when poems are keepsakes

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a writer can wonder
if the words they’ve given to someone they once loved
last as long as intended

do they sit on tables
out of close reach, greeted only by sunlight
and maybe, watered by the eyes

are they locked up in
shoeboxes, their vigor held in store
with the memories of so many others

do they come out to play
in the onyx hours
and add their perfume to the breezes they contain

or do they become ink
that stitches itself in the skin
permanent even into the next world

this is why writers don’t give their words lightly

national poetry month: overwrought rails

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so, it’s National Poetry Month. admittedly, while i’ve been writing
poems, it hasn’t been every day as in the past. i’ve had to deal with
growing work piles, a quickie health situation that meant an ER
visit out of precaution and other stuff. but over the past couple of
days, i’ve found that the words were waiting for me. waiting to
step forth into the sunlight. so, here’s one entry. to those taking
part in the festivities, may your pen flow as free as your heart.

8/30

copper and iron
knit electricity above
a doctor once told me to think of
the heart as a railway junction
words that skip rope from a far off room
as i try to sleep
connected to a monitor
that speaks in medical morse code
a woman next to me
cries out the “Our Father”
as nurses try to comfort her
my eyes flicker
and see another train disruption
on the battered TV above
and i think of those words again
and also
some old myth
of dictators making trains run on time
while sowing death and doubt
maybe what’s wrong with us all
is that we tend to forget
trains don’t always run on time
and hearts do earn their cracks and splits
just like overwrought rails

the standing eight count

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the eyes
can’t make the lines sharp
you feel your blood trying to speak certain words
that you can’t at the moment
a frantic conversation that makes your heart
an interpreter who’s about to lose their sense of speech

the blow
comes to your abdomen
frenzied but deliberate; the skin snaps
you gasp and find your legs have become blades of grass
in the midst of a sudden breeze
and it is all you can do to not fall

that was the dark hours of Tuesday
that was the hours of government gone reality show
that was the uppercut
they waited for for eight years
and so we are here
bruised battered and listing

the standing eight count
is the time where one either fights like hell
or sleeps and comes out of the other side
not the same – maybe never
the standing eight count
is blood for the ravenous

the standing eight count
is where the only refuge
is the corner or through your opponent
and it is where one has to say
to tyranny, bigotry, and all of the other demons
“you can’t hit for shit.”

the floorboards’ chatter

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when there are quiet moments
floorboards
are the interpreters
for the heart’s voice we clothe from the world
save for a few

i think of you
or rather, think of being with you
barefoot and swaying in each other’s arms
wearing t-shirts, the golden apple glow of autumn
and no regrets

the floorboards
creaking slightly beneath us, sighing
as another story writes itself in gentle steps
from rug to rug and from easy smile to easy smile
they hold fast and give

much like i imagine
we would
and so i hear my own floorboards
echo this hidden talk from my heart
as i grab coffee and write what i have yet to say

to you

another tragic summer(words for Alton and us)

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Alton Sterling. 

i’m really just pouring everything out here, so i hope that you
read on with that in mind.

it has become all too common, if you are Black and Brown and
in between, to wake up weary. to wake up with a dread in your
stomach that is both repelling and familiar. i had already been
on my way to what i hoped was sleep last night when i spotted
the news about Alton Sterling’s murder in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
i saw the video, and wished i hadn’t. the next few minutes on
Twitter were numbness, anguish and a cold fury. another brother
trying to do something to just make it. just to live. selling CD’s.
again, CD’s. and he was targeted, taken down and ruthlessly
snuffed out by two officers of the law. the pat rollers of old turned
new. and so this morning, i went out in a semi-daze to go pick
up Pops from the train. the entire way, i thought about Alton
Sterling. and couldn’t help but think about Eric Garner. i thought
about Garner and couldn’t help but think about Sandra Bland.
and so on, and so on and realizing that once again, the cannibalistic
cancer of racism that has been fed by the system is in place. i
thought about my boy Levar’s brother Kyle, who was brutalized up
in East Harlem while on his job by NYPD officers. mainly, i kept
thinking about brother Alton and his family. his children, and
what they have to be feeling right now.

