Tuesday 28 November 2023

Tell Me Something Before You Go by Axelle Dean King , an espresso with a cinnamon stick

Forever kissing in an Edward Munch painting, dreaming of New York and Harry Styles concert tickets.


Hey… you,


Youth looked awfully good on you. It still does. It gives your cheeks that pleasant rouge and puffiness, which you secretly hate - you told me about it over the phone, when you were a little wine drunk in Cape Town. It also gives your voice that characteristic gurgle. The most beautiful colour I’ve ever heard - pepper green and sunlight white. I’d only ever come across it once more.


Every Wednesday, after my shift is over, I go into the forest. Sometimes, I only reach the end of the concrete road, where nature has herself drawn the border between man-made and her own with vines - prickly and dark, brown in autumn and grey in winter. So I sit on the border between here and there and listen. The weeds speak you know, if you’d just listen. They speak of what’s beneath and what’s above.


And on one of those Wednesdays, as I was listening to a tuft of snowbells, I heard something else. A song of sorts. Then I saw it. A little black, orange-beaked bird.

            The common blackbird. So beautiful its chirps are in fact, it inspired the Beatles to write their own ‘Blackbird’. Attributed to Lennon-McCartney (arguably) one of the best music collaborations in all of history, it is inspired by Bach’s ‘Bourrée in E minor’, while simultaneously being a metaphor for the black civil right’s struggle. Blackbirds in socially unjust 1960s southern US.


So a bird, like the orange-beaked friend I made on a random Wednesday and the symphony of a blind man inspired a song that was emotionally charged  enough to make a boulder cry. Still is. 


I typically hate live recordings, but I wish there was one from that first night Linda Eastman spent in Paul’s home. There, McCartney played ‘Blackbird’ for all the fans camped outside his house and his future wife (Did he know that they were going to get married? Does a little thing called faith exist in this world? I don’t know and this is not the place for this discussion, either. But I hope it does.)


How finger-prickling must have this been? To be singing your heart out to the one you love. Perhaps, he didn’t even take much notice of the fans, perhaps this is why some think ‘Blackbird’ is a love song.


I think it can be. I think it has the potential to be both, a strong message in support of equality and a love song. It depends on where your mind is when you listen and are you really listening at all.


I played it for Jerry the next time I saw him. That's what I named him. I am not sure if he liked it. I don't know if he knew I was there, but he chirped and I listened to him. I don't know what he was saying, but I’d ‘Hmm’ along sometimes and if the chirping intensified, I’d gasp. Mostly though I sympathetically uttered ‘You know you're right about that.’ the way you do when you meet someone from Scotland, because can you understand that bloody accent?


Anyway, it became a habit for me and for the next two months I spent an hour once, sometimes twice a week listening to Jerry, not saying much other than the content ‘Hmm’-s. And all throughout I’d look at him as if he’d seize to exist if my gaze wavered.


One Thursday I decided to go visit him for the second time that week and there he was – a few metres from his favourite tree, laying on the concrete a few blackbird steps (about as big as a human one) away from the barbed border of nature, into the human world which killed him.


My friend was now with Lennon. I can only hope that he is as careful at listening to Jerry’s stories as I was once and have half-the-heart to believe that maybe he can understand him. Maybe in that world. Certainly, I couldn’t.


Sometimes I wonder if  that's why I lost you. Maybe you belong behind the border of nature. Maybe I am the truck that ran you over, leaving only bloody tire marks behind. Or maybe it's me and you couldn't live confined by the branches forever.


Either way I lost you. The same way I lost my thumb ring because it's two sizes too big. I haven't gone to the forest where nature swallows concrete lately because I feel it's not my place to intrude on its grief. I wonder if that's why you slipped through my palms, because I didn't beg. Maybe if I asked you really nicely, maybe if I invited you over for tea and brushed your hair out of your eyes, you would have stayed.


It doesn't matter anymore. Every once in a while I check on your Instagram and when I see you I'm not quite sure if it's you I am seeing. Let’s not lie to one another - the photographs of your (almost) naked body aren’t a source of pride. Neither is my pathetic, melancholy-drenched poetry.


Perhaps you really are gone. And I am the fool who stayed behind begging Jerry to make you come back. A spectacle for the Gods. Useless. All that’s left now is the crumbling paper of my leather-bound journal and the black ink. And my typewriter. And somewhere there I am, always writing the penultimate piece about you.


Yours (against my will),


 About the author

Axelle Dean King is a poet and writer, whose work focuses on love, grief, and heartbreak. You can discover more of her work here: https://linktr.ee/idyllicbutterfly 

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