Monday, October 19, 2020

The Muse Wills What She Wants

The muse wills what she wants, I've found it pays to listen
Capricious as she is, she moves to her own tune
I daresay she's happiest dancing on stage by her lonesome
But I jump anytime she deigns to dalliance

Oh lucky man I am when her juices flow
Sweating, and nearly out of breath,
I'm consumed by the creative glow
Furiously scribbling the snatches she whispers
Fragments iridescent become scrolls of fanciful flight
Exhilaration at the fleeting steps in directions unexpected
The floor expands, the lights focus the mind
Pupils dilate and we continue gliding
Capillary action in these narrow spaces
Twirling in synchrony as if promised a return to Xanadu

There's only the dance, I move to draw closer
But it's not a tango, Spanish or Argentinian
There's a fundamental swagger and liquid consonance
The next movement, a dancehall from the islands
I can almost taste her essence, it's the nectar of the Gods
Her siren call is that of Mami Wata, a mid-Atlantic trance

The memory of the drought now firmly behind us
Butts shaking, you're released from writer's block
Ignore the panicked calls from the broker of your stocks
Market collapse be damned, you're with your Nubian Goldilocks
Her name, she says, doesn't really even matter
All the while you're hoping for a repeat encounter
We know that she remains a restless searcher
For now momentarily joined at the hip to this modern traveler

Enjoy the ride, give her a twirl,
Undrape the lace, and all those frilly sections
Dancing is expressing in the perpendicular your horizontal intentions
It's as if you've got no choice, you've got to move
The world can wait, don't disturb this groove

The muse wills what she wants, her intent cannot be missed
Before all this is over they'll be calling you afrofuturist
It's astonishing the directions she's taking you in
Leading you out of Babylon to God knows what section

Pushing you to explore all the boundaries
Of form, who knew that you had all these stories
Your folktales were written in the Ananse tradition
The Guvnor described them as crazed African magical realism

It's a matter of lineage and perhaps of ambitions
Allusions proliferate as you make intuitive connections
Glue layer people, conversation, your tribe's connective tissue

The muse wills what she wants, she's demanding compositions
At the back of your mind is Coleridge's interruption
Stay focused on the groove, release your inhibition
Her point of call is not that famed Atlantis
No, and not even the Gulf of Guinea
No, her essence can be found in the river Volta
Near Akosombo dam therein lies her still water
Sing the hymn of the big wheel or, rather, magic

The muse will what she wants, her intentions are stark
She loves being a girl, like the soul singer remarked
A Caribbean queen or Liberian girl
Friend, lover, sister, mother, wife
She's all of these, if only for one night
Sadly though, she ignores your plea to turn off the light
Still you're soul satisfied, that you cannot deny
Her shawl of shimmering lace and green kente simply out of sight

Mami Wata

The muse wills what she wants, you dare not question her.
She leads the way and takes you under
"Taste", she suggests a light repast
Smiling all the while with those subtle hints
You trust her in the moment, she knew how to give a kiss
Her raspberry beret and oh those lips
The prospect of a forbidden encounter
A fall from grace, you will not be denied
Between the sheets, a glimpse of paradise
Her concerns are earthy, romance be damned
If that's your girlfriend, she wasn't last night
The fallen idol who roams the land
Her moon is a harsh mistress
"Can I come up for air?"
Return to the land down under

The muse wills what she wants, every moment you should treasure
Her hands are invitations causing frantic gestures
She's only holding pieces of a man
You're in Eden, you'll never leave this place
Paradise lost, a trip on the Selective Amnesia Express
Parental guidance advised, this is adult business

The muse wills what she wants, she draws outside the lines
There's a craving for touch especially in these covidious times
Reach out for sensation denied by this baleful social distancing
Your strategy is empathy, and that old faithful, social living

