A Letter Of Love From LEROY CLARKE
Those who wanted to wound me wounded you,
And the dose of secret poison meant for me
Like a net passes through my work –but leaves
Its smear of rust and sleeplessness on you.
We know something they could only guess and, for that, my love, Eye will grow accustomed to your absence like a child forever sees a parent it has lost too early; you, my dearest of renditions among sunrises and sunsets, archipelagoes abloom in the caprice of a vegetal heart, you remain as sure as pelted rain to leaves; my tongue searches the Art of your earthen lips for a word –Thanks!
Ever central, any theme was held to its own coordinates in you by your strict aesthetic sense and erudition for human conduct, which is tempted to feel forsaken in a world that outpaces faith in humanity itself. Death will not erase you from the continent, at large in my hands… Ah, for the ultimate reward and peace at this chapter’s end of earthly, ungratified toil!
Hear those dwarf-like citizens in their disdainful themes where death holds precedence… How savagely raucous, in their ole mas republic: they think you dead! Their cold tones step up to the nine-day ribaldry of rapid seasons: Selfless laughter, factious delights; in the antipathy of rancid cloisters, a bilious locutory of conceits reigns on stemless flowers thrown carelessly at a grave they believe to be there, and there you are laid to rest in wishes proportionate to their hearts!
What terrible thing kept us away from really saying goodbye after many rehearsals, and, to what thrall we retired, only to catch a glimpse of ourselves immersed in that silence that claims nothing. We know too well of what we know that is left to be known by us! Veiled like tears in a rendezvous of rain, they did not see us in their estimate that deigned to destroy a love unknown to them—naked to ours that took shape in the incredible landscapes of our twinned dreams!
Hands larger than shovels full of dirt have fallen on you for the hour that sets the Dawn apart when we shall see each other again. The rest you have never taken arrests you; sleep you have never had, embalms you, not in cold confused stares, but, with the eternal glow of fresh, ripening fruit –your unquenchable spirit.
How generous! Your flesh sinks among roots dissolving stones in their paths. Your soul has taken flight; your spirit is a shadowless hand on the brow of those who labour in the cause for which you stood—your Legacy begs us to begin again– breathing the unfinished air you left, how it feels so much like your arms, hummed to the faintest air, tendrils stirring our human with your loveliness.
It is that that confirms the obedience of your soul and mine –the thirst for the word yet unformed in saliva; the hunger to yield with the earth’s plentitude, the delicacies of good harvesting entrusted to the unquestioned duty to work. Beloved woman, no bale of mischief, no pall of dismal promises can perpetuate your lofty style; in vain they will tamper with what cannot be reversed –that untamable spirit of an artist– your luminous life, tomorrow’s bread, kneaded by your soul.
Yet, tomorrow, after the secret funeral, will we find you in the lessons you taught, drawing, as in drawing from the rose of a wrist a secret encrypted there, and, without which we could not make art! The music you loved, you delivered with the faith of a prophet; and, in the rituals of dishes you served us on smooth, hand crafted, old-fashioned stones, discoveries would stud our carefully, versed nights.
At once, we shall remember how our hearts lit up like birds awoken in dark trees, when you entered our gossip. How full of laziness and guilt we felt, that your dark eyes filtered us for what can be redeemed. You knew so much, you saw us naked! Oh, the lineaments, afrique of your face –your nostrils, your mouth, the space in your teeth, the fragrance of your shyness, and, in your confident laughter, those sedentary glints of an alerted cat in the counsel in your inciting voice; and, yes to your hands’ iridescence, those parenting hands, gloved in tribute to the gifts you so willingly shared.
Your manner was exceptionally unique, and almost with a temper aroused by an antiquarian zeal, yours, which was imbued by the spirits of the immortals –the unwavering penchant for the stoutness of idea and detail. The memorable adventure of your library of books and music, the precision you willed to shaping ideas had to be uttered by one who was obedient to the trust placed in him. That appeared in the lack of pretension to the taste in your collection of things –all lend incriminating evidence to your fastidious nature to be explicit, thorough and predictably insatiable.
We saw nothing in you unworthy of imitating, yet, we resisted: but, to what end, what were you here to say? Some thing that we are, that we were and we are to be… What! All effort returns to its whisper our feet can barely hear in the earth. Hers was an unmatched urgency to gather the little precious things of us and demonstrate our abiding magnitude. She stammered like all gifted ones do on the invited moment to let go to an assent known without knowing to be there, waiting to be born of us –the Art of ourselves!
The passion of an Artist to be liberated from the known “Be” to try again where all longing begins, sets the one up against the ultimate challenge of witnessing the carving out of the very work that will annihilate him! There, behind the zero, busied in that gulf where the last creation left him, can there be any consolation –an earnest grasp in the meaning of praise– not really, only an intense force that draws him to reconcile again and again with wounds that truncated the memory of every note or brush stroke he has ever made.
She, because of her treasures brought to the open in a place that lacked vigilance, was kept restless; and, with the slightest whim, her arms, lengthened by the jeweled fan of (her) Mama Oshun, she tamed error by veering the bend of our unfinished gestures. When was she ever not enchanted by the sincerity of toil that proved us mere offerings to a work that landed in our care, to be attended in the gratitude we feel for the first light of morning that seems like echoes of a radiant word racing through our immense forests, seeking to arouse our souls!
Ah, Miss Pat… Miss Bish’… Miss Bishop, forgive us, insufficient that we are, we avoided knowing who you were. What miracle –that woman was let to us for a little while– banished in the babble of our poverty! We resisted her the way we resist practising the best of us, preferring to the insidious, in a gamble among scandalous conceptions of culture. We achieve fraudulence, even unto our mediocrity—the taste of the mob for its malaise—with uncivil glee, unkind and kin to rot.
Raising the baton for the last time to the stern auction block, her style now emblazoned by the absolute wonder vented by her lungs, her profile intensified in the outlasting belief where she saw us more grand and pure, she exhaled: I am tired… I am tired… Ah tired! I have no more words to give you, no more blood to course these pavements, not one more chance with me! Silence beckoned. She walked a few steps made pliant in a blind stare, fell, and died in the pervert of our witness.
All sudden, the light dimmed; birds went awry in our posture of the news. Horizons tire for us to be sieved, free to new marriages. Oh, if only we awake to the poetically wrought entitlements that distinguish her, with sphinx-like memory –the sacred quest to make Art that would art our lives!
The untold has had its spell broken. Let it be said that Eye have always loved her. And, if ever you dwelled in the country of her purest dreams, Eye have also had you, in the appearance of the miraculous in small things that excites me still!
The Elder, Chief Ifa’ Oje’
Won Yomi Abiodun.