Thursday, July 2, 2015

Walls of a Memory

Walls of a Memory
by
Omar Musa

We ran through the streets together, 
like horses
painted on the cavewall in Chauvet.

Running,
a string of tandem you’s and me’s,
the ghostly & primitive animation
of two people 
completely & destructively in love,
flipbooking through a lost city.

Towards or away,
we were never quite sure,
even many years after it had come to an end.

When at last we stopped to breathe,
my kiss snagged on the corner of your mouth
& we were frozen in time,
to be painted some day in charcoal
on the walls of a memory.

Penang, 2015


Thursday, May 28, 2015

New poem

The Return (unfinished)
by Omar Musa

Everywhere, decay.

No sweet, tropical rot —
this is scentless carrion,
eternal, concrete winter,
spiderwebbed guts of a dream deferred.

Heart of empire
turns to dry honeycomb,
crumbling to memory.

Clap your hands
& pigeons flap from the windows
of brutalist buildings.
The machinery of yesteryear
lies in the shape of scattered bones —
a clavicle, a femur,
a lathe, a cog, a scribble of chain.

A million fantasies now come to this.

We were the staples
of their grandiose books,
gold-gilt, embossed, leather bound.
Fall out
& we do not rust —
we magnetise to another core.

Yet the pages float loose,
vindictive scriptures that
drift & sink in that great gyre of history.

There is life here, too,
of course,
faces that turn to the sun —
whether flower or woman or man,
whether fruit shining yellow or purple on a market tray,
still, they turn their faces to the sun.

Today,
near a station named “Angel”,
I saw an ogre in muscular stride,
fists wrapped in leashes,
one leading to a dog,
one to a child.

It almost seemed preordained,
the way the dog and the child
would take turns in trying to press forward,
a few steps each time —
perhaps to escape,
perhaps to get a little room to breathe.

And each time the man
would yank the leash
so that the dog or the child would wrench back
& trot in step,
before trying to urge forward
once again,
once again,
& again & again.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Do you remember? (unfinished)

Do you remember? (unfinished)

The desert dreams of harvest,
Of holy writ & rain.

The city dreams of ruin,
Of upturned cars
& vine-dressed churches.

The tiger dreams of freedom,
Of shaking loose the stake & chain
& racing into shadows
Large enough to hold
its amber-flame spirit.

But me?

I dream of you.

There was a time we collected
dolphin's teeth
& smoked fish on atolls,
Do you remember?

We star-peeked and longed for more,
Running our hands at the side of the boat,
Reading the ripples,
Looking for a green tinge
on the belly of clouds
Because that meant land & trees.

You told me that
A sunlit lagoon makes a cloud above it
Incandesce.

You called me by my true name
& kissed me like I was fireproof,
Proof that we
Could turn the seam between our bodies
Into the equator of a world
conceived in a dream.

When at last we found land,
We swam to the shore,
Tossing our heads like young horses,
Shaking salt from our hair.

We turned back to look at the ocean
with its broken face & merciless boom,
Reflecting in pieces
A private, blood-lit dusk.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New poem (unfinished)

The Moon (unfinished)

One day,
After it has died,
We will hold a vigil for the moon.

We will burn candles,
Cheap mimics of its light,
& utter prayers we forgot to utter
While it still lived.

And we will say,
"Remember how it
spoke to us its bone-coloured dreams?
Remember how it gave us hope
When all else seemed savage?"

And some will say it was carved 
From whale bone,
While others will swear it was a coin
Flicked from the thumb of God.

And Death will come down the alleyways,
Ringing its bells & swearing its oaths,
Singing its story through
The windows of a ruined world.

And the executioner will cry silently
For those he has slain.
He will caress their shadows
& tell them to run.

But he, they, us,
Will have nowhere to go,
No final memory
But a taste of the moon,
Who once so sweetly told us
Of what we might dream.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dear Lady Day

New writing! So, it is Billie Holiday's birthday today. I wrote a letter to her a while back for Men of Letters and I thought today would be an appropriate day to post it. Enjoy.


