Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fearless Black Men


I’m gonna need 10,000 Fearless Black men because
the space between my
Black son’s life and the life of his white friend
is too big

standing in the gap between my people and choke hold justice,
between bullet lynchings, and lessons on how to self-loathe instead of how to self-love
in this stolen place where churches burn down and crosses flare up on the front lawn
where safety is an illusion if you have one drop of Sweet African blood coursing through your veins
where you have to die a little just to keep sane

Where schools are a place to practice domestic terrorism and little Black girls get
slammed to the floor from their desks or to the ground in their swimsuits
or raped at gun point by the boys in blue who are the boys in white sheets too
they’re the same as their plantation owning fathers
taking and raping and then selling us milk and seed and making sure that we can’t read
the signs that tells us that this land is not for you and me

and every time we venture on that ribbon of highway there’s a chance
that we’ll commit suicide in police custody; leaving our Black family
to pretend that we are not hurting when we go out into the world
We arrive at school, study, do our homework
we report to our jobs and work
we get into the gym and work out
as if we are not in the midst of a Civil War

It is almost like if we do a good job,
finish our homework, get in a few more reps or steps or whatever
that, maybe, something marvelous, magnificent, miraculous, magical will happen
and cops will stop killing our babies and our sisters and our brothers
and we’ll stop killing each other
while emulating our oppressor causing us to fight a war on two fronts
one with our own people and another with the systemic racism
I’m gonna need 10,000 Fearless Black Men

I’m gonna need 10,000 Fearless Black Men because I’m tired of hashtags
Hashtag his name
hashtag justice
hashtag same old shit
hashtag administrative leave
hashtag damn not again
hashtag next week his friend
hashtag how long will it me before hashtag me
hashtag its just math now

hashtag change now
hashtag i cry in blood now
hashtag the river is full yall
hashtag God why do they hate us so
hashtag peace
hashtag bare arms
hashtag give me free
Hashtag black is beautiful
hashtag beware of the enemy
hashtag look out for the frienemy

hashtag acquitted
hashtag the thug story is a lie
hashtag every 28 hours
hashtag bullets are tree limbs
hashtag shot in the back
hashtag choked to death
hashtag shot
hashtag reckless driving
hashtag hammer fist to the face
hashtag he was in a wheelchair
hashtag what does his criminal history have to do with it

hashtag elder killed at home
hashtag stairway
hashtag millions of taxpayer dollars
hashtag turned backs to mayor
hashtag civil war
hashtag widows
hashtag hoodie
hashtag headlines
hashtag grand jury
hashtag no reason to indict
hashtag no wrong doing
hashtag under investigation

hashtag outrage
hashtag peaceful protests
hashtag riots
hashtags mothers
hashtag memorial service
hashtag 
hashtag damn
hashtag
hashtag what the what
hashtag Black lives matter
hashtag don’t ruin the hashtag
hashtag life insurance
hashtag  organ trafficking


hashtag, hashtag, hashtag
hashtag justice for his name
hashtag  justice for her name
hashtag gender is irrelevant
hashtag being black on college campuses
hashtag can’t be black while walking
hashtag Arizona ice tea and skittles
hashtag air Jordons
hashtag close the opportunity gap
hashtag y’all wasn’t ready for that
I’m gonna need 10,000 Fearless Black men
because the space between my
Black son’s life and the life of his white friend
is too damn big



Credit: iStock










Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Black Out

The very least that we can do is stay home on Black Friday. We can choose not to shop online or at all. We could redirect our funds to Black businesses. We could save our money. We have choices. Most importantly, we must make an impact large enough to bring attention to the injustices that we have experienced in 2015; to the justice that we want and to the equality that we deserve. Here is a concrete poem that I hope serves as a reminder.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

To Be A Woman

to be a woman
is to tame the wildness that is lust
for whatever reason
it might sneak up
within her

give itself a man’s name
and a man’s form:
tall and dark and strong
full lipped, piercing eyes,
intelligent

lust provokes a woman
like a hoodie on a Black kid
in the inner city provokes a cop
like a seed in a row
of a wide field is provoked by the rain
like a tiny clover leaf is provoked
to turn towards the sun

lust wants the woman
to taste it, feel its burn, hold it
around the shoulders, acquit it,
write it down as lovely, look the other way
when needed, ride it bare back
through lines and verses
repeatedly—rehearse it

lust wants the woman to pretend
this is the first time again, acquit again,
in again, back again, out again
forth again, chorus

