The Knowledge You Know Without Knowing You Know It

There is knowledge that is shy,
dodges knowledge vampires
with their ravenous jawed eyes
and colander stomachs.

This knowledge didn’t listen at school,
doodled through every text
book and watched the swallows
out of the science block window.

It waits for you while you stand
slack-mouthed, spaced out
by a fountain on a wooded hill
noticing only the quick undulations
on the green surface, the sludgy floor
before announcing itself: Oh!

This knowledge whistles casually
on the police taped edges
of disaster areas, sidling in between
the last phone call and the silence
inserting itself, a comma, no argument.

Its footnotes kick up leaves,
stub their toes deliberately
on furniture it then
surreptitiously removes.

It doesn’t build up, fact upon figure,
but peels off in archaeological layers
burns iron-shaped patches in neat appearances
drops spiders down collars and
seats itself innocently in chairs
vacated by the shrieking pranked.

This knowledge is free but
still must be bought
no ads will defray its existence
and its scholars, its teachers, its institutions
won’t make you cleverer
but wider
more liquid
more swimmable
until you see it doesn’t creep up on you at all
but chips away at the plaster you hide your light behind
an inside job, a regular cat burglar
of personal hindrances
leaving only its own brilliance
reflected in your awe-struck face
a shine that cannot be caged in an image
and tied down, struggling, to a scrolling screen
like sushi for bottomless information appetites
and most would not take it for knowledge but
acceptance, or forgiving, or longing, or love,
but it will know you from the inside out
until you know yourself.

This knowledge will not give you riches:
it will prove that you are gold.

Advertisements

The Inner Baby and Tweetaholism

It seems I have been singing so many qasidas* lately that new depths of my own vanity, ambition, immaturity, wounded pride and overall silliness are being clarified, like ghee simmering over a low heat.

Firstly there are the ambitions that don’t seem to disappear no matter how many steps closer I come, no matter how many achievements trickle into my life. It seems I’m not content to be the mother of three utterly hilarious beautiful creative inventive intelligent healthy beings (ALHAMDULILLAH!), nor that I am a writer as I’ve wanted to be since age 6, living in a beautiful place with no drizzle, and a community of amazing open-minded people who occasionally provide amusement with their bizarre antics.

No, there is always something else, always some other challenge that sets my jaw a-champing…and like a blindfold hamster believing it is going forward to some wondrous destination I am still always looking into an imaginary future where I’ll finally feel fulfilled by this, that or the other accolade.

Digging into this curious state of affairs I am finding that there is a very deep, childish sort of wound still being nursed by my unconscious being that lies behind my need to ‘be better’, one which goes back so far it has no visual clues to it, only a vague, pervasive, unsettling pain. My mother tells me that after my sister was born I refused to let her hug me for two years, just going all stiff (I was two at the time – I hasten to add that we have since become very close loving sisters, although it did take 22 years or so to get there).

It’s not like I was a neglected child – I was a longed-for baby who (according to my mum) received all the attention and adoration she could lavish on me, which was perhaps why it was such as shock when I was no longer the littlest one of the family. There is a photo of my mum holding my baby sister, aged 1 day, with our dear late grandmother cooing over them, and me in the foreground grimacing into the camera. She still bears a tiny scar on her cheek from where I was meant to kiss her as a baby but scratched her instead.

Could it really be that such an ancient, primary experience as losing first place in my parents’ affections has stayed with me all this time, morphing with age and accreting defenses to hide behind? Seeing how intensely my children react to seemingly small things like one getting 5 minutes more on the iPad than the other (these are the times we’re living in), I can imagine it might.

The emotions of children are all the more intense because they have no easy means of expressing themselves, other than through screaming or throwing things. The difficulty for us Brits is that such behaviour is generally totally out of the question, even if you’re 2. I suspect a lot of us have bottled up these pre-verbal angers and upsets, which have fermented over time and now provide a rich vintage of putrified infantile ire.

This then spirals forward into the present, either being channelled into other angers (xenophobia, racism, hating on Jeremy Corbyn…whatever’s the fad of the moment) or laying the foundations for a sensitivity to any similar kind of hurt (abandonment, isolation, criticism…).

Which makes me wonder this: is our collective attention-seeking, expressed through social media, merely an adult expression of the primary infantile experience of the loss of the mother’s adoring gaze, bathing her newborn in total love and devotion, making it sense that it is completely cared for and – well – interesting? Is this the root of the neediness that compels people like myself to perform, to ‘share’ compulsively, including on confessional blog posts like this one? Are we really just longing for the primordial breast??

So that is the resumé of my thoughts tonight. Facebook should be renamed Breastbook. The end.