Shall I compare thee to a Bukom beauty
All ebony curves jiggling yet toned with the strength of mahogany
Azumah Nelson's ring savvy, she strikes with fierce intent
And parries our opponent's jabs of adversity
Her fundament gives core strength to face blows to the body
Dodging the blows of providence at the ready
We trace the contours of her patterns but write our own stories

The muse wills what she wants, I too shall not want
You'll gladly be infected by her novel virus
The spring break party, Freaknik, without the hangover
Got your heart racing, what happens with her stays in her confidence
There's no walk of shame or frantic morning after
There's only the moment, capture it and share
Luxuriate in her coat of pink cashmere
Write divine folktales full of twists and turns
Reversals of fortunes, moments of disbelief
You see the shape of the narratives
Emerge fully formed, an instant conception
There's no labor or caesarean section
You may serve multiple masters
But there's only one muse and she demands action
She knows your name, the contours of your face, you feel stronger
After all, she billed you as the chief toli monger

The muse wills what she wants, you've become a dream weaver
Yours truly forever her partner in the dance
Her words loom large, "Leave nothing to chance"
The end of the affair or rather a brief encounter
Do not be presumptuous, there's only the dance
Her gifts, she bestowed freely and without concern
You've gained what you never had at conception
A taste of eternity, you belong to me.
If I ever lose this heaven, mercy, mercy me
The song begins to fade in the room.
You will the DJ to mix in another tune
Beat matched so she'll not skip a beat
Relax with pep, she's your lady mahogany

Mami Wata

The muse wills what she wants, you've inherited her chosen mantle
Draw closer, the last bars explain it all
The stories that will buoy you back to your kith and kin
The journey's reward is the real odyssey.
Her revelations the key to unlocking
Collapsing narratives or romans-a-clef
Like a highlife band that plays on all night
Eschewing slumber, such are her earthly delights

The muse wills what she wants, this is no swan song
Her pearls are not of received wisdom
Proverbial zingers and quintessential abstractions
Wist and nostalgia, grateful that you are tonight's selection
She leaves you like Tantalus,
Poised on the verge of getting it on
Her gateway drug was inspired direction
Your village moves and dancehall stylings bring forth a laugh
The book she wrote also includes forgetting
Was that a twerk? Now this is interesting.
Tonight it seems like there'll be no slim pickings.
But turns out it was really only a tease
There's no catching a social disease
Your muse is personal, your font of gratitude
For inspiration and her wild attitude

The muse wills what she wants, you accept her direction
Sign the liability waiver and accept any peril
However these early signs of a new dawn
Intimate the impending loss of your writing apparel
The ink is fading as you scribble in the margins
Still you daren't call it quits, the words are too few
Just be good to me. She turns to you.
Panicked, you fear the cold shoulder
Instead there's only one word: Darling.

The muse wills what she wants, enjoy this moment
You wonder if you'll ever get one more chance
To perhaps engage and build a romance
But you know your heart has been stolen
To be returned at a time of her choosing
Hold on to your soul, we've got a long way to go
'Twas an easy conversation and precious leisure
The long thief in the night, a hint of carnal pleasure.
The act of creation without the attendant fall from grace
A thought movement and taste of lyricism incarnate
The impending absence almost renders you disconsolate
But again, as if she senses your need
That word again gets a repeat: Darling. Indeed.

Mami Wata

The muse wills what she wants, and she's engaged your full attention
Intercourse by other means, your entire disposition
"I choose you", the chant comes from Paris
London's got soul, it's all in the function
Whimsical musings, like a bullet from a gun
Interstitials present themselves at all levels
Liminal spaces where she conducts modern travelers
Fellow immigrants and mid-Atlantic selves

Oh devil woman, like Mingus would have you be
Bewitching me with your sundry charms
Moving me to excess as you prance

I seek your embrace, bosoms worthy of Lake Bosomtwi
The ancestral heartland. The butt aesthetic
To revisit an earlier flirtation with google infamy
Like a tribe, my current quest is dedicated to art of moving butts

