Untitled Lament

Untitled Lament

Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the news now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes

Once, it was quaking knees
rattling close to rapidly beating hearts
hiding in huts as torches cast shadows on the mud walls.
Those were the days when kings and queens
were mauled by greed
bound and turned to either build kingdoms
or feed the seas

Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes

Shackled hands and feet,
steel bangles,
ornaments rusted from the many previous trips,
Salty sea water mixed with excrement,
anointing the blood sore wrists,
ankles, throats and hips:
Rough cut wood makes for bad seats –
a feat impossible when crammed skin to skin between the slits.
Still, these ships never were.
Rocking along in sickness and stealth, till death us does part.
The deep crying out in horror as they borrow her winds
Sails assailing the state.

Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes

But when came the defacing?
when the placing of breath beneath bended knees?
when the pleas for Justice stilled
and the songs of hope abolished,
policed into the old abyss?
When the years long tears,
now gathered into salty seas
anointing blood soaked wrists as mother’s hold deceasing sons?
When the jogger judged and bullets free’d?
When sister’s at child-birth left to bleed?
Pharaoh slaughters chosen seed
as victim’s chained watch hate succeed.

Old terrors,
torches,
burning crosses,
ropes hung around trees,

Old terrors
lights,
sirens,
for handcuffs freeze.

Old terrors,
line ups,
highest bidders please

Old terrors
may I see some ID

Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes

Eroded now, the excuses,
Exposed by the steady light shone
On the stones upon which thrones still stand.
An eternal silence in the face of weeping sands,
Falling from one jar to the next
As the defacing proceeds.

Dirges for the living,
Sung from kitchens tucked away
As meals are served by unseen faces.

Doors to cars and cars to doors,
Glass for walls and floors – our ceilings –
Deployed to sell false dawns
As unofficial widows attempt to share seats at tables with the keepers of the keys.
Smiles masking the ease with which
The puppet strings are weaved.
The old mother deceived
As father, diseased from bonds passed on when conceived, watches.
And as the salesmen speak…
Sons take knees and fail to breathe

Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes

Must we, then,
Weep, strive, survive, and teach?
Must we, then,
Feeling the whip still listen, translate and speak?
Must we, then,
Alone forge peace amidst the great violence reeked.
Must we, then,
Be first to turn the cheek
Shining brightly when times are bleak?
Must we, then,
Lamma Sabach Thani;
Bare the thorny crown and preach?
Must we, then,
Practise hope amid deceit?
Must we, then,
Speak love when knees restrict the breathing?

From whence cometh our help?

Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes
Oh what shape the noose now takes

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.[a]
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”

And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined
    and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
    and the fields ruined and ravaged,

until the Lord has sent everyone far away
    and the land is utterly forsaken.

And though a tenth remains in the land,
    it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
    leave stumps when they are cut down,
    so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

© Denis Adide 2020



The Beggar: Marrakech

The first time I walked past him he was in a half squat with his hand partly stretched, his elbow nestled between his groin. His right hand was out, his left hand covering his chest – holding his cloak in. His back was supported by the pinkish wall behind him – they all had a shade of pink and were virtually indistinguishable. 

It was just after lunch and we had, having placed our bags in the hotel, left with eagerness and purpose to begin some preliminary exploration of the souks. The mosque, which he was perched opposite, had emptied and the business of the narrow street had resumed. It seemed as though there was an endless stream of the noisy motorcycles just waiting for you to begin trying to navigate your way before hurtling down the narrow streets. And the maps, those blasted maps, never made any distinction between what was quite obviously an alley to the foreign eye and what was a street: how self-centered. Needless to say, we eventually got lost. 

Sometime before leaving London, I had been sent by a colleague to offer a homeless man some soup. He had frowned as he saw me coming and lifted his palm to me like a gate, demarcating the area I was not to enter. It’s no excuse but (the excuse is) I had up to this point encountered ‘the professional beggar’ plenty of times. This had made me weight the scales in favour of distrust and away from compassion.

We walked past this one. 

“To the least of my brothers” He said.

Mrs Fergusson (A response to a letter)

Mary and John

(She folds his head into her bosom,
His blood drips down onto her dress,
Her eyes like an arm reach out onto mine
And this is what they say,)

“Come, Sit, Wait with me while he dies
Wait with me while I die and yet still live
Wait with me while I live the dying
And still wait with me as I suffer surviving
Come, sit, wait with me.

Place your knees beside his unfolded feet
Stretch out your hand and feel as the heat escapes,
As the fading breath ferries my sweet;
The Son of woman away.

Don’t leave, don’t fall to sleep,
Don’t slumber while I attempt to slay
The rising sorrow with feeble words heaven bound.
Pray on my behalf, for I cannot say the sounds
My tongue is in shock for the wounds perfectly here portrayed;
This body; this one that in my arms now lays
Carries the stains that will wash away
But not the stains that remain
Asking you to stay… with me
Asking you to wait… with me
To wake… and die yet still live,
And live the dying…
And suffer the surviving…
And sit… and wait… and pray… with me.”

(Then with his eyes open as her eyes close, we meet… he speaks…)

“Here is your mother”

(And breathes his first).

© Denis Adide 2014

Samson

Leave

Like Samson,
The chains were locked back on Django while he slept.
Slumber swept away the freedom he’d dreamt.
Time, like a lit candle in the black
Meant Samsons mane grew back…
But he was never again as free as at first.

