Friday, November 25, 2011


Tonight I sat down to have thanksgiving dinner at a table of women. Two generations and dozens of stories apart. The one next to me is Haitian and asks whether I am going to remain in America after school, and I never think about it when people ask me this question. There is no hesitation to my 'No', and she recounts to me that she said she would come here for five years. She is now well beyond forty years of living in New York.

A friend had asked me the same question last night, told him I didn't see the point in having to exert myself for survival here when I could live comfortably with house and land on a quiet-enough island where the ocean doesn't freeze over in the loaf-end months. I can see the enticement of the opportunity here, but if you step back far enough, it's always a carrot-bait type of situation, and I'm just not that kind of horse. I understand it though. I understand the West Indian obsession with Brooklyn, we always move, waves at a time.

Two of my sisters (God bless the hearts of these women) tonight asked where I wanted to live eventually, and whether I would stay in New York. At this point I feel like the universe is asking me to shape a clearer definition of myself and prodding me in the direction of a work I started this week. In creating a performance for a class project, I am beginning to form my first one-woman show, on the questions of destiny and identity and trusting dreams.

More doors have been opening than I had keys to. God has been remarkably gracious to me in the last few months, and this year has been one of so much growth for me as a person. I am trying to expand beyond the US as of next year, I need to get hold of some scholarships and grants, but these things have already been surfacing. I have some key people at this point in my life that I am drawing experience from, and this is definitely a time of growth for me. I have been more grateful for life in this last week than I have ever been in my life.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

To: Turning Tides in Concrete.

Because of how academic school can actually get, I've had less time to make contributions into this blog and I decided to just get it done tonight, without planning to in advance. At this point, I'm taking a number of courses that have absolutely no eventual bearing on my theatre BA, because quite frankly, I'm over the idea of getting a theatre BA. I'm taking courses that will help my in my career goals in working with youth and community, a feminism course here, an African American music course there, a performance technique course in another corner. I am satisfied and comfortable with my decision to study what I want to study contrary to department advisory. certification is not skill.

I'm transitioning to a Master's program hopefully next year around this time I will be in Grad School getting my hands dirty with actual community theatre as opposed to the broadway factory. Speaking of which, we have another great community of students that we're building with this year in the College Now class. You can see some of our work at: . It's always super exciting for me because American youth have such a non-shy willingness to engage in the classroom, and have a confident, fearless way about voicing issues affecting them, something I'm not sure I and my friends were doing when I was their age. It's refreshing, all the time.

I feel like I've also been transitioning into the world of bilingualism. Or at least, some version of Spanglish. I'm not sure where it came from, I blame my latino class two semesters ago, I blame California and la casa de Erika Cespedes in Oakland, I blame the burritos. I blame my heightened awareness of Hispanic culture in my neighborhood. Yarminiah and the stories of her family in Miami, the misa in Spanish after ours on Sundays at church, the conversations over my head in packed trains, I blame buena vista social club and how they all seem so perfectly grandfatherly. I blame Cuba and how it appears to me everywhere in my consciousness. I do not know where it came from. But I know that God had me do it for seven years and promised that I would have use for it in the future. Maybe part of the plan is that the language is revived in me somehow. It's weird though. One morning I wake up and I start thinking in Spanish.

With all of the #occupy events taking place throughout New York, the arrests, marches all over the world, the curfew back home being extended, troy davis, tuition hikes, poverty spreading, war, I sense like the whole world is breathing heavily in some kind of syncopated sighing. It is heavy, it is heated, it is heaving. I see and hear it with my young people. The world is frustrated. It isn't even deniable anymore. Everybody is fed up of the way things are. There is some kind of uneasiness happening in the air, and that is public knowledge. Everybody seems to be at their ends. These are tense times.

Finally, I'm about to get around to doing what I really came to New York to do, i.e. building my career as a writer and performance artist. I'm about to slam in this upcoming week, so I've just been trying to prepare myself for it, and trusting that the dry spell of the last year performing-wise had a purpose to it in terms of my growth creatively.I feel like the time has gotten here, and I'm about to put my best foot forward into this. I feel like I've been given enough space in my schedule this semester for concentrated writing and crafting my work, and I am all about making it happen. Ready. Tell the tide time to turn.

"I keep silent, till he would order me to speak, and lift the spell over the world so I could wake dem from dey sleep"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

To: The West Indian Day Parade and the Question of Culture.

Photo taken from: Huffington Post:

It's clearly been a while since I've written here, I told a friend this week that I would, and I strive to keep things I give, like promises and such. In that way it becomes half theirs, half mine.

Last weekend was the Labour (yes, that's a 'u' in there, get an English dictionary) Day weekend, and as is customary out here in New York, they had a number of festivities and events all culminating in the street parade on the Monday's holiday. I had missed it all last year, so that this year I sought to do all things West Indian.

On the holiday, two friends crashed at my apartment for our quiet version of Dimanche Gras, and we left home around 5:50am to look for the bands. When we found them, we pretty much just stood along the sides, watching the parade, when one of my friends fell under a strain of culture shock. Her argument was that "this is why feminism is pointless" RE: the behavior of some of the women in the street and their widespread demoralization that seemed to be spilling every which way on the street. I'm thinking that this was why I had distanced myself from Carnival in the first place back at home. It was just the sense of defeat that came from seeing women act a particular way in response to men, not just in dancing, mere behavior, even as an isolated factor, and thinking to are the sisters I'm fighting for...right?

but so goes the story of liberal feminism. here is where the ideology and I meet in the middle of the highway and I refuse to stop and let her in my car. matter of fact, I start speeding. This is my own conviction, and I'm allowed to have one of those. That said,

I really wished I had a camera though (Thank God I didn't), there were so many moments that could have been captured, the sunrise, the masqueraders, the music in the bodies of people, it was beautiful. One thing I am most appreciative over is the traditional music they use for J'ourvet. There are no speaker boxes on music trucks. There are riddim sections, pan-sides, iron-men/women and drums. It was the most organic expression of J'ourvet I've ever been part of.

