A Smile To Remember

we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, ‘be happy Henry!’
and she was right: it’s better to be happy if you
can
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.

my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: ‘Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?’

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
smiled

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A life.

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Writing
 

CHILDHOOD

You were born 1939 in a place that they say no longer exist. It’s stopped existing in 1991, so when you left in 1993, you left a different place then the one you were born in.

You used to say that you had a happy childhood, even though your family didn’t have much. You were the second of eight children and as the eldest daughter, a lot was expected from you. You never went to school so you never learned to read or write. Still you loved the feeling of holding a book in your hands. When you were not taking care of the kids or doing house work, you used to run around on the fields. Your mother couldn’t understand why you went out on the field by yourself. She didn’t understand that for you the field was a refuge away everyone else, a place where you were allowed to be just a child.
You were the fastest of all your friends. Even faster than some of the boys. They start calling you ‘The wind’ because you would swoosh by, so fast, people almost couldn’t see you. Just like the wind.

 

FATHER

You didn’t really know your father and that wasn’t his fault. I guess that he loved you in his own way, but his affection was shadowed by the realities of his life. His job was to put food on the table for the family. Every night at eight o’clock, he’d come home, smelling like sweat and fish. Sometimes he carried his catch on his shoulders. His face was white from the salt of the Indian Ocean.

Once when you were four, he took you to the harbour to see the boat where he worked and you were so proud to be walking hand in hand with him on the street. When he was carrying you onboard, you pressed your face into his neck for a moment. His hair smelled of coco butter. You never forgot the smell of your father’s hair.

 

MARRIAGE

When you were thirteen, your father told you it was time you got married. You knew that those words would come eventually, but when they did, you weren’t ready for them. But you never told him that. You didn’t even ask who you were getting married to. One week later, there was a knock on the door and it was your cousin Mohamed and your uncle Macow. They sat with your father at the wooden table and the two men spoke with low voices. You peeked at them from behind the door and you knew from the way Mohamed was staring at the floor, that it was him.When they left, your dad told you that he’d given you away to Mohamed.
He will take care of you, he said.

 

MOTHERHOOD

You and Mohamed had twelve children. Five girls and seven boys. One of them was my mother. Two of them you lost when they were babies. You lost them but you kept them in your heart and whenever someone asked you how many children you had, you always said twelve. You loved your children and you wanted them to know it. You made sure they got an education. The things you never had. Mohamed wasn’t home much. He never let you go hungry, but you doubted if he knew the name of his own children.

WAR

In the middle of 1991, war trucks began to cruise around Mogadishu. Armed soldiers were hanging in the plaza. The streets were empty after 8 pm. You knew that you should have left long before you did. But a part of you refused to see the reality of what was happening.  

One day a truck pulled up in front of your house and four soldiers jumped out. They searched the house and they found your youngest son sitting in his room. They put a rifle to his head, called him a traitor for not being out there fighting for his country. You screamed and you begged them not to hurt him. They beat you with their rifles butts and they left you both bleeding on the floor. You survived. But nothing was ever the same.

AGE

I enter the room and I walk the few steps towards the bed where you’re laying.

“Hi grandma” I say.
“Hi sweetie” you say.
“How are you feeling today?”
“ I’m feeling old, my angle but I am still breathing. How are you?”
“I’m good grandma.”
I sit next to you on the bed and I grab your hand.
“Today I had a test at school” I say “and I think I did really well.”
You smiles. But you eyes are far away. “I’m so proud of you my child. I always knew that you were better than the rest. They think they are clever, but they are not. Not like you Zara, you better then all of them”
“But Granma, I’m not Zara. I’m Monah”
“Don’t be silly Zara, Offcourse I know who you are”.
It hurts, but just for about a second. I’m used to this now. You left us a long time ago and what remains of you is a shell of what you once used to be
.
 I sit with you for a while. Then I read you your favourite book. 
When I get up to leave, you open your eyes and we stare at each other for a few seconds. In those seconds there’s no doubt that you knows that it’s me you’re looking at. I recognize in you the woman that I once knew.
“I’m leaving now grandma” I say as I bend down to kiss you.
“May peace be with you, my child. There is a lot of evil out on the streets. You are careful now aren’t you?” 
“Yes grandma, I’m careful”
“Don’t walk on the street at night. These soldiers are ruthless, they will rape a girl as pretty as you, you know that right?”
We are living in Sweden, there are no soldiers on the streets.
“I won’t walk on the streets at night “I say
“That’s good. You are so very clever. So much better than all of them. “
“Goodbye Granma, I see you tomorrow”
“Bye bye angel, take care of yourself now”

