Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Remembered (2006)

From CNN files

Coretta Remembered
For those of us born after the civil rights movement

We see her face through his eyes
More than a black Madonna
She is our David
Dancing before the eyes of God
Protector of memory and legacy
grace and gustiness
the keeper of our deeply rooted dream
carried so lovingly, long after it was
Or memorable

We see her face through his eyes
A woman of untold sacrifice
Clothed in benevolence
She offered a seat at the
A simple meal
For an divided American soul --
Such a heavy price to pay for a meal between friends

But she bore it, with an iron will.

We see her face through his eyes
More that a conqueror,
Her sweet spirit rushes through new ears in
Birmingham, Harlem, Bombay, Capetown
No longer singing ‘bout freedom
But the yearning is deep
You can hear it
In the music
The strings, the bass, the guitar, and the drums
Synthesized into one voice
She is the mother of a generation in the lineage of a love
They do not recognize by name
But know by heart

This heartbeat of a woman warrior
sounds like a million men walking
A thousand tongues talking
Seven continents praying in every language for one hope

We see her face through his eyes
As a nation travels down the other side of the mountain
Into lush valleys
Filled with thorny pasts, and troubled rivers
Where we lost our mother

I know we will find her again
This is the woman who planted lilies in the wilderness
and watch miracle grow
But today,
we breathe
and pause.

Then, as Israel did so tenderly for Moses in the Exodus
We carry her with us
We carry her with us.
We carry this woman with us
A common woman
The uncommon hope of a King

Monday, January 30, 2006

VIP(Victory in Progress) (2005)

A spoken word poem dedicated to black women, and women everywhere…

I keep on telling you, I have a name.
And it ain’t ‘ay girl.

Wait a minute, wasn’t it Maya Angelou who said it was because she was one, phenomenally?
And didn’t Soujourner already ask you wasn’t she?
And didn’t Chaka say it’s all in me
And yet you’re still saying that you’re the reason I’m in VIP?

It seems to me in the proverbial quest for love I have many suitors at my doorstep
But no real bounty
And although your mama was the queen even when she was a crack fiend
I’m still seen a latent sapphire on the silver screen
A bigger role, in a smaller scene
Even got tap dance numbers with cuter outfits and locks
Y’all seen the way Aunt Jemima went from nappy to weaved on the pancake box

But we still buy it

Baby faced bountiful Beyonce
a reincarnation of Billie Holiday
and Halle Berry who is Dorothy D in disguise
so ain’t nothing new about “can I get a milkshake with them fries?”
And although Kelis says she brings boys to the yard
My mama said I’m more than what I’m packing in my pockets
And I shouldn’t get in to the habit of lining the ones of those
That get paid at my expense
Like way down yonder in the “real” big yard
When we birthed babies to pay rent

Wonder why if the world loves black women so much we hate on them so bad?

You say you love me, hips and lips
But it seems that you love my hips and lips more than me
I’ve been reduced from a fully fledged, functional, phenomenal “everywoman”
to a booty
And now because Fifty said that treating a woman well means buying her a drink before Taking her to a rodeo
Used-to-be nice guys have become wannabe thugs pretending that life is a video and you’re a-- you know..
It’s like blackwomen have been bootlegged
and cheated of our royalties

went from babygirls in sweet tees
like Charlene from Different Strokes
Back in the day when Janet had hips
To too much MAC counter make up and “dip, baby, dips”
We’re so shamed of ourselves we don’t even dance facing our partner
Cause nobody treats a date like they’re somebody’s daughter
and offering to pay means that she’s “required” to offer.

Wonder why if the world loves black women so much we hate on them so bad?

And although the world pays to get my hips and lips
Y’all still got
Got googobs of dip to make my “hur” lay slick
free of its natural awesomeness
as matter of professional business

I know enough to know that
Telling me you love me
Cause I’m so exotic
Really means
I’m the new flavor of the week
Cauze the most accomplished, fantastic, intellectual woman
Can walk into a room runnin’ the place

And yet her greatest achievement is the size of her waist, the symmetry of her face….

Wonder why if the world loves black women so much we hate on them so bad?

And tho’ Common was rollin' around, in his mind it occurredWhat if God was a her?Would he treat her the same? Would he still be runnin' game?
We Pop, Pop, Popcorn love black girls in a meat and potatoes type of world
Blow up their dreams instead of planting them
And every one of us has gone into a room and cried because
Like the promise of a chicken in every pot
They put a star on your door only for your one and only act
And didn’t even pay you for it!
Told you he was the reason you were in VIPCause like Luda he was the CEO, don't have to see ID
then showed you a little southern illhospitality?
Everyone of us has struggled to be who God intended for us to be
Only to be told we’re too black, fat, skinny, tall, opinionated, nappy, straight, light, pretty, ugly, stupid, smart for anyone to ever love, period.
Cause no matter who we are we’ll never be enough

Wonder why if the world loves black women so much we hate on them so bad?
Hate them so much that we miss magnanimous beauty
Over look wisdom and wit
Trade true spirit in
For a soulless soundbyte

But ladies even though the world just might
Gobble down your gorgeousness
And leave you with an empty plate
And the check
Don’t you let them make
you forget who you really are

Like I keep on telling you, I have a name.
And a story
That is part of the miraculous story
Free of high paid haters
unimaginative image consultants
and blackwoman bootleggers
And I learned that nobody can define my image
Because it is already defined
By the one who created me in His
And that’s why
no matter how much
you tell me I’m not enough
I confidently, constantly
keep on telling you,
I have a name.
Call me by my name.
Call me by my name.
Call me by my name.

Michelle Milam

Happy Birthday (2005)

Too busy defending ourselves to look each other in the eye

Living in an impure world
Nobody looks anybody straight in the face
Except for an honest man
And he is immediately suspect

I’ve never seen so many people
Read such big intentions
Into small actions
Second guess everyone’s motives
A quiet moment becomes a blow off
A misspoken word becomes a malicious intent
a mistake becomes sabotage
insecurity is seen as street savvy
the trusting person as a fool
So clever we don’t even trust our own self, you hear?
Not none of dat, they don’t really care about me
Humph..you crazy?

Too busy defending ourselves to look each other in the eye

we all seem to be so concerned that someone else is going to do us in
stamp our sand castle
blow out our birthday candle
that we refuse to invite anyone else to our party
Instead we spend out precious moments guarding
Our precious moments
Moments we’ll never have because we’re busy protecting ourselves

Could it be in our rush to take up the swords of offense
We’ve punctured the brightly wrapped birthday package
Full of our birthright
Good moments
That God couldn’t give us
Because we were too busy defending ourselves to look

Michelle Milam

The Great Gatsby (2005)

In the great Gatsby's day
ladies sang the blues
while dining on wine and whole nectarines
boisterous crooners
sang their way into civility
long before the picket lines formed in Alabama, and women went to war
Words, so sweet to the lips
and bitter to the stomach.
We bathed in pearls
of wisdom and wore them well,
cigar smoke a tunneling force of nature
that swept our lovers into our arms
even when they were bad for our beds.
The market held the promise of riches, although the lottery was more honest
now a line has been drawn in the sand
in blood, the whole world, that was once
so fond of merry making breaths in
knowing either way
the merry days were long gone

Love Cliches for Women (The Old Wives Speak) (2006)