a woman must bind lust
like the leg of an elephant roped
to a splintering post,
like a community to a document
promising justice, like the two dots
on a lady bug in a vast valley of wildflowers,
like a corset to her torso

a woman must categorize lust
into stanzas
hope for the stanzas to repair
her inside thoughts, private: meditations,
masturbations, concentrations, grand jury trials    
selective expressions;

she must squeeze lust tightly
careful not to let it drip
down the insides of her
blues or blind her from the goal:
to be loved, to be cherished, to have peace, to expect justice,
to stand in solidarity, to obtain equality, to expect accountability 

she must grab the beast by the horns
without holding her breath
or stuttering—too much
when he, Lust, looks at her before
he signs
his name
on her neck, on her breast
on her
forhead.

art credit: http://kikisloane.tumblr.com/post/4461916271



Thursday, September 10, 2015

For Those Who Leave Too Soon


you won’t rise on the third day
rest in power,
in peace,  
in love,
in grace,

though we won’t see your face – in its flesh again,
we will see you in our dreams,
in our memories
in our laughter and in our tears.

the years you’ve lived are young -- short the sum.
for us,
you left too soon, too suddenly, too violently
we weren’t ready for that—could not have been ready for that,
don’t want to get used to that.

mourning
is treachery, is sickening, is foul
for the spirit.

if we could, we would stop it—the dying and the crying
and the remembering again and again and again
of how we hate mourning even more than we hate bullets in the night,
memorial candles in the day—all of it.

we want you here with us,
loving us and us loving you
because we don’t want to learn how to live without you.

you won’t rise, but
we won’t forget.
rest in power,
in peace,
in love,
in grace.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Poetry in the Park

The Historic Van Buren House, Eastside Park, Paterson, NJ

Poetry in the Park
Monday September 21, 2015 6:00- 8:00 PM EST

This is a FREE event with an Open Mic portion of the evening. Show up early to get on the Open Mic list. RSVP on the Facebook Event page. See ya there!

The Van Buren House is nick named, "The White House." The beautiful building has no address, just aske the locals for "The White House."
Location
Roughly bounded by 20th, Vreeland, and 11th Aves., E. 33rd St. and Mclean Blvd., Paterson, New Jersey

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Heaven (Poems for a Street Corner)



If all of heaven
was removed
from the bosom,
unfolded,
laid out flat, and
stretched upon
a city grid
the whole place
would be this
space:
the corner of Yesler
and Third Ave---the
Genesis
of the Emerald City
which was once
graced
by the bare foot steps
of sacred Native people
who knew every hillside,
 every valley, every plain,
 every rock and every grove
whose ancestors’ songs still
whisper and whistle in the winds
 in and around the
 Fyre Hotel, Smith Tower,
City Hall and the corner sign post
that points to it at all.

Look at the birds in the sky,
the sparrow, the eagle,
the house finch, the chickadee,
they are well feed
so too are the put out, the homeless
and the hopeful
by an army of volunteers
who will surely be rewarded with what no eye
has seen, what no ear has heard and with what no
human mind has ever conceived.
This
concrete, asphalt heaven,
even if Mother Earth has molded it
with her own
loving hands,
could hold no more splendor.




Sunday, June 21, 2015

So, This Is Not A Poem


I don't want to write poetry about a white racist man killing nine black people in a historically black church during bible study in South Carolina, United States 2015. So, this is not a poem.

A poem would find something beautiful about people working to get closer to God at the moment that a killer, like Saul, exacted his crime against them when God was most pleased with them, when God smiled and welcomed them home. So, this is not a poem. 

There would be verses in a poem that made the reader ponder a while, smile sometimes, cry sometimes, introduced the reader to herself. Is she a church member getting closer to God, finally to glory? Is she a murderer, a hater, like Saul? Is she pretending to be dead so that she doesn't die?  Is she reading the news about a white man killing nine people at church during bible study while she cries? Is she white? Is she black? Is she white sometimes, but today she is definitely not black? I digress. This isn't writing that causes one to ponder. So, this is not a poem.

A poem would do what it could to be the subject for a moment. The writer of the words would wish to be in the room when a man sat down next to a pastor and then stood up, proud like Saul, and killed nine people before driving home. I can't do that--- imagine what it would be like to see my family shot down in church. So, this is not a poem.

