Petals suspended on a spine. Something bigger than us, than God, is alive, yawning, stretching, screaming in silence… Trying to be heard. See that grey beyond the homely lights, see the moon straining out of a cradle… A womb, light peeping beyond doom? Is that you, is that me, are we together, somewhere-sometime beyond now? No need to ask how it feels, it’s like, some déjà vu of a moment we are yet to arrive at.
And I am in love with light. Light is colour. I am in love with lightning, with dawn and sunset, with twilight. Light reveals things around us, but most importantly light reveals itself. Can we see it? For what it is, that all things are light: aren’t we all just a shade, of it? Can you see me when you close your eyes? Am I like you? You are like me, we are the same, take away the light, take away sight, take away colour, what are we but sound? Thunder.
It was raining when we lay beyond the city. You are scared of thunder, I’m in love with lightning. You shook out of your sleep speared by the sound of light and something was happening, in your belly; a galaxy was bursting awake. I breathed your air, heaved with your lungs. The light waned, the city swallowed in rain flaked away. Where did we go? Somewhere grey, into the womb of twilight, an eternal but fickle moment, we became those petals, petals on a spine, stretching, stretching, yawning, dawning.
Sometimes, you said, you cheat on God with life. Each time I shook awake I found less light in the room and outside, the galaxy was folding. I was scared, for the first time, scared of the Light, scared to escape twilight, I was scared of colour.
But I am in love with colour. As I am in love with ideas, freedom – the distant star we each must claim and tame alone. We are all travelers, are we edging towards the great grey? The space between times? The eternal twilight? Of course we are, that is home, that is death, and that is fate. Away from the Light.
I saw you for what you are, an idea, a light I had to feel, taste. You dance like a supernova, while talking calmly like you hold all the secrets to creation, and when I told you, cleansed of my sweat in your bathwater, how I wanted to be inside you, one with you, congealed desire trickling down your leg, you transformed, you didn’t hesitate, we became one colour, naked desire.
I still think about it. The thousand faces I saw rippling in your pleasure, kneeling over you, coiled beside and inside you, breathing your air, watching you sleep, being one with you. There was thunder, there was lightning, a galaxy rushed out of me, to explode inside you.
And God is a pretty girl with a huge crush on me. Sometimes she plays coy, sometimes she wounds me as only a lover could; ignored, bored, gored. And you said sometimes you cheat on God with life. And the sky grumbled, and your skin tasted like velvet, your breath like flame. And the sweat of anticipation, trailing down your leg, cold as lightning, tasted like electricity.
I am in love with ideas. Like liberty. I am in love with colours, like grey… I am in love with tastes… Like electricity. I am in love with the moon, I am in love with salt. And I know what you are, I have tasted your smile, I have smelt your colour, I have breathed your peace. I know who you are, I know why you’re scared of lightning.
The air was blue outside, it came in and made small incisions on my back like umthakathi sent to sprinkle fear into my spine. I awoke out of something greater than God and us, I awoke into bland colour, not grey enough. I shut it out and read a page I had never heard and the moment of recognition was strong. We had been here before, and sometimes it takes lying down on a bed, in an actor’s flat, and reading your thoughts on an unfamiliar page to realize that the three of you… The actor, the thinker and the thought on the page, are the same person, the same colour, at least in the grey, that beautiful grey, you are the same ray of sun.
For the next three days I was you, I think I still am, in part. One never quite loses themselves, or the other person, they just grab hold of the fragmented portion and pay it more attention. If I say I am no longer you I am just paying more attention to the light. Take away the light and all we have is instinct, feeling, bare thought: consciousness. I carry you in my spirit like I always have, should.
I know who you are, I know what you are, you are not the petal the light pressed. And I know the force within me. And I know recognition, and sometimes we stand without clothes and think we are only naked, but what we are, really are, is divorced from the light. You grabbed the stem but the bleeding sap did not bleach you, I smelled the earth in the petals, and in the thousand faces that stuttered while you heaved I saw you, the true you, divorced from the light. You climbed onto me and bloomed, the pistils on your neck tensing before the fragrance leapt out of your mouth like thunder.
Same flower, distended off the ground, separated from the Light. You touched the stem it did not prick you, I touched your face and did not bruise the petals. Your spine, petaled in ecstasy, shaking, over, over, over, and over again, collapsing… Twilight crashing down, rising like the stars, falling like the moon… The colour fades into an earthy smell, the air travelling between us tastes like lightning, schizophrenic Zeus hurling blazing boomerangs…
I told you, I know who you are.