Listen to what your mama said
Don’t trust a man whose quick to bed
Don’t trust a man who moves to fast
And won’t reveal to you his past

Listen to what you’re grandma said
There is a difference between infatuation and love
You want him to be there when the going gets tuff
And not just as long as you’ve got luck

Listen to what your sister said
Cause if he acts like Mister she might kill him dead
Don’t let him hit you to subdue your soul
A man will walk with you when he’s spiritually whole

Listen to what your best friend said
Potential may get you a second date, but will it cross finish line?
Ask what they’re selling ‘for you say you’re buyin’
And make sure that he’s got two scoops of character
With all that fiiiine

Listen to what the old women say
You need a man who knows how to watch and pray
You need a man who knows when he’s found a good thing
And will give his life
to hear yours sing

And after all the old wives have had their say
Listen to your heart, be still and pray
And allow the Lord to have his voice
You won’t be disappointed in his choice

of risktaking and lovemaking (2006)

A mirage of Mojave desert, and sweet cactus breath
remembering thoughts folded into time like churned butter
moved and then browned by the sun, a lucid moment memorialized
a constant reminder of the delightful ability of the human heart to recall what the mind forgets
never forgetting that, palm to wrist I dip fingertips in risky waters
dovetailing with wines of mixed seasons that colors the sky
always laughing at the inevitable
only because it is

You (2006)

There are certain laws that are universally followed, and universally applicable.
The law of gravity, for instance.
The law of thermodynamics.
Einstein's theory of relativity.
The law of attraction
is an eccentric
a glamorous smile
coated in slick layers of self indulgence
opulent pearls
and killer thighs
in demurely wrapped jersey knit
it frequents
starry skies
odd backrooms
crowded theaters
and spaces within the mind that are too
small not to share with
neighboring souls
it is the inconsistency of streetlight, rain, clouds and thunder
on a rainy evening
it is
the feeling I get
when I happen to feel
your gaze
cross my shoulder
and rest on my collarbone
it is
of the way you say my name
in a language I do not speak
but know by heart

checkmate (2006)

If it were only a game
even not a very good game
the loss would
be simple
this loss hunts and pecks
with a solitude
that sits
soundly with the looser
like a broken piano chord
or cold leftovers
in the face of this loss even joy is a heartbreaking
of pain

...alas it is always sad when
the player didn't realize
it was
a game

Pages (2005)

the space within
houses no stars
but shines
and glimmers
with hope
running fresh
and new like water
it washes the ink
from the page
and like a clean sheet
of paper
begs for an alternate ending

1999 F.O.U.R. (For Our Unspoken Remembrance..Dedicated to the Birmingham Four)

it is a wound, no doubt.

a brick is a wound in Birmingham.

a wound that is hot
from charred bobby socks and
loosened pigtail knots
smeared lipstick blots
silent rows of screaming forget me nots
a blackend wound
is hot
from the discourse of what life is
and is not

a black wound is
climbing over sharp cutting fences
a school teacher
looking the other way
a black wound is a seven year old and realizing the multiplicity of identity
they picked up picket signs
much like we pick up broken glasses that are heirlooms
black is Birmingham burning
as hate devours friendly god fearing politicians
who pimp politics and promises
watching as the tension grows thick and red like the dirt
looking at the future that must have been the other way
as everydaypeople
are smacked
bull whipped
and bullied
and bullhorned
yet the water hoses couldn't put the fire out

They fill up
the jails
and frighten well meaning missionaries
that are content to love everything about you but you
wish they could wish your pain away with their fear
Do not love you with a love that will allow them to act
even for Christ
so for now

Black must dance in the light of the servitude
quiver in the moon
dance that line
dance that line but don't push and shove
but black is wounded and burning tonight
and the sound is so loud
it concaves in on itself
a plethora of
w i d e w a n d e r i n g w o u n d s
each open and hungry
then somebody reached their hands down into the dirt
that southern dirt that never seems to wash of the hands
never seems to wash
and watered
that familiar strange fruit
that leaves the tongue bitter
and the heart afraid

denise, cynthia, addie mae, carole
and two others-- eyes poked out
hands lovingly dress
loose appendages
broken bodies
small profaned wombs
mounds of budding breasts
the brick embedded in denise's pressed hair
and bloodied white underwear

there is the smell of bubble gum
and starched dresses
and curly kitchens
and dreams
and head bands
the drumming
of freedom songs and heavy heated hands
signing 'bout Jordan but
there are snakes in the river Jordan
who would come and devour children?
they ask
the hissing sound
in the rushing of the wind
as a mother asks herself
How do you tell your child she was born to be hated?

now in the red dirt of alabama
mounds of budding breasts call out to them
and we walk past reality like it is a picture show
but reality reaches us
the us that makes us get up
at three o'clock in the morning and wonder
we hurt so bad and can't name our affliction
hurts so bad we just want to be touched
hurt so prolific it moves
and speaks
like birth pains

Now the memory
dances in the sunlight alabama air
that smells fragrantly of
Easter Lilies
and smoke

and a wound that takes the form of a brick

Love is no better than the lover- a note to a friend 10/31/04

I am sending you warm waves of peace and tranquility during this storm through the holy spirit, because the sprit recognizes the brokenhearted and heals them. You do not have to climb your mountain alone. Toni Morrison once wrote,"Love is no better than the lover."

The human desire to love leads us to extend ourselves and desire something greater often than our capcity. We're imperfect, so we love imperfectly because we are not God. I think the feeling of excitement and hearts pounding isn't really love. Love is what makes you get up at 3:00 in the morning and go to the store when you don't want to. Love is when someone is sick and you take care of them tenderly when they are well past life's bloom and you still think that they are beautiful. Love makes your work long hours because you know someone needs you.

I believe that love isn't a feeling, it is an action, and a choice.

Love is also a risk. Because we love imperfect people, they don't always love us well, we don't know how to love them well.

When I was seven I had a best friend who liked Rose Petal Place dolls. For Christimas I saved all the pennies and change I got to buy her Rose Petal. I wrapped it myself. I never felt so happy as to be giving my best friend this gift as a symbol of how much I loved her, and I hoped that she would like it. She came over a day or so before Christmas with a gift for me as well. When she opened my gift, the look of disappointment was obvious, even at seven.

Then she said," Here you can keep it. Let's play with what I bought you."

I think that was probably my first broken heart. I waited until after she left to cry. My mother told me to give my doll to my sister who would appreciate it. There have been many men in my life that when I have had the courage to risk myself and give myself to them have discarded my love

It hurts deeply, because we all want to be loved in return. I think the biggest lesson we learn in life, is we love people who can't love us in the way that we want or need. Sometimes they learn, sometimes they don't. The closest thing to God like love we know is really the parent child relationship-- there is no choice in the matter. God reaches all day to us saying that we love him, and we reach to other things to make us complete, and yet he still has made the choice to love us, in all our imperfection. I don't know what love between a man and a woman should be like, but I know with God all is possible. As you enter your journey, I will pray that God provides you with all you need to get there, and that he is your guide. Peace.

