Poetry Critiques : As Sure As the Wind Blows

Discussion in 'Black Poetry - Get Your Flow On!' started by river, Apr 17, 2008.

  1. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    Hey Fambly,

    Here are the first three pages of what is going to be a novel. Please let me know if you find the main character sympathetic. Do you find yourself caring about her problems? And any other tips you might offer for how to make this better

    thanks

    ****************************
    "Mama, I want to be an Egun.” This I say to my mother but really the egun themselves--those illustrious ancestors who had done more in life than just die. I watch the egungun festival. Red and purple, yellow and green strips of fine cloth swirl around my brother Bamidele, Deep hypnotic drums command his feet to move at the will of the drummer’s hands. I want all this to be for me. Bamidele made his own costume, adding a new layer of colorful cloth strips each year for the ancestors who had passed. It is now thick with the memory of five generations of our egun. And I want to be an ancestor. I want my descendants to dance for me. Dance, Bamidele. Dance for me. I am your ancestor. I am your descendant. I am all the egun. As he and others from our village dance my fathers great uncle Baba Abioye brushes my cheek with the purple and blue hands of Bamidele’s memory and my desire soars.. But my mother cautions me.

    “Ayodele, not everyone gets to be an ancestor. You must live before you worry about the afterlife.”

    Egungun drums swallow the voice of caution. Bamidele trembles and begins to dance violently . The drums no longer control his feet. Baba Abioye, is that you? Do you want to dance too? We never die. We never stop whatever we were doing as long as someone living remembers our name The whir of Bamidele's black hands shimmers in the moonlight . They are hands. They are strips of cloth. They are ghost leaving behind a trail of light. If I could see his face behind the egungun mask would I see him? Or would I see the image of those who never die? Spirits possessing flesh for a moment until they return with their own bodies from the Ara Orun.

    I am almost in a trance myself, I see the awo of the universe in everything around me.. The dancers are bright., The essence of the spirits is bright around them. Our Creator Olodumare commands the moon to be a witness to our festival of reverence. It will tell the eternal story generation after generation from its lofty perch over the forest.
    I hear a voice calling my name. It seems to be coming from Bamidele but that is not his voice.

    “Ayodele," I've never heard him before but I know this is Baba Abioye speaking to me. "I know your desire. It will come with a price. There is much you must learn before joy comes home.”

    Never has an egun spoken directly to me before. But then I’ve never had such a strength of desire before. What is he telling me? That my desire is to be fulfilled? A price to pay? A lesson to learn? What more was there to learn? In my twenty years of life I have never done anything bad. Not really bad to exclude myself from ancestorship. My father, Kayode, is babalawo of the village. Surely the opportunity will present itself for me to do something great. I’ve got to be an ancestor. I’ve just got to.

    Everyone goes to my father when they cannot resolve their problems. He is second only to the Orisa itself in wisdom. Maybe I am his daughter so that I can perform some great deed .

    I need the answer to this mystery Baba Abioye has left with me. I whisper to the mesenger who carries our requests to the Creator. Esu, I stand at the crossroads. Be the messenger of my prayers and not the trickster.

    The sweetest yams grow in the dirt. I must dig through so much of it to take this present to the babalawo. I hope his being my father will not get in the way of his being my babalawo. Sometimes two people want different things and when they are the same person there is inner conflict. That's why I have never come to him this way before. But he must be my babalawo today. He alone can show me what I must do--what is the lesson I must learn and what is the price I must pay to become an ancestor.

    In his hut painted eyes stare at me from strange animals some say exisi somewhere. I feel them pawing the grass and asking me what I want in this place. A dark place with one window and a door facing the stars, not the moon. The smell of burning sage drives out evil spirits and I relax. I am safe. He will not bite me anymore than these painted beasts. Right?

    "Ayodele, place your ebo on the table." Babalawo Kayode’s voice whispers from the shadows of his hut. "I have determined that your request is to Osa Meji and she will love the yams." He speaks to me as a babalawo. I swallow the urge to say "Father..."

    But now I am curious. "Osa Meji? I thought they were for Oshun."

    "Haha! You know the Orisa. Welcome to the Odu. We will begin shortly."

    I remember the words of his great uncle Baba Abioye. A lesson to learn. Must I learn all the intricacies of the Egbado people in order to be an ancestor? A million possibilities dance at the edge of my mind, shrouded in the unknown and sashaying out of my grasp.

    Babalawo Kayode places 16 kola nuts on a tray and with one hand behind his back he begins the work of divination with a prayer to Esu as Laroye the divine messenger of the river. I know this much. I know everything begins with the messenger Esu. I hold my breath not wanting even the sound of my breathing to break his concentration as he recites poems over the nuts.

