Notes of a fearful writer
Nail marks imprinted on my palms
Veins popping in my hands
Metacarpals always bent
My elbow has forgotten its role
My spine and neck have been subjected to the most pain
The bending of my back has taken me back
To the times when I was told my story doesn’t matter
I don’t remember the last time I held a pen confidently
The ink has run dry
Lead has disappeared
I tried clutching onto my clutch pencil
I tried penning down my thoughts
I tried keying my story
I tried to record my words
Because I needed to escape…
I needed to usher words out of my mouth
And gently onto pieces of paper
And into folders on laptops
I needed to know that my story would be inscribed in history
That generations to come will know me
That I am Charissa Cassels
I want my poems to be critically analysed
I want people to find meaning in them
I want people to find themselves in my words
They are hidden between the letters, waiting to be recognised
They are manoeuvred into the curves of my sentence structures
They are bulging out in all those empty spaces
In every punctuation mark
They are present, in every word
They are my words
So how can my words not be worthy?
I needed somebody, anybody to hear my words
To hear their importance to me
I needed someone to listen attentively
I was yearning for someone to validate my thoughts
To find my writing worth reading
To tell me that I was good enough
That I was worthy
That I was talented
That I was a writer
I wanted to be a writer
I wanted people to believe in me
Was that too much to ask?
What I needed was simple
I needed my story to be heard
I have always said that I will speak until my mouth is dry
Until my throat is raw
Until my tongue is tied
Until my teeth clutter
Until my jaw is clenched
Until I lose my voice
And then I will speak in sign language
And I will still speak volumes.
Somebody once said that, “They thought we were making a noise, they are yet to hear us roar.”
Allow me to roar…
Through my writing
I have not yet roared because fear found its home in my voice box. Fear has numbed my fingers. It has set up stations in my cerebrum, frontal and parietal regions in my brain. Fear has been the reason why my writing has approached so many dead ends. I have finally found a bit of courage to search for an alternative route that leads me to my destination; writing about personal issues I have consciously shied away from.
I was told that my writing is one-dimensional in that I consistently write about the struggles of Black (including Coloured and Indian) people. I continue to write these stories and poems because Black people are multi-faceted beings and their struggle never ends. I have never witnessed such an injustice; that one’s worth is defined by the colour of one’s skin. This is why I write about Black people, there can never be enough stories about their struggle.
I want to write about my identity. I can’t publicly identify as Black because Coloured people will disown me. Eusebius McKaiser wrote an article stating that he identifies as politically Black and culturally Coloured. He identifies as being politically Black because during Apartheid, anyone who was not White was categorised as Black. He identifies as culturally Coloured because the traditions and his mannerisms are that of Coloured people. This does not mean that the struggles of Coloured and Black people are the same. Black people have and are still struggling more than Coloured people but this does not erase the struggle of Coloured people.
I want to write about what it means to be a Coloured woman in South Africa.
I want to write about the courage it takes people to commit suicide. Yes, you read correctly, courage. Committing suicide is not selfish; it is one of the bravest things someone can do, taking your life into your own hands.
I don’t just want to tell stories; I want to be the story. I fear baring who I am to the world. I fear people wanting to clothe me with their pity and sorrow. I fear the truths my stories will reveal. Truths that I have not yet accepted but truths that have made me the strong Coloured woman I am today. I don’t fear writing, I fear the writer I could be when I bare my soul onto pieces of paper and when I don’t let my ink run dry. Writing is my safe haven, my form of escapism, my most powerful weapon, it is who I am.
Notes of a Courageous Writer
Veins barely visible
Metacarpals bending and straightening themselves
Spine and neck in its normal positions
Pen gripped tightly in my hand
Notebooks filled with words
Words of hope, courage, love, hurt, heartbreaks, death and life
These words reminded me that I am worthy, talented and a writer
The last sentence in this notebook was
“The world is not ready to hear you roar.”