The Days of Our Lives (Spoken Word, 2005)

I got three minutes to say this and then it is over….
And first a question
What do you say to a person who is dying?
Do you look them in the eye
Hold the hand that is holding the invisible thing we call by name
But can’t see
Hoping to carry a piece of them with you
Or do you look away
What do you say to a person
Who is living in stolen moments
Every breath a silent wish
What do you say
With all your tomorrow’s and I can’t waits
In the mist of all your mundane obsurdities
Forgotten I love you’s
Stingy praise
And idle hateful words
Ladled on a hearty plate
What do you say to a person
When I’m sorry isn’t enough
And every empty word
Feeds your own emptiness
Of all the you
That you never were
Because you thought you’d have time
Waiting on death
Waiting on time?
It was time


But is death every really on time?
Or is time on death?
The two twins, with time entering first, and death following behind, fashionably late?
And the space in between, fate?
I got two minutes and then it is over, y’all….
Maybe it isn’t death we fear, but time
Because after death there goes time
Still there
You would think time was on crack
Giving you the impression that every hit will be like the last
Until the last
We don’t have enough time
we’re doing time
screwing time
Let’s face it ..maybe it is time waiting for us at the bus stop
Sucking on a lolliop
Waiting for us like that afterschool bully
We had from with our feet up on the toilet
So nobody can find us hiding in the stalls
Time is a peeping tom
Looking in on our precious moments
The silent shadow in every photo

Who will be responsible for your time?
Is your time on crack?
Do you use it liberally like it is going out of fashion
Or do you make a vain attempt to hoard your time
Until you discover like manna it spoils from disuse?
Do you tarry across time hoping to beat the tsunami
Hoping God will part your red sea
Or do you spend your time building the biggest, baddest
Bomb shelter you can make so that you don’t have to deal
With trivial things like fate?
Who will beis responsible for you time
If it ain’t got no mama and don’t call nobody daddy?
Will you stand up for it, or stand against it?
Does your time have rims on it
With spinners
Is it colder in the summer than winter
Do you hold onto your time like a 45
And joy
And pain
Just playing the same song again
Or are you looking for a better way to spend your time?
And investment plan
Maybe two years of grad school
And thirty years of marriage and enough dividends to spent retirement in Kawai
Hi? Who is responsible for your time
Did you let it play in the street without tending to it?
Did you let it loose by the stove when suddenly you found it got burned?
Will you hold onto your time like you hold onto your granmother’s shawl
Just because it smells like her
Just because it smells like her
Just because?
I got one minute and then this is over y’all…..

What do you say to someone who is dying?
When that someone everyday, is you, and terminal, except
Who is it that can pick up your time and put it back together again
When you’ve made Humpty Dumpty out of your life?
Who is it that stands against time
Who can tell it to obey when it is running
Can find it when it is lost
Can call it when it is hiding
Can stop it from getting away
Can tell it peace be still
And so it is called?
Who can tame
the two twins, with time entering first, and death following behind, fashionably late?
And the space in between, fate?
Two twins, one womb, but only one tomb
Because time goes on as directed to the next party
And I believe in afterparty in the after life
And I believe e=mc2 means that absolutely time cannot be destroyed but converted from one form to the next
God and time is gon’ fight
And I know all my battles are conquered on the other side
Because check it out there is only one word that can stand up against
(get up stand up)
there is only one word that can get up and stand up against
time and death
and that is
The time has come for you!

just a free flow (2004)

When love calls
You better answer….
Yes the love this morning
Is sweet
It woke me up
It turned me around
It made be go over where I went over
And get over
Went under
And get up
Where I fell down
This love called
And I had to answer
I tried to hide from it
Pretend not to notice
From under my honey magazine
Look the other way at the kwik way stand
Getting some fries
You know how it is
But this love kept on calling me
Didn’t care if my hair was half did
Or my clothes were from Target
This love loved me
called me
Everyday this love sweats me
Blowing up my cellular my two way
And my hotmail
But also doing the unbelievable
This love y’all
Calls me in the sound of children’s laughter
It smiles at me here and in the here after
And when I tried to hide from it
It went to my house
And demanded to know why I wasn’t in class
It called up everybody in my family and ask why
I wanted to do it so dirty
This love is crazy, it is scandalous
Won’t take no for an answer
But why would I want to say no
Because this love does more than inspire passion
It inspires me to grow
Told me to wake up child
And be encouraged
This love tells me that he knew me before I ever was
And he knows all that I will ever be
Even when I don’t listen
This love tells me I’m more
Than you can ever ask
This one will call me out in the street
By my first middle and last
And have me embarrassed to walk past
Like he ain’t ask
So when love calls
I don’t screen my machine no more
I don’t dodge the e-mail
Or check the caller ID
Because I know when this love calls
I know it knows me
And all I can say
Is that when love calls
You better answer…..

Serving Up Something (A Short Play) (2004)

Lights come up on the lobby of “Aunt Mable’s Soul Food” Restaurant, an eclectic but tidy looking place with gingham tablecloths, and blue linen napkins. A banner in the lobby reads: “If Mama’s Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy---Aunt Mable’s where we cook meals just like mama so mama doesn’t have to.” On the walls hang autographs and memorabilia from 1920’s Black California alongside eight by ten glossies from today’s rap and R&B stars. (I envision there are three parts to the set – the lobby, the restaurant and the bathroom.)

Stage right, in the LOBBY Enters Lisa, a twenty something black woman with her hair pulled back, carrying a tray with ketchup, hotsauce and mustard. She is wearing traditional “Aunt Mable’s” garb- crisp white shirts, a yellow blazer, and an apron that reads, “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.”

LISA begins placing the condiments on the tables. As she works she hums quietly to herself. ENTER Eric, a young black man stage left, the host. When he sees Lisa setting tables, he immediately grabs some of the condiments off the tray and begins setting up. Immediately Lisa smiles.

ERIC: So, do you always whistle while you work?

LISA: Oh you got jokes?

ERIC: Just asking. (Pause) You know the Sparks are in town tonight.

LISA: Yeah.

ERIC: Yeah well how much you wanna bet Telon Moore is coming here tonight?

LISA: (Stops working for a second) Really? Hold up second, how do you know that?

ERIC: Cause I’m in the know, woman. (Eric pauses. Lisa looks unconvinced.) I saw it in the reservation book. They got the back room.

LISA: Oh my God, Eric, stop playing! That is my man! Do you see the arms on my baby? No wonder he’s been whuppin’ the Pacers!

ERIC: I wouldn’t know, since I don’t judge dudes.

LISA: Whatever. (Begins working again.)

ERIC: Well, I hate to break it to you, Lisa but your man is taken. He’s hooked up with that lil hottie from that Soderberg flick.

LISA: The white girl?

ERIC: Not white, bright skinned. I, on the other hand am completely available and at your disposal. (Bows)

LISA: You let me know when you figure out how I can dispose of you.

ERIC: That’s foul, girl. You better get up on this while you have the opportunity.

LISA ignores Eric and sets the last of her condiments.

ENTER Brenda stage right a forty year old black woman and BAMBAM, a thick thugged out thirty something Latino man with dark shades pushing a tray filled with beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers of white lilies, orchids and banana leaves. After surveying the restaurant BRENDA smiles.

BRENDA: Looking good in here folks. Looking….(eyes the candle display on the table) Who was supposed to change the candles in the tea lights? The wick is down the table!

ERIC: (under his breath to Lisa) Slipping.

BRENDA eyes Eric.

LISA: I’m sorry, Brenda. I’ll get to it.

BRENDA: We gotta be on point guys. This is a big night for us.

