, indeed, the only people in the world who really care anything about them.” When that unassailable combination of mind and heart, of intellect and passion was on display it guided us through treacherous landscape as it did when you wrote these words - words every rebel, every dissident, revolutionary, every practicing artist from Capetown to Poland from Waycross to Dublin memorized: ”A person does not lightly elect to oppose his society. One would much rather be at home among one’s compatriots than be mocked and detested by them. And there is a level on which the mockery of the people, even their hatred, is moving, because it is so blind: It is terrible to watch people cling to their captivity and insist on their own destruction.”

The third gift was hard to fathom and even harder to accept. It was your tenderness - a tenderness so delicate I thought it could not last, but last it did and envelop me it did. In the midst of anger it tapped me lightly like the child in Tish’s** womb: ”Something almost as hard to catch as a whisper in a crowded place, as light and as definite as a spider’s web, strikes below my ribs, stunning and astonishing my heart … the baby, turning for the first time in its incredible veil of water, announces its presence and claims me; tells me, in that instant, that what can get worse can get better … in the meantime - forever - it is entirely up to me.” Yours was a tenderness, of vulnerability, that asked everything, expected everything and, like the world’s own Merlin, provided us with the ways and means to deliver. I suppose that is why I was always a bit better behaved around you, smarter, more capable, wanting to be worth the love you lavished, and wanting to be steady enough to witness the pain you had witnessed and were tough enough to bear while it broke your heart, wanting to be generous enough to join your smile with one of my own, and reckless enough to jump on in that laugh you laughed. Because our joy and our laughter were not only all right, they were necessary.

You knew, didn’t you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn’t you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No. This is jubilee. ”Our crown,” you said, ”has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,” you said, ”is wear it.”

And we do, Jimmy. You crowned us.

 

by Toni Morrison

Image Source: Allan Warren, taken in Hyde Park in London, 1969

 

VEGETABLE SOUP

image

Eat your vegetables 

Written on my forehead 

Written on my mirror too 

Eat your vegetables 

Try and do what’s good for you… 

I like my tomatoes with mayonnaise – lots of it 

With salt and pepper on toasted bread 

An avocado for dessert 

A whole one - I eat it slowly with a spoon 

Good for me and good for you… 

Full of nuts and vineyard fruit –

On my forehead peeling truth 

Vegetables are good for you 

Pulling out the chocolate 

Melting for the final time - or maybe not 

I am getting good at this 

Eating what is bad for me 

Serving what is good for you 

I am eating chocolate

And dipping vegetables for you 

Once again the mirror claims

Her bowl of bruised and spoiled fruit 

Choosing what is good for you 

But not for me… 

Sticky words and bitter truth 

What is good for you is poisoning my appetite 

As I drink the vacant juice you left beside your dirty plate 

And as I clean and scrape and grate 

My forehead words into a soup 

Of lies, of poison and of you 

 

Catherine MacAdam

Image Source: Abstract Body Photography Jes dance

“My name is Molly. I’m 36, single, live in Brooklyn, and work in publishing. I love gloomy Victorian novels, obscure Korean horror films, Premier League soccer, and knitting. I’m 5-foot-5, slim, with brown hair and brown eyes. I am looking for a serious relationship. I suffer from mental illness.”

That dating profile is going to get me nowhere.

I am not ashamed of my condition. Or not exactly. I think there is still a lot more stigma than we admit, and every joke someone cracks about being “so OCD” makes it harder to explain that while you all think you’re totally cool with me being obsessive-compulsive, it’s a lot more than lining up pencils and touching the light switch. Men have broken up with me after getting only a glimpse of my worst looming on the horizon, and others have stayed with me through abhorrent behavior because they were afraid of what I might do if they left. I have no qualms about someone seeing my cellulite, but I am afraid of him seeing my self-inflicted scars; I’m not sure I would trust a person who had caused herself such violence, so why should he trust me? I am getting ready to switch medications, which can be ugly. Can I—should I—invite someone along for the ride? I’ve seen how my illness affects my loved ones, and as much as I long for marriage and children, I often think everyone might be better off if I moved to a secluded fjord in Iceland and just sent postcards.