i saw the hashtags. i saw the tweets, the status updates on Facebook.
i’ve seen the range of emotions and viewpoints from deep sadness
to anger. i had to sit, let things simmer within me. when i met Pops,
i had to give him the rundown. here is where i hope you allow me a
quick sidebar. my father has been on this blue marble we call Earth
80+ years. from Jamaica to the States to Canada back to the States
again. telling him about Sterling set his face into a grim mask, one
that wound up displaying what he felt in his brushes with this uniquely
American cancer. “they must think this is a sport.” he said as we
got onto the Long Island Railroad to head back home.

a sport, indeed.

one cannot sit there and feel it is a coincidence that Alton had his life
taken a day after the nation celebrated 240 years of existence, a holiday
that is difficult for those excluded from the original documents of
declaration. it’s not a coincidence that in eleven days from now, we
are two years removed from the murder of Eric Garner out on Staten
Island. both men’s deaths were caught on video, and seen the world
over to the point where it became like watching a sporting event. in
a way, such has been these instances of stolen lives being caught on
camera. the near pornographic gluttony exercised through voyeurism.
the retweets of the video clip. the re-posting on Facebook. the news
networks now playing it in full. only took them 8 hours. put this hand
in hand with the barrage on social media and it is overwhelming for
anyone. i got caught up and retweeted the clip myself in a daze and later
deleted that tweet. because violence and murder that’s state sanctioned
like this doesn’t need that extra validation and normalization to prove
its existence. simply put, the apparatus in place does not give one
solitary fuck. this IS sport to them. think about how many police departments
have been exposed in the past year alone for racist chatter and emails.
it’s a sick game to those who you may know as well. your co-worker.
your partner’s family members. neighbors. they might be creating and
passing around horrid memes about Alton Sterling right now on forums like
Reddit and posting it on FB for shits and giggles. Even on LinkedIn.
or going after people on any social media platform with disparaging
words about Alton Sterling to dehumanize him further. bringing up
other past events in an attempt to silence, to oppress.

yeah, i’m weary.

weary. weary of another long hot summer where a city will burn under
the exposure of the pus-filled and vile underbelly that the cancer of
racism is.

i also am dismayed because i see that there is also a disturbing undercurrent
of those who you would believe would be helping to organize the bolder
and stronger resistance in-fighting. or taking the moment to get into
“respectability politics” mode which is as bad as the “All Lives Matter”
crowd who tend to pop up like raw external hemorrhoids when a murder
like this happens. hashtag activists who will shit on those doing the actual
inglorious work of documenting what social justice work is taking place to
combat the system, shit on those providing safe space and help towards
self-care and mental health because it doesn’t fit some heroic “fight the
Man” elemental fantasy that they believe revolution is. or even those who
will hop into hashtags and social media posts just to get a rep or be noticed.
and the ever-faithful cynics. to quote from John Oliver Killens’ “The Coalition”,
“they are not the revolution.”

i say all that to say this:

