When I was not yet three years old, John Richard and Grace Elizabeth Ingram adopted me from an orphanage in southwest London. At the time, my dad was the minister of a thriving church and I was the fourth (and youngest) adopted kid in my family. My heritage is of African descent and my adoptive parents are Caucasian. When I was four, a stroke left my father paralysed down his left side; he died when I was 18.
Due to the stroke, it was difficult for dad to speak so we spent countless hours communicating by playing games of dominoes. Dad would rest his paralysed arm on his card table and play a ferocious game of dominoes with his “good arm.” Invariably he won. Ironically, my dad’s nickname for me was “Topsy.” Even if I didn’t win against him at dominoes he expected me to come top of the class in all my school subjects. I did my best not to let him down.
If I quiet the voices in my head I can still hear the cranky squeaks of his wheelchair. The clicking made by the calipers that were attached to his
legs below the knee. The incessant wheeze from the asthma that attended the paralysis. His body was his burden.
As a child there were times when I longed to pick him up and carry him on my back. Far and away from his wheelchair and back to the fleeting memory I had of him as my able-bodied dad. Now that I’m an adult, I believe there are no accidents. My dad is my role model and I have found my dream job improving the lives of persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
Thank you dad! Happy Father’s Day.
When Lady Serenity
saw me, she swerved.
Her detour a reminder not to dwell on anxiety.
I want to absorb the tempo of my female hero.
Go with her on a journey. We’ll decide.
Fill a syrup-colored packing case with maps loosely packed.
Plan our getaway on the backs of envelopes. Take me with you.
“Live and love as if there’s no tomorrow.” I wish she’d said to me.
“Die to tomorrow.”
Add as a P.S.
Be more or less to each other.
She adds the tragic loss of her daughter “Michele” to the mystery of how humankind came to be here on Earth.
If God’s people cannot agree on the Beginning of Time, her wish is that her daughter will never trace her and save herself the disappointment of discovering the tale of her beginning —
Upon a Time.”
Her homeland is a primitive island in the midst of the Caribbean Sea.
“Learning to reading
was reserved for the rulers of the island.
As Michele grows up, she will want to be read to at night. What
will her mother tell her? Should she say that her eyesight is poor.
* * *
My illiterate, mother.
I span her like a shadow self,
calling out her name. “Frances”.
Step into my tracks, Frances. Frances.
Tell me your life story. In my dreams
you are a lifesaver.
You are a palm reader. You read palms.
You read me every night.
There beside me…. whispering incantations,
telling me what comes next…
Replacing fairytales? Replacing
I remember who I am today.
The challenge for today is to pick a language that you don’t know, and then translate a poem in that language.
Use the sound and shape of the words and lines to guide you, without worrying too much about whether your translation makes sense!
I chose to translate a poem written in Norwegian from a collection called Regnværsgåter (Riddles in Rainy Weather) by Gro Dahle.
HVEM ER DET SOM VENTER PÅ DEG UANSETT HVA DU HAR GJORT UANSETT HVA DU HAR SAGT MYKERE ENN DU HADDE TENKT BEDRE ENN DU KUNNE HUSKE?
i det slitte gamle trekket
Et eneste stort kinn
Have they met some Ventura (good fortune) perhaps inserted afar? You have jotted down “Inserted Afar”, you have said Mercury in the Heavens; think betraying them, you can help?
Put it down!
I do slither as gamblers trekked.
And earnestly sought out kindred spirits
Above the state of OM (primordial vibration),
Five nails I see.
Below is the correct translation of the poem.
WHO IS WAITING FOR YOU REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU HAVE SAID SOFTER THAN WHAT YOU HAD THOUGHT BETTER THAN WHAT YOU COULD RECALL?
in the worn old cover
One big cheek
Saltoun Sea, California
I don’t know how to tell you of this journey and not forfeit my peace of mind.
I have been attempting to draw a line under
my Book of Experiments for almost a year now.
My equations calculating density,
Tidal waves and unremitting desire.
I want to be an inventor; to exist on more
than faith and mineral water, coffee and exercising.
Present a bunch of lilies to my lover at the week-
end, unapproachable as he is — all hot air,
apt to blow a fuse at the mention of marriage vows.
I’m remembering our most recent heterosexual position on
high ground at the Joshua Tree National Park. Seduction
above the heads of Emerald trees, looking in the direction of the inland
Saltoun sea –
created by a freaky flood in 1905.
It is said (by whom?) that the Saltoun Sea
sits on top of the San Andreas Fault Line.
If this is true, then I suck my teeth at her pop-up location.
This unfathomable so-called Sea, her
Longevity as unlikely as my holy matrimony.
If only a wave would roll over me and dispel my unease.
Return me to my senses!
The native wildlife, mountain lions etc., I roll my eyes at, but that is a given for me.
I lay down. Avert my eyes from the landlocked sea.
Turn inwards towards my spiritual sea.
Nothing to read but the ancient future.