Megaphone Residency- Beginning...
I have been quietly working for a few weeks now on my show The Drift. Reworking, unpicking, discarding and adding to…
It started here...
They were married in Edinburgh in April 14th 1973, my mother looking like a beautiful Arthurian Princess and my father, a wildly happy Jimi Hendrix lookalike! Mum said they loved to listen to music and they would dance together to Young Gifted and Black.Here...
Meeting you again
in all the photos
they brought like ashes to your wake
and whilst they cooed over the boy you were,
after khow and chicken curry
with a cigarette taken from my almost sister,
another from your almost third wife, a rum to go
and with a last look back, I took what I had had
and threw it to the wind.
It did not go but settled instead to be cinders on my back,
it followed me home.
you only ever,
you only ever made a camp bed space
and I waited
for your stories made up
just for me.
I am six, in the dark for you.
I am mixing you up with athletes,
comedians from the telly,
the man from downstairs,
because in your absence you are,
you are what dreams are made of,
I am six.
I miss you.
And it started earlier too…
Daddy Brown Skin
Into a land of milk and honey
after blistering Sunday night baths
infused with her lily of the valley
swaddled up tight on your lap.
Finding there some solace
in our shared skin tones and
in all that, from all those edges,
from all the blush pink map…
But you were too soon lost,
rotting to mulch, in that nobody
no man’s land.
Dreaming of Edinburgh streets
in that bed of broken nails, outside the bookies,
deep amongst the slips, dreaming of Closes,
shortcuts, those longed-for views.
Sleepwalking toward that old familiar ground.
I find you there, young and beautiful, walking with determination through this land. Carrying us, like wee bugs crawling upon your back and I remember Nana, how you had loved looking at the Scottish Mountains. I am taken back to them standing here. You must have been brought here looking at them there. You must have seen these hills again when you stood wrapped up against the Scottish weather, you must have remembered the heat, the stillness and you must have realised something. As I realise something here too; something about place, something about land, something about love.
And I saw you. I looked for you and in the firefly, in the Kelip, Kelip, an insect that hibernates in the cold, flies beautiful in heat.
My kelip kelip, you hibernated so long
dreaming of dancing again with fireflies,
dreaming above Edinburgh streets,
of warm water running over your henna brown feet,
of geckos dancing the white walls,
of the mist like God’s breath
rolling off the bay.
And I have been skirting around the edges of this, this drift, since always. Since that first “where you from?” Since the first “half-caste”. Since the time I realised I looked more like my dad than my mum. That there was a difference there that told me something, something that mattered. That this skin tone of mine, this fat nose, this stuff of being something other was most of the time all I had of him.
What does that mean really?
And why even now do I feel hesitant about saying I am Scottish?
Is that my English Mother?
Or my Black/Brown Father?
What does that mean really?
And why even now do I feel hesitant about saying I am what?..mixed?
So I start with their names, then follow that line, that “go back to where you come from?” And I am with my Great, Great Grandfather Henry Charles Douglas in what- the 1870’s? A free black man in Jamaica. A stevedore. I am with that West African marker in our DNA. And Douglas? Mr Douglas? Henry Douglas-a free man- for how long? One generation? More? Less. And Douglas? Is this where my Scottish story begins? In my Henry, given Douglas to give me all these years later the start of an understanding, a place to rest for a moment, to drift from…
And so I am back to the books hiding behind the research on Scotland and Slavery, on Empire and legacy, with Devine, with Fanon, with Said. In all that for a bit...I will see where that will lead and what will wash up and then like Henry will I venture from there to Rangoon Burma? And then to India, to Edinburgh, with my Nana, to my Dad? And to me and to me without him, without her? Is this where I will drift to?To my son and to another “So is he a half-caste?” and to turning scarlet in my Scotland Rugby top as the woman in the bus stop asks me but where are you really from?
Where are really from?
With great thanks to The Workers Theatre for awarding me a Megaphone residency.