ERIC: (eying the flowers) Hey Brenda, is somebody getting married or something?

LISA: (approaches BamBam’s arrangement) Brenda these are fabulous! Who made them?

BAMBAM: I did.

ERIC and LISA in unison: You?

BAMBAM: Y’all know Deuce Floral Designs?

LISA: Yeah

BAMBAM: That’s my shop. This one here is called “Lily of the Valley.”

BRENDA: BamBam is a best kept secret. Just something new to liven the place up. (looking at her watch) Speaking of which, the music for tonight is not here, and we need to get this place set up. Can you give him a hand and get these on the table? I got to make a phone call. (BRENDA exits, stage right)

LISA, ERIC and BAMBAM begin placing the arrangements on the table. LISA eyes BAMBAM who is carefully tweaking each arrangement to ensure it is perfect.

LISA: So what got you interested in flowers?

BAMBAM: You something you like, mami?

LISA: (blushing) I just--I want to go to school for interior design, and I love your arrangement.

BAMBAM: I actually went to school to be an auto mechanic, but my uncle was a gardener. He knew a lot about flowers. He used to take me across town to help him on these jobs, where the rich folks live to keep me out of trouble. I guess I just started liking it.

LISA: So, why they call you BamBam?

BAMBAM: Cause I make all the noise. (winks) That’s from my mechanic days.

Lisa smiles.

LISA: I see. You got a real name?

BAMBAM: You mean my government name? Emilio.

LISA: Well Emilio, what kind of arrangement do you do for birthday parties?

BAMBAM: Your birthday?

LISA: My grandmother, she’s celebrating her 90th next week. She’s real special to me because she’s kind of like a mom.

BAMBAM: She’s the queen, right?

LISA: Oh for sho’.

BAMBAM: My auntie is like that, too. Well, I’d probably do a lot of orchids, and hyacinth, a lil jasmine and lavender. (BAMBAM passes her his card) Give me a call, shortie. I’ll hook it up for you.

ERIC eyes BAMBAM jealously. BAMBAM completes his cart and EXITS. Eric finishes last arrangement then motions for Lisa to follow him DOWN STAGE. LISA follows.

LISA: We got to get this done, Eric.

ERIC: Um yeah I know, but, um, listen, I was just—I mean I was just wondering..”

LISA: Uhh, uhh Eric, I’m not covering the morning shift no more so you and your lil girlfriends can..

ERIC: (Interrupting her) Will you go out with me. (Eric pauses, uncharacteristically flustered.) I mean hang out, maybe, sometime? Look Lisa, I know we’re always clowning around, but I like you. I mean most folks here are just passing through but I know you’re going to be something.

LISA is silent.

ERIC: I know It hasn’t been easy for you with Jacari’s father and everything, but I’m a good man, Lisa, and I was hoping you’d think about it.

LISA is stunned, quiet.

ERIC: (smiles, embarrassed) Well, just think about it. (ERIC Exits.)

Without Asking (2004)

A clean cut hat and a million dollar smile
a folded bill in the hand of a nephew or cousin who was graduating on or moving up
"Here baby, this is for you."
He always remembered that they were family first
and family helps family
And although he had no children he had more than he ever knew
He always walked with his head up and like he was going somewhere even though the world probably told him that he wasn't a time or two

It didn't seem to bother him He never let a day go by without telling
God thank you

The praise tumbling from his lips and falling into new thirsty ears planted and watered by his example

Years later his carefully given words blossomed flowers of wisdom that grew up to touch the sun and he'd laugh a little in the way that only old southern men can because it is their way
Yes, Lord, that is their way.
Brought up by hand he wrote, not e-mailed Regal red brown hands wrote in a smiling sprawl letters to those close to his heart
And on the best of days he spent quiet sunsets looking into Irene's eyes and making sure she had warm socks for her feet
You never forget the things that people do out of love not wanting anything just giving everything just because that is their way

For Cousin Dessia By Michelle Milam

Did You Think (1995)

(for the battered)

What did you think I’d say
When you turned and walked away?
Did you think that I’d be lonely?
Longing for you and you only?

Did you think my eyes would sacrifice the pain?
Did you think that I would wait for you baby
On that runaway train?

For a minute did you think
When you took that second drink
That you could lay me down
Back flat upon the ground
Like a hound?

Longing for your kiss
Only to be dismissed---
Thinking I would stutter
Cauze you were the best thing since peanut butter?

Did you think that if you persisted
That your story would come untwisted?
Or that the lies you slathered quick
Would be one beguiling trick?

Was your cockiness a show
Just to let me know
That when it really all came down to it
I was just your… well, you know?

Did you think if you kept me hanging
That I’d even consider staying
That I’d forget about the calls
And stare up at the wall
While you justified your small

Did you really think I'd miss you
or I wasn't strong enough to resist you
or was it that you were just so good
you figured no real woman could?

Did you ever stop to ponder
that I may start to wander
that I don't like being treated bad
that I'm not your punching bag?

Did you think that if you showered me
With candy cards and flowers
That you could win back my affection?
Turn the tables in your direction?

What was going through your head
When you turn over in your bed
Suddenly aware
The spot next to you is bare?

Did you believe that the excuses
Will ever erase the bruises
Or that sex money and flowers
Will substitute dark hours?
Do you feel that humiliation
Would keep me in my place and
If that didn’t to the trick
You’d shut me up with one good kick?

Can sweet apologies on the phone
Repair a broken collarbone?
Or a night without the kids
Heal my broken ribs?
Did telling me you loved me
Make up for all the time you shoved me?
Or maybe you thought that if you kissed me
I’d forget you hit me?
Was crying like the clown
Supposed to break me down?

Did you think that I was so desperate that I wouldn’t have you arrested?
Have you thrown in jail
And let you rot in there?
Did you think it didn’t hurt that when I looked at my reflection
I saw dirt?
That I thought that I should die--
Commit suicide ?

I could not understand
That this was the way that love would end
And when I think back to beginning bliss
I never thought it come down to this

But my depression was episodic
You’re the one that was psychotic
Did you really think it would be long before I’d be gone?
Contrary to what you thought
My life is too precious to be bought
Nobody’s worth 14K gold
And pride can’t be bought and sold

So I’m leaving without a trace
With my self respect in place
And you cannot understand what happened to your plan
Stay muddled in your confusion
Can’t see through your illusion
Cauze no matter what you say
My life is worth yours any day

Invitation to a potential rapist (2001)

Who are you? No really.
come inside.
Let’s put on a pot of tea.
You don’t know me.
I’m not one of the UNCF poster children
that smile sweet banana leaf grins
across a reflecting television screen
I am Maya Angelou’s stern Grandmother voice
“Baby, what would you know about love?”
I am the voice that loved you before you knew love

Would you like some more sugar with your tea?
So tell me what is it that you do?
I only ask because
you look fine decent and upstanding
Most women wouldn’t
mind you touching them on their backs as
you escort them across a street
or protectively help them into cars
never knowing where that car will take them

It takes them not into back alley ways
or vacant lots
although you have been known to keep company there on occasion
You’re the renaissance everyman from everyland
In every hallway of every high school on
Every corner of every parking lot
you piece in well in the quilt of blue and black slacks
racing down corporate commuter routes
man next door
the boy down the street
the hooper, the student, the father, the doctor

I see you in the thick plush seats of movie theaters
where she plays footsies with you
on a sticky gray floor littered with bright yellow popcorn

You smooth talk bar flies with
healthy helpings of dapper drinks
as you caress young ladies hands
Sometimes you’re even her man

But are you a rapist?