In the afternoon we spontaneously decided to go to the Parkway for the 'last lappe' which closes off at 6pm, and jumped on a train around 4:40ish to get to President street at around 5pm. We walked out to the corner of Nostrand and Eastern Parkway, after crawling through the most tense, congested crowd I think I've ever been in. 'Tense' because there was some heaviness beyond the humid, beyond the bodies, something was just off. We get to the barricade at the end of the street, and 3 seconds after a woman behind pushes against me and when I turn around, there is a tide of scampering people running towards us and then a shot, sounding like hot ice exploding in a plastic bottle. No echo. Contained. Like a body had absorbed the shock of it.

About 3mins later we were on the train platform, waiting to jump on to the next thing that would take us away from there. My hands were shaking, I could barely text my other friend to tell him to turn his car around and head back home. I got back to my neighbood with an off-beat breathing and a quiet panic in my step. First time for everything, maybe.

After having a week to reflect, I started to think of the 24shootings in 24hrs phenomenon that happened throughout NY state on the Labor Day weekend. Why is it specifically this weekend, when everything is dedicated to "West India" that all these acts of violence happen and at such a rate? I started to question whether it was an issue of us having imported so much of our culture to New York and whether it reflects the increasing violence in our own island home societies. I'm not sure how much of the integrative process of young Caribbean men coming into the New York setting involves some kind of introduction or even re-introduction to criminal activity or behavior, but I'm at a loss for words over the hint of the idea that there may be some cultural connection to the violence. I hope not, but I don't want to dismiss it entirely just yet.

All in all, the day had been mostly enjoyable one for me, but punctuated by few mins that could have cost me my life. I think there can be some more substantial evaluation to take place here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To: a halfway migration.

I'm currently testing out a new cyberspatial location. I might just use this blog for my journal-type entries and use my new tumblr page for all other things fancy etc.

find me and follow me: get to it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To: Everything We Borrow and Keep as Our Own.

I wonder how difficult it is to embrace the work of the independence movement for the average young person living in a neo-colony like Martinique or another Département D'outre-Mer when that life is all you have known since you have known yourself. What do the names of Cesaire and Fannon register as in the minds of the population within my age group? France and the other respective metropoles (inclusive of the United States) are still the idealist societies and cultures, sought to be replicated in a context of life that continues to not need or benefit from it.

I remember my aunt saying last week of her mother that she reminisces of the days of the British Empire and that if Trinidad was still a colony then we would not have had the crime problem that we do now. I didn't think there were elders who still thought like that. Regardless of how emotional I may feel over a sentiment like that, what I should come to acknowledge is that not everyone is/was in favor of Independence, which actually gives enough evidence of itself in the very word 'dependence'. It is as simple as that.

My friend in Martinique has always wanted to be a model. I recently saw a studio shot of her in a social network update and clearly she is on her way to establishing herself in that career. What struck me however, was how the lighting was arranged and how much more lighter skinned she had been made to look. A stark contrast from her normal, everyday moment, smiling with family and friends photos. It made me consider what is it that we are willing to sacrifice to come by the 'ideal' image or the 'ideal' set of circumstances. What are the type of compromises we are willing to make to get from point A to point B?

How much of ourselves are we willing to lose, to gain some type of perfection by someone else's standards.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

To: the promise in Eden.

the poem will not write itself.
the sun will not move to midday position at moontime.
breakfast would not find your stomach through osmosis.
weeds grow where they want, stifle the legit ones,
labor is pain only when you're on your back.
or a maternity ward.
or both.
labor is the world moving itself quarter seconds at a time
how force gets applied to the moving of things.
how the moving of things comes by effort
how everything comes by effort,
how loving you the right way is only by measure of effort.
and Baba said all work is prayer.
I am praying with all the effort in me.

Arielle John

copyright ©2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

To: last week being a week ago.

So the outta dis realm week has more or less closed, the memory is being stored for safe-keeping and BNV tabanca is in full swing. Today was the first day of rest since I came out to California, and every ache and stiff muscle is worth it.

It was none less than beautiful to be surrounded by that energy again and to marvel at the sight of God in other people. The offering of stories, the commitments to change, the urgency for being light. I am eternally grateful for my Future Corps team. Such an amazing collection of minds and momentum. So many people to thank for changing my life this week.

Possibility. the beginning of all things great.

1. tabanca

an extreme sadness and/or a depression following one's breakup or seperation from one's significant other.
"a gual you ain't hear 'bout Marsha? she home wit some serious tabanca, cuz she and she man done. it was de funniest ting i hear all day."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To: The lesson on Roots and Culture

I've heard Wole Soyinka (world renowned West African writer) talk about the difficulty in having to work with Americans, that is, African Americans having to perform his plays under his direction in the United States. That is, that he has numerous challenges with dance and choreography. I've heard a British educator on TED talks lament how cerebral Europeans are, and what it does to alienate the rest of the body from itself.