if you are committed to not being silent about Alton Sterling’s murder, and
all of those who have become stolen lives all over this  land, truly
committed…it means that you must amplify your voice. show solidarity to
those who protest. donate to social justice groups you know that will put that
work in. have the talks with those who may not be as willing to be that
involved. don’t shame others who have to step away from constant mention
of the tragedy because its triggering. it IS triggering for a great deal of people.
also, take the time to decompress and get your self-care if you need to.
try to avoid trolls and those back and forths on social media with craven
supporters both conscious and subconscious of the system. avoid any and
all opportunists. parents, godparents…if you have children that ask you the
hard questions, i pray you have the strength to answer them as best you
can with love and protection and wisdom. artists, write your poems, paint
your canvasses, sing with a million tears in your voice. check in with your
people, see how they’re keeping when you can. it may not seem like much,
but it is all vital and important. keep your peace, but channel
your rage into effective means to prepare for this war that has been waged
upon our bodies for centuries before there was a Louisiana or America. be
on guard even more so now, because summer in America has always been a
season of carnage that has been inflicted on black and brown people. this
just didn’t begin with Mike Brown and Ferguson. hell, Alton Sterling was
killed while selling CD’s. angry whites destroyed Tulsa’s Black Wall Street.
these wanton killings are to appease the cancer of racism that’s fed by a fear
that “their way of life will be extinct.” a fear that “we’ll take over.” that the
days of white mediocrity as standard are dwindling. that the prisms used to
cause the illusions are rapidly splintering apart. and to those friends, allies
and even family members through marriage who are white – practice the
method brought forth by sister Kayla Reed of OBS St.Louis:
A-always center the impacted
L-listen and learn from those who live in the oppression
L-leverage your privilege
Y-yield the floor

yes,we are all weary.
we are human, arguably more so than the wolves who commit
these acts “in the name of _________”.

we are Black, magical and real. and still.fucking.here. and we’ve proven we won’t go quietly into the night before. we’re not going anywhere.

it is another river to cross in another long, hot summer that some want to choke
us out of being. but we will cross it. we will do it for Alton, who was just a brother
trying to live out here as we all are as well as all the other sisters and brothers
young and old that have been taken from us like this.

thank you for reading and being present. walk good.

 

old comics and some worry

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(Photo credit: The Urbnite)

faded panels of comics that comforted me
when I was eleven
sit between my fingers
not trying to pay attention to the taiko drums
that tend to only want to play when I rest

you wonder
if this is what your parents sipped from
as you slept back then
that the baggage their eyes carry now
was so you didn’t have to pack as much

but still
we travel heavier than we need to
and when I look at the eyes of my mother
and the eyes of my father
there is pride, love and their own fears

that I’ve begun to sip that too-long oolong tea
of worry
and that I have stopped packing light
so I thumb through old comics and constant prayers
hoping that they aren’t right

head rush at 2:45 a.m.

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asking what composes
the music of my post-midnight madness has been
the past week and a half
is akin to attempting to play a trumpet
underwater

i suppose
it’s all the times that i should’ve listened
to my fears in the past
walking back and gripping my shoulders
like relatives who’ve traveled many miles

the blood is sensitive
singing underneath my skin
like altos in Sunday choirs with no fans
and you wonder where sleep is to be found
as minutes drag the sunrise from its bed

asking what anxiety
comes before one sleeps
is to shine a mirror into the corners of your spirit
untouched
hoping that you can meet the gaze

The Refined Power of Patience Through The Eyes of Elders

MidnightTrail_adventures_IlichPeters

It’s been a minute since my last post, and Christmas is
almost upon us(for those who celebrate). High time for
a bit of real rap to share with you…

Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that patience
is power refined. Even when it doesn’t look like it. Patience
is something we all have, but some have made it a gift to
themselves. And others…not so much. The “cool” thing
now is to dismiss exercising patience, to throw it to the side.
The thing is, as I’ve said before – look at who and where you
see that suggestion coming from. If it’s a source that would
gain from your impatience, from you being irrational, don’t
pay it any mind. If it’s from a source that could stand to exert
a little patience in their own lives or situations, work on your
own stuff.

For me, I had to re-learn the value of patience in dealing with
the fact of having both my parents enter their senior years.

