Feelings

Perfect Peace

People have consistently been asking me how I’ve been since I got baptised on the 23rd March.  I say it’s just been life, because it has been, but I haven’t really gone into it in-depth.  This poem, though, says everything.

If God were to take my breath from me today, I think I’d be content.
Laid back comfortably on the bed that is nothing but a source of joy
Listening to the songs that have warmed my soul.

Having become the director of an organisation and collated a collection of poems
Facilitated creative activities and gained friends from all walks of life,
Grown as a person and performed in a spoken word show
Found purpose, discovered myself and made my way into a career I love.

Most of all, I developed a beautiful relationship with my Creator, Saviour and King
Studied His word and had amazing conversations in abundance,
Became better through Him, before giving my life wholly to Him.

I’ve also poured myself out, over and over, rarely ever re-filled
Often barely standing or getting through the day,
Dreading minutes and hours I have to be among others, smiling in their faces.

Tired of being drawn from and pulled on by countless sources, expecting free labour consistent
Drained by the state of our contaminated world, forever breaking my heart
Exhausted from trying to remain happy and positive, everyone sees me beaming
Fatigued by friends who turn out not to be friends, repeatedly out-of-place;
I feel I may have reached my peak and am giving from an empty well
Cos I’m blind to envisioning, it’s covered in black, unable to see a future for myself.

I’m ready to embrace sweet sleep where I won’t be used, stressed or hurt
No longer tired of being tired and fighting with myself,
Won’t have to wrestle with not feeling good enough or that I’m insignificant on this earth
Because I’ll finally be at perfect peace; seeing, hearing, feeling     nothing.

Shaniqua Benjamin

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They Taught Me More Than They’ll Ever Know

I couldn’t write about the people who played a special part in my 2018 without writing about Queen’s Gardens.  I spent a significant portion of my time in Queen’s over spring and summer, bringing me into contact with a number of people who I continue to love, in spite of what may have passed between some of us.

Queen’s is one of the strangest and most interesting places in Croydon, because of the mixture of characters you will find there, and also because of what takes place there.  It is kind of like a bubble, a community within a community, which you come to realise the deeper you ingratiate yourself with the people there.  I learnt a lot – good, bad and useful – which I will definitely be taking forward in my life.

I’ve developed relationships with some beautiful people, who I happily speak to and spend time with whenever I see them.  Due to some of their lifestyles, I won’t be using their “government” names or naming them at all.  If they were to read this, I’d hope they know who they are though.

I’ve known my Jamesy-James for a couple of years now, and he’s always been someone I find easy to talk to, although I can’t put my finger on why.  I guess he’s a great listener, and is definitely an all round lovely person.  I’m always excited to see him.  I’ve known and been friends with Gamma for a couple of years too, but I got to know him a lot more this year.  Gamma always finds a way to make me laugh, and I’ll never forget when he had me cracking up when we were hanging out in the summer one time.  I also love that he calls me ‘Poetry Queen’ – just saying.

Win is a really, really lovely human being.  He’s easy to get on with, easy to talk to and easy to be around.  We got on immediately, from the moment we met in summer.  After not seeing him for a few months, it was nice to bump into him randomly, spend some time chatting on a walk and then go to Kaspas.  Whenever I’m with him, I know I’ll always be looked after and treated right.  And you’ve got Frankie, who I first met in spring, but quickly warmed up to and also got on well with – he looks out for me too.

I saw more of a beautiful lady I met last year, who is always warm and quick to greet me.  When I ask her how she is, I love the response she gives, which is such a mouthful that I cannot remember it all.  I also met a young woman this year, who I found sweet, despite being very rough around the edges.  She is always quick to greet me too and ready for a little conversation.

After meeting him at the soup kitchen the church I attend puts on, I came to see more of this ball of energy at Queen’s during the summer months – let’s call him My Darlin.  Like I mentioned, My Darlin is a ball of energy, talking quickly, walking quickly and often on the move.  He is truly lovely, with a heart of gold and caring nature.  He’s always got a story to tell too, which can often be amusing.

There are so many others I could mention, including a kind-hearted sweetie who made me feel like family, and a group of Eritreans, including a beauty who brings me joy with his beautiful, bright smile and shining eyes.  However, I came to spend quite a lot of my time with a particular group, who will always have a place in my heart (some of them have a special place).  No matter what has gone down with them, I want the best for all of them and I will always keep them in my prayers.  I don’t think they realise the impact they have had on my life and how much I have learnt from them.

Through one member of this group, I came to meet a genuine, down-to-earth, lovely person, who is studying youth work (I think he’s going to be a great youth worker), and I could have proper conversations with.  I have time for him any day.

However, it was the one who introduced us that has probably had one of the largest impacts on me this year – we’ll call him my Knight (in Shining Armour).  Out of everyone from Queen’s, I think I ended up spending the most amount of time with my Knight.  I initially met him last year, but we didn’t really speak, which all changed this spring.  Somehow, we began to talk more and more, as we became properly comfortable with each other.  The conversation flowed and we got to know each other better, which was made easier by his raw honesty.

