Thursday, June 16, 2011

Earth and Everything - Bessie Head

We had a heavy, unexpected shower of rain today. It lasted so long that the hard, sun-dried earth softened. Only on its fragrance of earth-wetness rising up were there traces of the smell of dry dust. The brooding rain clouds, scattered apart, had no time to gather together and flee away. They were trapped in the sunset. The flat earth and the stark, black thorn trees became a vast pool, touched and shaded by the gold-and-red streaked sky. The insects that live in the earth cracks and under the stones all tumbled out, quivering with amazement. They claimed the earth, and now pulse out a rhythm of repetitive sound, each distinct, yet blending in harmonious restraint.

All my seven faces of deceit and pretence I had put down. Only my nameless face was there because the earth was breathing, and the air was still and quiet. Then I was trapped too, like the rain clouds. I had no time to find my seven faces, for you came to me silently, and when I looked up you were there; also with your nameless face. Everything carried my decision away, left me with no choice but this mute agreement of nameless face to nameless face. Life is full of talk, and I, more than any other, talk and talk and talk. A thousand differing contradictions pour out to conceal the underground stream that is the same always, flowing, continuous. Now I am plunged in head-to-toe; amazed that my whole self flows outward into you, yet back to me again in a current of deep peace without beginning or ending.

Love is not anything I imagined it to be. Now I rapidly change my views, theories and absurd flights of fancy. I have to. All my pretences, deceit and harshness have smoothed out and fled away. A spring is released. Some part of me is carefree like a small child. My mind is clear. I am sure. Love itself is real; at least this love; as real as fresh warm bread, butter and cheese. The stormy ocean of life outside is unreal. There is no peace there; no rest in the criss-cross currents of discord and chaos. Yet we are tied to it and, for its purposes, are separate selves, each forced to move and live in separate ways. Can it be like this for us? There is the ship, tossed about on the ocean, badly damaged — yet each time it comes to the harbour which is enclosed and safe, to be renewed. So is love: enclosed and safe, re-newing, healing the scars, the overpowering need for fulfilment, completeness.

I do not hope too much. I would rather live with you — tender, violent, cruel, revengeful man, overstuffed with vanity and self-importance. But if not so — to span the years alone, without you, would not shatter me. I own your nameless face. We will meet again. Always. The pattern always repeats, repeats itself. Always. Who knows when it will end — when nameless face and nameless face are one whole thing?

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This brief piece was written shortly after Bessie Head first arrived in Serowe — 1964 or 1965 — but it did not appear until 1993, when it was published together with The Cardinals.

Source Bessie Head

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