I found the colonization at a hip hop concert tonight in Brooklyn. I mean it's Brooklyn though. One of the most culturally black spots on the continent, and it occurred to me to pay attention to my body movements, granted my feet were tired, but it had all been the bobbing of the head, the occasional shift of the torso, with feet planted, not moving. I remember dancing to reggae back home, it was a full involvement of myself, maybe it's because hip hop has so many isolations to it. I found that my dancing has no fluency to it anymore, it's just rigid and definite.

I feel like I need to reclaim that part of myself. The Afro-Caribbean me. There is a core of yourself that becomes ignored in the West. Everything happens above the stomach. I'm also supposed to start taking dance lessons in African cultural dance in the fall. we're also hoping to stage a play, us black women next semester. What is black theater without choreography? Where did this disembodiment of mine come from?

I like what he says in the video below:
On Childhood Education - "As children start to grow up, we educate them from the waist up, and then we focus on their heads,... and slightly to one side."
On Academia- "If you want real evidence of out of body experiences by the way, get yourself a long to a residential conference of senior academics and pop into the discotheque on the final night.And there you will see it, grown men and women riving the beat."

I haven't been keeping up with my blog lately not because I don't have the time, because surely, it's something you need to make time for. I just don't know how to make sense of my last month. That is, my return home as relates to my parents, friends, who embraced me, who pushed me away, things I wish I could've made better, decisions we've had to come by, I just don't feel settled about things yet. Maybe vacation has an interruptive way of making days, and I will be more definitive when I get back to a routine.

I'm waiting on a response from CUNY to see if they accept my proposal for my own study path of Applied Theater. It's the same anxiety of having applied for your first choice college. I pray they accept it though. Also, BNV in San Fransisco is coming up in less than a week, which means i have poems to finish and to learn and to work out performances for. I'm both really hyped and anxious over it all.

I thank God for the men in my life tonight, for those who've encouraged and supported me in these last few weeks, days, hours. For my lover, my father, my brothers back at home like Gamma, Chike, Jabari, even uncle Mark for tonight. They are crucial to my survival out here more than I may like to admit sometimes, and have been here. always. I miss my real friends.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

To: The Commotion on My Head.

My mother asked me before I came home, what would I be doing with my hair. I'm somewhat accustomed to hearing this question from her. It hardly bothers me anymore. She's adjusted to the idea that I can wear it as I like in New York, and a full-scale afro does nothing to irk the public. In the conservatives of my nativity space however, it's a similar sentiment Sa'nia expressed last week when talking about her journey as Rastafarian and the worry of parents that society will push us out, because we look a certain way, or celebrate life differently from the norm.

My mother is closer to the oriental end in my family tree, her hair doesn't twist like mine, less spiral more slick. My father is African and at any opportunity would acknowledge the end of 'Spanish Blood' showing itself in his hair texture. These are the genes that groomed my hair to itself. Since my mother took her 'big chop' years long ago before I was even born, she's consistently had (along with my other aunt) the same hairdresser/s.

I grew up waiting for my mother at hair salons, getting her monthly haircut to sangeet radio and airwave bajhans. I embraced it. More than ten years later, I found myself at the salon of the same hairdresser, friend of my mother. I could understand the buzz behind the blinds, how they calculated how they were going to deal with my hair, what would be the best way to approach the goliath, how to develop a plan d'action to combat the mass. I showed up, right? She couldn't possibly tell me I was in the wrong place.

In the space of four hours, all of staff, all of clients, all of everyone there were East Indian, looking at me with a curious I forgot about until then. They were uneasy throughout the process, one kept asking whether she was pulling too hard (when she was hardly), one gave up when the comb wasn't going through and called for back up. One even had the groin to ask whether I was going to flat iron when I was finished, as though it was the only acceptable thing to do, to complete the look, I can't possibly be having my hair out the way I had it before. I remembered how I should not let all this bother me, because of who I am, because of whose child I am. But remembering doesn't soothe things over enough sometimes.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

To: the Short Pants Analogy and how it works.

I was disturbed when I was researching online a few years ago, and Eve Ensler called for short skirts by women all over the world in the commemoration of V-day that year. I understood how third wave feminism called for women's 'rights over their own bodies' etc. but I thought that the idea of short skirts everywhere challenged a personal moral code in the universe somewhere. That it was directly linked to the over-sexualization of women and I couldn't understand why an act that seemed in sync with how women are objectified everyday was being taken as revolutionary action. It just didn't sit comfortably with me.

Fast forward to now. I have a friend who wears dresses everyday (usually with heels) and believes that it is her own statement of feminism, that it is her experience of liberation as a woman. We have just spent the last six months battling the frigid zone here in New York, and my cupboard now has a number of short skirts stashed in its corners somewhere, despite that it has still been too cold to use them. I know now however that these skirts carry context.

In Trinidad, I would never wear a short skirt or pant outside of my neighborhood. In our understanding of things short (I mean here anything more than an inch or two above the knee cap) it's a game of thing association. It is a sexual display, that a woman is trying to get the attention of men, that she is probably 'loose', that she is a potential 'bad ting', that it serves as an invitation for lustful thinking. I have observed how my thinking has shifted. Ryan suggested it may be a more white western concept of liberalism at work in these metropolitan areas.

Whereas if a white woman was to walk the street on a hot day in a bikini, it would be more easily acceptable than if your mother (of colour) was to do this...anywhere in the world. As black people there has always been a conservative in our thinking, which could have been derived from a number of historical places. That being said, I think this is the culture of this society, and just because a woman is wearing clothes above the knee doesn't guarantee that an American man is going to look at her twice. It is just the way things are here.