Metaphor is often found in poetry to help the reader see what otherwise could not be easily seen. I could write something that refers to the scene, compare the bloody thing to human soup spilled over the sanctuary floor or perhaps refer to the steeple splitting screams, but I don’t want to imagine what it was like to be there and I care about you enough not to. So, this is not a poem.

A poem sometimes rhymes. A poet would take the time to find a rhyme if the poem was that kind, but there is nothing that even a poet could do to spin this woe of hatred and murder when one man could have prayed, but, instead, he left nine people
murdered. So, this is not a poem.

There is a chance that the Unites States could get together, like we do sometimes, to solve a big problem—this time racism, but this is an election campaigning year and everyone cares about the election of the people despite the people who vote or no longer can vote because one man, a representative of the confederate, premeditated mass murder of nine black people at church reducing their lives to lines and candidate quotes—There is no poetry in that. So, this is not a poem.

If a poet could manage to stop crying and mourning, she’d write about the poetic justice of one God taking an act of hatred and bloody racism and turning it into the only instance in the history of mankind when the whole world, regardless of the entire list of what separates us from each other in our humanity, prayed together. Even those who doubt the existence of God, just prayed, just in case. A poem would discuss the impossible thing that somehow became possible. This doesn’t do that—discuss the impossible becoming possible. So, this is not a poem.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tis the Season/ How Do I Tell Them

Tis the season for How Do I Tell Them. In the last month, this poem has gotten much attention. Thank you. The link above will take you to VONA: An Arts Forum
The text is here as well:

Image Credit: Casey Melvin


For every tear drop there are ten thousand stories, Historical, Important, Sad stories.Some my children have not heard.
I haven’t told them.I didn’t want to break them.
How do I tell them about Zimmerman?About acquittal and a young black boy shot to death when all he wanted to do was taste the rainbow?How do I tell them Sterling Brown? About the gray days and dark nights when they came by tens?. How would my children view their friends?
Nikki G, how do I tell them, my children, of not having when they’ve always had… what they needed? All of their food comes from grocery stories. They have no memories of rows of corn. No idea of removing ticks with fire after running in the fields.
How do I tell them?
What are the new blues Angela Jackson? These children have miles of shoes. These children know love and the pantry is full.
J.J (James Weldon Johnson) they know not of the stony road we trod. They have not weary feet. They are the bright stars we have casts. How do I tell them of our past?
Do I tell them Randall, in bedtime stories: “Once upon a time there was a there was a bombing in Alabama…”
What about charred bodies and the party goer’s remains or the postcards that celebrated the black blood stains in the grass, Richard Wright, How do I tell them that?
How does one utter words when there is no sweetness in them?How do I blemish my children’s hearts?
How do I tell them Langston about colors outside of the rainbow? Will they still re-bop boogie the way you learned to do when a dream was deferred for you?
These children are from instant gratification; from an “i” paradise world.They don’t know of hunting dogs picking up on their scent.
They are not blue Terrance Hayes.
They are not blue.
This question is for Gwendolyn Brooks: If my children never loiter while the bacon burns nor hear the stories of standing up on hard ground, will they still learn to sing?
How do I tell them?
Should I tell them, Countee, of the incident in Baltimore? Is it fair to their gentle loving hearts to speak of such atrocities? Should they know which walls racism built up?
What will they gain from true stories of men being drug behind pickup trucks?

Spitting boys at Cambridge?Citizens hosed down and jailed, leaders assassinated?
Will they cry themselves to sleep?
What will they dream of Dr. King?
Ms. Sanchez, will you help me to teach them the ancient warrior songs to sing if their brothers or sisters should ever fall?
“A ye  A yo”
Maybe some people will say that the world has changed and that bloody racism was a long time ago.
But it wasn’t a long time ago.
It was just a moment ago.
It is just that…. NOW… …time moves faster.
Maybe Remica L. Bingham helped fry that chicken and pack those brown paper sacks for the marchers headed to Washington; Baltimore 1963 was arguably a long time ago
But Rodney King was just a moment ago and there are other reasons to cook,
other reasons to cry,
other reasons to write poetry,other moments have etched history since Remica packed those brown paper sacks, but… now… we forget faster.
My children, perhaps you know some too, skip along in their bliss unaware that colored children ever had a reason to fear
or that freedom was not accessible to everyoneor that voting wasn’t always “optional.”How do I tell them about citizens dying to vote?
Nikki G, I thank you for every single word you have ever written, tell me what method do you suggest a mother tell these stories?
Should I sing them a love song about brothers who struggle to be free under the foot of uncle Sam who maybe didn’t trust brothers or don’t trust brothers still to be somebody for somebody even though everything the brothers does is done because he’s trying to be what was promised he could be, truly free?How do I tell them?
Mr. Steptoe, my children don’t know about working from “can’t see to can’t see” and though you’ve picked up the pieces, can my children even begin to understand your ancestral song?
I want to tell them. But I don’t know how.
Perhaps the barbers will keep the stories alive.
Maybe the barbers will whisper the stories between hoopla and laughter,but what about my daughters?
How will my daughters know?