 

DEATH

I get a call from mother, and she tells me that you died last night. And even though I knew this was coming, the words, they hurt so much.

But today, when I think of you, I don’t feel any sadness, I’m just proud that I got to be a part of your story


I hope you’re happy wherever you are.

I’m in university now.

I miss you.

 

 

 

“The Slap”

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Poetry, Writing

You said you wanted to teach me everything. The things you knew. The things you never knew.
You were the one that taught me how to ride a bike. You said that I was a fast learner.
We use to climb trees together. You and I.

You were happy back then. And she was happy. So that made me happy too. Although we didn’t put labels on it. We still knew. Once I found her crying by the kitchen sink. But that didn’t matter. I just sang for her. And we were fine.

It went on like that for some time. But as time is a liar we simply called it life. Remembering it now, I think of strawberries and pretty little things that fly around.

But then one day, you slapped her across the face.  I looked at you shocked but somehow not at all. And you looked at me with a different pair of eyes. Like it was you but not really you.
So I searched for you inside of them. But couldn’t find you.

You said sorry.
But didn’t mean it.
And I knew that.
And she knew that.
And you knew that .
So we all knew.

That night you were in bed with her. I heard you. And later on you came into my room and you held me while whispering “I’m sorry. I’m sorry”. And I said its ok but I didn’t hold you even though I knew you needed it.

I guess that this story is just another one of those. You know. One of those stories that leave you feeling dry. And leave a sour taste in your mouth. And if you’d paint a picture of it,
the picture would be grey. Grey in different shades.
But grey all the same.

And if the picture would have a soundtrack attached to it. It would have been the saddest version of ‘Halleluja’.

People sitting in the background. Staring into something.
But nothing.

Roads.

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Travel

Image

They made a choice to go. They would work for six month. They would buy a van. They would quit their jobs. They would sell their stuff. Pack their bags. They wouldn’t bring much. Just one backpack each. They would just go. Where ever the road took them. They would go.

And six months later, that’s is exactly what they did. They had bought the Van, a 1992 Mazda. A huge bed in the back. The previous owners had sprayed her in military colours. She was a real work of art. They named her Roobie.
The van would be their home throughout their trip. They had taken her for a test drive on the first day. It had felt right from the start. They’d fallen in love.
They quit their jobs. A date was set early. After their shift on the day they told their boss that they wouldn’t be coming back no more. The boss asked why. They said they had to go.

It took a while to organize their stuff. What to sell. What to bring. What to throw away. Not because they had that much, but because each of the stuff had a story. And on those last days, as they were going through them, they talked about those stories. They Reminisced. The memories made them laugh.
Some of the stuff they would leave in the house. Like the plant by the bed and the painting of the naked blue woman on the wall. It would’ve be wrong to separate it from the house. They wanted to remember it that way.

The night before they left they had wine. Friends came over. They did some more reminiscing. The house held memories for them too. They’ve had some great times here together and they all knew that this was the end of a special time. They toasted.

They left early on a Thursday morning. The sun was shining. It was going to be a warm day. People were going to work just like they would on a normal day. People were in their cars, they were waiting for a train. They were waiting to cross the road. They were queuing for coffee to take away.
But as they drive away from the house, they knew that this was no ordinary day. They were sure that if people could stop whatever they were doing for a little moment, they would feel it too.
 