I must also inject here at this point that my morality has not changed. I still define for my own purposes and personality and beliefs what would be considered as too short for me as woman to wear in public. What has changed however, is that I am now less quick to criticize women, based upon the length of their clothes. In a Christian or wider religious context yes, by all means, wear a longer skirt, 'modesty' has to be maintained; but in terms of women who do not share my Christian world-view, I am less quick to judge them as overly-sexualized beings looking for the attention of eyes everywhere. It just might be the heat, just as in that Aesop fable with the Sun and the Wind.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

To: Life Giving.

My grandmother whose birthday we usually celebrate with Mother's Day has finally gotten to the stage of life she called 'Ayo Pancho', which is in effect, her death, that is, in the more human sense. I have made peace with the humor of her soul and the way she would anticipate ancestorship every year at her low-sodium, middle-of-the-week dinner with her closer friends and neighbors. How there would somehow be the odd presence of Royal Castle chicken next to the bowl of Lo Mein. Her rendition of 'Mother's Eyes' and the haunt of Jonnie Walker on the outer carve of her notes.

When she was able, she had the tradition of appeasing the spirits of her deceased parents by preparing saltless food and leaving it out for them once a year, laid out on the dining room table with a shallow bowl with a candle footed in some water. She used the bright red table mats with the stars on them that looked like the old 'Cannings' logo. My family became more Christian and she became less able to do it herself, and eventually it stopped. My documenting of it is the only way I will remember it like it had been. I am not sure how her daughters will treat with Mother's Day today.

My own boyfriend sometimes accuses me of hating men. This is not true. It's only that to this point in my life I have known the strength of so many women in my life, who have given birth to one of my selves, whose stomachs have carried me through the war of the world and who have nurtured the patchwork of song in my spirit. My father is a beautiful man, he has never failed me, not once. My lover is uniquely amazing and I love him beyond all, but the women in my life are the ones who have made me.

For my own mother, and what it means to have a child who identifies strongly with ethnicity, a double world she can only understand on certain levels. The way that my legal studies could make her infinitely happy and the way she works to understand me more, the thing that came out of her, but less from her. The prayers she formed me in. I thank her, she is more of a woman that I could ever thank her for being.

For my aunts, who have helped me tremendously to now, who taught me all I know about family and what it means to keep one. The wishes and proud hopes of my grandmother, Anita, to show me the miracle of the loaves. For Ryan's mom and how her faith feeds mine some days. To the women without blood relations who have shaped me, Aunty Charmaine, Mrs. Marin, Mrs. Singh, Aunty Debbie, Aunty Camille. For the counsel of my sisters. Kel, Ivy, Akilah, Ardene, Dej. This is a celebration of you all. I cannot thank you as you should be thanked. There are blessings that can reach where I cannot.

My Grandmother's Road March.

Friday, April 22, 2011

To: these parts of speech.

There is a young Haitian girl in the pew kneeling next to me, belting the Pange Lingua between her Kreyol pronouncements. Because of the three language groups that find themselves in this Flatbush community, I notice how the Latin songs and chants are sometimes used as a unifying element. The one thing everybody (over 30) recognizes and can celebrate as 'original' Catholic heritage. It upsets me though. I cannot engage in something that I cannot begin to understand.

Because of the English version we keep in Trinidad, I know what the words mean. I know the solemness that it invokes, the centered focus of the adoration, the way it could call your pores to their feet. I felt so disconnected in mass tonight. I missed home soooooo much. I don't understand for the life of me how a heavily West-Indian group of black people could sedate music and rhythm so much. The English choir here amazes me into disbelief every time.

I went with my colleague to help facilitate a workshop today in Brooklyn that was eventually cancelled, but in preparing we'd spent some time looking more closely at Haiti and stigma and I think even in my own personal self, how my all-embracing perception when I just came here was somewhat altered by the attitudes of some of the women around me. From "them old niggers" at the laundromat to "them Haitian people" next door, and for absolutely no reason I unconsciously began to distance myself. Today I recognized what a terrible mistake I was making and re-grounded myself in the idea that more Haitian blood floods me than I know, and much more than we as a people care to think.

In my own tongue, Kelby stopped me mid-conversation a few weeks ago to ask me what happened and why do I have a tinge of an accent grabbing at my sentences. I barely even noticed how it's been creeping. It's the wanting to be understood at the first go. The nuisance of repeating myself five times over. I feel like every time I talk to a west-indian now, I've begun to overcompensate for the creole I lose to conversations I keep with Americans. Uncool.

I need to learn Shona though. I want to go to Zim next year.

Monday, April 18, 2011

To: Newness and Naissance.

Despite how many people question my convictions, my reasonings and my way of worshiping the God I serve, there is no possible way for me to ignore the magnitude of blessings he has given to me and my family. The last week has been one of faith testing and spiritual endurance, and joy came in the morning. All that I needed to learn to do was to surrender. That the battle is not mine, and it never has been. Give thanks.

I feel like this spring is all about birthing my passions. I have already spoken about the changes in my life context over the past few months in relation to my craft, and I have finally decided on a way forward from here. Workshops, new work, new stages, new concepts to be developed. I'm looking at bnv in July, not sure just yet though, but it's a thought.