Do I tell them whilst they learn the recipes of grandmother?... “Honey get the big pot, did I ever tell you how mamas would liberate their children from slavery by way of death?” or “Just a pinch of that. Honey, did I ever tell you of Uncle Rodney near killt by those cops?”
If I tell these stories will the greens be bitter?
Perhaps a chronology of backs over Sunday dinner will be better: (clear throat)
“The backs were beaten with whips, the backs were beaten with Billie clubs, my mama lashed our backsides with switches, she didn’t know no better, pass the peas”

Lucille Clifton, How do we get the children to listen or die; get them to know how it feels to see a mother’s face turn to water under white words, but not cry themselves?How do I tell them and still see them smile brightly?
Still hold back their heads in laughter,
Still marvel in their creations?
Still love themselves, their people and ALL people?

Ms. Dr. Maya Angelou ma’am, what is the responsibility of poets? Are will all historians? Teachers?  Both? Other?
After we share with them our pain, so that they know, do we raise them up again?
If we paint their feathers will they still fly?
I
With my heart beating as if a warrior’s drum
Still young (relatively),
Still a dreamer,
Still a realist too,
 A lover kind of poet want the kind of knowing that allows all the babies to cry with the knowledge that soothing is coming.
I want my children to know the struggle but not live in it.
How do I accomplish this?
How do I tell them?






Monday, June 8, 2015

Never



Image from Black Love Collectibles
I pray that you never fall in love
that your stomach never turns to butter;
that longing never visits your door;
that you never feel taken apart.

I pray that your legs never fail under a kiss;
that your arms never feel useless
without your lover’s embrace;
that your cheeks never scar with tears;
that your hands never tremble;
that your heart never flutters.

As for me, it is too late.
I have fallen deeply –
will never be the same.

Paterson

this is Paterson

home of the brave,
the proud, the
beautiful, the fine

home of the silk mills,
hydropower, and
the constitution

cradle of the industrial revolution,
stopping place for the underground railroad
and the center of the universe

we are every culture
we are every religion
we are simply the best

of everything because
our good days outweigh
our bad days

we don’t complain in the heat of pain or summer
we are not defeated by hurricanes
or weight of snow

we are the resilient people of
one Paterson together
whether day or dark hour

we are both the
cherry blossom and the
dandelion,

we have mastered the harvesting
of power stored in our hearts
We are beloved

by one another
there’s no place like home
this is Paterson

Thursday, May 21, 2015

YELLOW TAPE




I spent the morning staring at the brown eyes of your photograph,
Imagining your mustache on my thighs;
I wished for the fullness of your lips on my collarbone
and that you’d be there when I got home.

The night before I watched the news as the tear gas
choked and burned the protestors.
I cried.
I thought about Malcolm X before his pilgrimage and took my evening shower.

Water has a way of changing things

Your side of the bed remains undisturbed except for the damp towel that I threw there.

Last night, I didn’t dream about what I wanted: your strong hands on my waist, the deep inhaled scent of- I keep your shirt near to my pillow- the force of your love behind me and over top of me.
I dreamed instead of civil war.
I saw tanks slithering down Main Street,
Militiarized police and our son crying at the edge of a cliff.
He was shaking a tiny branch and screaming Dr. King’s words, “I have a dream!”
He fell. I reached for him, grabbed him by the tiny branch, but the branch broke. Our son and my heart fell over the edge.
I stood there facing the brilliant shields with my hands up and a hole in my chest.

When I woke up, I craved for you to be inside me, filling all my space and making me whole again.
I could almost taste the salty rain from your chest. I wanted you so.