Molly Pohlig's brave, moving essay on dating with mental illness

Also see the relationship between mental illness and creativity

(via The Dish)

Obsessive Case

st jerome in his study

He…
counts eighteen window panes
left to right…top to bottom
bottom top…again…again;
to chart his number thought;
sums four knives
three spoons, one fork
to individual drawers;
calculates the ceiling
of twelve-inch tiles
in multiples of ten
times twenty-two;
thinks a twelve-twelve mantra
to purge his tally spell
definitive…to plant
his sense of self to there.
He…
foretells sine, cosine for
sweep of ocean waves that
tangent to a beach;
orients his charting for
a rising…waning…setting
yin moon…yang sun phasing;
twists cords to Celtic knots;
sculpts wood…all Mobius
to ground his intimation
of truth and beauty’s source
of balance in proportion
of exquisite simplicity
of eloquent equation
of profound implication
that one plus one is
always…always
always…always
two.

Bonnie Marshall

Artwork by H. Steenwick
“St Jerome in His Study”

SEPTEMBER SEEDS

Pentimento - Visible evidence of an alteration to a painting or drawing that indicates the artist changed their mind while executing the painting. This can leave an effect where ‘ghosting’ lines from the original design can be seen through the thinning paint.


Between the scenes and telling me that honesty dreamed dreams of me I found the oddest little seed that promised not reality…not quite real - and yet the dream left finger prints of seeds on me. 

I did not leave them knowingly or if I did their scattering had left the sense that what I see was only you and was not me…

But in between… 

Crisp the air between us feeds the need to follow and to lead; at once this song was dancing me and I was in its grasp. 

Love is all about belief and casts its light indelibly where morning meets the grassy eve and leaves the dew of honesty. 

You gave your place with shy retreat and slipped back in so quietly.

Do you watch where I have been and trace a path and watch again as I encounter covering that lets me try again… 

The shadows warm and shelter me and there is light between these dreams. Call them back and I will find their gentle path to what we see and what we cover in between…

 

Catherine MacAdam

Image Source: Vanitas Stilleven - Omgeving Rembrandt

 

some, for her. some, for me.

docmarek

these are the things
my heart beats for.
this is the child
i was made to make.
these are the dandelions
poking through the lawn.
some, for her.
some, for me.

these are the nights
i contemplate suicide.
these are the days
i spend drunk.
this is what some call art
and others call shit.
some, for her.
some, for me.

this is what’s stolen,
plagiarized and prophesied.
this is what they think about
when they masturbate.
this is what they tattoo
and tell their lovers to do.
some, for her.
some, for me.

these are the photographs
of crime scenes i’ve investigated.
these are glimpses
of a deteriorating mind.
these are the songs
that songbirds sing.
some, for her.
some, for me.

these are smiles painted
and hours wasted.
this is why i left
and why i never returned.
these are the things
my mother doesn’t understand.
some, for her.
some, for me.

(click here to hear to me read this poem)

And they would say
‘She’s such a hungry girl’ but their faces would not fit their words.
I could see their true thoughts –
It is too much – she wants too much –
Eyes too big for her tiny tummy – she wants more than she can handle.

They forgot that I grew up in a cage,
My fingers and face pressed to the glass walls,
Always breaking the illusion of freedom
To those on the other side, who saw the colourful blood
Pushed from my flesh, till I was blueish pale and sickly.
My stomach was so small, but I knew it could stretch.
Then, I was just planning ahead, Designing dreams for the future.

It was a world that demanded so much
From a girl it would never give to.
You must remember it – don’t you remember
It, love? The incessant chime of
Not good enough
Not pretty enough
Not small enough not quiet enough not sweet enough.
Not enough not enough not enough –
Never enough.

And now I am a woman with a flame in my throat
Spitting back the words they used to bind me.
I never used to feel anything – a void of a child, empty and numb – but now –
But now emotion is my addiction.
I want space and stars and power and pain and pleasure.
I
Want
More.

I am a fire running through the forest –
Everything is caught in the blaze,
Until I run out of trees to jump to,
Out of green that I can consume.
I am a sandstorm you will not find your way out of –
You can try to run but your feet will sink
Into the desert dunes and
You will disappear into a cloud of dust.
I am the thing that lurks in your shadow –
Something caught in the periphery
It will be too late when you realise –
I will devour you, darling.

This world is never enough – will never be enough.
I will always ache for more, crave it desperately
Like the last few drops shaken violently from the bottle.

They still say
‘Such a hungry girl’ (although I am eighteen with sharp teeth and curved hips)
But hunger is not the word they should crown me with.
It is not a need that can be satisfied or satiated.
It is want, pure and selfish.
An unappeasable appetite.
The word they want (the word I want) is
More.

"La Fringale" Emma (via feministfatales)