first breath after nearly drowning

i remember being on the beach in Cancun once, just looking at the
onslaught of waves coming into shore. it was an overcast day, and
the lifeguard had just blown his whistle furiously to get one foolish
swimmer out of the water. to my left, there were two other people
from the hotel who looked out upon the waves in a somber way.
from what i could make out, someone had nearly drowned there
a month ago in choppy waves just like these. i thought about how
much of an ordeal that was, for both the rescuers and the rescued.
but mainly, i thought about how that person must have felt after
bursting through the surface, on the brink of being lost to this
world forever in the midst of crashing waves. how they must
feel…

and in some ways, i use that scenario to explore that plateau of
clarity i get after not being able to write for a while. yes, the
dreaded ‘writer’s block.’ for some of us in that craft, it’s a simple
obstacle, one that doesn’t cause too much of a problem. for others
though, it can be akin to drowning. you don’t know how you’ll
get past that first sentence. you may not know where to take
your character next. the original premise for your work may
make you feel like you’re going in aimless circles. and so, all
of the other doubts start piling up, crashing in on you so much
that it makes you feel like you can’t breathe. and it’s not until
you have that breakthrough that you feel whole, that you’re
energized. and everything starts to make sense again.

of course, this analogy does help in the art of writing. but it
also aids you in the art of life. from Dostoyevsky’s newfound
purpose after nearly being executed, to J.K. Rowling nearly
being totally destitute before her success with the ‘Harry Potter’
series, there’s a huge list of examples of people nearly losing
themselves, literally and figuratively before punching through
the surface and taking in the air of success and renewed joy.
few things are sweeter than that. if you find yourself in that
state, do all you can to punch through the surface. and make
that first breath the one to give birth to better ones.

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my own fortress of solitude

there’s moments when things get a little too dicey. where the voices
in my head and spirit get too accustomed to thinking that i prefer to
listen to them more than those familiar to me. especially when they
are laced with the residue of regrets and other toxins that need to be
removed from the body. in those moments, i need escape. and as
much as i’d like to be able to just hop a plane and vanish into the
midst of some tropical landscape, i’m not exactly there just yet. but
what i do have is something i think we all need to realize, create if
we don’t have it and revisit every so often.

if you’ve ever read comics, you know all about Superman and his
hideaway, his home away from home. his fortress of solitude. he
carved it out of a glacial plateau in the Arctic and kept all of his
treasures, relics and reminders of Krypton there. for me, it’s not as
secluded. and the only thing i keep there are memories and past
breaths. tears shed for various reasons. it’s a place where some of
my best writing saw fit to leave my blood and marry a page. it’s a
little spot people pass all the time and think nothing of. nothing
secret about it. it’s so much a part of the landscape that you’d be
forgiven in forgetting it was there. but that’s where i go. usually
when it’s very quiet, either early in the morning as dawn begins
to walk or at night when everything’s asleep but dreams. i sit and
hear the rush of cars zipping by. i let the breeze speak and tell me
what it is i need to hear, even if i don’t want to hear it. i’ve been
here when i had trouble in school, sadness over a woman, or
just plain felt despondent. i work the most important magic here;
the magic of self-determination.

so, i hope that in reading this, you recognize your own fortress
of solitude. realize that it’s necessary sometimes to have. and if
you need to create one, do so promptly and faithfully. because
we all need a home away from homes that are familiar.

wandering with a purpose.

i’ve been thinking a lot about this past year and a half. the ups
and downs. and the key word that comes to mind is, ‘wandering’. it’s
appropriate, but i now look at the recent past as doing so with a purpose.

why?

there’s a negative undertone with wandering. it suggests laziness,
a certain willful reluctance to deal with ‘real life’ as it were. i know,
point blank that’s NOT what i’m doing. i liken my situation to those
years of wandering in the desert that the Israelites did after leaving
Egypt. they needed that time to get right with themselves and God
before they could build their own nation. the same principle applies
with me. i realize that this time was necessary for me to take. i was
at a point where the hustle was bigger than anything, but i was losing
sight of the reasons why i was doing things. i got caught up in the
pettiness of work. i got lulled into thinking i was in the clear. i was
performing just like everybody else. and stifling myself in the
process.