Oh did I offend you?
Please don’t take offense.
Because although I could qualify that question
with a
I-know-that-every-man-is-not-a-rapist or a potential rapist
I can’t say that every woman who is raped is
given the same option

And I say this not because I buy the myth
that brown men are beasts predisposed to be rapist,
because rape is not a color, it is an act
And I believe that you are human enough to
formed every time a woman must ask herself the silent question

Are you a rapist?

You say No that like it is somehow
a foreign word to you.
like saying it would be like lying to yourself
“No,” is a foil inserted obtrusively in your self-conception
a penetrating grain of sand that irritates the man you think you are in your mind
but yet the irritation for most of you
is no bigger than the pea in the princess’s feather pillow

You say no like you never heard
your boy talking about how he used to
run trains on girls in his mama’s basement
and kick them out because he had to be in church on Sundays

You say no like you never thought
the girl
down the block
likes it rough because
because she’s thick and you heard she let them hit it from behind
any anyway, all the brothers watch every inch of her ample cheeks moving
while she is pushing a baby stroller
You say, “No”
like you never hung with the boys
talking about scandalous females are especially
who lie on ballas just to get some money
to get all up in his pockets

You say no like you never walked away from sex
and heard that strange soulless silence
the kind that only comes from a death
vaguely thinking
why did she just lay there the whole time?

Nah, that wasn’t you right?
Who would do some messed up stuff like that
poking the eyes out of pretty petunias
and spilling petals on the ground?

So what if you didn’t check your friend?
That doesn’t make you capable of being a rapist does it?
That doesn’t make you an accomplice in to the fact?

If it was your sista your mama, your daughter
you would pummel him, obliterate him
Him who tried to defile what was related with you
But even Titus killed Levinia,
his raped and silenced daughter
after defending her honor
Because the sheer sight of her reminded him of his impotence

Because although we all loved Pac
and he said he didn’t do it
he himself admitted to standing by and watching
as a group of men
raped not a white girl
a sista
no, your sister

Because when it was your sister they didn’t even ask her name.
I said, they didn’t even ask her name.

But every rapist has a name
besides rapist, don’t they?
So I ask
Who are you, really?

Are you willing to view your human sisters
as more than just a hole in the wall
whether you think she’s high class or a hoochie
Are you willing to view her as something more than
an accessory, a challenge, a force to be subdued?
Are you willing to be polite enough to be rude
and say naw dawg
that ain’t never cool?
Are you willing to do more than be sorry
when it isn’t
your sister
your girl
your mama
swimming out there in that ocean
Maybe remove the grains of doubt from your minds
until we create shores
that we can actually walk upon?

Or is that too much
Too much that has been taken
too many have been silenced
too many sisters have had their broken bodies
used as makeshift mortuaries
some man’s inner lust for
an ill perceived notion of manhood
she couldn’t be a human, a woman, and a face because
he couldn’t be a man
without being on top of her

take this cup of tea my love
because I say it not with malice
but with certain words
I say it because some day, some woman may cower in the corner
lift up the hem of her shirt
pull out a .45 and shoot you
without you even understanding why
I say it because God made you
to move beyond the moon and be far greater than your small crater
so I’m asking you to climb out
and ask yourself that uncomfortable
Who are you?

The Table (2004)

Just as inside my father’s house there are many rooms
there are many spaces inside me
set aside and alcove and covered and open
some cluttered with things
others stripped bare
and other still simply dressed

I have prepared a table for you
I have dressed my devotion with olive leaves
myrrh and frankincense as a centerpiece
I have molded and glazed white china by hand

My space is not an island
or a lake
nor a valley so descended
that no man could swim it
it is a good meal for the hungry heart

This preoccupation with empty space
stays on my mind
keeps me up at night
wondering if you are safe
if you got home alright tonight.

You come to me so gently and easily
your smile a single brush stroke in the beauty of the man
created, not requisitioned
you come to me like a prevailing wind
a gentle rush in the ear
the simple weight of your hand
like west wind into a cavern
causes my heart to become full and breathe back
I stumble in my fear only because of your promise
lush with possibility
your budding love green and growing
against the ruddy landscape is too close
to a heart that has been tilled too many times
and gown infertile

I remember past lovers like rivers that seemed to be headed for the ocean but
somehow were absorbed in the rock and sand
But as I skip these mental rocks across the water
they sink bottom
Indeed, large oceans are shallow pools with you

And I have been here before
a thing of ritual
a thing that you do only because you are preoccupied
with other things
small mundane things-- and you want the meal without the bill?

This pea shaped thought
is my irritant,

And so I deal silently with the truth
never wanting to be a habit
but simply, loved.

My idealism causes me
to turn over and over in my bed
missing the your smell
filling my space
with possibility that
rises like aching mother’s bathwater
or new breasts before bras.

My idealism
keeps me occupied
keeps me working late
keeps me telling bedtime stories to myself
reminding myself that this time is different
in a thousand different languages of disbelief
1001 tales of faith I lull myself to sleep with
stories I say to save my life

I could say I don't want you here
messing up my decor, eating what you did not grow or cook.
but that would be dishonest
so perhaps it would be more honest simply to say
I need you to recall your resolve with the same bold voice
you used that day you looked me in the eye and said
"It would be hard for any man to give you up.”
I need you to decide if
your small newfound swaddled kisses
will find rest in the cradle of my neck
I need you to sit or walk away
I need you to be a man
even if you can’t be mine

Because you have awakened a gentle reigning longing inside me
that collects on my lofty absurd platitudelullabieslulling on young ears
Until I am covered by drops of you
until I am warm with a rush of spirit
the kind you get when you ride a bike for the first time on your own
without the training wheels

But we all must fall.

We all nurse tender wounded knees
not knowing which hurts more, the fall or the wound
neither knowing the answer nor understanding the question.

I am wholly convinced
in a way that no
sane black woman should be
that I have given you
me because I am mine to give
and yours to receive

I have prepared raisins to refresh us
insurmountable landscapes

The drink of
spans sky spaces
The question
sits in an empty chair
heavy, wounded, and full
for the response

Of Gardens and Garlands (2005)

I hear you walking in the garden
you are calling my name
calling me naming me for what I cannot see
You tend sweetly to the flowers you have sewn
they are not trampled by
harsh footsteps
of the evil one
but tended with your grace
we are clothed in your promise, Lord
you rain down upon us
gentle and slowly
giving us green leaves
that we never knew we had
you plant us in the tender soil of your Word
your Spirit of Truth
You send the gentle shepherd
to watch over us
All of the flowers of the Lord drink from the
river of life
flowing and sweet
it curves to the shape of the earth
and all who hear You rejoice
at the sounds of Your footsteps
Oh Lord How I love you
How I love the way of Your walk
I desire to be nothing more than like David
who was called a Man after Your own Heart
I just want to dwell in your peace
be tended by your gentle hands
be guided by your righteous love
to grow in your sight

your promise
existed before I had breath
before we had laws
it cannot be destroyed and altered
this tattered garment of humanity
despite sin’s scissors

