How Still a Body
I grew up in Nigeria with my grandmother.
One dawn two armed robbers were caught
in the act. Local people set on them, beating
them with whatever came to hand.
A large crowd gathered around the thieves.
One had survived the beating, blood poured
into his eye. In a deep gutter, the other
robber lay, his body bloated from the heat.
And then I knew this is how still a body
looks when it is dead. Today I heard
that in Urdu, the word for yesterday
is the same as the word for tomorrow.
And I panicked at the thought because
I could not imagine what my world would be like
if the words for then and now were the same.
Twenty years have passed since I saw
that stranger’s corpse. I keep walking this earth
hoping that home’s door will open up to me.
These words draw a circle leading me back
to my grandmother’s house; a ceaseless dying.
© Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008
Inspired and taken from answers to the the following questions:
What image illustrates the true nature of time ?
Describe the first time you saw another person’s blood ?
What does the word home mean to you ?
Peter Pan Loses his Ability to Fly
My parents left me
to defend myself with only sticks
and a few bad words.
I open my milk-tooth mouth,
I’ve not even the jaw to bite.
The inside of me is dust. I want
good fortune to stroke me
with a mother’s bed-time touch.
I keep waiting.
My dreams are full of ghouls,
angry fang-tooth dogs, and dark
corridors lit by just one flame.
If only I knew good things, then
my cottoned feet would lift
from the rubble of the earth,
the split and splintered timber.
If I was happy, and not scared
I would rise like a bird
the island below my kingdom
and me, king for a day.
Photograph – Copyright Dan Wesker 2009
Today I saw them both
in a photograph. Him
the new king, back
a hard won throne.
Her face cross-hatched
with worry, wearing
pretty pink eye-shadow
and a smile meant
only for pictures.
I still have the bouquet,
hardened to darkness,
its shadow jagged
as a dancer. Red
as the cry of first sex.
Poem – Copyright Naomi Woddis 2009
It’s been a while since I’ve written any poetry but I thought I would go through two of my old projects Poetry Mosaic and Moments of Chaos and Nostalgia (a poetry/photography project with photographer Dan Wesker) and in addition to this some of my unpublished work and share the poems here in an online collection called Re Issue.
I’m still very proud of Poetry Mosaic. This is how I described it on the blog initially.
Poetry Mosaic is the online poetry invention of London based poet, Naomi Woddis. I find that my writing process is changing rapidly and I am using found text in my work. Sometimes I will do an extended interview and this will form the basis or springboard for a poem. I mix some extracts of the conversation with my own writing.
Poetry Mosaic goes a step further. The responses to specific questions will be the starting point for the poetry on this site. Short phrases from these replies will be cut and pasted with longer pieces of my own work and the finished poems will be posted on the Poetry Mosaic blog. Each respondent will be fully acknowledged at the end of each poem on the Poetry Mosaic blog. I will retain sole copyright for the poem that I create out of the responses.
Sometimes I created the poem using only the replies and at other times I would include my own contributions to the final piece.
The oldest knew the mountain.
As children they had
all the time in the world,
watched the hourglass empty,
caught in the glint
of the rising sun’s eye.
My greying hair, the shrinking
human brain, skin products
gathering on the bathroom shelf.
An antelope runs
across a lonely desert,
its shadow speeding.
Tornado time whirls.
Monks meditate on stillness
at the fulcrum.
Everything that has happened
It is always Now.
© Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008
A week ago my solid, kind and adored therapist finally retired. I’m still numb from the ending of what has become one of my most important relationships to date. Every therapeutic relationship is different and ours evolved in to something far away from text books and theories and in to something imaginative, philosophical, supportive and ultimately saved my life more than once. A few weeks before our final session we were talking about photography. I mentioned the work of Khalik Allah, whom I had only just discovered. I broke down in tears recalling the images of these New Yorkers – tough, broken and on the edge of survival. What struck me most is their vibrance. Yes, there’s suffering here, addiction and poverty but there’s also tenacity. That the photographs are in colour, deep saturated flourishing colour, spoke to me about the vitality of the human spirit. And that’s why I wept.
‘All photography captures life’ I said ‘Even if it’s no longer there, it’s the evidence that it has been. From the sky at night to a lamp on a table, to the people in the photographs, it’s all about life. And because it’s all about life it means that it’s about beauty.’ I thought about the photographic projects I’ve assigned myself since becoming ill – from taking pictures of the small and mundane, snapping the shutter at the same subject matter over days or weeks to my most recent project ‘The View From Here’ (taken entirely from my bed during this recent crash). ‘Even nothing is beautiful’ I said.
My therapist smiled and repeated ‘Nothing is beautiful’ and in that moment we acknowledged both meanings inherent in this statement. The way I had originally meant it – even nothing is beautiful – and also remembering the despair I had taken to many session where I would arrive joyless and sad believing that there was no beauty in myself, or the world that I had access to. Nothing is beautiful, not this moment or any moment to come. But now my wish is that by stumbling on these words I can find moments, however short, where both the hope and hopelessness can live side by side. And that there will always be colour even in the most brutal of times.