My heart is a window to a galaxy, where you reside eternally fragmented into ideas and colours. And sometimes you come together. In the light I can only catch a glimpse of you. You have hair like lightning, a nose ring, sometimes you have a dick you would like to rub against mine. And I turn away, appalled, deceived by colour, beguiled by the light. Sometimes you’re a vagrant trying to bum a smoke.
Sometimes you leap out of a page, sometimes so do I. Sometimes you walk out of the grey and confront your desire, impale yourself on my spire and bring heaven crashing down and igniting into petals of fire. Sometimes you do not know who you are, and stumble onto a revelation. But I know who you are, at least, when I know who I am. Sometimes I see you, beyond the colour, beyond light.
And somewhere in my belly whence the lightning leapt, followed by the thunder your petals shrieked, palpitating; I know our story. Something in my fear moved when you spoke of Yellow. You told me you know me, from Home. I know you from the grey, I saw us again just now, outside, wrestling the moonlight like Israel earning his name.
Somewhere I know the story of how we became, how we came, somewhere within I know your true name, it’s tangled up with mine. Somewhere inside I know that day, that moment was bigger than attraction, bigger than God and time. Somewhere within I remembered you, though I thought I was meeting you for the first time, you told me you knew me, I guess you are better at remembering than I am, even though in a grey way I knew who you were. I still don’t know your name, but I know you, intimately.
Sometimes a tree is killed and we realize how old it really is. Sometimes a world burns and the light from it illuminates a galaxy, its ash and soot paint the night and those little sparks, leaping from the cinders become our stars. Our world is burning, we did not run, we are the little cinders tossed across space and onto here. We are the flames leaping from the log, suspended in air before they fade.
I know what you are, I know who you are, I was accurate the first time: I know what you truly are. The light might try to deceive us; I know grey, you know Yellow, if it is what it seems then you are right, we shall call it Yellow. I know what you are, I know where you come from, I know why you are scared of lightning. I know we are lost, but I also know we know the way. And that is how we find each other across space, time, beyond colour. I know what we are, somewhere deep down, beyond the colour, beyond what seems, children of Yellow, our likeness calls. We are little bolts hurled from that fire, that planet of ours, Yellow.
In the story of our origin we are yellow with hearts of flame, shot down in an epilogue to an ancient dialogue, not a civilization for we existed somewhere, there, in Yellow, endlessly, seamlessly like Jesus’s garments. One ball of dancing fire, one desire: to burn, eternally fuelled by our souls.
Flame, like the stripes of the Bengal tiger we are inside, golden as the lion outside, and we were one, like the lion and the veld, the leopard crouching. You found me and buried your fangs into me; we are the same, the prey and the beast, you are what you eat. You nourished my spirit that wandered in the wilderness like cast-out demons, like the spirits of the dead trapped between the light and the grey. An eternal moment of recognition, the line that completes the couplet, the rhyme that defines and defies time.
The heart of the tiger is a flower, her hide is the fabric of petals, burning petals, a flame lily staggering in the rain. It was raining that day. The grey was watching its children, watching itself in us, watching time foretold unfold, the void that preexisted creation hovering above. In that moment, your claws digging deep, bruising the flower of my contentment (sometimes you think you have enough until you find the other half) digging within, digging for petals, digging for colours, digging for gold, for the lion, pulling him into the veld, thoughts of freedom escaping the wound, drawing me in circles of fire, out of the light, into the grey, reminding me, of Yellow.
You stood on the balcony, you stretched your appetite, who did I see in you? What did I see then? A distant mirage, a fusion of passions, delightful illusions. I was blinded by the light, deceived by appearance. I saw the dead lover I exhume so often, cut my wrists and bleed onto her lips hoping my warm blood gives her life again. I saw time unfold and the spirits of poems hover about you chanting, a slow and steady hymn of perfection. I saw the bones of myth shake off dusts of eons and take form; cluttering around you, and the stars we wished upon so often cluster in two masses, and those were your eyes.
“I am a child of Yellow.” You quoth, “We are not of this earth.”
Suddenly it dawned on me, siblings born of incest, of incest born to create. Sister, how far I have wandered seeking your thighs! Sister, how far from home I had to come to hear you hum. Sister, my feet are bruised with the journey from myself, sister show me your breast, where our scions will suckle the golden rays of our origin, let me bury my head and be one with you; again.
“I am a child of the sun.” you told again.
