By Amanda Hodgeson
I have been procrastinating since the beginning of this year about buying Letters to Cinnamon (A gorgeous book of poetry by Siza Phohleli aka IG: her_mentality). I must have said a thousand times that I want to buy it but I provided no answers for why I hadn’t. Eventually I confessed that I hadn’t bought it because I was afraid it would ruin me. I am on page 11 and I am ruined. Of course I am, I was already ruined on page 5. Maybe it’s seeing myself on all the pages? If it’s written, permanent ink on page, then it’s real no? It deserves reckoning no?
My home girl recently confessed/admitted to me that she doesn’t enjoy poetry. She said reading poetry is the equivalent to a beautiful woman in a coat, nothing else underneath, flashing that coat open and quickly closed.
Did you really get a good look? Did she really even flash you?
You want more, you need more, but it’s done now. That’s it.
Last year I may have been inclined to agree with her. I liked the occasional poem but I definitely was not going to go out there and buy a whole book of the stuff.
When I am going through the most I read a lot, in hopes that someone else has, at some point in their lives, gone through ‘a most’ that is similar to my own and that they have figured it out and written about it. And then I come, read it and then decipher from it some sort of road map for my own ‘most’.
I often find these nuggets of gold in novels. This year I found them in poetry, only in poetry. These nuggets were so real, so vivid, that I was inspired to write some of my own. Shocker!
So let’s use home girl’s analogy of the beautiful flasher. Here you sit and there she stands, towering above you. Before she rips open and closed her coat you notice the colour and texture of her hair. The particular shade of brown of her skin. The look in her eyes, giving away much nakedness even before she opens her coat. You notice the colour and length of her coat, is there a belt holding the coat together or is she clutching it so hard, trembling in front of you that her knuckles have turned white? Is she thin or heavy set? Tall or short, either way still towering over you. There is so much more in the moment before the flash, so much to take in, that when she eventually does open herself up you already know the size of her areola and whether her belly button sinks in or pops out. The flash, however quick, is just a confirmation of everything you already know. The Polaroid of a picture your mind has long archived.
I am not sure that a single poem exists that we have all interpreted in the same way. There is a woman, there is a coat, but what exactly they look like is based purely on where you are, where you have been and where you have decided to go. I think, when we are looking for love, validation and affirmation (because what else is poetry if not that) the woman in the coat is hazy. Perhaps your head is a little bit disorientated. Maybe you have taken one too many Adcodol pain killers and you’re caught somewhere between falling asleep and REM. Maybe its 2001 and you’re still swimming in chlorine pools that make your eyes burn. I think poetry is the moment (sometimes a very brief moment) when she finally comes into focus and you can make the wood from the trees. And the Polaroid (the poem) is the thing you get keep to remind yourself of what you have seen, lest she becomes hazy again (she definitely will).
Letters to Cinnamon, all 11 pages that I have read (and I am sure the remaining 125) beautifully encapsulates all the things I have ever left about love past and love present…
you will be spoken of as that girl
only as that girl
who loved a little too much,
gave a little too much
and cried a little too often
because titanic as you always stand over the world
love is the only thing that unkindly shatters you to blatant idiocy
over and over and over again without fail
It’s all the mistakes I have made…
when did playing house
with our own cracks
Mistakes that have not broken, not even chipped away at, my hope and incessant desire for connection.
In another conversation with home girl we spoke about the value of love linked to time passed. So often we fall into the trap of believing that unless it lasts forever, the love was not valuable. It feels more like a waste of time, time you could have spent loving the person you’re actually going to spend forever with. I think this book of poetry completely shatters that notion and challenges our constructions of beauty and forever. Cinnamon feels like love for myself, love for another, love for love and most importantly, for me, it feels like validation and an acknowledgement of the beauty and value of vulnerability, of giving yourself over to love even if forever is not as infinite as we think.
I was afraid Letters to Cinnamon would ruin me because I, like 40 000 plus other people, have been privy to her_mentality’s words that feel almost like a homecoming. Ecstatic at the faces of loved ones you have missed yet terrified of what they will see and also of what you have left behind. Both glorious and excruciating. A warmth and a torturous blaze. I have been afraid for the beauty in the coat to come into focus. Afraid to see her because seeing her means seeing the parts of myself that I know I am going to battle to look at. But I have to, there is love and goodness lurking there. And the good thing about ruin is that it affords you creativity and the ground to build in place of the ruins.
Buy the book! Your soul deserves nice things! Nice things in the form of a burn, like when she has one too many fingers in your pussy and it burns but you’re cumming 🙂 .
As Alysia Harris says:
Baptism washes away the dirt of the past but fire cleanses the future.
You cannot see dear fire.
Re-invent me. Make this soil again good ground for a harvest
Check out Amanda’s Blog AutonoMe. Its so dope. so dope.
*leave a comment on the post, you can write it under a different name and your email will not be published.*
To submit to HOLAA! email email@example.com