    Finally he looks at me and says "Ayodele, your answer is in the wind."

    "What? What do you mean?"

    "That is all I can tell you. When you meet the wind at the crossroads of your life you will have your answer."

    I came for answers. I get more mysteries. "The crossroads? That's where I must make choices."

    "Then choose wisely."

    He walks to the door to let me know it is time for me to leave. I thank him for the "answer" and try not to look disappointed as I walk out with my head as high as my spirits can muster.

    I had expected the night to be peaceful. I had expected to be resting in the assurance of irrefutable answers. Now I only sigh at the moon shining through my window. There is no wind coming through my window and there will be no answers tonight. A shout from outside bursts into my thoughts.

    “Dahomey!”

    I creep to the window hoping to see without being seen. They must not see me. They must not hear the sweat falling from my body to the ground. The Dahomey look like my people but they come with those who do not look like anything produced from mother Earth. Two-legged they are but colorless and with lips and noses eaten away by some dreadful disease. The Dahomey men and these strange, grinning creatures seem to keep this village as we keep the chickens.. They come when they please and take my people to a place I do not know--a place from which they never return. The streets of Egbado are quiet and still except for the arrogant steps of the Dahomey. We learned long ago that our weapons are no mstch for their magic sticks that spit fire. We have seen our men fall dead when no one touched them. Now we huddle in fear, not knowing who will be taken.

    I hear the steps at my door. NO! I can’t let them take me. How will I ever be an egun? How will I ever learn the lesson Baba Abioye gave me in the place they will take me? I turn to face them. To face the fire. At least here someone will remember my name. I know I cannot get passed the two tall Dahomeys flanking my door or fight the muscular brute approaching me. But my screams will ring in the village of Egbado forever. The moon will witness my struggles and the trees will remember my name to the next generation and the next and the next…he touches me.
    I scream “ENIYAN BUBURU!”

    The coldest eyes scrape over me. Feeling nothing. Seeing nothing but the promise of a reward. The same eyes that scrape over wild game in the forest. I will my body not to flinch away. I am not wild game. His touch quickly turns into a grasp

    “NO!” I cannot pull away. Where is the strength that accompanies determination? I pull. I push. I bite. He laughs

    One of the Dahomey at the door spits on my floor--MY floor. He has the nerve to be impatient. He has the nerve to want a quick end to my struggles. “Slap her.”

    My captor only laughs “For what? This is fun..”
     
  2. triniti424

    triniti424 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    AHhhhhhh dearest Sister River :grouphug:

    I'd forgotten how beautifully striking your words can be :read:

    Ooookay so... to answer your immediate question...

    Do you find yourself caring about her problems? Why, Yes. Immensely so... and you very much so have held the reader waiting for... well ANYTHING. Just eager to find out what will be next.

    If I might be so bold Sister, (please know this all comes out of honest sincere love and the desire to see nothing but the finest Sister River work come forth)

    The writing style in the beginning of the chapter is reminicent to me of a James Joyce type of form in the sense that when it opens I feel (and again sister Im speaking for myself) the sense of interior monolouges and inventive narrative begins to form. Sister I dont know if that was your intention but... I love it.

    Now what I am about to say is more based on the written identity of you that I've come to appreciate so much. One of the strongest features in any of your posts here at destee.com whether comically reflective or revolutionarily focused, your posts very much place someone inside your head. Often enough in attempt to truly relay to the reader your perspective. The general population communicates information in a RELAY sort of way where the final message is what the brain has tailored to accomodate the public. I dont get that with you, when I read a Sister River post, I have always felt like, I am entering in Sister River Land, where my purple is your orange but the wonderful thing about it is... after reading you it is refreshingly CLEAR that your words are just that... YOU.

    I dont know that you meant to write in that form at all sister but in my honest opinion IF you were I do believe you would be very successful at it. My 17 year old niece, an avid Harlem Renaissance Author enthusiast, from time to time still enjoys reading Dr. Seuss (lol) In my attempts to summarize myself I will use her words, "You just gotta' love somebody that can take green eggs & ham and make them unforgettable in a GOOD way" :)

    So Sister I await the result of whatever you have in store for us readers :) knowing that whatever it is... it will be fant-amazingly-tastic (and yes sugah that one came out the ghetto Triniti dictionary lol) much love and respect sister,
    Trin
     
  3. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    TRINITIIIIII!!!!!!!

    Hey it's been a minute since I seen you! The kind of minute that comes after Just a...

    But really I just haven't been up here in a while. There're so many plans going through my head for what I want to happen in this story. I just needed to get the opening right. I've been procrastinating, not sure if it would fly. No I wasn't even thinking about James Joyce. Not even thinking about Sista River but about how to make Ayodele and her world come to life.