Yes, we are not of this earth… Then I began to recall what I have never heard, never learnt but deep within knew. I began to recall you, I began to recall me, us, folded in the womb of power, the womb of Yellow, it feels like the grey. I remembered death, I remembered the Afterlife which is what existed before life. I remembered being torn from you, from your embrace, I remembered being shot down in a ray of sunlight… And the lightning. I knew you would be scared of thunder, I knew who you were.
I looked up again, the wind chanting solemnly, from where I sat, the grey framing your image, I saw in you again a mirage, another face, another you I sought a lifetime ago. I saw all the faces I have pursued in somnambulism, I saw all the hookers who stopped me in my tracks and I would become their slaves, just for the night; (Close your eyes dear Narkissos) if you linger too long with a sister, you might fall into the grey. And stay.. So you keep running, running, stopping only to drink once but you keep running, running, until your soles give out. Sister, my soles are bruised with running from my soul, sister, today I am not running. The grey is outside, thunder and lightning, a galaxy is exploding in you, sister, we have created another being like us.
And you took my hand and led me before a mirror, our clothes touched the floor and formed a circle of premonition. There was a bucket of water, you crouched there, I crouched on this side. You washed you, I washed myself, I washed you, you washed me, the ecstasy of slowly becoming one being, three beings, the spirit of your lover, hovering about. The spirit of my admirer, enfolding us, she was with us that day, dear God, and when my lips descended to set fire to your petals, she swallowed your scream, with a kiss.
The sweat of your desire was rolling down your thigh, cold as lightning, it tasted like electricity. There was fire in your palm, it smelt yellow. The grey solemn outside, looking in, looking into itself; unto its soul, watching lightning about to be born from rage and pleasure. Schizophrenic Zeus hurling spears of light at himself… Thunder growled before the lightning.
Now I closed my eyes, I shut out the light, I forgot to see what was before me. You had claws, they dug into my spine, ripping the earth for the petals to emerge, flaming tigers leaping for eternity. You snarled for my calyx digging into your petals, tender, trembling to sow tigers inside you. And then I rose, like the flower we were becoming, and thrust a prayer into you. I know who you are, I know what you truly are when even you are not looking. We bloomed together, into the grey, the ravenous thunder foretold lightning.
And I am in love with colours. I am in love with grey… The grey. I saw it outside just now, swirling and twirling beyond the homely lights, wrestling the moon like denial, a vortex, a lucid depiction of the moment we had become.
There was that mirror in the bathroom. I looked over your shoulder, and into your face, straight ahead. I horded you, drew you close as though to force us to become another kind of One, the One we were once, in the days of Yellow, when we were still in the womb of the sun. You quaked and fell to the ground, I stood alone, facing nakedness but looking beyond the light, beyond appearance I realized, you had fallen into me, you had entered me. And when you rose to your feet, flushed from the bloom that had brought you to the ground it was my turn, to fall, to screech, for the thunder we had howled so long to ascend and finally, in an act of rage and beauty, Yellow and grey, violent ecstasy; give forth the lightning.
I know what you are beyond the light, I know who you are when even you are not looking. I know what I am when I cease to deny, I know why I couldn’t keep walking when you asked me to stop. I know why I coiled beside and in you, my back shielding your breasts. I know the colour of your heartbeat, I knew before you told me it was yellow, like our home, Yellow.
I know you wear many faces to hide, sometimes from yourself. I know She is not your lover. I know she is you. My dear I see you clearly; you are Her.
Don’t stay too long in the grey. Don’t linger too long with a sister. I should have left but the rain would not let me, so I stayed, inhaling your air and writing poems in my lungs. I still breathe beauty. The rain would not let me go, I stayed coiled, in and around you, my back, shielding your breasts. The blue wind cut into my spine as though to dislodge the petals, I got up to shut it out, found a book written before my time, I found my thoughts in the page, and shook when I realized this bed belonged to an actor who had once played him: my famous doppelganger. So natural for that book to be found there, so natural for me to be there, to find it there, but who were you? What are you, truly, when even you are not watching?
I wrapped my arms around God, she shuddered when the thunder broke the rhythm of our breathing, I shook each time I escaped the grey, each time I awoke. I should have left, but I smiled to learn the rain had not yet ceased, there was a galaxy yawning, dawning, clawing inside her, I shouldn’t be in such a hurry to return to the Light. But I left, eventually, like we left Yellow as one, like I left you, when lightning split the sunray twain. I left her, again.
Philani A. Nyoni is a multi-award winning Zimbabwean poet and the heir apparent to firebrand Zimbabwean author Dambudzo Marechera. Get in touch with him to buy his books, Once A Lover and Mars, His Sword here