Sunday, June 6, 2010

a calling, and an answer

the ol' man tells me there's a new spirit sitting right in the middle of my back. new, 'cause he aint never seen it there before. funny how somebody else gotta see what's already decided to claim me. guess it's too many of 'em rotating seats right up on my spine like they playing musical chairs. i need ol' man to alert me to shift changes. he says this one is a real bonafide african but not born from the kongo, which aint really saying much considering africa is a whole damn continent. hell. i been to ghana. all the way up to paga through kumasi and on down to elmina and cape coast, where the atlantic don't hardly play with silly tourists wanting to swim on they backs. nah. that big water roars. bones and the souls what owns them beating out a rhythm gonna force you to surrender. and all up and through that country, you can't even count how many peoples and tongues roaming the land. so, i can hardly focus on what this spirit's name could be or how it should sound coming off my lips. that's the least of my concern.

right now, i want to know what she come for, 'cause since my cutting and the oath i been negotiating since that night, i am almost completely certain that any spirit come 'round me come to work. those that's sent for mischief get tight pretty soon as they catch light up in here. them ones ... they don't have much truck with me. but the others, the ones that come of their own volition, they definitely come to work. and while that might make some big head conjurer excited, quick to doctor up some new gris gris, pot, or mojo bag, it gives me caution. i know what it means to be called, to be a door-way and safe haven for souls what still got work to do in this world. they see you got a strong back, and get to plotting how to get you razor sharp and ready for some serious business. it's best to go slow.

i know some folk get it easy. spirit choose 'em and find it sufficient to give 'em good luck at shooting craps or attracting easy lovers. but not a single pact with a ghost has let me travel a road so simple. nah. used to be i would feel all special and righteous for the company, lighting plenty candles and sitting in the dark, trying to decipher what they talking between my own voice and the bare silence in my living room. got so i would let 'em run me ragged, doing whatever they missed out on when they was wrapped in flesh without considering whether i really wanted that mission to begin with. but now, i'm straight up. i want to know the deal.

if you somebody called to know a spirit's whisper from the wails and shimmies of the wind against a wood shingle, you better know how to bargain. and well.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

mama's a rock and a riddle.

i was scanning through my blog posts this morning, thinking on why i can sometimes be so maudlin and other times so raw, when i realized that i have never written anything about my mother. we're close. closer than many mother-daughter pairs i've known. not in an "oh, i need my mama to hug me" kinda way. i don't think my mom and i hug very often. she doesn't really like a lot of close body contact. to her, its invasive and generally indicates someone wants something from you. there was a time when i didn't get this, but at 37 years old, i realize that most hugs are completely unnecessary. why you gotta get all up on me? just say, "hello," or whatever makes sense in the moment. and please don't perform undying love when ya know you'll cut me up sideways soon as i'm gone. this might seem a bit tangential, but it's crucial to how i understand my mother's love. it is not syruppy sweet or romantically nostalgic of first baby steps, and "my how you've grown; i remember how you used to sleep, looking so cute." more like, "i remember when you used to throw tantrums every time someone looked at you." and, "you were hell as a teenager." yeah. my mom keeps it very real. she can laugh about it, but she's certainly not going to sugar-coat the difficulties of motherhood or the stone cold ways you have to love folks sometimes. she's over the "blondie" phase some mother's think they want and deserve. and she would totally consider "baby mama drama" extremely tacky.

despite her seeming detachment and less than "hey, sweetie. i miss you." stance, my mother never hit me. there's not a single spanking or open-palmed slap in my memory. sure. she could give me the most incredulous stares and chew me up with a few select words if the occasion warranted, but she really practiced a non violent and free kinda love during the years we lived together. she gave me space. she expected space in return. she accepted me for who i was becoming, and it often seemed as if she was happiest when i diverged far from her own path.

when i became a mother for the first time, she told me that i'd better prepare myself to do it alone. and she was serious. she didn't descend upon my home with bags of groceries or prepared meals during my first daughter's infancy; she told me the ingredients to the spaghetti sauce and let it ride.

see ... my mother gave birth to me while she was in dental school after deciding against a career as a classical pianist (a choice i don't think i would have made). she finished school and went to work while i was less than a month old. she was present for my dance recitals and special school assemblies, but she never stopped living her life. she became an example for me ... she lived the walk of a woman who understands that her self image is not bound to her children while accepting the responsibilities motherhood brings with consistent energy and force. she has always been there for me with real questions, "what do you need?" and she has always tried to provide that within her means... be it some financial help, an ear for the sorrow songs, or the most insane laughter over the absurdities of life. and in the most painful moments, she has only inspired me to keep walking, come hell or high water. and she never lied about what that hell or high water might include. she would only remind me that i chose it.

folks who know my parents often think that my father is the most radical of the two. he talks more. he's louder. he loves to be the life of the party, smiling and joking and "holding court" during any discussion. but if my mother chooses to grace you with some conversation, you will find that it is she who holds the most progressive view points and rebellious stances on politics and being. my sister has said that if dad would give mom the room to talk more, they'd likely be on the government's most wanted list. i'm not sure about that. i don't think he takes words from her, or refuses space for her to share them. i think that she chooses to speak less and say more. and i am lucky to be one of the few people she talks with at length ... about everything. this continuing dialogue has taught me that she is one of the most intelligent, free-thinking women i have ever met. this should really come as no surprise. she comes from a lineage of powerful women - educators, business owners, and community pillars stretching back into the early 19th century.

she doesn't need a chorus of people backing her up to know that her truth makes sense. she only looks on society (and family) with an amused eye when the trouble comes, as it often must, wondering, "what the hell is so-and-so doing now? you know, some people are really certifiably crazy. and it won't do you any justice to understand that crazy, 'less you want to become that yourself." and she doesn't keep a large group of close friends. i have recently taken a page out of her book in that respect. she says that things are simpler that way. and really, how many people are truly capable of loving you intimately in the ways that you need and want it, and why should you expect that? people are messy.

that doesn't mean you become bitter; that means you love loose and free. you love with the understanding that such a path sometimes means distance. and that's okay. that's healthy. the ones who get the up-close view are the ones who get to see (and sometimes minister) YOUR mess, YOUR brilliance, and the stumbling, fumbling, crazed step-step-pause we do on a regular. those folk ... those are the ones who'll be there when it matters. and that's cool, 'cause who wants a whole chattering army of people feigning some version of proper concern when you just down and out? can we all have some privacy please?! and beyond that, you sure gonna have a hard time keeping up with your happy, if you are parceling it out to everybody and they cousin's sister's brother. measure the emotional shared space. in that sense, she has taught me that moderation is crucial to a life beyond obsessive extremes and luke warm survival, and that learning to be comfortable and appreciative of one's solitude is urgently necessary for the living.

yeah. i love her. and i am thankful to have her in my corner. rock. riddle. beautiful woman, and ride or die friend.