This joint, social interplay and words that make you
Get off the wall and turn this mutha out
Wordsmithing my craft for your own entertainment
I know it's a shell game, with your sleight of hand
And deft footwork, but I have no shame.
I come to you unvarnished and matter of fact
My loin cloths made out of dutch wax
And the occasional Chinese counterfeit prints
The sleep cloth my grandma gave me soft against your skin

The muse wills what she wants, it's becoming a mantra
Tantric and irresistible percussion, she's got street cred
The Low End Theory's here, let's sample some bass from Ron Carter
Or back to basics some Fela: Original Sufferhead
Amoulanga's groove cannot be denied even with the Casio keys
I'll take out my white handkerchief and follow you in the circle
We'll dance bobobor even after the zoom funeral
You've got me writing my own Ballad of Dorothy Parker
A fever dream oh muse, this fateful encounter

Ayikoo oh muse you'll give me trouble
Having me up at all hours composing grace notes at the double
I'm writing in the dark, I dare not wake this sleeping beauty
By my side, yet the prose poem you've conceived is my duty
Visions of grace, but I'm no Absalom
Pride and vanity, caught by the branches of fate
No rebellion for me, to be discovered by King David's men
Your willing servant instead, or, rather, faithful friend

The muse wills what she wants, you've packed your bags already
Got your passport stamped for the reception with Her Majesty
The tale you wrote was Ghana must go versus Louis Vuitton
Then that reporter surfed in with her roving ambition
You documented the case of plaids bags and plagiarism
When confronted, The Telegraph's blame was shifted to "our researcher"
Who came across your intricate patterns and their sensuous textures
Those others can copy your words, they are a gift from the Gods anyway
They write articles, books, all manner of publications
There's hardly a month without a new missive, it's a hustler tradition
You've lost count of the copies, it's a fatal attraction
The careful few cite, but most don't, and some have mercenary ends
Chalk it down to the ecstasy of influence
The virtue of a link, telling your story is a soothing balm
"Throw it away", she sang, hearkening back to Abbey Lincoln

Mami Wata

The muse wills what she wants, trust her proverbial wisdom
Writ large and dispensed in Adinkra symbolism
The ancestral messages encode African electronics
Messages passed via Talking Drums and lush fabrics
We have a different approach to mathematics

Our discourse is of cultural universals and particulars
Quoth that famed cosmopolitan and august philosopher
But that comes from a society that hews to consensus-oriented politics
Not like the United States where symbolism detracts from comfort narratives
Shell games instead of reconciliation is the American dream
And so mercenary disgrace trumps regret or shame, it seems
Paper over the cracks in the cement of society with the hard sell
Buy something you consumer, go back to work in this earthly hell.

The muse wills what she wants, it's a sensuous whisper like that diva sang
Little Stevie Wonder couldn't resist that vision named Chaka Khan
He forsook even Syreeta in musical pursuit
Of conversation peace and golden voices
We were gifted with winsome rare groove
And considerable comfort food
You know the words of the song, sing along with me,

Tell me something good
Tell me, tell me, tell me

Tell me that you love me, oh muse tell me

Back in that hallowed garden, I tasted the fruit of knowledge
It's about retention, all those books, long have I read
Mate masie: knowledge - I have heard and I have kept it.
Us Akans are known for proverbial thinking
An awoof conception, it takes two to do the corruption tango
The rough beast lies next to me as I awake on the beach at Beit Lahiya

The muse wills what she wants, you're flirting with danger
What with this sleeping beauty stirring from her slumber
She took you to Agotime on a weeklong visit
You talked with the kente weavers, their wares exquisite

She got you in a dispute with your paternal crew
Your house is also Aburi, you descend from chiefs in Akim Swedru
Gyasiwah's descendants should rather claim that it's all about Bonwire
Either house has narratives placing them at the origin
Don't get involved in the invention of tradition