21 for me has been the year of becoming. 22 I want to be the year of emergence. The trees are beginning again in their cycle, back home there is no heavily marked process of shedding and learning to grow back in place. I miss my grandmother's backyard. The rain from last night on the cherry tree flicking water drops on my face. I miss the stone sink, the back shed, the damp of the mud climbing my rubber slippers, the lime tree trail, my aunt's chive plant pot, the dry coconut heap under the step. Eden was outside and waiting.

The sun is closer to us now, but it's still taking really long to get warmer. It constantly feels like Sunday morning weather where the sun would be out, but I'd be cold in church. I never liked Sunday morning church. Even the choirs are frigid at that time. I've now taken to midday church. I am more awake, aware and focused by then.

Time for me to get my Monday started.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To: this particular shade of blue.

After a long day of classes, I'm sitting in the student building, having fast food for dinner and waiting for one of my students to meet with me for a few minutes to discuss a project. This spring twilight begs for a colour, any colour; and there are streaks like dried up tears on the outside of the large glass pane. There is a couple behind me thinking themselves out of my peripheral sightline and heavily making out on a couch. Outside looks like darkness slamming down on brakes, the trees are years-old paint brushes, unused for some time now. I don't know why the seasonal chimes on the main campus clock have suddenly become more-than-a-minute-long love songs.

I've lost some weight, but seem to have lately lunged into a less healthy approach to my eating habits. My fasting seems to be more of a custom of not eating, a tradition that is occurring without me having much to do with it all. My prayer has been much more consistent after having gotten confession yesterday, but I feel disconnected from the entire practice of fasting. It may take some time to get back into that space.

I have confronted myself with my lack of thinking and writing creatively since I've been here, and really challenging myself from this month to change that. to change my approach, my attitude, my resistance and hesitation towards self.

I'm about to turn numbers soon, and very much in a place of transition. a time to critically look at my life, the changes that have taken place in the last year, and to decide on how do i treat with these things. I planned on going out with a group of people, but I think it be best if I just take the day to myself. To think. to write. to plan. I'm usually not a people person around this time either. There is a greyness of April that I've known.

By now the street lights are on, my student is more than half hour late, and three men have assembled on my left to discuss what it means to be 'revolutionary' and where does it cross with ones' ego. The couple have resorted to sleeping in each others arms, and the crepe-paper sky has wrapped away the trees away in its creases. wish it would me too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To: the exchange between gardeners of sorts

there is a way of speaking to God

bowed over a brown prayer rug

in the first light of the morning.

there is a way of waking the life in seeds

small enough to sprout faith,

in flood-rain and drought-days,

a way of growing past trouble

to blossom better in times to come

there is a way of time coming

only because it needs to

plants life into your chest

comes back and says that it needs you

to walk back with him

there is a way of walking backwards

into life again

back to the brown prayer rug of the soil

back to the first light of heaven

back to being the blossom of the seed you were buried to be

back to care of the sun and caress of the rain

back to the elements of the earth minus the pain

there is a way

of speaking to God

that it would be the conversation of a lifetime.

RIP Uncle Frank.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John

Monday, March 21, 2011

To: asking and being given by the universe.

I just found this engaged couple that makes love through music. They have some beautiful conscious-raising music, and VIBES. ALSO, they have a FREE concert in the cafe of the Brooklyn Academy of Music on my birthday. I'm taking myself on a date. :D

Sunday, March 20, 2011

To: Vibrations Being More Than A Cell Phone Option.

(Photography by Arnaldo JJ, see more of his work on )

So that essay I had been frantically seeking out in the last few days had been sitting in my reading packet all this time. Might want to delve into that magic before I go sleep.

I was looking back on some entries I had hand-written back in 2005 and saw how much I put emphasis on the sacredness of open-mics, the open-heartedness of sitting in circles around floating stages, the ritual of acoustic guitars and dejembes. We always call it 'vibes', and I took that concept for granted. It's the way Aristotle breaks down binary forms for us. You know something exists, because you know what the absence of it means. I have come to know what the absence of that means, and now I know what 'vibes' did to impact my life as both performer and audience.

Maybe it's the way most stages are here. Very fourth wallish and separatist. It becomes all about you and what little talent you have and not just about your physical closeness or your ability to embrace your audience and them to hug you back on that level. It lacks love, it lacks common thread tying in the room, it lacks warm colours, it lacks brimming energy, spontaneity.....vibes. I think drums store heartbeats, and if they're absent we're not breathing right. Guitars are blood vessel strings, people in circles spin soul, and the performer is forced into a serving, giving of oneself type love.

Maybe it's the benefit of a small island. People are familiar, we can generate the home atmosphere as the need arises. Here is plastic, distant and impersonal. The first instrument I bought when I came here was a drum. I only use it for Church when Trinidadian priests fly over on mission. I know I needed a drum to keep that part of myself alive. There is an alchemy of live roots music, that knocks on your chest and says yes, I am already what is inside of you. A certain dance that is difficult to control once your body wakes to it. I miss that. The most.

p.s. Vagina Monologue opens on THURSDAY for two days ONLY!!! You can vibes me for tickets, come out and support the effort, come out and bless my beginnings.

What I'm on about? Check out this music.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

been singing this song all evening today.

To: my body as a Temple.

Tonight makes me feel lazy, not too sure why either. I've been looking for Wole Soyinka's essay on 'The New African after the Cultural Encounter', as a matter of fact I'm not even sure of where to look. Looks like a heck of an interesting read as he addresses the process and bipolarity faced when the traditionalist moves into a fully western location and what that divide creates in one's mind. Essentially what all our Cambridge and Oxford-educated leaders of the post-independence era and present study abroad students like myself had/have to deal with. It would be wonderful to see how he makes sense of that schizophrenia.