Dear Lady Day,

Before I saw a picture of you, head tilted back, making your fingers snap with a half-smile, styled in a white dress, hair pinned with triple flowers, before I saw the expressive eyebrows, white teeth and a foul mouth rinsed in whiskey & creme de menthe, I heard a voice. Day one, when mum pushed a tape with her thumb into the cassette player of our old white Mazda, I heard a voice. It was jaunty and tragic, scarred and exquisite, gold leaf and gutter, cigarettes and syrup, tough as the bed of nails you slept on, transmuted into playful buoyancy, a voice afire on a black river of tape, toying with the rhythm, smoke cloying and written into sax, strings and keys, the black river of highway unfolded before my family of three. We listened.

My father told me that most pop music was sinful, so I was only allowed a small selection of tapes, but somehow you and Bob Marley (and later Ice Cube) made the cut. Was it that he couldn’t understand exactly what you were saying, your backstory, sex, drugs, on parole, the bath of mustard water you sat in to get rid of the baby, your lust for men and women, or was it something in your voice that affected him too? On every road-trip, from Queanbeyan to Queensland, we were transported into fifties nightclubs with a dusty crackle — we worked that tape to death. Why not take all of me, you said. And we did.

Dear Lady Day — the world is as large as it is close. The right type of voice, with all its jagged or whetted edges, can cut through an ocean, through a generation or three. I realised that... then. When you spoke of strange fruit in the South swinging from trees, I’d heard similar tales of similar fruit on the South Coast of New South Wales, if the yarns and whispered history of old fullas were to be believed. And those scars you had, we saw plenty of those in Canberra and Queanbeyan in the 90s, people on the nod, each bearing a brutal map of stars on the arms, pinpointing the direction to hurtful gods. And when you spoke of your man, who wasn’t true, who beat you too, when you asked “what can I do?”, I knew up close what you meant, up close, about charming, violent men, about what a poisonous addiction they can be, about the beating hearts of the beaten, trapped within flatblock cement.

They say it was your sax player, Lester Young, who you truly, truly loved, though, most likely, you were never lovers. There is footage of you singing “Fine and Mellow”, reuniting with him on stage for the last time. Black and white, the smoke drifts — you and he are both close to the end, and you both know it. At first we hear you talking — there are sad blues, there are happy blues, you just have to feel it. Halfway through the song, Lester step forward and plays the purest solo on God’s green earth. You lean towards him, some type of wonder in your eyes, look down, nod, smile strangely, and as you said, that smile wasn't a smile at all. Oh, the things that could have been.

When the white Mazda ran out of miles, the cassette era ran out too. We replaced the tape with a live CD but this one wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t one of your good days. Your words unintelligible — your voice sapped and hopeless. When my mum explained how young you had died and from what, I felt sorry for you, but nowadays, not so much. Because we all die, we all yearn. We all shine, all burn, bearing witness to each other’s rises and falls, we are unified in our pain, and that other thing it bears, beauty. You lived the way you wanted, this bright hyphen between darkness and darkness. It wasn’t about perfection, it was about feeling, but somehow, somehow, that made it… perfect.

Yours truly,
Omar

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"CAPITAL LETTERS"/TEDx Sydney text

Hey everyone,
I am extremely late on this, but you know, I had a novel to write the past couple of years so I've been distracted! Here are the lyrics/words to my TEDx speech at the Sydney Opera House. Very honoured that so many students are studying it in English, or choosing it as a text to analyse. All the best! Much love,
Omar


CAPITAL LETTERS

i knew none of their government names back then. back then,
some of the most wondrous people i knew were self-destructive,
talented vandals who took to relationships with mallet & saw.

there was beauty in the streets, you could see it everywhere,
in fishtails & donuts, the silver cursive that slanted off tyres,
in spraycan fumes & opals of oil,
in kickflips & crossovers, cuts & kebab shops
in sneakers that cluster-hung like grapes on powerlines

and in that… something.