The muse will what she wants, a conundrum like a driver of a taxi
In the morning you hope to decipher the words scribbled on the pad
Or etched out in Android words courtesy of a Samsung Galaxy
You prefer the paper with its tactile sensation
The forcing function of words written with intent
The transactional cost of crossing out idle thoughts
A Tobin tax on food for thought
Further, machine learning might cause dismay
You wrote an earlier trouble ticket
About this curious artifact of software modernity:
The occasional regret of auto-correct
Also: cultural sensitivity in technology

Mami Wata

The muse wills what she wants, she deserves all the credit
You shall not stray from the discovery
Her path and her wondering ways
The road to freedom, you cherish the day
Her caresses are those of night nurses in Crystal Palace
The mind escapes to Akim Swedru, you seek solace
The Asantehene considers us a friendly kingdom
The names of our Queen Mothers
Gyasiwah, Kumiwah, Ansaa, Abia
The names you pass on to your spawn
Unbroken chains that help you breathe
Even in the anomic land of red, white and blue
Rather you revel in the red, black and green
Your black gold of the sun, the treasure was found just off Cape Coast

"You're going through a prolific phase right now,
You might want to hold something back"
Thanks, you're well meaning, but that's what the gatekeepers,
Those who use the word "content", say
To keep you on their human capital track
The muse wills what she wants, she's no Buzzfeed content
She's no Vox optima explanation factory farm
Your views are yours alone, goes your employer's disclaimer
Their search engine optimization games reek of meat rendering
Render / Rendition, you coined the word erustication
There's joy in small things, never forget your mission

The muse wills what she wants, there's joy in repetition
Find the lost stories taken by that Pied Piper of RNA
As for global narrative collapse, the toli monger's antidote
For life in a covidious time, is written deep in your DNA
Africa's contribution to the pandemic
Is to add value, you can compose prose epics
It's the great game to them, they'll soon be assigning blame
When elephants fight, at ground level it's all the same
Voices inside, like Chinua Achebe wrote
Not background scenery, we're beyond the heart of darkness
Be like the prose king of Zanzibar, deftly transplanted to Sussex
Just because a lizard nods it's head doesn't mean it's happy
And so as you ponder your narratives, don't be idle
The tomes you write for the world weary
Herd Immunity and The Mosquito Principle
And make sure to complete The Chicken Bone Theory

The muse wills what she want, she drives me to excess
No Anglosaxon brevity for me, I put it all on the line
Our town criers are unconcerned with mere notions of time
The journey as you know is the urban griot's reward
So I disdain the constraints of your meter
Those measuring sticks cannot comprehend
The fluid dynamics of African material science
Our oxidation layer covers our inner steel
This second skin is our ultimate disguise
Our mystic brew confounds the bitter roots of our confection
Your bioprospecting aims to plunder our herbal ways
Tonic and bitters, the risk factors, and medicine for my pain

Mami Wata

The muse wills what she wants, she mentioned Chamoiseau
That word scratcher, the griot of Texaco
Well your slums are in Nima, the soul of Ayawaso
Your library books bestowed in honor of that lost librarian
Now expecting a child, it's hard to be living mediated by a Canadian
Or the ways of the porcupine, turn to Mabanckou
Tails of the blue bird, weaving through an open city
The art of omission, you too can embark on the normalcy project
The perils and power of your tribes, vibes and scribes
Incognito, you move as modal minorities
Some of us have long been exiled souls, unmoored as we write
Men and women of no country, oft branded with faint praise,
The labels neo-soul, afropolitan, as if we were rootless cosmopolitans
No, we remain firmly grounded in Nyame, Nyankopon plays our siren song

The muse wills what she wants and I shall not falter
No identity crisis is at the heart of the matter
Our roots go back further than flowers of May
The pot of wisdom collected mankind's stories
And so we dispense toli and sing your glories
Like the Gyrlz, talk about a love story
You find yourself writing love poems for your queen of sanity
Why you wanna, play these games on me?
Or would you have me perform the remake, return of the mack
We can sing ghetto anthems of the young, gifted and black
But no, you say, I think I can detect
The gray hairs looming and middle age spread