Tomorrow and Friday are expected to have sunny 60-degree (16 deg. Celsius and beyond) weather. Who would have ever thought that I would find myself rejoicing at 60-degree weather. This makes me excited.

I've been given two major roles in the Vagina Monolouges as of this week. The one part that everyone tires to get. I pray that I can pull it off. I doesn't really associate prayer with vaginas though right? But God made me Woman. He created my body this way, and the way I offer myself and my abilities back to Him is always a way of prayer. He made my sexuality. He formed my consciousness in the defense of those who can't defend themselves, Women included. So it works. I think this will be my bautismo performance. Knee-high high-heel boots et al.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

To: the face behind words.

John Charles Beddoe. My great grandfather. The scribe. The child is unknown, but lucky enough to be in the shot.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To: the seed of a Saint in Us.

A sistren sent this to me today, and it's beautiful. So...I'm sharing :)

"May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us."

— St. Thérèse de Lisieux

To: 1959 meeting me one Thursday night.

Monday, March 14, 2011

To: the spiraling of my haircase.

They have a real, live organ in the Church here. The organ player gets paid for playing in the mass. Essentially, he gets paid for going to church. There is a single rasta drummer who sits beside him, the only thing to keep tempo for us, and prays with his hands clasped near his belly-button, diamond shaped, with aligned thumbs and index fingers. He reads the scriptures from his iphone and speaks and drums to himself before and after church.

After the organist near-destroyed my solo by taking it about ten octaves too high, I start on my way home after church, and a petite Haitian young woman stops and asks me about my hair regimen. She claims her English is not too good, so we end up having most of our conversation in French. I am amazed by how fluent I still am. I take her to a nearby pharmacy to show her the oils I use and we continue walking home together. Only to realize that she lives a single house away from me.

I spent a long time yesterday remembering Martinique and Axelle and her family. How they live on a mountain-side with the capital at their feet and a Jazzy-Zouk carrying the sea-breeze on a Friday evening. I remember the blue-framed window without burglar-proof, the shower with no curtain, the green-peas, the fish-pie, the bare-skin of the beach. The old slave barracks, rum-houses, montagne Pele and women in their yellow scarves. I miss the vibrancy of the place.

I've come across a document written by my great-grandfather in 1959, apparently he used to write a lot of correspondences both in English and Chinese. He spoke on being a businessman and the hardship of it, on the scattered seed from his loins and the generations growing from it, and their beginnings in South Trinidad. My focus for a years now has been to learn about his own father, Joseph (obviously not his original name) and what it was like to come to Trinidad in 1863. I would like to write on that at some point. I did a while ago, but I want to revisit the idea.

I fear for the generation of Trinidadian women who ten years from now will be at a loss for love and their spouses and fathers. Men are on a steep decline where I come from. That is not the type of sleep that they can wake dreams from. The real-type men are even more scarce. Rare specimen in a field of dirt.

Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and your children, and your sons, and your sons.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

To: the almost of Spring.

It's an near-spring night and I wonder if the sky outside is as clear as it had been on my late walk home yesterday. It was beautiful. I felt my heart say something like "thank you brooklyn". It finally wasn't too cold to look upwards, bare-necked and hatless. The world is beginning to look familiar again.

Commie Torres, an extremely talented young man who I met at Trinity East High School a few years ago was shot last Monday night in Arima. After dealing with the shock, it really made me think on how it's like everyday we're walking among the potentially dead. It's a morbid kind of thought, but truly how does one go from being so full of breath to cold body? I remember being chained back to back with him in a performance and how life happens off stage and suddenly that other body, that sturdy back, that web of hair doesn't exist anymore. It's humbling. Actors know about living in moments. What happens when moments stop living then? Warrior, Rest in Peace.

I am working on embracing my development as a woman. What it means to now have all of relationship, education and career all at once. I'm still working out the balancing act, but I think I'm managing relatively well. I'm also working on a college production of the Vagina Monolouges for the end of this month, and a spring concert with the church choir that the prodigal daughter returned to. I am trying to be as healthy as possible in the midst of the fasting and minimal gym time. I am trying to embrace life and confront it. I sometimes feel like it's not hugging me back, but squeezing the life out of me. Hugs are nice though. Don't think I've hugged another human for at least 3 months now. True Story.

I've realized that I could be quiet at Trinidad and still get around and be normal. My being quiet in New York is a survival no-no. I've realized that because I'm so quiet and opinionated that people just sort of let you be in your corner, kind of thing. You are officially a 'troubled' child. I'm not anti-social...or shy. I just think that generally people talk too much useless rubbish. So I avoid the vocal. Of my very few performances here, I think they were that impactful because I'm not your typical black loud woman. Unassuming...and that works for me....but it def. worked better at home.

I'm about to travel one hour into the future. Clock switch.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

To: the strange way the word "Eulogy" could feel in your mouth

To: waking up, nose before eyes on mornings

To: the brew of Hong Wing coffee and mini bakes called 'breggedaire'

To: the wooden rocking chair shifting back and forth in the living room

To: wanting to watch meh cartoons during 700 Club, and never being able to bargain with you.

