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Theresa Lola (she/her/hers) reads her poem, "Sing with Me and Do Not Die of Thirst."

Theresa Lola:

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Hello, my name is Theresa Lola.

I am a poet, and I will be  reading a poem of mine titled "Sing with Me and Do Not Die of Thirst," from my debut poetry collection,  In Search of Equilibrium. And as some of you may be able to tell, the title is inspired by a Kendrick Lamar song titled "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst," which I thought was absolutely beautiful.

And I just knew I wanted  to use it in some way,  but I'd always wanted to write about moments of love, even in a time of chaos,  and how we're still able to  find redemption, still able  to connect with others. And when my grandfather was losing his memory, one thing that he clung to was music— music lyrics. And I wanted to write a poem that detailed that in some way and the way he was able to connect  with my grandmother through that, and that's what this poem is about.

Alzheimer’s patients sing every lyric to their favourite songs, and this casual act becomes a dance with defiance. Research shows our memory of music remains intact, like the clothes of a missing child kept by a mother;  the brain stores music in a different place, —a subtle precaution. My grandmother bathes my grandfather and lyrics spill from his mouth like water from a drowned child.

He sings Johnny Nash’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ in a bass so sharp it cuts the water in half to form a space my grandmother can walk through. He saw water: his brain’s automatic response was to regurgitate a song that had the word ‘rain’ in it. My grandmother takes in his voice and her skin splits open like an overstuffed suitcase.

My God, it must hurt for someone you love to remember a song in clearer detail than your face. She wonders how he knows to accentuate blue ska-yeee-aies. Proof that music muscle memory can stretch more than shaki meat.

My grandmother joins in to harmonise,  the Bible says two shall become one voice and live till death cracks the voice in half; I paraphrased out of anger. Her voice is shaky as waist beads on a Fela Kuti back-up dancer, grief tugs on your vocal chords like heavy braids, leaves it with sore and thinning edges. As they harmonise my grandmother morphs into the song, wipes water from her husband’s face, sings I can see clearly now the rain is gone, and once again they are two vivacious youths whirling though a garden in summer.

He says, “you look like the girl Mona I danced with” and the water in the bathtub levitates to become rain.