There are candles and cut flowers on the street- that cover your bloodstains.
I can’t visit them anymore, can’t get the image out of my head. I feel like I am wrapped completely in that yellow tape.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How Do I Tell Them

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Something Fun

Wanna dance
Dance wild wild wild!
Spinning turning jumping dancing
Crazy and wild
Dance alone
Dance with somebody
Wanna dance
Boodie shaking all over the street
Toe tapping, 
neck swaying,
head bopping
Dance a fiesty dance
Dance a wet dance
A simple dance
A meaningful dance
A silly silly dance
Dance of emotion,
Dance of trust
HA HA HA Hip Hop, DANCE Y’ALL!
Terrific tango tango
Sensational salsa… salsa
Yeah, wanna dance
Bity bity belly dance
Dance the hopscotch,
dance the ro-bot.
Dance with baby John John, smile all over his face
Dance with a crowd
Dance in my, SHHH, secret place
Wanna whew!, oh Man! Dance!
Flaming, Tap tap ta-tap tap, Tap. Tap!
Meringe,Foxtrot, Swing!
Praise dance. Dance for the Lord. Dance barefoot, reach up from earth and down from heaven to the beat of my native drum
Dance in a circle, make it rain
Dance dance dance
Dance those cats spinning on their heads
Dance reggae, clouds halo the dreads
Owit owit, dance disco
Waltz, dosey doe Dance
Dance, NO CLOGS!
Dance the Monkey Dawg. What y’all know about that? Ha!
Dance Hula hula
Dance like that famous Jackson
Dance cause we sad
Dance cause we flipping mad
Dance to make you happy
Dance Capoeira, feel it in your heart
Calypso
Balance ballet, Balance ballet
Copa
Dance

Brown Girl

Brown girl, you don’t have to cry no more. No.
Today the eyes looking at you will judge you for the color of your heart
No matter the color of the eyes
Your grandmother and her grandmother knew nothing of the skin free joy of your life
Every single walking step for them tested their spirit
They prayed that the, “Precious Lord, would take their hand, lead them on, let them stand”
They were tired. Yes.
They were weak sometimes. True.
But they persevered, Brown Girl, for you
They prayed that someday their trial would end
Yes, you’re still a babe now
Not far removed from the suckle of your mother, but light years
From the mulatto, nappy, colored and second class citizen labels of your foremothers
Now, you are a girl. Simply.
Free to play, to dream, to sing, to inspire and to be whomever you decide
Brown girl, you don’t have to cry no more. No.
You leave your eyes clear to see your way through the fights of your generation.
We have left much work for you to do
Leave your mind clear to find the ways that we did not know needed changing
Leave your heart free to soar beyond the stratosphere and discover worlds that we dared not dream about
Leave your anger alone
Replace it with the triumphs of a two century old war that your foremothers
fought for you to be free of tears
Brown girl, you don’t have to cry no more. No.
Celebrate your skin, your hair, your hips, and your mind
Hold your head up high
Wear your smile wide and
Let your eyes glisten
Brown girl, you don’t have to cry no more. No.

Pushin'






Pushin'            ‘

Keep on pushin’                                                                    Keep on pushin

This ain’t no sometime struggle
This is a tone up,
stack up situation

This is about saving a nation
of Black boys
and girls
women and males
from the hell on the streets


                                                                                           Get the hell off the streets!




And keep on pushin’                                                            And keep on pushin’

Toward the goal our ancestors,

bought and sold,                                                                 bought and sold,



                                                                                           dreamed of, prayed for, and died for


thousands of times over                                                      thousands of times over

for us to stand tall with dignity
and grace
saturating our mortal Souls
and even though we still
Weep,
the salt that flavors our tears
is still good for something
larger than our own lifetimes,
And so we

Keep on pushin'                                                                     Keep on pushin'

                                                                                             in remembrance of our brothers and sisters
                                                                                             who are in bonds
                                                                                             as if we are bound with them;
                                                                                             who suffer the same adversities that we do,
                                                                                             that our grandfathers did,
                                                                                             that our grandchildren won’t
                                                                                             because we

keep on pushin'                                                                     keep on pushin'


our bodies are still able,
in our  minds there’s still
a seed germinating
planted long ago for freedom


Keep on pushin'                                                                     Keep on pushin'

And to you my brother,

And to you my brother,                                                            And to you my brother,

Ashe!
For being the river -
the strong positive force
uniting our community,
inspiring our seeds to grow
upright
                                                                                                for being the tangled up roots
                                                                                                beneath the sod for the Street Keepers
                                                                                                to stand on
                                                                                                and for standing, and for pushing



Keep on pushin'                                                                     Keep on pushin'