*Sufi songs of love and longing for God, like the ones found in this book, which you need to buy: https://ianwhiteman.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/the-diwan-a-new-translation/

The Mother With No Mind

The angle he sees me at
makes me all triangles
jawbone, earlobe, nose
elbows everywhere

A table is an overhanging rock
on a wind-bitten mountain path
the room a cave cathedral
with electric stalactites
the stairs a Giant’s Causeway
our diminutive patio is a
basketball court, zones marked by
patches of cement
dogs are like elephants
except the neighbour’s pug
which is more like a chaise longue
that snores
children are Titans
and we adults are mobile skyscrapers
with the power to pick him up
and stride vast distances
yet he is not daunted
by his size. His reality is not
that he is 8 months small but
that we are infinitessimally tiny
and he is merely
one degree tinier

*

Writing with anything
on anything –
stubby felt tip in
older son’s school book –
grabbed at any time –
5.30 am after a night of
insomnia induced by
unidentifiable itching
(a flea, or incipient allergy to lentils,
or too much coffee and thrillers)
I wonder if this
mothering life
is what they call
No-Mind?
Get up – don’t think! –
set the mechanisms of family in motion
food made, mouths opening,
“WASH YOUR HANDS!”
clean dishes, break up fisticuffs,
hang out laundry
(there is ALWAYS laundry)
continue thus until the bedtime story
is garbled as mouth loses contact
with brain and I crash out anywhere,
on anything –
is this surfing the crest of ego,
always slipping just out of its sticky reach?
It is khidmah, for sure,
although maybe my complaining
nullifies its bounties, or am I just
not taking time to witness them?

*

He sleeps on my lap now.
Here are the gifts: glossy curls
forming at the back of his head;
his hand laid flat on my belly
fingers kneading as he dreams;
his warm velour’d weight on me
and the breathing
deep and restful
even if I am not.

The Shrinking of the Lens

I used to open a door and

the square would dissolve behind me 

as I went through it,

the earth’s embrace splaying out

in greeting above and around,

a panorama complete with 

nicotina and straw, jasmine and wood,

skin-caressing breezes, mist

and earthy dry dust, grapevine shade 

mottling my arms in a kinetic 

ever-circling animal print,

sounds of children laughing,

pool splashing, sheep ruminating,

wind shushing the birds’

irrepressible tweets.

 

Now the names have turned to hyperlinks 

the square has shrunk to the size of a 

viewfinder, a million views being found 

at every moment; the landscape’s

broken down into a million finger-

to-thumb snapshots, the space between

eaten up by countless, nameless, faceless

stranger’s sights.

 

If I could just step back far enough, it might 

appear as a kind of Magic Eye picture, a Monet

of ads and amateur photography, and 

a figure might spring out from the chaos

reclining on a divan, elegant and serene,

giving me a sly wink as she puts her

feet up on the Beast of Binary Code:

the Spirit of the Times, invisible to 

faces glued to screens.

 

The Shrinking of the Lens

I used to open a door and

the square would dissolve behind me 

as I went through it,

the earth’s embrace splaying out

in greeting above and around,

a panorama complete with 

nicotina and straw, jasmine and wood,

skin-caressing breezes, mist

and earthy dry dust, grapevine shade 

mottling my arms in a kinetic 

ever-circling animal print,

sounds of children laughing,

pool splashing, sheep ruminating,

wind shushing the birds’

irrepressible tweets.

 

Now the names have turned to hyperlinks 

the square has shrunk to the size of a 

viewfinder, a million views being found 

at every moment; the landscape’s

broken down into a million finger-

to-thumb snapshots, the space between

eaten up by countless, nameless, faceless

stranger’s sights.

 

If I could just step back far enough, it might 

appear as a kind of Magic Eye picture, a Monet

of ads and amateur photography, and 

a figure might spring out from the chaos

reclining on a divan, elegant and serene,

giving me a sly wink as she puts her

feet up on the Beast of Binary Code:

the Spirit of the Times, invisible to 

faces glued to screens.

 

The Shrinking of the Lens

I used to open a door and

the square would dissolve behind me 

as I went through it,

the earth’s embrace splaying out

in greeting above and around,

a panorama complete with 

nicotina and straw, jasmine and wood,

skin-caressing breezes, mist

and earthy dry dust, grapevine shade 

mottling my arms in a kinetic 

ever-circling animal print,

sounds of children laughing,

pool splashing, sheep ruminating,

wind shushing the birds’

irrepressible tweets.

 

Now the names have turned to hyperlinks 

the square has shrunk to the size of a 

viewfinder, a million views being found 

at every moment; the landscape’s

broken down into a million finger-

to-thumb snapshots, the space between

eaten up by countless, nameless, faceless

stranger’s sights.

 

If I could just step back far enough, it might 

appear as a kind of Magic Eye picture, a Monet

of ads and amateur photography, and 

a figure might spring out from the chaos

reclining on a divan, elegant and serene,

giving me a sly wink as she puts her

feet up on the Beast of Binary Code:

the Spirit of the Times, invisible to 

faces glued to screens.