i wasn’t even sure of myself at that point in the first place. it was
around this time 3 years ago that i just said, ‘f— it. i don’t need to
endure this anguish, this feeling of being loathed and being used.’
so i fixed in my mind that i was going to walk forward and define
myself…through hardship if needed.

and yes, it HAS been hard. it takes a lot to realize that you’re a bit
fractured at the seams. it’s difficult to see people having great points
in their life and at the same time, deal with other people saying, ‘i
thought you’d be at this point by now’ and other words that are
meant to mollify you but amplify the doubts you’re fighting. it’s
hard to strengthen old relationships, to create and nurture new ones.
because as much as people can circulate memes about being positive
and self-affirmation via email and Facebook and other places, half
of them could give a rat’s ass about actively living those sentiments.
and in this state of wandering with a purpose, you see it that much
more clearly.

it took this time for me to really wander BACK to me. that is, to
figure out how i got to this point and from here, progress better.
i think i’m more content now. sure, i’m out here struggling like
everyone else. but i think this period of wandering helped so much.
i got a chance to deepen my bonds with my parents. i lost weight.
got grey hairs of stress, but the silver truth of wisdom with them.
i’ve loved, lost, found love returned to me in different forms. i can
speak from the heart more freely now. my writing has grown as i
have. i had a conversation with a great friend of mine and his lady
last night, and i remember saying, ‘even in a curse there’s opportunity.’

and that’s how i choose to look at this time of wandering with a
purpose. however you choose to do so, do the same. wander back
to everything blessed you are and have yet to be. then the road
ahead doesn’t seem so troublesome.

graffiti along crescent ave. (30/30)

the mature woman from Gabon
slides up the length of the car
with boxes of batteries for sale
teenagers
laugh loud and curse freely
to hide the fact that their hormones
are still imprisoned
the butch girl leans in the corner
her sketchy fade worries her
across from me
a man reads the signs of the time in Urdu
pausing to clear his throat
to punctuate the teens’ sentences
and all the while
i note the voices
left in Krylon and marker
on the sides of buildings
matching the intensity of the subway along the tracks

a song of honey and home (29/30)

*for brownin*

it is here
in these words conjured
through darjeeling steam
and the crispness of an April morning
that i realize
you are a song of honey and home
verses written
from your life
told in a voice composed of nag champa and gold
and i listened
greedy for more
as your song reached the temple of my heart
and compelled the cracks in the walls
to fill themselves
the tender music you are
sweeping its way in on laughter and orchid petals
yes
i believe you to be that song
that teaches wind to move
and has possibly become
the harmony my own music needed

evening blanket (28/30)

this ceiling
made up of prayers and light
looks like
that blanket i had
back when i was six
and back then
you couldn’t have told me
flight was beyond my reach
even though mom wouldn’t let me cross the street
my blanket and i
would cut a rug across the stars
it kept me invisible
during those moments of yelling
and hurt that stung as it crested my chin
this evening sky
reminds me of a childhood security
only the memories live
past tattered fabric

dollar bottles at the liquor store (27/30)

some days
i feel like the sky
waits for me to stop sobbing
swabs the hollows in my spirit
and uses those blues for evening wear

incomplete women
dancing in weekend specials from lingerie stores
caress everywhere
except the broken parts
they’ve got enough blood they’ve spilled

yes
there’s gold waiting for me on the horizon
but like the old man in Peter Pan i forgot to fly
and i’m here with this rum
trying to melt the frost of fear off my wings

a word about the brother at Ralph Avenue (26/30)

silence
is a tourniquet tied hastily
for wounds we give each other
with boxcutters for eyes
and the sneer rising in voices
like nine in the morning steam
from mugs
there’s some of us who see them
a lost Black battalion of brothers
hurting with closed fists
bullheaded in china shops
with lousy credit
trying to shout down
this feeling of melanin misery
live long enough in these streets
and you’ll sport your own cuts