How deep need it be?
Look down and up your streets,
See what the sweet honey coated slogans breed,
A hunger for money that never feeds,
A thirst that busy families never quench.
And what’s left is the loneliness of the silver years
And the rivers of tears from economic widows
And orphans looking through stacked windows
Watching their men run away…

“Go out in force and vote for me today!
Watch me change the state
And veil the things that make or break your lives
In honey sweet slogans
Plastered on bus sides.
never admit the system’s broken,
Then sleep, Like Samson:
locks cut away,
Eyes chained by the newspapers I pay”.

Let him who has ears hear.

© Denis Adide 2016

The Walker

john the baptist

“Where are you going?”
Said the boy to the walker.

“I go to the horizon
to find the place where the sun emerges,
Rising when it’s darkest
So with the first rays I can harvest
the hope of things to come.
It sinks into the dew
and evaporates when the light is brightest”.

“But you have neither bag not basket,
How do you keep what you harness?”

“Peace demands I take no bag,
Courage that I take only the shirt on my back,
I shake the dust off where there are mountains
And drink where there are streams.
As for the quarry I seek, these feet,
soaked in the mornings joy,
feed the heart I follow
to the visions that keep my soul warm.

Besides,
I placed my bright mourning flower on the widow’s window,
Put my loaf of bread at the door of the new parents,
Gave my bag to the beggar for his first belongings,
And my water jar to the unpaid servant.

So all I have is me.”

He then watched the thoughts
shoot through the young boys mind,
Watched as those fresh eyes
noticed the closed doors
and flickering candle lights
just about piercing through the gaps
of the boarded up windows.
He watched as the perked up ears
noticed soft whimpers
in between the quietening bird song.
He watched as the the blood
drained from the unguarded face,
the beating softening
as the realisation grew
that though all was not gloom,
it had left little room for much else.

Then knelt the walker,
Gently taking off his shoes.

“One day,
When these fit you,
You will chase the horizon too.
Perhaps towards the setting sun
To mine the hums of the cooling breeze
For the gifts of the seasons:
Reasons to keep going
in the face of encroaching darkness.
Between us maybe
we can feed the trees to fruit again.”

With that he handed them over,
Smiled,
And carried on his way.

© Denis Adide 2018

With special thanks to Peter Duckworth.

Hold on to me.

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Hold on to me,
for my claws lack strength,
and my will is to the contrary –
to the separating,
toward the hopeless dying.

Hold on to me,
for a I feel the winds coming
and have no roots to stem the tide.

Clasp my heart beside yours
so that my rebellious hands find no anchor,
and my flesh with thine be twine,
and your blood be mine.

Hold on to me,
as the rotting parts fall away,
those I thirst for that never quench,
those I feed to the hopeless dying:
with rusty nails on rough wood.
Graft me permanently in,
till resistance turns to rest,
and circumstances to peace,
empty branches to fruit
and wandering feet to roots.

Hold on!

Saviour!

Hold on!

© Denis Adide 2019

Joseph: A father’s song.

joseph-father-of-jesus-2 (1)

The words chimed on the wind like a soft breathed whisper,
then lingered lazy – full of as much meaning as a seaside sunset –
and yet,
what thoughts it triggered weren’t new but old,
untold and not faced since we first visited the city:

“Rising and falling of many…”

Sustained they were by a heartache fore-felt,
despite valiant efforts to forget,
and the unfulfilled thirst to whisk you away
forsaking the path set.

I did it before once,
when the drums were rolled
and chariots scolded the roads to us;
when spears were wielded
and swords throttled new sons.
I knew then we had to flee
but from this… from this… I can’t keep.

I saw it, I saw it as I was sweeping,
sweeping sawdust –
which mixed with my weeping made for a somber evening.
My work was finished,
The table was made:
smooth and with carvings overlaid.
What remained were the three nails
nestled together at the centre
receiving and reflecting the bright midday light.

“Rising and falling…”

I beheld the sight
and the old fright gripped me to the core
you were mine but always more
and the road to be walked was yours –
I knew then that I couldn’t follow.

For a while my days were made hollow.
Drawn out evenings,
shallow mornings,
and skies coloured by mourning eyes:
The seconds for my pleading still wouldn’t relent,
you were, in my weeping: the son I couldn’t protect;
you were, for my keeping: the Son I couldn’t reject;
the one my heart could not forget
nor eyes evade when the time came.
And come the time surely would,
so said the whispers,
the nails,
and the wood that perfectly still –
though the days moved –
before me perfectly stood.

“Rising and falling”

The words chimed on the wind like a soft breathed whisper,
then lingered lazy – full of as much meaning as a seaside sunset:
three nails, and my little lamb on the table laid.
Softly said with an exhale
so that I would know that my failing
was simultaneously also my hope
and though I grope at strength to save you
what I need do is repent.

Son I love you,
so when comes the prophets day,
and your flesh succumbs to the slightest decay,
I like your Father wont turn away
it won’t be dismay but heartache…

and gratitude…
and pride…
and gratitude…
and sorrow
and gratitude…
and pain.

© Denis Adide 2018

Scriptures to ponder…

Isaiah 53, Luke 2:21-35, Matthew 1:8-25, 2:13-18, 27:55-56.