Today Lord I bask in your grace
and yet still I stumble from weariness
and tired feet
Yet you offer me living water to quench my thirst
and wash
my soles

Today you have prepared me a gown of
brilliant yellow
the color of the sun
so bright that all who see it quiver

For you promise
undeserved and unmitigated
is true
and lasts
even with that which
moth eats
time yellows
and age corrupts

You are the true God

the savior of an unholy people
soiled in their own sorrow
bloodied by their own barrenness
their violence is against their own soul
and they sell their bodies to the highest bidder

and yet you have redeemed them
repurchased them with your Love
and still they shun you

oh how long suffering you are

Because even the most righteous among us
cannot imagine the great things God will give those who love him
and they stumble on their own garment
but you have clothed even the repented harlots and hustlers
in white
and removed the scarlet ribbons which bind their neck and feet
you have taken the brier crown
and the thistle headpiece from the sinner
and crowned the saint
so that saint may redeem sinner
and sinner may become saint

You have denied us nothing, Father
You have dealt with us as Sons and called us Daughters by our names

and yet we not only lack faith to move mountains
our faith cannot even move mouths

but still you are patient
d kind

you make Your way for those who have lost their way
and they are contented
you comfort those who are sick with their sorrows
and sing psalms of bitter blues
you coat the lips and mouth with palpable honey
you provide manna for the murderers
grace for the repented golddiggers and graverobbers

Yes Lord, you have been merciful and kind
to the worrisome ways of the wicked
and allotted the rod for their own good
you have shown their idols to merely be dust
dust that will not help them
and will in fact mingle with them in the grave
yet in spite of our sin
those who rely on
You may sing a new song
they are wrapped in
white crisp righteousness
may be comforted by the robes of the One
who alone is clean
and pure and

Let every thing that has breath praise you my God,
the most high

Cotton candy blues (1997)

(spoken word)
I got the blues like cotton candy
and trust me, things ain't all that dandy
you gon' need a hearing aid to try to understand me
much like those glasses you'll be needing for your eyes
cause you can't see it like shoes with a hole
worn like Jordans to the soul
cause possession got four "s" es in it an I say all them catches be mine
for you sneak inside my soul
try to put some fruit loops in my bowl
and take every last drop of the milk down to the last drip
you better be careful before you ellipse and slip
as you be do'woppin' like a corner quartet
smooth talking out that hornet's nest
picnic basketing my love
only to die....to sleep...ah that's the rub
because sugar, cotton candy blues iced with spice
ain't what lil girls these days is made of, aiight?
See you can't just think love with kool aid and gin
rosary bead it and hog tie it then
expect it is gonna run again, Finnegan
like a V-* engine with four wheel suspension
it is all contingent
on my free will
on my freedom
I'm free from love that's fast and passe
looking better from far away
like a Monet
shallow yet aesthetic kind of love
But you still could be the one I'm dreaming of
and man I wish you would stop all that wheeling and dealing
cotton love that's got me feeling
like I'm carbon popcorn on the ceiling
passion fruit lips I found so appealing
are like cotton candy when in your mouth it fades away
and I just wish you could stop
and ask
my name
for once
and stop all that caramel apple totem'
busting sugar shots and steady hopin'
you could teach me somethin' 'bout devotion
cauze you're giving me a toothache, love
and when I rinse my mouth out after meals I don't eat again
I said, when I rinse my mouth out after meals I don't taste the treat again

Sunday, January 29, 2006

the pimpstress(1993)

I included this to remind me of my progression from my formative poetry. I think I was feeling angry at all the gangsta rap alpha male music so popular at the time...either that or too many foxy brown movies...

she wuz a crazy woman
they all said
one kiss of her lips
would leave a brotha sho-nuff dead
catwalk, sidewalk, elevator, thighmaster
left your little fella on "e"
and your mindset on laughter
if pleasure was the treasure that the girl sold all day
then she sold sho'nuff to be nickednamed payday
then out of the woods
this brotha stood
waiting and able to see if the fable
was all good
pimp daddy
pimp daddy can try your wares?
yes daddy, I'm all yours she said
and the pimp thought he was in there
she's just a trick thought the pimp
i'll play her like some cards
thought that she was poision but she ain't too dang hard
Never underestimate a woman's magic all u men
cauze he started screaming mercy mama when she hit the skins
walk that walk
baby talk that talk
Thought we'd be together forever? Thought that I'd be yours, she said
as she handcuffed his hands to the post of the bed
and proceeded to kiss his lips his thumb
and made him (hum)
till kingdom come
then kissed him with her shiny gun
and watched his lips quiver and tears run
You must be insane, he said, you must be insane
Insanity she said baby is my middle name
and so the very next day the obituary read
another dumb brother caught slippin by a pimpstress
and now is sho'nuff dead.

forever (1989)

I see you
I see you
of sadness
I watch you
go through
would it help east the pain
If I gave you love
or would it deepen the rain
to say I love you because
grief is a feeling
and death isn't real
and love isn't enough to say how you feel
but I'll be here beside you
because I am
your mother
your sister
your daughter
your man
your wife or your lover
your child or your friend
I see you
the end

(2006) reflection upon the ten year anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur

I didn’t know him. Never met the man.
But his music reminded me.

Ten years ago, the summer after graduation.
I still believed in love at first sight
still went to movies when they first came out
and thought that $100 was a lot of money
I was listening to the radio
watching long lean spindly legs shake the hardwood floor
of the large room at the community center where I was working
Then one of the girls said
I just talked to my cousin. I heard that Tupac is dead.
She was crying
if not for him, but for others like him who were nameless.

I didn’t know him. Never met the man.
But his music reminded me.

El Cerrito High
August 1994
ten years into the crack epidemic
but working our way to upward mobility
I was
hanging with my fifteen year old girlfriends
back from summer vacations
filled with part time jobs, first boyfriends
weight loss and makeovers
attempting to live up to the dream
of being the women
that made the hormone high gender enthusiasts
shudder., stop, and take shelter
from a single look
while dealing with the reality of being
a scared sophomore trying to swim
in an ocean that is two feet deep
and not touch bottom
“Shhh…loose lips sink ships.”

I didn’t know him
Never met the man. But his music reminded me.

His music reminded me
of listening to “Brenda’s Gotta Baby” bumping in our rooms
reminding me of Rosemarie
who told me with a matter of fact voice
that she gave birth to a baby at eleven
that died in her arms
that wasn’t in her adoption records
that her foster mom didn’t know about
that was the “cutest thing in the world.”

I didn’t know the man
Never met him
but his music reminded me

a starry night at the shoreline
the summer before his death
and a fist love
sharing secrets
in a rustling wind
and the meandering meanings
of dear mama
that floated higher than the crest of the waves
lingering long after they’d gone away
the darkened room
there is a love song, and then, another song
“You need a thug in your life, cause n*ggas ain’t loving you right”
long before I made the decision to remain a virgin until marriage
when I was looking for validation
tender touches
and looks that said
you are wanted

I didn’t know him. Never met the man.
But his music reminded me.

