Tuesday, May 24, 2005

After five (2005)

It is after five
five 5:53 to be exact
when my opinion hereby
becomes fact
somebody asked me what I hoped for today
and I couldn't answer
I write this poem because
sixty six years ago
My grandmother lacked the five dollar tuition to finish her college education
five dollars?
a dollar made by man to have value
a man devalued by a dollar
a prime number
one short the sign of man
and one too many
to be the four corners of the earth
and yet
Five cents and a a man will pay a colored girl's fare to planet nowhere
all the way
or so they say
so I throw my .05 into the wishing well
wishing that
d boys would fly kites
instead of keys
roll bikes
instead of trees
see big lights
instead of big letters
that read
property of the state penitentiary
I'm humming out a hymn
in hiphop blue notes
praying for five seconds
that five minutes
becomes five hours and I can yet again say I made it through another day
all on faith
hoping that
somebody will pay my fare
all the way to somewhere
out there
and not over the rainbow
of which us colored women have
sho'nuff had enough
but it gets difficult sometimes
and I wonder sometimes
while riding the seventy-five
if I am singing zion or
singing a threnody
where ghettofabulous has become synonymous with
and people still think God is nascent
I labor for my five foremothers
reincarnated in
and the boldest baddest
zaftig beauties
laving against
a wall of battered spirits that is too big to break through
but being beautiful and determined
they dig under it, over it and around
trying not to do the inevitable
...break down
In five years
I've broken down boundaries
broken down walls
broken my nails
broken bones
and broken into my own home when i lost my key
and broken down
because of assata
because of tupac and all the other tupacs
because of all the nameless people i know
who will never be people you know
because they aren't important enough to be on the
cover of time, and vogue and the new york post
because i know that for all the world rewards lavish life
in the fast lane
cribs is not a reality but that ain't the tragedy
because the world hates those who don't participate in the insanity
because jesus died on calvary

and anyway, who has time to worry about
fainéant self-indulgence of sitting out a fight
when he was fighting all his life
agianst people who
didn't even know him like that?

I wish that people could
just be simple
rolled and clean
like socks
and appreciate the beauty of utility
but that just isn't life

in real life we seldom get votes, although we should
but voting won't solve all the worlds problems
or remove all the d-boys from the corner
pushing keys
and send them looking for kite in a summer sky again
it won't restore
the blossom to the tree
which leaves one wondering what's a colored girl
in a blank palette world to
When shoutin'
and cryin'
and votin'
and cookin'
and dancin'
and writin'
and pushin'
and shovin'
and hatin'
and lovin'
and withholdin'
and payin'
and buyin'
and prayin'
and rememberin'
and fightin'
and standing
isn't enough

I wrote this poem because sixty six years ago my grandmother lacked the five dollar tuition to finish her college education

thinking about how little old me can change anything in the world after five but my ego
and then I remember

and I pause
and I stand still
and pray and wait
and hope
that somebody will
pay my way
after five minutes of waiting I ask
God, is that you?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Just words (2005)

I began writing at the age of seven or eight. A voracious reader, I loved consuming books I liked to call "real life fiction", with the swiftness of a hungry cat on a mouse. Back then writing seemed like a natural progression from my organic love to create and frame the world around me.

As I grew older, writing became a way to channel pain, to try the world, to push the boundaries of expression. I was lured by the seduction of the word. Words had the power to change minds and hearts, to instill fear, or impart knowledge, to make the world fall in love with us, or revile us.

I loved the way that words sounded. Putting them together was like creating a dance or a painting. Words seemed to have a secret rhythm with layers of internal music outside a orb of truth. If you could get to that place in the dance, where the sweetness, and bitterness, and love, and truth, and loss and everything in between all commingle together to produce some quality that is truthful for everyone, no matter what their subjectivity, I believe words can be art.

Even now, I get gross bumps when I hear the word, "ethereal", or "mesmeric" or "slick." How bellowing, "omnipotent" sounds compared to the earthiness of the word, "navel" or the litheness of the word "sari" or the impish smugness of the word, "besmirched." How beautiful it is to take a word like "red" and pair it with "earth" and create 1,000 different images in ten minds. Or change the picture by adding "danced" to form, "The red earth danced down the green plain."Without mentioning the word erupted, or lava, but words evoke an image through mere suggestion. Living with words is like living with a bipolar drama queen that is on a crash diet. They can be manipulative, seductive, airy, earthy, bitter, raging or calm.

At my best each word seems to be a character that channels existentially, and then suddenly rises from random characters to something that has meaning, breath, and yes, purpose.

Words have purpose.

But somehow, some way, I loose my words every now and then. I get caught up in the grind of living and forget vocabulary I learned ten years ago. Stress steals away my rhythm so my mind is no longer dancing, and my pen unacknowledged and still. And sometimes there is an emptiness that words don't fill because that is a place reserved for emotion. And then after that, there are words, which when faced with the monumental girth that is life, seem so small. After all, they are just words.

Today I was reading Jill Scott's "The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours," which is a collection of poetry she's written over the years.

She has one line in the prologue, which I am decidedly in love with. "I wrote because tears weren't sufficient." That sentence is the paramour in my writing life. there are many nights when I cry at the injustice of the world, the chilling pain of life until my tears drink all of my oxygen, and it seems at any second I will stop breathing. And then, when I have no more room for anything else inside me, my words fall down. In an odd way, I feel a sense of not relief, but justice. And I want to share it with others. That is the gift God has given me. Although I am comfortable in the spoken word, I find that in my mind with my words I am at home, and truly free.

Now that I am older, I am learning to enjoy silence just as much as I enjoy words. I try to talk less, listen more. I am getting used to the fact that stillness is the presence of God, and not an absence something. I find the quiet makes the music of the written word all the more delicious, like a fresh rain clears the air, crisp like consonants, lush and open like vowels.