To: the miracle of cherry juice from the backyard to the blender

To: your fingers, not being able to comb meh hair from arthritis

To: having to write this and not being able to be there

To: the length of your doll-curled hair

To: the legacy of Bigen hair-dye in our family

To: the doilies, from your crochet

To: how much age can slow you down

To: the caraille in your plate

To: the way life could taste bitter sometimes

To: the creases on either side of your eyes

To: watching your tablets increase,

To: "My darling you are growing older"

To: the belly-deep laughter in your smiles

To: the sight, of you in the gallery every afternoon

To: watching your transition from walk to wheels to wings

To: the way you sing "Mother's Eyes"

To: The way your eyes look like my mother's

To: going for pension after midday mass on Wednesdays

To: the lesson on vex money

To: making me think I could make pastelle successfully

To: the last time you hugged me from your bed

To: the annoying tangle of mosquito nets

To: the end, of an era in you.

To: wanting that you rest now,

To: wanting to thank you

and To: falling asleep only to rise on that Morning.

To: the grandmother we had in you.

-Arielle M John

Copyright © 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I've been lacking the vitality of days to write here. Beyond school and work and life's mischief, I've not been making the time to write. Academia does that too. Workshops are closed until spring, so that there's no real push behind me to get creative, especially in my day's end weary.

My dad is in the midst of deciding when and how to go through with the surgery. He was supposed to fly to Texas next Monday to have it done next week, but we're a far way off from the necessary money to pull that off. My mother has exerted herself from all fundraising and isn't too wholesome these days either. Ryan is working. a lot. Everything these days seems to be about bare minimums.

I've been committing to being more physically active these days, trying to get an hour done at the gym every other day, trying to keep my blood count up, get on the healthy end of the spectrum. Lent soon. I will look more closely at how life changes without meat again, to evaluate which is really better.

I'm not sure where I am with the choir anymore. Apart from my time constraints, I lack patience with it, and their indifference to the music and how it's so focused on sounding good and less about worship. Also, there's a pre-occupation with sounding like the original singer of a song...really? Then we should've just invited them to come sing it. I don't know if I can keep with that.

I'm hoping to start my next writing project soon. "The Readux" where I take really old poems I wrote in the last couple centuries and re-write them and improve on them. I also expect fresh works to come out of it as some elder poems might contain new poems in their bellies. It's the next step in my creative processing. Will keep you posted.

Below: Mr. Marshall and a truth.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To: one month into the year already.

I haven't blogged in a while, just about getting into the scholarly zone again, I am not having the snow storms though. I never got around to buying dem weather boots I said I would. I'm doing two less credits this semester than I did in the last one, and I'm not happy about it. It only lengthens my time here. I have the choice of 1) using the 2credit-less free-time to make the necessary links with the Trinidadian or even Caribbean context of theatre and work on developing my research in that area, so that I don't depend entirely upon an American syllabus to school me or I can do the ridiculous thing of taking 16 credits this semester in addition to my job. Sounds a bit much though. I need to pray on that.

I've found myself more at peace these days with God, with my relationships, with myself. I've been focusing on the ideas of 'covenant' and love as long-suffering. God keeps his promises...every single time. The covenant he has entrusted to both ryan and I, works alongside the faith that he furnishes us with, every waking morning. Love doesn't believe in impossibility.

I'm working on a few pieces at the same time. have some ideas turning over in my head. I've committed to reading more this semester, and to really get my mind clicking. I feel like my days are long, and maybe it's because it's only week one and I have many more things that will kick off in a few weeks. I am ready to work, and I am ready to build.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To: being seen and hesitating to be heard.

So if it's one thing I've learnt about being here is how to assert my femininity. Especially with regard to poetry circles and circuits and cynics. I looked at this video a friend had posted a few days ago, and it really made me think of how I had shied away from the idea of just trusting my own abilities and taking control of a situation.

For instance...whenever there had been a (non-smiths of course) cypher of sorts or just music and people just jumping on, back in T'dad, there would hardly be any women in there, neither on the music, nor the voice....with the exception of some background harmonies...myself included.

An instance happened a few weeks ago that sort of woke me to this habit and how it had affected me. We were in Best Buy after a show with Carvens Lissant and Joshua Bennett (these men are awesome btw, you should check their work out on the tube) and they had found this guy getting down on some keys in the piano section of the store.

When I went over they started vibesin on it, then two shelves away, another man comes in with a bass guitar, carvens starts singing, joshua spits and then goes, "...Jump in Arielle" and almost instantly, without even thinking about it, I declined. The idea of this has haunted me since then. What is it that I'm so afraid of? That night I conjured in my head, every possible justification for why I reacted that way. None of them really make sense.

We are afraid to sit at the table. We are afraid of being fearless. Back home it was because we were waiting to be asked, nicely, to feel like we were not imposing, to feel that sense of inclusion. fluff it. Time for that is gone too.

On to being the woman my foremothers were praying for.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To: surviving the attitude problem of the fourth season

1) Try not to be born on an island. Snow flakes are less welcoming than the sea surf they float like, and will read the riot act to your toes and not caress your now perfect-oval bootprints.

2) You will thank God for the three 60% cotton blouses in your cupboard with sleeves going past your shoulder caps.

3) Google 'bubble jacket'.

4)You will reserve the expression "white as snow" for areas outside of Brooklyn and Mary's lamb on a good day. Think of applying primer to wet black paint.

5) You will empathize with the Jamaican bobsled team in 'Cool Runnings'.

6) Blast music in your headphones so that your joints have a good reason to be shaking like this.

7) Forget about taking that hair-cut you were contemplating a month ago.