    Now if you see something here that can stand improvement, be sure to let me know.

    Love you, sista,

    River
     
  4. watzinaname

    watzinaname Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Yes, river, I care about what happens to Ayodele. I feel she has the strength to break free from her captors, and I want to know how she does so. I also want to know where her fate leads. Your writing is very detailed, yet, the detail doesn't make the narrative drag, it makes the story that much more vivid.
    I wish you much success in this endeavor Sister river. :)
     
  5. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    Hey sista watz,

    Unfortunately, by the decree of the gods of literature, she will not escape her captors but will increase her strength by what she has to go through.

    Thanks for the love and encouragement
    :grouphug:
    river
     
  6. $$RICH$$

    $$RICH$$ Lyon King Admin. STAFF

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    deep story line and how one can't break free
     
  7. PLATINUMILLITY1

    PLATINUMILLITY1 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I Most Definitly Care....I was so curious about her journey, what sort of things she would exoerience(it seems she still has a long way to go:))
    And then WHOA invasion.....Diseased faces?(Oh NO!)

    Sister River...I am deeply involved already, wow. I am not a critic, to critique your Writing...but I love it.

    (yeah, hopefully I will be able to learn what then NAMES and Pronunciations ARE! Smh...yes, it goes there)

    I'm Working on it:D
    Great SO Far Sis!....uh....do we get a free peak?????:deal
    :
     
  8. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    Here is the next installment

    ****************************************

    Fun? I decide to walk. I will not endure the indignity of being dragged The eyes of my universe will not witness such shame. Nor will I give this brute unnecessary oppotunities to touch me. But I shuffle my feet so they can carry the sturred up dust of this place to whereever they must go. I touch everything in my path so I can remember and be remembered. Outside I reah for the moon but the brute knows what I am doing and slaps my hand angrily

    "Superstitious abo aja! Keep walking and pick up your feet, lazy, trifling..."

    So I reach out with my mind. The fingers of my spiritual bodycarress the edge of the moon disk as a mother's palm cups her child's cheek. I whisper my name. Ayodele. Remember me. Remember my name. Ayodele. Joy has come home.

    We walk on and on. In time we converge with other captives and Dahomey brutes. Forgetting that my captor is aware I loudly say the name of my villiage and the other captives answer.

    "I am Ayodele from Egbado."

    "I am Enitan of Ilaro."

    "I am Dayo of Owode."

    "I am Olukayode of Oja Odan."

    "I am Oluwaseyi of Papa-Alanto."

    "I am Yejide of Ibese."

    "I am Kayin of Ifo."

    "I am Ayotunde of Idogo-Opaja."

    Our captors jeer and deride. push, slap and threaten but they cannot break the connections these names build among us. None of us knows to wht death we are marching but we know where we came from and we know we are not alone.

    We walk away from the watching moon. We walk until the sun creeps up behind us. Our shasows grow short in front of us then long behind us but still we walk.

    After many days the trees that watch but can do nothing to help recede behind us. The roots of the trees are deep but their branches do not reach to the place we are going. If they did those taken before us would have returned. We are the only branches now. Branches severed from their roots but still breathing. How can one breathe wind? It moves me where it wants. Pushing my body. Can I coax it into my lungs?
    ************************************

    At this point I find myself procrastinating because although I have some pivotal events waiting for her on board the slave ship that will take her to America I'm not sure how much more detail I need to take her from here to the ship.
     
  9. PLATINUMILLITY1

    PLATINUMILLITY1 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    So they have Begun to sail away?
    Wow Sis...and This installment is getting me ready for the next!
    I can not wait Sister River
    LAY IT ON ME!
     
  10. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    I made a few revisions to the ending here then took the captives on through he grueling trek to the African cost. As you may or may not know only half of those captured in the African interior actually survived to the coast. I left them as they are about to go through the door of no return at the slave factory Elmina Castle which today is a tourist attraction in Ghana.