could they see it too?

the generation who printed a crystal font on its bloodstream?
the entrepreneur with czech pistol
and silencer as thick as a ballerina's wrist?

this was the australia i saw.

no don bradman
no pavlova
no coastline etched in shale
no white sails of the opera house NO.

these were suburbs inscribed on scarified earth,

an alphabet of exiles far from lands of birth,
I'm talking pittance workers & remittance senders,
custodians & the kids of immigrants, you know the ones,
the ones heard about, not from, the ones talked at, not to,

the ones on the margin made to feel very small
in other words,
us.

each day, like smoke, i unwound up the stairs.

I smelled many cuisines, I heard many tongues.
in flat 7 a macedonian man said "Shopraish brother?" as he massaged his elbow.
the tongan woman in flat 16 said "maloelelei?" as she prepared for her third night shift in a row,
my mother and father said "assalamu-alaikum" when i entered flat 26

I learned that in Malay culture,
a storyteller is named penglipur lara -
"dispeller of worries", "reliever of sorrows,"

the name also given to a garden of delights where all cares are lost.

And what delights, what insights in stories, what power to give voice to the worlds inside.

But there are many kinds of stories.

I heard

carnivorous tales lope down gentrifying streets.

the hiss of talkback serpents,

the whistle of go-back-to-where-you-came-froms,

I lost faith & leapt into the whirlpool.

Reckless hours, pilled & powdered, full of sex & camaraderie.
part of me knew on days like this,
the timer ticked, history slipped,

we skipped words like stones from our hands,

words that that couldn't be retrieved
like love like hate, like us, like goodbye.

Yet somehow

somehow,

I found that something,

like a magic key connecting ancient and new,

I found it
on beats, breaks, tapes and acetate,

unordained lionhearts on thrones self-made.
Do you hear what I'm talking about?

I'm talking about Tupacs and Lauryn Hills Tupacs,
Rakims, Nas's, Kendrick Lamars,

Public Enemies,

syphoning El Haji Malik El Shabazz.
Jimblahs, Deltas & Brad Struts, Ozi Batlas,
Hilltops & Horrorshows, Def Wish Casts & Koolisms.
Do you hear what I'm talking about?

I'm talking about the numberless underground kings & queens

who taught us the power of our voices, of nonconformity,
that each lyric
each windmill
each scarred "45
each fan of paint from a nozzle
was a story aching to be told,

unfolding before us the fractals of cosmos & starlight,

a world suddenly unbearably bright.

So linger now, linger with me.

Consider that somehow,

despite the broken bottles & tatted bigotry

we could still own that something,

be that something,

something airborne,

gold shot,

beings arranged in a calligraphy of rhythm & rebellion,

people with so much damn resilience
it is impossible not to smile.

So let it play, that something, let it play.

Weave your stories into nets,
drag them behind zig zagging  decks,
zooped up cars, trams & trains, through streets & sunsets,
trawl for the things you thought you'd lost.

Because you, me, US, we are more than statistics,
more than misfits,

we are more than "your dreams are unrealistic."
This is the paint that drips from each brick,

the spirit that soothes the weary limb,

this is the new scripture of our lives,
spelled skyscraper high in CAPITAL LETTERS — BOLD.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

NEW ALBUM COMING 2015


Hey everyone, thanks for the birthday wishes! Feeling blessed.. I like to announce things on my bday, cos it kicks off the year in a positive way. So I'm happy to announce that this year I'm going to put out a SOLO HIP HOP ALBUM, executive produced by my bro Joelistics from TZU! Joelistics is the first Aus MC I ever saw live, way back in the day, so it's a bit of a spin-out. I'm so excited. Writing the novel was incredible, and of course I'll do it again, but I have really missed the ENERGY of rapping, making music, doing hip hop shows. It feels like time. We've already been working on a bunch of new tunes, and have some great producers/guests on board, so look out in the coming months for a taste of it. I'm trying to reach for a new level with this one. Much love everyone