To You: In the tradition of izibongo (south-african praise prose)
Submitted by our 2020 Poetry and the Senses Poetry Fellow:
Gracia Mwamba (Undergraduate/Art Practice)
You are allowed to laugh today. You are allowed more than a hidden giggled breath. Let this be a reminder that laughter that does not have to replace heaviness. You are allowed whatever joy knocks at your heart. For whatever length.
(These days, I laugh in short, quick bursts. My brother’s always sending me dad jokes: I be preaching on Amazon, call me Prime Minister)
Beautiful, is the battle from bed to window. Perhaps you wished for a full bath; wished to allow stretched limbs to bloom in the open air; but even the little wisps of sunlight that escaped the blinds to reach your skin is enough.
(Vitamin D comes in supplements too. It’s not as good as the natural kind, but today, I’m all about doing the next best thing)
You are allowed to cry today. Even when it’s next to your laughter. Even when there is no physical body to watch it happen. You are allowed to cry with or without reason. Every feeling is worth naming — especially loss.
(We have no open space to mourn my cousin, so we hold the funeral over instagram story instead. We play farewell songs and pray in quiet darkness, even if it doesn’t feel quite enough)
Perhaps there is no real reason to cry, just an itch — a restless feeling that is edging its way out of you. You are allowed to cry even then. Cry in full. Laugh and cry. Even if there is only your skin to catch the droplets — each of your tears glitters like a diamond and this is unbearingly beautiful.
(I think crying can be my body’s way of reminding me I’m not invincible)
Maybe tomorrow, you will love the you who finishes all their assignments, cleans the entire apartment and meal prep for the entire week before noon. Maybe tomorrow, you will love the you who has left no email or phone call unanswered. There is a special place for that — to love and honor the you who has accomplished and achieved many tasks.
However, today, I love the you who struggled to get out of bed, but did it anyway. I love the you who ordered in but still ate something anyway. I love that maybe you did not go outside, but you opened the windows to allow fresh air in. In the tradition of izibongo you are seen, heard and deemed still precious.
And perhaps you did not achieve much. Perhaps there’s guilt for all of the things you should have but have not done. Still, I see and love the you in transition. The you that maybe has not reached their goal yet. It will be alright — today I just tried to do the next best thing.
#17: i’m not quite there but
this body is becoming a smile
the taste of boiling fufu
my knuckles cracked
a child’s laugh
the mirror greeted my eyes
as though after a long day of work
my body is a house
have always been home
Gracia Mwamba is a visual artist, composer and writer from DRCongo, by way of South Africa. Currently in her final year of a BA in Art Practice, Gracia works interdisciplinarily to communicate through her work. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue credentials to become a licensed Art Therapist and strong advocate for art as an accessible means of healing and social change.
Note: Over the course of the spring semester, each 2020-2021 ARC Fellows will submit a short blog post about their project. We hope you will enjoy these short readings! Poetry and the Senses will create meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration. As a think tank for the arts at UC Berkeley, ARC will act as a facilitator and connector between the campus and the many flourishing regional poetry communities. This two-year initiative (Jan 2020 – Dec 2021) explores the relevance and urgency of lyrical making and storytelling in times of political crisis, and the value of engaging the senses as an act of care, mindfulness, and resistance. To learn more about the program, click here.