There have been a couple of comments, on and off the blog, about my recently-added poem “Aminata”. There have been Questions. So here are some facts, to hopefully set people’s minds at rest.
Aminata is a tribal African woman’s name.
The poem was based on the memory of driving into a rainy night (and into an all-night greasy hamburger joint) years ago after a girlfriend dumped me, and hearing Joan Armatrading on the jukebox there. Some of the lyrics “quoted” in the poem, were very very loosely based on Armatrading’s haunting ballad “All the Way from America”.
When I was working in Gnostic Forest in Woy Woy some time prior to 2001, I used to commute by train, and I had the choice of two trains – one that got me there incredibly early, and one that got me there incredibly late. This was before Gnostic Mana and the other satellite businesses had started up, and I had a few set routines that I’d use that extra time for.
I could walk along the waterfront and talk to ducks and seagulls in their native tongues. I could drink execrable coffee in the Lebanese fast-foodery around the corner, and be flirted with by the One Who Liked Me. I could meditate somewhere. Or I could, occasionally, sit on the wooden bench-seats outside the train station near the bus rank, and people-watch.
On this particular occasion, I chose the people-watching option. It was a warm, summer’s morning that threatened a blistering summer’s day, and everything was bright. A Busways bus pulled up at the station, a number 78 (I clearly remember the route number), and disgorged its passengers. They distributed themselves evenly in different directions.
One of them didn’t leave immediately. She was dark-skinned, with a bit of an afro that had an amount of grey sprinkled through it, and was slightly stout around the middle, and I knew I’d never met her but there was something terribly familiar about her. It took only a moment – she looked exactly the way the Joan Armatrading off numerous record covers would look if she were older!
She was glancing around, and caught my eye. I couldn’t stop myself smiling. She hesitated, then walked towards me. Before she reached me, she called out “Do you know who I am?”
I could have said yes.
I could have told her her own name.
I could even have done something as eccentric as singing a few lines out of one of her huge hits: Drop the Pilot, maybe, or The Weakness in Me. But no. I had to be odd.
I did, in fact, start singing, but I chose a song that had appeared on one of the earlier albums, and had never reappeared on a later one or a compilation, and had never been released as a single. In fact, I no longer have that LP, and I really miss having access to her version of that song. I wouldn’t mind a reader offering me a .wav file of it, in fact. Even then, I didn’t remember all of the song, just the outrageous chorus-line:-
Sometimes the bear will eat you, / Sometimes you eat the bear. / Sometimes the bear will eat you, / sometimes you eat the bear. / But me, I’m eating the bear, / I’m eating the bear, / I’m eating the bear.
Joannie recognised it at once, despite the fact that even then it had been many, many years since that album had been released, and started singing with me in her honey-chocolate voice, not an octave below me but on a harmonic line below me. By the end of that short extract, she was flushed with pleasure, her aura spread and glowing and exultant.
She couldn’t help herself – she touched my shoulder, pulled me around and planted a huge kiss on my mouth. And that woman can kiss! I fell into her mouth – the kiss was awesome! At the same time, I was acutely conscious that I worked in this area, I was known, I had a reputation. But the kiss went on and on and on. We slipped further down the bench-seat. And I suddenly fell off and landed on the ground with a bone-crushing thump.
… with my bedclothes tangled around me, all sweaty and sticky from the summer heat and my own enthusiasm, and with Joannie nowhere to be found. Time to have a shower, I thought, and pack my work stuff, and head for Woy Woy. And full of a very organic and human disappointment, I did just that.