Book Review: 'Grayish-Black: Poetry From The Ribs'.
by Kirsten F.
How a book about oppression, suicide, self loathing, + heartbreak taught me how to love myself a little more.
I met the author of “Grayish-Black” back when I had big earrings and long braids. Back when my mouth was slick and my fists fast and powerful in punch. Elijah and I clicked from the start, we found common ground in each other’s worlds, because the views weren’t so different. I got the privilege to be a test reader for his new book “Grayish-Black” which I suggest you all stop reading this, and go buy instantly! This person who prides himself on his multiple ethnicities, taste in music, and has an exceptional record in fighting for the injustices of the world. Has allowed us, the outside into his space; his mind. For as long as I have known him he has marched to the beat of his own drum, pounding out a tune that only those who are hip to his frequency can hear.
“Grayish-Black” isn’t just a book of poems and beautiful photos, it is a piece of someone, and simultaneously a piece of yourself as well. There are some pieces such as “Black Bottle of Cologne” that caused the usual feeling of melancholy that sits deep within crawl up from it’s spot in my chest. Springer used lines like “2 years later and I still buy the same body wash you loved, and I still spray my neck with that scent that made you kiss me.” He talks about the feeling of missing someone in such an honest way. He does not sugar coat the fact that though it has been two years, he is still hurting. That moving on from heartbreak often takes longer than a couple of months, it can often take years to start putting it behind you.
Elijah talks about his struggle with being accepted by both sides of his genetic codes. The “grey area” as he referred to it, stuck out to me because I too had felt lost in the shuffle of worlds of black and white. That’s what I meant by you will find a piece of yourself in his truth, the words he uses paint a mental picture of past versions of myself in my mind. As if they were all stood in a circle holding onto each other as they release their souls into the sea. The lines of “You Loved Me Natural” sunk so deep into my own bones that it caused me to cry. I am a person who chooses not to acknowledge love and all that it brings. “Never fake a smile for me” broke me down, because it caused me to make myself think about a person who has never been present in my life, because I’ve yet to meet them. It’s like Elijah knows that all any of us want, especially those of us with a tormented soul is someone to be okay with just us. He has written a world that has its own pulse, the pages are alive and flowing freely. The words and images used will cause your mind to race, your heart to ache, and your inner warrior to rise from its resting place.
While I read each page and saw my reflection in each photo, I found myself having a conversation with my own demons. In between reading about the take down of the oppressing forces at large, and talks of relationships that had died. I ended up making peace with those demons that lurk in the shadows of my soul. Instead of fearing them, and letting them hold me back they have began to inspire me to be the best version of myself. Springer makes human existence almost seem easy even when it is the most complicated equation.
“2 years later and I still buy the same body wash you loved, and I still spray my neck with that scent that made you kiss me.”
He uses his words to teach us that we can learn from those who have taken from us, those who have broken off pieces of our spirit, and from ourselves. He talks about sexuality as smoothly as a stream in a forest. He transitions from talking to himself to talking to a distant ex lover, to talking right to those who hold power positions. In “Grayish-Black” Elijah doesn’t shy away from topics like loving a man who fell out of love with you, wanting to know what death felt like, and slowly disappearing into your own realm. He uses his platform to pay respect to the countless bodies of black folks who lay dead at the hands of the government. He acknowledges legends like Malcolm X and Ella Baker, who selflessly fought for our freedom. He speaks on the different shades of brown and black that grew up in his neighborhood. I’m convinced that if you put a beat behind the words of “My Hood ain’t Free” you’d have a chart topper. He praises Allah for the physical attributes that comes from blackness; the curve of the hips, the thickness of the lips…. He showcases the beauty that comes with the territory.
Throughout this book of poems and self manifestos Springer also let’s us know that we too can be the cause of someone else’s pain. We can be the one who pulls the strings and cuts each one slowly or all at once. We are the commanders of our fates, and the approval percentage of others will forever remain at zero, because who you are is meant specifically for you alone. Elijah uses the feelings of happiness, sadness, longing, fear, and failure to create a world of a person that we can all connect to. He shows us that the valleys and mountains that live within us are full of pieces of who we are. Whether that be someone sunk down into a tub, someone watching the one they’ve loved for so long leave, or someone who is standing on the front line fighting for their freedom. Our insides, our spirit make up a complete masterpiece of a human, and we choose what parts of our paintings we want to share. I loved “Grayish - Black” because it is me, and it is you. It’s a self loathing, self accepting, and self caring book about learning to love your parts, even the ones that make you want to die slowly until you disappear into nothing.
You can purchase Elijah’s book “Grayish - Black” on Amazon! // Link
Follow Elijah on his social media platforms
Twitter// @ halfatlanta