Like people I tend to get on with best, he made me laugh, although sometimes he would joke around too much.  He looked out for me, like many of the people in Queen’s would do, but he went above and beyond in some ways by being very protective – not in a creepy way though.  However, what I think most stands out about my Knight is the sense of calm he would bring me, especially when I would get stressy over the actions of certain individuals – it was funny how much he would come up with sensible things my sister would probably say.  He’s got a really good heart as well.

As strange as Queen’s can be, meeting people from there has made me a better, more resilient person and more streetwise person.  I don’t think they even realise how much I love all of them.

Special People Who Made a Special Experience More Beautiful

I’ve been blessed with some amazing opportunities this year, allowing me to meet special people, who I’ve loved coming into contact with.  One of those opportunities was Rallying Cry, a project put on by Apples & Snakes, which culminated in a spoken word show.  Being part of Rallying Cry was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, pushing me further as an artist.  However, what made the experience so beautiful were the individuals involved, who I loved spending time with, especially during production week.

I had the pleasure of being mentored by the wonderful Zena, who I was also mentored by earlier this year when taking part in The Writing Room (also delivered by Apples & Snakes), another amazing experience shared with beautiful people.  Zena is a beautiful soul, with a pure heart and great energy, who gets the best out of those she works with.  Working with her has definitely made me a better poet.  Zena is also one of the best people to be around, full of joy, love and laughter.  I hope that I will not only continue to learn from her, but that she will be in my life for years to come.

Zena not only mentored me, but she mentored the beautiful Antonia, Daisy, Hansika, PJ, Sarah, Oakley and Marissa.  I loved embarking on this journey alongside them, where we all learnt and grew.  Each of them are doing awesome things in their own right and have brilliant things to say.

I already knew Daisy from Croydon, and we went through The Writing Room together, but I got to know her a lot better through this process.  I’d also originally met Hansika and Sarah through The Writing Room, so it was amazing for the four of us to carry on our poetic journeys together and really become friends.  I developed a special bond with Hansika, as we shared the room for our performance pieces, and I could not have asked for a better “room-mate”.  I loved our conversations and having the opportunity to rehearse together.  It turned out that we were linked by University of the Arts London, having each attended one of their institutions (I went to LCF and she went to LCC – if you know, you know).

As well as us emerging artists, there were established artists featured in the show – Joelle, Chiedu, Roger, Hannah and Francesca – who are all ridiculously talented, but down to earth and lovely to be around.  I clocked that Roger was Trini straight away, but I doubted myself and decided to ask where he was from.  Once I told him I was Grenadian and Jamaican, he took to calling me ‘Grenadian’, which I loved, as my Grenadian side is often overlooked.

I felt like I especially bonded with Chiedu and Joelle though.  Chiedu is an awesome person who I had some awesome chats with, talking about where were from in the UK, the poetry and music scenes, and a number of other things – I felt at ease speaking to him.  His piece also brought me to tears, touching on certain things relating to people I know and love.  Joelle is one of the strongest, supportive and lovely people you will ever come into contact with, bursting with energy and possessing a wealth of knowledge.  I loved when she would vent to me and I would just stand listening, giving her the chance to get it all out.  She’s someone I see quite regularly now and always enjoy engaging in conversation with – she also gives great hugs.

There is no way I could have grown and taken my performance to where it was without my incredible directors, Rob and Maya.  They challenged me, supported me, advised me and more.  Rob came up with the amazing concept for my piece, which I never would have come up with myself.  His mind is weird and wonderful, his being is energetic and enthusiastic.  He made me laugh, feel safe and feel prepared – he was amazing to work with and I wold love to have the opportunity to work with him again.  Maya did a significant amount of one-on-one work with me, encouraging me to dig deep and really feel the words I was saying.  She made me think deeper about how I deliver my poetry and she made me a better artist, within a short space of time.  I mean it when I say that my performance would have been a lot less effective without her.

Then there was the stellar and beautiful Raffi, the actor who stepped in and did a phenomenal job as the person who had a gun to my head,who I really loved working with.  The Trojan that is Bethany, who did the most amazing job with props, room layouts, and all other design stuff, and is also a proper lovely person.  The equally lovely and crazy organised Maria, who ensured we all kept to time and knew where we should be.

The brilliant team from Apples & Snakes – Lisa, Natalie, Divya and Tobi – who supported, planned, produced and most importantly, got the word out there.  I am incredibly grateful to Tobi for informing me about this opportunity, and most of all to Lisa, who even made this a possibility.

There are also others that I haven’t mentioned or named, but I want to say that everyone involved in this project is incredible and I enjoyed being in their presence.  Thank you to Apples & Snakes, and to everyone involved in Rallying Cry, I love you guys.