After his death, when I took theater
our class listened to Hail Mary
still captivated by this man who seemed to defy the death sentence
so aggressively rendered against him
Two beyond theater as college students flocked in a crowded class room
and took the first Tupac Shakur Class
and studied his work in a revolutionary abstract academic
that danced like ink on paper
wetted by rain and wind
theorizing the philosophy of “Ride or Die.”
that separated so many of us
from the fate of our contemporaries

We wondered
who this enigma
of music and poetry
of love and hate
and duplicity
would be if he were not murdered

who would we be
if a generation of our peers
had managed to escape the fate of green fields and black earth
too early

but it wasn’t until seven years later
when we had surpassed the magic number
25 black and still alive
with college degrees
and no babies
did the words of a friend resonate clearly
“I used to be so into that. But now when I think back on it, it seems so stupid”

We have lived to see the luxury of self reflection

and yet
ten years later
his voice calls to us
reminding us
of who we were

Faith that Moves Mountains (2005)

I asked God for more faith
He gave me challenges
and told me to walk through them

American Centerfielders (On the Cusp of Election 2000)

Look, baby. It’s the wanna-bee purple people lovers
Picking pretty promises
Before fall

They breathe in each other (ah mintily refreshing)

And wander
Lust on
The ripeness of a new-democrat party animals
and compassionate conservatives

They are Dream
In the Rye

And after all, “Imagine” is a song sung by a dead man, right?

How beautiful

Are they, as they
Dance in the eye of the storm


Sure shot

With moderate half-truths.

Swing votes hey-batta, batta
No! Right! NO!
Center it,
Good, now aim

Mr. President!
It is time for Bush, the sequel.

yes those wanna-bees (buzz) kill.
who still believe
centralized intelligence
rainbow coalitions
for the people, but not with them

a chicken
nugget in every pot


under every rock
you crawl from under
there is a BIG, BLACK voting BLOCK
Trick or treat!

Will justice
Ever come when sally walker doesn’t have the fare to
Ride the freedom bus ‘til her feet are blistered
Meanwhile Michael Jordan
The love boat ashore
cashing in dividends
From corporate captains
“We’ll just have to find another ten year old
who can appreciate thirty cents an hour!”

But on the flipside
Those church going In God WE Trust wanna-bees
Who in the Hell Left The Dollar Bill Gates
Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord!
Jesus Saves Tech Stocks!

Hey you know what would really sell?
Put Puff Daddy’s public enemy
“One, One, One”
On the best sellers list so that everyday America can think
Everybody is living la vida loca
Like me and Mrs. Jones!
But of course WE feel your pain,
We cried you a river
By the way,
You can swim,
Jamal ,Joey, Jun ,Juanita!
You ghetto- “fabulous
Cant you?

Hey, Is that your final answer?

Convicted of first degree
murder for
a Higher
Power than the People
this election year.

New world order
Be quite the same without them

BUT WE fought a poor man’s war
In sprit
Hand washing the left
We performed middle class miracles
Let no child be left behind
hand washing the left
in the belly of the BUSH
Right hand washing the left

Performing Non-Partisan Sideshows
………with Negroes!
While Chanting
No more GORE in Hollywood

Yes I’m sick of being stung by those wanna-bee blood suckers
Former right, left-wingers
With broken stingers
Who think
that I don’t know
a caged truth from a free lie

Daughter of Jacob (2005)

I always seem to be battling with
the enemy in that lies in waiting
the enemy that lies in waiting
wrestling an enemy that I cannot see
in the vineyards
late into the evening
covered in purple stains
that match my heart

Struggle (2005)

Sojourn on, solider
War on, warrior
because this is a battle that began before
we started
an our moment is only one
of many

Things Unsaid (June 2002)

Monica Stewart "Embracing Keys"

I have no idea why I am here
I’ll have you know my intentions were
just to
I didn’t expect that I would feel this
comfortable, relaxed.
Here at your house after a hundred
and one nights of refusing to come
creating clever excuses like Sharazad
made up stories to save her life,
I’m here in your bed hoping you’ll save my childhood fantasies
Is this where you wanted me?

I’m ignoring
the strange hunger
of wanting to be filled,
that is simply satisfied by your hug

I’ve been in love
It doesn’t conquer all; it doesn’t even make you a more than conqueror
I’ve spent many a nights longing
my portion of sour poisoned love until the bite drained
The man I loved,
like all the others, left before he came
But you already know that
And you and I are just friends
And we talk so easily
And I don’t want to be here just because you’ve decided you are lonely

But here I am.
I in the poppy fields of your cologne
In the greenness of your arms
new like a fresh blade of grass
I feel the hunger of words without action
The soft jazz on the radio
the presence of music, and the absence of harsh light
which makes everything blur
I am scared to tell you what all women
tell men when they feel like this
That I could imagine one thousand and one nights of forever
like this
Getting drunk off your sleepy breath
as it creeps ever so lightly on my neck.
forgetting the wall that you so easily erect

Am I one of many a web of women
who unsuccessfully tried to scale you?
Are you intrigued by the fact that you are in a place no other men have been
to catch me in your web?

How can I tell you that at seven years old I used to listen to midnight love
Grown folks’ clich├ęs were my soulful syllables
singing of something mysterious that made mommies and daddies shut the door
I wanted to know what Luther and Regina were talking about
when then wailed that sweet plush in the middle wail
Back then
my precocious ears wanted to gulp down like an Otterpop
when I wondered
it would feel like
to share this kind of night
warm, sweet, thick and like the back of your neck
with a man like you
How can I tell you that when you hold me closer
and kiss my neck it is like your lips are reading my thoughts
your lips are speaking to me in a language I have never known
but still know like the secret words
of childhood
How can I tell you that I want you to know me,
all of me, invite you to test the waters of part of me that few ever swim?
That I love you more than I ever loved him?

I am afraid of you
Afraid that I enjoy your changing moods
too much for my own good
Afraid because when I hear hurt in your voice
I want to kiss your silence
into speech
until at last I know
And just when I think I hear my fear echoing off my ears
I feel your breath against my neck and your lips are asking me back to
quiet moments a thousand and one days before
I even met you
with a curiosity that
is precocious and real today as it was then

I want to love you.

I want to kiss brown mango lips, so thick and sweet
I am tasting all your vulnerabilities

In this space I want to know you.
See the man behind the wall, if he is willing.
Move me. I’ll let you.

Anita Baker is
the night a dark shade of blue that rests on everything
including your sleeping face
which is unequivocally one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

I suck my lip hard,
my words behind my teeth,
my thoughts in the webs of my mind,
my emotions under my skin
before my
my skin, my lips, my mind
end up betraying me
and I slip and say what
could come so easily form my smarting mouth
in this moment,
aware that moments, like the night, like jazz, fade ever so quickly

“it feels good to love you….inside……” Anita sings.

Tenth Grade Hormones (For My Tenth Grade P.E. Class) (2003)

I hate everything about our gym
I hate the way our clothes smell like deodorant
on top of unwashed shorts on top of perfume
I hate the way we dress so quickly and hide
our alleged litany of flaws:
stretch marks,
skinny legs,
fat legs,
big booties,
and non-existent boobs
I hate the quick-change routine; slip your PE shirt over you regular shirt,
the slip your street shirt
(through the head so nobody can look at you)
It isn’t until years later when I see white women
walking bare breasted and in the 24 hours fitness locker room
plopping freshly showered butts on benches
where everyone has to sit that I realize a truth;
I can appreciate how naively beautiful and tragic modesty is.

