Resident at Westbeth since 2003
Me and Yayo Down in the Courtyard
“I don’t know why YOU ca-ame he-ere……..!” The woman’s voice was a strong, dark howl originating from somewhere deep in her belly.
“I don’t know why YOU ca-ame he-ere……..!” It was closer to a “bellow” now with the bite of a scold in it.
“I don’t know why YOU ca-ame he-ere……..!”
Louder now, the scold, more like a slap.
“I don’t know why YOU ca-ame he-ere……..!” More women’s voices joined the strong dark one, as volumes, waves of bright African patterns oozed and undulated down the hall like a majestic sea of bright birds singing, dancing, floating, weaving, twisting.
The living tapestry explodes inside you with a flash of colors, bodies, voices, gourds, drums, and you feel the boundaries of your demographic decree shake, shatter and dissolve into the primal beat … you are called home. You must answer the call because the life of your soul depends on it … you must answer the call because the life of your peoples’ souls depend on it … you must answer the call because all Life depends on it.
Your voice has taken flight in theirs … the women have gathered your voice warm, and woven it into the bubbling brew; a gumbo of the sounds, colors, joys, tears and cries of this day, this hour in Time, this Call to Arms in fierce embrace.
Something strange in your shoulders: a quivering prison of waiting, worrying, trying so hard to nourish all life from an empty shell collapses suddenly, the bars dissolve. A glimpse of green salvation, a breath of fragrant new growth, a sky so blue with grateful clouds, winds like a mother’s caress, distant hills are soft breast-like mounds pulsing in twilight glow like a long-forgotten song.
I tiptoed, peering around trees, hiding under rocks in fresh streams, climbing mountains where tigers dream, searching long years for the rallying cry to come again.
“AY – OHHHHHHHHHHH ……..!”
Quicker than silver, the slender boy flashes by on warrior’s wings.
“SE – AN……!”
Single sons of single moms in a desperate freedom flight … through the maze; up towers, down dungeons, screaming skateboards that scrape cement like buzzsaws … upside down thunders of our jigsaw labyrinth fill the courtyard, then gentle in the gathering dim.
We smile on our sons as the sun sinks into the Hudson River, casting purple shadows over Westbeth.[Editor’s note: The late Madeleine Yayodele Nelson, Westbeth resident and musician, was the founder of Women of the Calabash.]