Poetry by jamilah malika abu-bukare
hummingbirds and bats flicker in the twilight
winged and fleeting – swoop, dip and dive – blur at differing depths
one come like the other, either look like both
but not us – we expose birds but hide bats
inside rooms inside ourselves we only enter with a deep breath
most times we slam or shove the door shut
sometimes we fling ourselves in, plunge, devolve,
let voices not our own echo, reverb, resound
but which voice sits at the head of the table?
let he at the head take a farther seat, to the side, near the end
let us hear from other voices at the table, not the loudest grown strong from overuse
let us hear from an other, perhaps one from whom we’ve never heard
whose hopes see neither light nor dark, rather bathe in silence
a dream, let us hear from a dream, no matter how idyllic and far-fetched
let no one sneer at a utopia uttered meekly!
a secret, let us hear from a secret, unspoken for fear of loathing
or from the most hideous voice that crackles and breaks, starts with a moan
for listening lessens suffering a monk once said
let us not exaggerate, not play out
let us not dismiss those suffering so long
let us not disparage all we longed for, all that we only glimpsed in a contrast,
and then be still, let it be both – lose. let the story go both ways – be wrong and feel righteous or be right and feel further away. as you will and do not will it, it will go. and far. it will surprise you as your ears take it in from others’ mouths. there may be fallout.
they may leave you, with your bats in your locked room aghast, a ghost, running, shedding you and furious tears (seeking another teacher, a new or old friend) they may abandon you (the chorus chimes ‘not good enough, not good enough’) they may take others, better, over you as the run and (again) you find yourself alone. somewhere
at the table, listening to who? and you cannot harbour anger against them. those you lose. who left. you
lost. you let it be all. both.
let the whole truth unlock frantic bats and watch them
fly free into the twilight with birds so seamlessly even
you cannot tell them apart.
enter willingly – buy a ticket
light the way with misplaced nostalgia,
watch each flame go out,
feel around, find fangs
finger teeth with two hands,
one cannot grip stalactites
underfoot : a hot, damp tongue, thick and heaving
drop to knees, place one ear against pasty taste-bud bumps
this beast quite still,
unmoved by whimpers, by tentative touching,
knock, find no doors to open, no hole
to slip through, no light, no end.
black as this place.
reminded – (cat) called darkie.
sync my pace to its pace
find myself breathless, panting
look everywhere for my reflection
catch glimpses of something distorted, jeering
spooked, turn back, shut eyes, stay quite still inside
the lion’s mouth
Jamila is a writer and an artist (SAIC MFA ’19) focused on refusal, repetition, dedication and intimacy. This might look like text off page, sound, video, textile, photocopies and/or objects at times combined as installation. Whether embroidering yaki ponytail hair on burlap, mounting paper sculpture or shaking up spaces with sound, she always centre Black womanhood with care. Her work has played or shown from Sweden to LA and across Canada including Contemporary Field Gallery (Vancouver,) Circuit Gallery (Toronto) and Artscape (Peterborough). She is inspired by artists and writers who can hold both the beauty and the terror, who pause in the bind and wonder, without judgement, how the two coincide and relate.
Originally published August 26, 2021