8) Do not complain about bad heating in your apartment if you can't afford a 20% rent increase.

9) You will write a letter to your local bank/sponsor/parents explaining that you didn't account for winter clothes in your estimated school expenses.

10) You will change your mind about this letter while you are writing the last sentence.

11) You should remember that the cold has a reason, and so do you.

12) ...but one should not expect the wind to be reasonable.

13) Think of the last time you cracked the ice-tray and a block of ice (or two) slid across the kitchen floor to the other side of the room. Now, think of yourself as an upside down piece of kitchen floor, on the bed of a huge ice-block. See how boots and streets interact.

14) The dry blood in your nostrils every morning is actually a good sign. Thank God your nights are warm.

15) Studies have proven that couples break up most in the fourth season. It helps to have the other half of your couple in a second season state of mind so that your heart is kept warm. be continued.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John

Saturday, January 15, 2011

To: school mornings on the step with you.

girls wear uniforms to school
because of you.
seam-ripper of a chest,
too much bosom and blossom,
too much woman in girlhood years,
that they would break your hour-glass
and tell you how time
doh come back. like that
Maracas sand stabbing the heels
in your school sneakers
next morning in assembly.
watched you lose your stripes
to a green band maxi
I know the way how City Gate
makes you think there's only one way
to get to where you want to go.
the way you shovelled through
gravel in your eyes
to wake yourself from
backseats in PNM rallies
how you could trap these
secrets in the fullness of your hips
to pull yourself up
like the 3 inches of your skirt hem
the way you released them
to cover the bruises on your thighs
true that they always had eyes for you.
I had mistaken your decay for some kinda purfume,
and never understood why you sectioned your hair
to cover the deep in your eyes like that.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To: My Anti-American Backfire.

For all the clarity that it's worth, I now understand why I have not created any performance poetry since I've left my real house. I was talking to this Ghanaian guy i met last week and he's like, "what you mean NY gave you a block, there is sooo much stuff out here...what is overload?"

and well...the African made me think a lil. After all my thinking I've observed that it's not because I'm dialect/accent-shy or super reserved in a non-conservative society, it's the fact that my mission all these years has been to effectively reverse the effect of Americanization in my country and what it has done/is doing to our young people.

As I explained a few blog entries ago, it was the fact that I exerted so much effort into creating work that was uniquely local, in order to locate that uniqueness that is in fact Trinbagonian, when confronted with an american audience, I am at a loss. It's how I cringe at hearing the Caribbean girls in the church choir trying to sing and ad lib like Beyonce or how I reflex-frown at the West Indian utterance of the word 'Summer'....DESPITE the fact that all these things are now legit, because Caribbean girls who grow up in America WILL sing and speak like Americans, and Summer IS an actual season here.

I have trained myself for more than five years to reject everything American because of how it was invading my piece of earth. Now I'm on their own turf and my body hasn't surrendered to this context of living. It is in my nature to not assimilate into this place....and that has it's benefits and burdens. On the upside...I maintain my full identity, straight back to Taino and Kalinago days. On the flip-side, I don't remember how to confront audiences anymore. American audiences anyway.

Who put the death in dilemma?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

To: my coming back here.

we come back to this
like a watering hole
oasis of sandy miracles
how I manage the whole weary of me
to hold nothing but heavy breath.
can't carry more than i can carry.
the way your sunsets
burn deserts to the ground
the mornings you don't find
me, beautiful
in the cold of when i need you
most,in the quiet of
angry storms of dust
raging my wilderness.
didn't think
we would still
come back to this.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To: home being where the voice is.

Sometimes the wideness of a horizon is scary. Just the sea and you, you know?
I am thankful that I have for the most part kept quiet and to myself, it comes in handy these days. That works well off-stage.

I have found myself in such a strange place when coming to performance poetry. I have written no new performance pieces since I came here, most likely because of my resisting the notion of having to re-construct how I create work or broaden my motives when it comes to my writing. I have spent so much time and energy creating culture-specific work back at home, that when coming to here, it's like I hardly even know where to start.

I have an enormous sense of my schooling here being a temporary process and something that will pass before I know it. It's like I want no connection with the place, and everything is transitory. My anti-assimilationist attitude is the very thing creating writing problems for me. If what I believe in is about communicating a message, then communication is paramount to that goal, and communication can get culture-specific at best.

It goes beyond the issue of dialect and accent and references, because those obstacles should only propel me. It's the idea of not being clear about what it is I want to accomplish here. Over the last 5 years it was the restoration of a culture, working towards a sort of 'healing' from where we were at that point as a country (Trinidad). That goal becomes somewhat irrelevant here. Inapplicable.

One might argue that there are things that stretch over from place to place...God, gender, pan-africanism, anti-capitalism, environmentalism....but all these ideas work within a context and a way of reaching people. It's hard to end up doing something you love in a place you've always hated.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

To: you upon waking.

the busy of eager heart
drowning red ochre
in the guided weight
of your devotion,
turning your back
to a prayer rug,
she warns to never face skyward
when you are dreaming
in the dark like this.
shifting body canvas
knit on the lap
of Nehanda
and her girl-children,
nights at a time
on quiet moons.

The way morning
could shape you,
do war with your shaddows
and first light dawning
from the ending eclipse in your eyes.
spilling smiles onto
solemn lips,
a glimpse of miracles
in your breathing
there is a tone-deaf way of seeing
you this beautiful
beyond colour
beyond speaking.
quiet in my nativity.

Copyright © 2011 Arielle John