Of White Cats and Black Dots

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In the before, I never really liked poetry. Didn’t understand it. I always thought to myself ‘Why go through the trouble of hiding meaning within words?’

Why refer to yourself as a hungry bird, a brooding fence, or your shosho’s kiondo? Why shroud your life in mystery and leave us to our own devices?’

This indifference towards the topic must have come from my high school days. I mean, it’s one thing to read a poem and happily assign whatever slapdash interpretation you want.

It’s a whole different ball game when the system expects you to dissect the poem and find its true message. Or rather, the message they think the poet was trying to put across. A poet who died in 1738.

Mpaka you wonder how old the system is- to have been besties with the poet. To know the poet’s exact thought process.

According to the system, a seemingly normal statement like ‘the white cat ran into a window’ could signify that the poet had once been an innocent man who ate a lot of bread and farted in his sleep.

Okay too far but I’ll add as much salt as I want to my story. And paprika for color. I don’t know what paprika tastes like. I digress.

I wanted to read poems, and assign them meaning based on whatever I felt was right. It’s a lot like how we view abstract art.

I sometimes imagine walking through an art gallery, wearing a dark trench coat layered over a beige turtleneck. Of course, I’ll be wearing a beret, my attempt to look artsy and knowledgeable.

And I want to walk purposefully towards the first display, which I imagine will be a stark white canvas with an ominous black dot in its center.

A dot that looks like it’s melting- droplets of dark paint stretching out unevenly from its underbelly. A dot that looks like it’s crying, or rather, been through a terrible heartbreak.

I’ll want to look at it, give it a whole backstory. It will be the last remaining proof of a dot that was banished from the dot underworld for trying to start a revolution. The punishment was to live above ground with us mortals, surrounded by its worst fear- the color white.

The dot being a badass fighter, it tried its best to seep back into the underworld. But a fighter can only go for so long without giving up.

So there it froze, the only evidence of its resilience being the dark stretches trying to reach down into the earth.

No one will threaten to give me a pretty Daudi msalaba for my unorthodox interpretation. So I’ll stand there, pleased at how cool my story is. In awe of this warrior dot.

Well, until someone comes up to me and says ‘You see it too huh?’ 

And I’ll ask what, half hoping that they share the same interpretation, after which I’ll convince them we’re soulmates. And we’ll get married in a treehouse in Morocco.

They’ll proceed to spin a story on how the dot represents the artist’s struggles with his inner demons. How the streaks of paint represent the artist’s inability to hold himself together. 

Sigh. Another day my sweet treehouse. Another day.

Anyhoo. I feel strongly that a poem should be free for interpretation, just like abstract art. Once a piece of work is written, painted, sculpted or abracadabra-d into existence, the artist surrenders it to the masses.

And the masses are free, free to assign whatever meaning they want as long as it resonates with them. That’s partially why art is so beautiful. 

Our beloved education system, don’t look away. It’s you I’m talking to. In fact, I’m SHOUTING, gently of course.

With time, I’ve come to let go off my beef with poets and artists in general. They now have a special place in my heart, right next to my cats. And that’s a big deal because my cats are the top dogs.

It takes insane talent to convert raw feelings into something tangible, something comprehensible. Or to masterfully weave the feelings into a mysterious cocoon, that the audience may take time to interpret what was meant.

Keep the fire blazing my dear creatives. 


Side note, anyone know of any art galleries I can visit? I think this soulmate story has potential. You’ll be on my guest list in Morocco.


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