As they drove over the bridge they got a last view over the city. The city where they’d been living in for the past years. The city where they’d met and fallen in love. They knew the streets and they knew the corners. They knew where one can get the best pizza. If you’d ask them, they’d tell you. It was with mixed feelings that they drove over the harbour bridge. Pleasure mixed with a subtle sense of loss.They were quite on the way out of the city. They hoped, but knew they will never come back.Once they were out of the city, they rolled down the windows and let the wind into the van. They invited it to play with their hair. From the speakers, The Cat Empire was singing “ I’m on my way, to where I won’t look back I heard you say”. They rolled a joint. They smoked it. They sang along with the music. There wasn’t much inside the Van. A small portable stove. Two plates, four plastic cups. One green, one blue, two pink. They had a pot to cook in. A pan. Some cutlery. Things to stir with. An Eski to keep things cold. 

Before their departure they had bought the basics to keep them going for a while. Bread, eggs, noodles, cans of soups, cans of vegetables, pasta, rice, conserved vegetables and sauces.


That first night they slept close to a beach. And as they laid inside Rooble, side by side, listening to the sound of the waves coming into the beach they felt that something inside of them had changed. A sense of calm had entered their bodies. The calm that comes with an utter and complete feeling of freedom.

In the morning they had breakfast. Eggs on bread and they headed off again. They were not sure where they were going. They followed the coast.

As they travel, the places they visit become a part of them and they become a part of the roads they travel on. They get to know the sky and the clouds. Not in the way that one knows the sky and the clouds in the city. But really get to know them. It becomes their companions, a great source of comfort. Like a loyal friend, never failing to be there.
The roads are long and deserted. Some days they travel for hours without seeing a single person. Only small little worn down villages with a few houses on the side of the road. Once in a while they pass another car. They wave to the people in the other car. The people in the other car wave back. They learn that on these endless roads, everyone is a friend.
At night when darkness falls, they lie on their blanket and watch the stars. In the city the stars hide because they know that people are too busy to admire their beauty, but here the sky is accessorized with millions of diamonds. They count the fallen stars and they make a wish each time. In the end they lose count.

Once in a while an air plane flies by. It looks like a falling star at first. But since it never really falls they know it’s an air plane and they ask each other “where do you think that plane is heading?” They pretend to calculate the direction it’s flying towards and they name a city. They have no idea where the plane is heading. But it’s nice to pretend.

Small things make them happy now. They love arriving at a place just after dark so that they can wake up to an unknown view. They love the feeling of arriving at a town where no one knows their name, where they’re going and where they’re from.
The open road is strange but also so very familiar because on them they can truly lose themselves. Their notion of time becomes vague, almost non-existing. They wake up when they wake and they lay down when they are tired.
Sometimes they meet other travellers and together they share some food. They drink together and they play cards. They share jokes about the road. Tell stories about the people they’ve met and places they’ve been. Sometimes they get particularly close, and they decide to travel together for a while. Later when the time comes, they exchange numbers. They say that they hope to see each other again someday. They hug and say goodbye.

They head north, the huge roads and the warm sun are not always forgiving and on some days they struggle to come to terms with the boredom that comes with excessive freedom. They find themselves in situations that stretch their patience and they learn to trust the strangest of strangers. But they go on because deep down they are loving every fractioned second of it.

But even the sweetest things in life must come to an end and soon they are planning their return to a place that they no longer call home.
They book their tickets. They repack their bags. Decide what to bring, what to leave behind. Memories of the past six month. The day comes when they have to sell the van and they try to keep the tears from falling when they watch a stranger drive off with her.
They take a bus to the airport and as they are lifting off the ground, they carry the roads, the small villages, the desserts, the sun and the stars with them in their hearts.

Charles Bukowski.

You could have been an old drunk.

