1115: Frame Six by Cheswayo Mphanza

20240510 Slowdown

1115: Frame Six by Cheswayo Mphanza


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

One morning, the grumbling noise of a truck passing below the window woke me. I turned over in another hotel room. I could not, for a moment, remember what city I was in. Light sliced through the blinds, into the dark room and landed on the TV. I took a glimpse of myself in my illuminated reflection. For a second, I wondered who I was. I thought: What did I do the previous night? Oh, yes, a dinner with my hosts, then an early night’s sleep. How long have I even been in this bed? I had not been disoriented like that in a long time.

I heard my neighbors pad down the hotel hallway toward the lobby. I imagined trays of glistening croissants, powdered eggs, urns of coffee, decaf and caffeinated each, and tureens of oatmeal awaiting them.

Occasionally, I experience a psychological disconnection between my work, my life, and the world. Finding myself not home, again, my spirit was trending a Willy Loman aesthetic. A “disassociation of self” often reminds me I am due for a reboot.

I arrived home. For several days, I checked my email only once in the morning, then at night. I hugged my family frequently and did not let my mind wander. I took a long walk in my neighborhood. I thought about the lives of people around me. I made dinners. I meditated. I called my father. I found my footing again.

Braving my life often means encountering waves of uncertainty and disillusionment. The ritualistic return to a spiritual dwelling, physical and/or mental, increasingly is vital. My heart and mind runs a mental hand over the surfaces of things that matter to me. Otherwise, I drift, like the speaker in today’s poem, further and further from who I am.

Frame Six
by Cheswayo Mphanza

          These days I wake in the used light of someone’s spent life.
                   I am often a stranger to myself;
                          I have no place of origin, no home.
        I keep remembering everything in two time zones at once.
                Who knows, maybe I myself am called something other than myself.

                      Not so much a name, but the result of a name.
It’s a strange sensation to yell out: This is me!
                                 In every place I’ve watched caravans of sorrow—
                I run like all the other men, chasing my shadow down alleys.
                                                             Sometimes in the spaces, there is fear—
                                                                            my mind deepens into them.
                                 From calm to fear my mind moves, then moves—
                           in light part nightmare and part vision fleeing.
The voice rises on a storm of grackles, then returns—half elegy, half serenade.

"Frame Six" by Cheswayo Mphanza. Used by permission of the poet.