Prayer

Everything I like is like that man who first thought to take that picture of that starving black child waited for by that black vulture in that Sudan. I like what I write. I am hurting myself by liking things. My words are maybe taking pictures of myself starving me. I tell myself stories in order to clutch my throat. My throat is clutched. Please make me pretty, I don’t want to die. I want to sleep now. I know I am holding this so tightly with sleep. I know I am screaming towards this with my sleeping. What should we ask of in a world whose only word is “Work”? People are not asking of us because they are busy. I am not asking of us because I am simulating being busy. This is the best deal. This is the unasked-for gift. If I saw a starving black child my first thought would not be to take this picture of myself. Or wake. Everyone is dying. There are such pretty words for this.

Photograph by Michelle Agins, “James Baldwin in Chicago”, 1983

The Pills are the Only Proof

if a crime continues to occur regardless of the enormous evidence available then is the crime invisible or the evidence invisible or are both visible but not seen?

I remember. Baba said:

“Quit your job and I will start a business for you.”

“I was at work, woman, I am tired. Be rational.”

“I am not going out with you wearing those rags.”

“Always on the phone but it’s never about money. Should we get you a job as a telephone operator?”

“I see your daughter has decided to become a prostitute now.”

“I tested negative.”

“Why do you always cry when I have done nothing to you?”

“Your whole family is retarded.”

“I keep helping your family, I never complain.”

“You are good for nothing.”

“Why would you give your school things to your mother? What does she know?” 

“You look so old.”

“Why weren’t you more welcoming?”

“I never have peace in this house.”

“I didn’t beat her, she fell.”

“I didn’t beat her, she fell.”

“How are other men so lucky with finding good wives?”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

 “It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

 “It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“I tested negative.”

If every moment contains the possibility of being alive and being dead, then could an acute awareness of every moment also create an acute consciousness of living and dying?

“It’s been a while Alpha, you look healthy. How is your mother?”

xxxxxxx“I don’t know, I haven’t seen her.”

“Is this what she told you to say? Speak up boy.”

xxxxxxx“I don’t know.”

“Everyone back home is shocked about why she would run away; all I have ever done is love your mother.”

xxxxxxx“Baba stop!”

“Don’t take that tone with me, I still pay for all of this. You seem to forget.”

xxxxxxx“She is sick now…you made her sick. Mama is dying. How could you?”

“Crying like your mother again. I swear it’s like I had all daughters.”

xxxxxxx“She is safe. She is not going back Baba, we won’t let her go back.”

“Be careful boy, remember who I am. Remember you all would have been and will be nothing without me.”

xxxxxxx“Baba!”

“Your mother is a laughingstock; tell me one bad thing I have ever done to her.”

xxxxxxx“Get out!” 

If we could separate every glance from the next, then could we separate our perception of what each consecutive glance is seeing?

“Mama, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

xxxxxxx“I wanted to be free, Alpha. To be free.”

Italic text sourced from Amar Kanwar’s exhibition The Sovereign Forest, courtesy of Ishara art foundation

Photo by Dalvin Mwamakula

Sign of the Times: A Photo Essay

Scenes of Abu Dhabi, UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Young masked men play pool outside Madinat Zayed. Others seem to be selling fake designer clothes in an illicit secondhand market. A lone man in a polo shirt has erected jumping castles to make extra cash outside the Gold Center. The castles are deserted. He listens to something on his phone, absorbed with all the intensity of the clouds gathering above. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — must continue to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

Laborers in the city must continue to earn money. Juice shops, cafeterias, carpet sellers, cobblers, tailors, honey vendors…all remain. They sip tea in their shops, trying to sell. In 48 hours, they will have to pack up and stay home for two weeks. Almost everyone on the street is masked. Small cigarettes and “massage cards” lie motionless on the pavement. Malayalam, French, Urdu, Wolof, Bengali: all the languages of the streets, of the working class, dance. They filter through masks and mix with the air like steam rising from the chai at Happy Cafeteria. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — must continue to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

Small groups of young West African men swap cigarette boxes, thin rolls of money, and bottles of hand sanitizer as they congregate outside an apartment building. I try not to look. I, girl with the zooming camera and lens-corrected eyes, am looked at. I stumble upon a shop called MASK FASHION nearby. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — continues to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

 

 

Vamika Sinha is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of Postscript. Find more of her photography here.

conditioner

& couldn’t we be
softer? flyaways tamed,
cowlicks domesticated, &
all the scallops filed
away. we could make this world

more than His dollhouse,
remind our minted, plasticky
selves of our own
fragility – the shredding
of a nail, temporariness
of skin, disobedience
inherited
in the curl of our hair:

rebel. i go
to the salon to be so
mutinous, palms
sweating under hairdresser’s cape.
i come to be beautiful
for my female gaze, eyes seaming
gently shut, as janice

kneads my shoulders. her tagalog rattling
above my scalp, knocking
with anna’s at reception, like a thousand
little cowrie shells. maryam dips

mulchy dyed paintbrush
into a mother’s roots, her arabic basting
the hairdryer’s din. two french women toast
their hands under
hot igloos calcifying
color on their hands quoi,
c’est magnifique, look

how pretty we
arm ourselves. & nobody
but us can ever know
how it feels: “for women only”

once, you set us
apart so we kept
making rooms for ourselves, steaming &
polishing our own kilns,
where we come under
fire, but only for the pleasure
of ourselves. see, the swing

of my smoking mouth, my smooth
jazz hair – this is all mine,
ours, this space where we lacquer
& buff all the edges
you sink in our silkened surfaces: yes,
we’re the paper you toss
after glossing upon, with
all the errors of your hands.

 

 

Image by Ciu Xiuwen, documentary still from “Ladies Room”, 2000

Invisible Family

She hands me a plate
of breakfast food she cooked at
dawn, my big sister.

He asks about my
life as he guards houses at
night, my old father.

She hugs me like she
hugs kids she’s paid to care for,
my weary mother.

Artwork by Ikegami Yoriyuki

ruin

how many hands did god
cut – makers
of coffeebeans & compost &
money, mahals
how many hands 
fell

left carpets 
of wool & ice & persian delight &
skin severed; centerpiece 
shimmering

in the sun, 
my hand reveals the brushwork
the veins & their decisions
i have written, here

my wonder & my questions
the stones i have thrown 
in god’s koi 
pond watching for ripple 
to sunburst upon 

this ruin 
i stand 
before.


McNight

I choose to sit
in the arse indentation
near the deep fryer.
Your organizational skills
are what first attracted me,
after that, your visor
the way it keeps focus.
The choices are dependable –
yes, yes and yes.
I must complain to the manager
these gloves are vintage latex.
You can tell by the yellow stains,
underlying graveyard grease.
I am passing through the drive-in now,
embossed in the lights.

Written by Colin James

Photograph of the original Ronald McDonald.