'To continue one's journey in the darkness with one's footsteps guided by illumination of remembered radiance is to know courage of a peculiar kind – the courage to demand that light continue to be light even in the surrounding darkness.'
The quotation is from Howard Thurman and prefaces award-winning writer, Aberjhani's volume of poetry, The Bridge of Silver Wings. For me, it just about sums up the human predicament which he elaborates upon with stunning effect.
Haloes, rainbows, the cycle of the seasons and the full spectrum of emotions from love to hate to love are explored in its pages.
These verses are packed tight with powerful images that come thick and fast like a blessed assault upon the mind and heart. They ring with philosophy, with compassion, with hope and with tokens of resurrection. And they are sometimes barbed with challenges, as in Angel of War:
Does the potential for peace make the reality of hate sweeter?
And in Angel of Healing:
Dare to love yourself
as if you were a rainbow
with gold at both ends.
Aberjhani's writing blows the mind and frees the psyche of any rigid assumptions about ancestral heritage. Here, our collective experience is starkly rendered. The transparency of one culture overlays another, and another, to form the daguerrotype of possibilities that is homo sapiens, interacting, almost like the elements themselves, with the created world and modified only by context and its imperatives.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in All Night in Savannah the Wind Wrote Poetry. The gale knows nothing of Time. It is a primeval force. It has seen all mankind's feats, frustrations and follies before and is a screeching reminder, 'like knives on fire', of what comes next in the logical gamut of human reaction.
'...they [the winds] cast and recast nets of lexicons inside the womb
of the river's roaring belly, hauling up myths
born in Georgia and legends sung in Carolina...'
'...wind typed furiously remembrances of Buddha;
on the aching spines of weeping pines it carved
the bleeding parables of Christ and
the pleading hadiths of Muhammad,'
'Wind of Confederate blood boiling gray miseries
Wind of black slaves dancing juju jazz charisma.'
This is the language of the Book of Revelation and it is blinding. With rhythms like these, you might well feel that the Creation of Man was a Bad Idea, one of God's regrettable afterthoughts.
As well as the melting-pot of traditions and civilisations, there is a blurring of the boundaries of the senses. We tend to identify them singly but we know they don't function alone. In Sunday Afternoon and the Jazz Angel Cometh, they seem to coincide in an orgasmic reunion which not only celebrates life but redeems it.
As history bleeds forbidden light
thunder-heavy tears drip flavored adagios,
splash and explode into champagne solos
...In the center of time's thorny labyrinth there you
are – naked you swallow quasars and spit raw genius
cook your poems fresh, make music, make sense,
The Poet-Angels Who Came to Dinner is reminiscent of the biblical parable of the King planning a banquet for guests who declined his invitation. He then sent out his servant into the highways and byways to round up the dregs of humanity. It also echoes Christ's feeding of the multitude and the burning inspiration felt by the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus who failed to recognise the stranger walking beside them. Only in the breaking of bread as a guest at their table did they surprise the Risen Lord.
In the poem, these presences are termed “Peace-Be-Still” and “As-Goes-Love-So-Goes-Life”. They manifest themselves as the poet prepares his lone and paltry supper, transforming the fare into an epicurean delight. A knock at the door heralds uninvited guests and with a renewed benevolence of spirit, he finds he has much to share.
There are harrowing pieces, too. Once Was a Singer for God (remembering Nekia) pays tribute to a gospel singer whose life was blighted by every kind of cruelty and despair, but whose sufferings, the writer says, 'coated your tongue with heaven's favor'. She lives again within the memory of those honeyed vocals which are earnest of her bid for Heaven.
No one knew how you transformed
scars on your back into scented songs
...Was that your mind running naked through the West
while your soul warbled haikus in the East?
There is a poem for New Orleans in the grip of Katrina, for remembrance of September 11, 2001, for Christmas and New Year's Eve, for Hallowe'en, for Valentine Days and Nights, for Earth Days and Seasons, for Grace and for Gratitude, a whole catalogue of situations in which the toiling race is cast upon the breast of Fate. And in the shrillest reaches of despond, isolation, torment, pain, the appropriate Angels stoop in benediction. Their spreading wings are linked into an arch that paves the way to Deliverance, to the Land of Hope and to Salvation, where anguish dies and destruction is swallowed in the antithesis of itself.
ANGEL OF EARTH DAYS AND SEASONS
A soft dream of green
colors starlit intentions
In your hands winter
is a book with cloud pages
that snow pearls of love,
Your flight shines classic -
composed of symphonic nights
and honey-hued days.
Inside your laughter
spring's kiss animates the beat
of summer's warm song.
In your hair oceans
leap with sky-blue abandon
and sacred timelines.
Eyes of bright autum
stare with red tear-stained wisdom
at human regret.
Bombs explode gashes
that flicker tales of men's blood
splattering you lips.
Rivers of poets
flow blues-heavy urgencies
naked on your knees.
Even when muddy
your wings sparkle bright wonders
that heal broken worlds.
In the dancing fields
of your sweet and holy ways
heaven blossoms gold.
I have indulged myself and the reader with copious quotation, but there are scores more, just as good and even better. Aberjhani's work repays revisiting again and again. This is surely a sign of consummate talent.
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World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...