Like the one I just passed, sitting on a park bench outside Southwark cathedral.
With the sunshine on his face, clenching his bottle until his knuckles turned white.
He wore a grey coat, Overworn and oversized.

Black pants.

Red shoes.

But you didn’t become that man. Instead you created life between the
pages. Turned letters into meaning, meaning into music.

You made poetry.

Image  —  Posted: March 21, 2013 in Charles Bukowski, Poetry

I write.

Posted: March 21, 2013 in Writing

DSC_0659 - Copy

I write to imagine a world different then my own.

I write when I am alone, and there is nothing else to do
I write because of the inspiration from authors whose words have touched me and affected the way that I see the world.
I write because of notes that I have read inside of Club toilets Lamp post, bunks beds and that stayed with me ever since.
I write because as a child I spoke a different language then my parents.

I write because sometimes I hide underneath my own skin and I just can’t seem to get out.
I write because someone might find strength from the choices I have made, the roads that I have travelled, my highs and my lows.
I write because of my love for characters, destinies and lives
I write because of my love for creation, sensations and all its mysteries.
I write because of my imperfections,

I write because letters have the power to help me discover and solve the mysteries of myself.
I write for new beginnings and find comfort in endings that are left unknown.
I write when my mind is dirty. I write because the pages won’t judge.

I write to ask for forgiveness, to express my feelings when the words refuse to come out.
I write when my ghosts from a different life creeps into my room at night and torment me with what I never said and did.
I write because of the inequalities that I see in the world and I write because there is nothing that I can do about it.
I write because I am ashamed that I don’t really try.

I write because my father used to tell me that a girl should be quite, I write because I refuse.

I write because of the bullshit of the papers, the politicians and the words in the textbooks.
I write because they tell me that writing does not make a living. I write because I disagree with their definition of life.

I write not to forget, I write not to regret, where I have been and the people that have travelled with me.
I write because sometimes I DO want to forget.

I write because someone once said that “Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity”
I write because I agree.

I write because with a paper and a pen I can escape, I can create a different world.
I write because I grew up in a family where a lot was left unsaid. I write because what was unsaid was important.

I write for anyone who is interested in finding answers in the stories.
I write for the poor, the rich, the old, the young, the bored and for those who are looking for a different truth then their own.
I write for that little girl in a poor village of Laos, who looked up at me with wise eyes and asked me for a pen.
I write poetry , I write fiction, nonfiction and things that have no name.
I write whatever comes into my head, I write about my memories. I write about my mom.

I write about the faces of the people that I love, the movement of their hands when they speak, the colours in their eyes. I write about the pimples that sometimes grow.
I write about strangers on the bus, the old man in the shop. I write about the sky, the shape of the moon and the smell of a newly cut lawn.
I write about the feeling underneath my feet when I walk on the beach.
I write about making love, the taste of his lips. I write about a tear rolling down my cheek.

I write because words on a piece of paper can inspire revolutions, they can change the world.
I write because of people such as Franz Kafka and Frederick Douglass who had the passion to explore the darker parts of what it means to be human and the guts to speak about it.
I write because of people such as Gabriel Garcia Marques and Paolo Coelho who brought magic into my life and inspired me to think differently.
I write because of poets such as Kahlil Gibran who made me realise that language is music and encouraged me to dance to it.

I write without any research and there is hardly any plot, only ideas going round and round in my head.
I write and when I’m done I laugh because the words are madness and they make no sense and then it suddenly grabs the meaningless of it all, the emptiness in the spaces and I feel stupid for ever thinking that I could.
But then sometimes I write and I let him read and he tells me that it’s good, its great and I should never stop.

And in the end I write because it’s impossible not to as the pen is my tongue and the paper my witness.

Stars are suns.

He told me the sun is a star but I didn’t believe him.
I was young then. Much younger then I am now.

He told me that stars are suns and that’s when I started to see the world differently.

Image  —  Posted: March 21, 2013 in Writing