The muse wills what she wants and it's a jook joint party
Risqué double entendres, indeed you'll risk everything
Wager your black soul for the promise of her bliss
Frisson de folksonomie, let's be discreet about our affair
Liaisons dangereuses, revealing of one's character

The muse wills what she wants, she put you in a trance
Transported to Haiti by the stone that the builder refused
Toussaint L'Ouverture, there's grit in the maquis
Man in the hills, our borderlands we roam freely
Internally displaced, we feel deeply this modernity
Refugee hearts betrayed by capitalist uncertainty
You'll write the toli manifesto, a monger's article of faith

The muse wills what she wants, I hope you've enjoyed this play
Like your sister-in-law sang on that happy day
Remember your marital vows, as you dance come what may
Odo nyera fie kwan, as the elders say
Love always finds its way home, even after the last dance
When the party's over, there is no shame, it was no mistake
What is the tenor of a man that he leaves love in his wake

Mami Wata

Mami Wata, a playlist


If you see Mami Wata, never run away

The Muse Wills What She Wants, a playlist


A musical font of inspiration, an annotated prose poem. I give you six hours of comfort soul food, the foregoing thirty-odd stanzas deserve no less.

A Note


This note was written, as if in a fever trance, in six hours on the evening of June 6, 2020. My various computers were out of commision and my trusted moleskine notebook had disappeared. The laptop that The 7 year old normally uses was going through a Windows update, and the spyware that The Wife's university's IT department installs on hers was also being updated, hence I'd had to give up my normal writing implements to him after I wrote the first line. Instead I wrote that night on whatever loose sheet of paper I could find; envelopes, receipts, and mortgage bills played a part, although eventually I located a yellow pad. There were pauses for dinner, to put the children to bed, and to argue with The Wife. If I remember correctly, it was an argument I lost, and I was on probation that night, so I couldn't exactly leave the bedroom to continue writing as I wanted. Luckily, I noticed that The 9 year old had been doing some drawing in our room and a few more sheets of paper lay by my bedside - the back of her artworks would do. Once the beauty fell asleep, pen continued to meet paper, although, I admit, it was hard to scribble my words in a straight line without any light. I had caused enough marital trouble to risk the bedside light. I rather feared that I wouldn't be able to decipher this stream of thought when I awoke.

I was pleasantly surprised in the morning with the paper scraps and the pad that I assembled. I sat on what you have read above ever since, and just got around to transcribing and adding in the links - I'm a hypertext thinker. The visuals of Mami Wata are of Wangechi Mutu's Water Woman, a work we came across walking through The Contemporary in Austin, a few years back. I would normally edit ferociously for length and content - one could probably mine the many strands of the outpouring outlined here, and dole them out over time in bite-sized chunks. But, given the title and subject matter, I decided to simply publish the entire conception. I am minded of an encounter with Abbey Lincoln and her injunction to just do your own thing, write your own material, and simply get the work out. "Throw it away", like she sang, "for you can never lose a thing if it belongs to you".

That afternoon, I had reread two essays from my favorite book of essays, Hilaire Belloc's On Nothing and Kindred Subjects. The first was the opener, On The Pleasure Of Taking Up One's Pen, which provides simply luminous insight into the creative process - I aspire to one day reach those heights of lucidity. The other was On The Illness Of My Muse, which ends with what I still consider the greatest hatchet job on Rudyard Kipling, I recommend the whole book to you. A few hours later, the muse called and gave me the first and the last line. As for everything in between, I had to dance with her.

Postscript the second


There was a repeat encounter just days later. That time I was ready with the necessary notebook and computer. I published our conversation immediately; she called it Herd Immunity.


What is the tenor of a man that he leaves love in his wake
odo nyera fie kwan



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