Friday, December 21, 2007

Thanks to a Friend I would know

Life’s time bound,

how poignant-

the brief dash between the years;

birth and death.

The year is drawing to a close. A funny year it has been for me, full of ups and downs. Of much learning, soul searching and insight into my very self.

I would like to thank a friend that I would know.

Yes, I am unconventional. I have this streak of independence and desire not to play by rules that I do not make. So I thank him, even if it would not be ‘politically correct’.

I have written journals on and off for years. More off than on. This blog in part reflects what has been happening to me. A large part.

The beginning, last year. My stumbles at writing and self expression. The despair in my very self. The loss of steam, gas; and the long lay off. Some people call me stubborn. I came back, when I could, just because I could. And I have surprised myself.

Yet in the background has been a friend. A friend that has been easy, unobtrusive, supportive. Not my lover. He has not been unobtrusive in his support of me. He has hauled me kicking and yelling through the year, and when I hug him and tell him thanks, I know that its my heart speaking.

This friend is far off. His influence to me has been more of a guide, a guide that my proud self would listen to, because he pointed to the summit, and did not suggest where I should put my foot to climb. Subtle, praising where necessary, not taking the liberty to cajole where he could have. That I have appreciated.

He has given me many things, which I appreciate. Yet the one thing that he has given me that I appreciate most is a book of poems. ‘Great poems’, it is called, compiled by Kate Miles. It is nothing more than the list of some of the most enduring poetry of the English language.

I have always loved reading. I remember, in the first year of school, I read to my grandfather from the New Testament in my mother tongue. He was so impressed that he gave me his precious bible, which I promptly read from cover to cover. Most of it I did not understand, but I read it. I devoured all the books in my mother tongue that I could lay my hands on. English was a challenge. I stammer, and learning another language has always been a challenge to me.

I learnt more English reading books, all sorts of books that I could lay my hands on. In my life’s journey, that tended to weaken my hold on my mother tongue, something which irks my dad a lot.

Yet, I had never really read poetry a lot.

Orokie calls me his poet, true. Yet the time that we met, in cyber, I was little more than a baby. I had just discovered the expressiveness of Shakespeare. In his sonnets. The fact that they were to a male lover of course fascinated me endlessly. I have read few poets. Didn’t like it in school, only picking up the interest by serendipity.

When I got this compilation of poems, I was re-reading the sonnets.

For a time I read the two together. The book of sonnets is dog eared and in tatters, after years of reading. I got a problem with my eyes, and for a time, I could not read the smaller print of the sonnets. So I continued reading Miles’ ‘Great Poems’.

It has been a revelation.

The different poets, the differing styles, the differing expressions. From the horrors of war from Wilfred Owen, nonsense verse, lyrical poetry, heavy and light verse, the bouquet has been amazing to me. And I discovered that this varied diet acted as a spring to my own poetry.

Before I was fascinated by poetry. Now, I must say that I am obsessed. And I am not sorry for it.

Yes, my friend. You have been a presence that I do appreciate.

The book you gave me, I get out of bed to read it. It is my constant companion during the day. With the reading has come the writing. Yes, I used to write before, but even this blog is witness to the fact that I have been climbing well to the summit.

I have not reached it. Actually, I do not care whether I reach any summit.

Poetry, this poetry, reading it has been a revelation. And it has taught me to look out at my world and appreciate it. I had not appreciated how beautiful it is. As late as the middle of this year, I was chaffing at the many constraints that I see around me, the chains and ropes tugging at my limbs and mind. But I had not realised that freedom was within my grasp.

Writing poetry, coupled with the reading, has been an immense healing experience. My poetry is something that comes of me. I sincerely do not mind how terrible it is.


I do mind. But I do not mind enough, as my lover insists on impressing on me. I mind, but I do not mind enough. But he does not realise that in this self expression in this foreign language, has been a kind of salvation for me.

Ssempa and his friends did flee. Big deal. But that has been less to me than the realisation that I can actually make this foreign language mine. I do not aim to speak it like the Queen. Fie on that! But like Shakespeare, I would like to make it my own. To make it sing when I sneeze, to make it sing my African heart out. To define the words with my expression, to make my joy in life brim and overflow, into words. Whether few, or many, whether clumsy, or smooth, just an expression of the joy of one thing in this strange world we call our own. The fact that I live.

Thank you friend. I cannot thank you enough. With that book I will remember you to my brief life’s end. I will read it, and find more, and read them, but I will remember it as that salad bouquet that made me realise that my constraints were just the rules that men believe are immutable, yet are self made and self enforced.

Thank you my friend, for the gift of friendship, and for the gift of your self. Thank you for a book of poetry. Thank you for being you. My thanks. My lover’s thanks. The thanks of all of us on the continent who have benefited from your considerable largesse. Thank you.


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