    *******************************************************

    In the moonlight I see the frozen grimace of Bamidele's mask among the tacit dust and know he cannot help me. Bamidele, kick and scream. Remove the iron fetters that grate the skin of my ankles and let me dance with you again.
    We walk on and on. In time we converge with other captives and Dahomey brutes. They chain us together one in front of the other. Forgetting that my captor is aware I loudly say the name of my villiage and the other captives answer.
    "I am Ayodele from Egbado."
    "I am Enitan of Ilaro."
    "I am Dayo of Owode."
    "I am Olukayode of Oja Odan."
    "I am Oluwaseyi of Papa-Alanto."
    "I am Yejide of Ibese."
    "I am Kayin of Ifo."
    "I am Ayotunde of Idogo-Opaja."
    Our captors jeer and deride. push, slap and threaten but they cannot break the connections these names build among us. None of us knows to what death we are marching but we know where we came from and we know we are not alone.
    We walk away from the watching moon. We walk through filth and tears and blood until the sun creeps up behind us. Our shadows grow short in front of us then long behind us but still we walk.
    "I am sick. I can't go on." The young girl in front of me stumbles to the ground.
    A Dahomay brute beats her with his fire stick. "Get up, abo aja!"
    Dayo lunges for him but the chains don't let him go far enough. Suddenly there is a loud noise, the smell of smoke and Dayo falls to the ground never to move again. The weight of his body falling pulls us all. That is the only movement the young girl makes. Our
    cut them from the chains then toss their bodies into the anonymous grasses.
    "Keep moving!" they scream as if nothing unusual has happened.
    How do I plead my humanity to animals? How do I warn demons to consider the judgement of Olodumare?The animals on Kayode's wall were far more real and less frightening than these animated things that move through my nightmares.
    After many days the trees that watch but can do nothing to help recede behind us. The roots of the trees are deep but their branches do not reach to the place we are going. If they did those taken before us would have returned. We are the only branches now. Branches severed from their roots but still breathing. How can one breathe wind? It moves me where it wants. Pushing my body. Can I coax it into my lungs?
    We come upon the biggest hut I have ever seen. This must be the hut of the greatest elder in Oyo. But we are not in Oyo and why would they take us to our elders? Our captors cheer and toss their hats in the air. "Elmina Castle!"
    With half the iron bracelets in front of me and behind me dangling empty we march toward this huge hut. As we enter it I find that it is many huts built on top of each other The people inside look over us. In their eyes is a mixture of disgust and greed. Some of them look at the men the same way they look at the women, touching and holding our private members as one might hold a hand or a fish.
    One of them points at me and the Dahomey take off my chains and take me to more water than I have ever seen in one place. To the right it stretches. To the left it stretches. Ahead of me it meets the sky in a thin curving line. This water is alive. It moves with the rhythm of its life. Thrown to the land then dragged back by the unseen hand of Olodumare. Who else has so much power? So much majesty? But if He is here will he not help me? Did He help those who were taken before me?
    My captors push me into the water with instructions to wash myself.. The water stings where my skin is broken. I have never known water like this. Esu, I asked you not to trick me. Am I here because my question angered you? Is this pain and indignity the only answer I will get? In my spirit I feel him saying No
    When I am sufficiently clean they take me back to that pale demon that took an interest in me. I do not see in his eyes as much disgust as I feel in my whole being. He grabs my arm and pulls me into a room of the great hut, grinning with something in his eyes I have never seen in any Egbado man. But though he be male surely he is not a man. Why did I wash only to be touched by this stinking atrocity? I am immobilized by both fear and rage. He enters that most holy of holy places in my body and some part of me dies. I command all of my body to die but My spirit refuses to vacate its defiled palace.
    I dread every day that the sun dips behind the water knowing that this is what I must endure. I used to welcome the night. In my village it cuddled me in darkness, blending with me as if we were of the same essence. But now for the first time in my life the joy of night has shattered.
    Seeing that I will not respond to him he soon tires of me and says something in his unintelligible language which seems to summon the Dahomey. They come dragging another victim by the hair. "Come on abo aja, He wants you."
    With what is left of her strength she screams "My name is Ekundayo. What are you? You are not men. You have no respect for women."
    They laugh, push her through the door then turn to grab me. Ekundayo--sorrow turns to joy. This scene I was meant to see. I remember the teachings of my father. Dirt cannot stop the grass from growing.
    They take me and other captives to a place deep under the hut they call Elmina Castle. We go down to a place away from the sun. Away from air. A place where I am sure I will die. It is so dark I cannot see the faces of those around me. Only screams and prayers, moaning and the stench of death and human waste tell me that many others are there. We are packed so tight I cannot move. . I cannot raise my arms to comfort those who weep. I cannot pull away from the coldness of those who die. In my own delirium I cannot remember the prayer for those who are sick.
    In the evening after we wash those who were not choosen for nightly torture are returned to that living grave. I see Ekundayo wretching in the big water. She can hardly stand. I go to her. "Sister, lean on me."
    She lifts her eyes but not her head. "I see you."
    I take her away from the water to a rock where we can sit down.
    The Dahomey are imkpatient "What the hell are you doing?"
    I want to say she is sick but doubt they care so I say nothing.
    The brute storms over to us "Come on abo aja. You got to get ready for your night of pleasure anjyway.."
    He grabs both of us by the srm and drags her while pushing me into the hut.
    After many days our captors put on our chains and push us through a door we have never gone through before.
    .
     
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