Family Heirloom

“Why words, when they’re so slippery?”
Whisperings find me standing
At the bridge—
Squinting through light and darkness
To see what’s left to hold as traditions change
My people forgotten or modified.
Fog lifts, and I focus at double suspicion;
Deity with claims to represent balance
Between opposing forces.
Is he a trickster or a faithful?
For I was left with nothing, but words.
An oral tradition; love gentle carried
From generation to generation.
Without a written word
Would evidence perish? I fear.
Thus, with song and dance I join a world
Where the dead, living and unborn coexist
In harmony through continuity of words.

So, I stand at the bridge—
Not as a vessel of stories nor a praise singer
But to honour love; accept the family heirloom.

Artwork by Shelle Kennedy

process note: I might have taken up creative writing late in life, but I come from a tradition of oral storytellers (Xhosa people), where blurred lines between history and myth exist yet feed imagination. I’ve always loved words, whether written, spoken or sung. The joy I experience when I’m creating, writing, is indescribable.

Many thanks to my dear and talented friend, Magaly for hosting this blog party and an opportunity to reflect at why I love what I do. To read more about the blog party or join in, please visit her blog.

31 thoughts on “Family Heirloom

  1. Wonderful post, Khaya, celebrating the gift of storytelling …oral and written. I love how you bring your ancestral heritage of oral history into the poem and I imagine you are that bridge but then, for a while at least:

    ‘Thus, with song and dance I join a world
    Where the dead, living and unborn coexist
    In harmony through continuity of words.’

    I cannot imagine a time when words would not exist and continue to tell their stories to us all. Beautifully written and touching post.

  2. The Kalevala is also an oral epic of creation, as you would of course know, living in Lapland. This poem is just beautiful – the thought and image of words being slippery captured my imagination immediately 🙂

    1. Oh yes, I’m very familiar with the Kalevala; there a many versions. But I was introduced to the story of Kalevala from a children’s book by Mauri Kunnas, before I could speak the language well. I admire the way he made the story accessible; simplified it so that even a child can relate by using animal characters. Thank you Raili, I appreciate you reading.

  3. Wow Khaya! I read these lines “Thus, with song and dance I join a world
    Where the dead, living and unborn coexist
    In harmony through continuity of words” several times.

  4. The whole piece is wonderful, Khaya, but I especially adore this part:

    “Thus, with song and dance I join a world
    Where the dead, living and unborn coexist
    In harmony through continuity of words.”

  5. I’m smiling like a half-mad-but-extremely-blissful-loon at the moment. I love how you feel words, they way they live in you, the fact that you (like me) understand that they are what keep a people (and the self) fading. We do stand in-between, our tongues bridges that link what was to what is, what is to what might be, what might be to what we can make. Words are everything–spoken, written, felt… and shared.

    Thanks so much for reaching into your soul’s memory and adding the beautiful and necessary things you found there to my October’s Heart-Bits.

    1. Thanks to you Maga for the inspiration. I sometimes ask myself why do I bother with writing, and yet I know I can’t afford not to. Words are everything, and amongst other things they help us keep our people from fading.

  6. Beautiful writing, Khaya, and I love the metaphor of the bridge between spoken and written words and stories. What a beautiful bridge too, to connect both lovely and important traditions. May storytelling in whatever form it takes continue to enrich our lives. 🙂

  7. This was so deeply beautiful to read and re-read! Gorgeous writing and I can feel so many imageries/feelings stirring through my mind and my heart ! Powerful and soulful! I love your process notes as well, I so relate.
    It was so wonderful visiting your poetic world!
    Victoriav

  8. I think you really captured the spirit of the blog party with this piece. I love the pensive tone of this, as you consider honoring your heritage in a way that respects the past but also honors who you are. I really loved it.

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