Today we take the president’s physical fitness test
we flunk the pull up test
cheat on the mile run
There are exceptions
There is the track star that looks
like she’s actually enjoying running
around the track eight times
The rest of us run at a tolerable pace,
slow down, then run again
Our outfits defy ugliness; they are an abomination
The only thing that may save them
from eternal damnation is
that they are on young,
healthy bodies

The boys endure the humiliation of wearing green nutters

They have to complete a five-minute run, not a twelve-minute one
We never did figure out why

After we’ve finished
everyone stands out on the little stoop
directly in front of the girls gym
moving and swaying semi developed bodies to R. Kelly
Before CD burners,
R. Kelly had a hit slow jam,
and somebody had a boom box and a tape,
We shook our booties
had no idea that our bodies had become red flags
explosive in this innocent moments
We listen to the seductive base
and the swaying melody
clapping our hands and talking
about what we are going to wear to the first dance of the year

The coolest girls are not
the smartest
or the nicest,
or even the prettiest,
but they are bold,
and uniform.

Brothas from corny to the Casanova-ish alike pursue the chase,
longing to for opportunity in girl woman form and
sweet as a now or later kisses
“Now that you’ve come around to seeing it my way,
you won’t regret it baby, and you sho’lly won’t forget it baby
Its unbelievable how your body’s calling for me

Las Vegas (For Papa) (2002)

I remember riding in the backseat of my grandfather’s Oldsmobile watching the smooth slickness of outer Las Vegas materialized
The ride that day began at six am
If nothing else people who grow up in the old south are timely
I am wearing cut offs
my suitcase is packed to the brim with shorts swimming suit
socks and a brand new night gown that wasn’t worn and frayed.
On the way down my grandparents listen to
KBLX until we move into the Central Valley and it fades out
Then my grandfather, or HA as he known to most, slips in a Brook Benton tape
My grandmother holds onto the clothes handle as we round the curves
I slip the walkman on my ears, enjoying the cool breeze from the air conditioner that my grandfather reluctantly turns on
when Gammo says,” It is hot in this car, old man.”

A city compared to Sodom and Gomorrah
amazes me
the outskirts look so pristine
It is hot, a hundred and seven degrees
yet an oasis of beautifully blue reflecting pools beckon in the distance
At times the sandy area to the left and right
of the world become a beautiful blurring shade of pink
as if even in the hot godforsaken place there is sanctity
I listen to Tone Tony Toni over changing landscapes
Dwayne Wiggins wails “ Treat you just like a queen and give you fine things…..”
It seems as if we are driving to the edge of the earth
with my grandparents in their old style country hats
my grandmother gripping the clothes hanger drive off into the sun
And then you see the lights
first a scattering like a smatter of freckles on a place face
and then an enormity of them
A few little washed up broken looking inns and taverns become and oasis of lights
The pink sand, the not real looking lagoons, fade and pale in comparison to the mock The Sphinx the lavish welcoming slew of gaudy looking signs
There is the sweetness of cotton candy in the air, and the smell of new money

Memory, Music, Motion (2005)

Names have escaped my memory
today’s to do list
left before it came
my past
is a song
that brings it all
back to me

Forgiveness of Things Past (2005)

In the world’s eyes
a fault indicates a rupture
the earth at war with itself
that breaks all we have built
but from every hot
fault springs new life needy, and eager
bridging the disconnect with something new
This is grace
looking beyond the fault
and seeing the need
Holding back nothing
I slip out of my self
and allow myself to see you
as God sees me
broken to be rebuilt

Uninvited (For the Wounded) (1997)

Note: I choose not to use cursing in any of my poems. This is the only one in which I do because it really is about an act, and not a word. I wrote this because one on every three women is or will be raped in her lifetime....

(For the Wounded)

he didn't ask
what my last name was
or where i was raised
or where my people came from
didn't ask me if i preferred blue notes over red ones
jeans over skirts
tea over wine
didn't ask me if i was subtle or blunt
if i was smiled in pictures
wrote in riddles
or what i wanted to name my daughter
didn't ask if I liked to be held tenderly
or if I wanted to soar above the world
but there, pearls mark the spot where my world was lost

he didn't ask me if i wanted to fuck.

he closed the door to his room
like a new casket
and poked the eye out of my flower
as i lay bleeding
fucking me
for all the things he didn't ask

The Wound (2005)

Spanning from hip to hip
lip to lip
only the scar remains

Bare (1998)

Seems like it always been this way
I scratch your back, you kick mine
you asleep in your bed, breathing rhythmically
while I slice my fingertips with freshly sharpened knives
And when we kiss, there is no saliva
only aspirin
lip balm
left over cheesecake

bare boned kisses

Is it good? you ask.
Be nice. All the world loves a smile.

someday I vow I am going to go out for milk
and never come back
But I always have to go out
filling empty shelves
buying in bulk
what spoils .

someday I will stop shaving the legs
that only show bruises
and looking into long stemmed mirrors with red eyes
fixing my face.

The Stoop (2000)

The actual "Stoop" was torn down when ECHS was remodeled in 2005

The Stoop
"for Sy"

As we

The Stoop seems smaller
Than we remembered
But then it always does when you are a
“Maybe we just got bigger”, the first love says leaning heavily against the New Car, “We have gained some weight.”

The irony of cycles.
(Later, he asks is the ring yours or did somebody buy it for you?)
I don’t know.
(Don’t worry about what I do.)
a conciliatory hug.

Yes we are Bigger butterflies, with bigger-better things to do
In-such-a-short- cycle.

We stand there numbering twelve
But one has gone on
Us: unfinished in between broken notes
Opuses of what?
Us: Bigger, heavier, handsomer, cockier
the rain bigger than us all, pelts us in our Sunday clothes
The STOOP, which is surprisingly unyielding, is made of stone

Let this body

I will always remember the red dress
No virginal white Victorian princess fringes

You can’t wear red, we said. That mess would be ugly.
Not if I’m wearing it, she stated.


Wore red when
Or dreaming
In odd apple shades.
We drank rose colored baptismal waters
Out of water fountains in the midst of the garden
Pricking our fingers on a misplaced thorn


The wedding cake, the party,
Full moon in June
And the red wedding dress
With wickedly beautiful insanely spinning
Is the kind you dream about
The kind of dream that makes you pinch yourself
praying you wake up
But then you go back to thinking
Visions of a sunset is really a nice theme for senior ball, isn’t it?

And commit

Yes, no wedding cakes,
No babies
No diploma
The diploma will sit in the ivory tower of academia
(That tower which was always chilly.)

But she is not unclaimed.

This sister

Was buried at Sunset Hills
The lowering is the strange thing
The spirit ascends
But the body is lowered.
The seven of us, sisters if not by blood, by bloodshed
A perfect line, body by body
Are still
Long after the body is lowered, and others start to move
The dirt is so accepting
In death.

We didn’t even know she had a boyfriend.
When they called and told us
We didn’t even know.
The red stained sheets she used to wrap herself
Scattered about the floor

To earth

The baby was born alive, Tashi says
The insurance didn’t cover the baby
It was in the casket, you just couldn’t see.

The patriarchy is not a pecking order
Yet here we are
are standing
On line
The indivisible number.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We are not made of stone.
We are named, and claimed by us.

What God brings together is holy matrimony
Let no man put asunder.

After, there is a change.
We put on our red dresses
And go dancing
In the rain
As we were born to do
And that is what she would have wanted.