It’s a hard thing to see your parents age. It doesn’t matter if
it is a fact of life. Your parents are the bridge from one world
to this one. Especially your mother. Now, for those who know
me more personally, they know that my mom gets called “the
most righteous woman I know.” This woman has done so much
in her years that I can only hope to accomplish a third of. And
as she gets older, I see and hear the frustration she encounters.
I hear her talk about her various aches and pains. The soreness
in her knees from surgeries. The recurring pain associated with
her bulging discs. I’ve heard the despair in her voice. It rips at
me. At times, she will ask me for my advice. Sometimes, that
will be more than once. It’s as if she doesn’t trust herself, or
wants to go on auto-pilot. I will listen and offer my opinion, but
then it becomes a back and forth. Which will leave me a bit
frustrated. Being that I am a bit demonstrative with my emotions
more, it shows. Once she asked me, “why are you losing patience
with me?” after I was trying to help her with something on her
computer. The question made me stop. It was a tone of wonder,
but of sadness. I uttered a quick apology, helped her and found
myself having to excuse myself because tears had come to my
eyes. From that point on, I have tried to be calm and monitor
my own mood and tone when I help her or try to answer a question.
Since then, things have been more smooth.

With my father, the struggle for patience comes because he is
both independent and stubborn. He’s the type that will press on,
even when he has chest pains. Which has happened a couple of
times. For him, he gets impatient if, for example, you offer a
rebuttal to a point he’s making . His sensitivity is different in that
he feels as if his opinion is unwarranted or worse, unwanted.
He lives by himself, and I’m certain(although he’ll never admit it)
that there is a loneliness there. So I make it a point when we do
talk, that I offer rebuttal but not in a manner that may make him
feel like it’s talking down to him. And given that our relationship
has seen some rough waters, it’s been a great achievement to have
that rapport with him.

In dealing with both of them this way, I gained more empathy with
a good amount more patience. I understood more about what they
must be feeling being elders. I thought about all their years and those
memories within them, the hopes, the fears. Not just for them, but
for me. There was an Italian commercial that one of my sisters
shared once, where a man was irritated by his father asking if it
was the same bird chirping. The man snaps at his father, who doesn’t
say anyhing. Instead, he goes to his study, and brings his son a
journal, open to a specific page. The son reads it aloud, and finds
that it is an account of how many times he asked his father a question.
He reads how his father dealt with it – by kissing him on the forehead
each time. In that way, he reminded himself of the love he had for
him and diffused that momentary burst of frustration. That commercial
really made me think about how our elders enter into another age that
makes us think that they’re like children, but they aren’t. I was raised
to have respect for my elders that is not wholly subservient, but contains
enough reverence for their knowledge. With that, comes empathy. And
a higher level of patience.

I know now that patience bolstered by the good intent and
heart in most situations, can be a teacher. I make time in my day
to just go calm, to bring myself to a place where I can mitigate
any stress carried over. There are times where mediation helps
towards bolstering my levels of patience. It can be a healer. It’s
not a cure-all. There are those times where it can’t be enough.
But these days, what I’ve found in my relationship with my
parents is that it isn’t patience that’s the  virtue – it’s the
active use of it, especially with myself that is.

Until the next time, thanks for reading…walk good.

Reclaiming What It Is to Be Carefree And Black. For Me.

Photo Nov 26, 3 17 52 PMHello all you happy people…

It’s been a minute since the last posting here…that’s mainly due to the
fact that I needed to detox and recharge a bit. Given that there are only
24 days left in this year, it’s a prime time for me to do so. I wanted to
take some time to offer up a few words on what I’ve taken time to work
on.

You’re probably wondering about the picture above. That was taken this
past Thanksgiving, as I was on the beach with an old friend and a mentor in writing & spirituality while vacationing with family in Atlantic City.
To give you a quick backstory, my family decided that instead of dealing with trying to figure out who’s cooking and who’s bringing what to a dinner, it would be easier for us to all get away. I welcomed the idea – for
me, Atlantic City is more than just a gambling spot. And since it was supposed to be warm, that was a plus. So off we went, beating a mad rush
of traffic on the highway to hit AC as the sun set. My friend and I made plans to meet up on that Thursday to celebrate my birthday finally(since
we hadn’t been able to meet in October). I got up early that morning, showered and dressed all before 9:30 and went downstairs.

The casino floor is different in the morning. Scattered about were those
just getting in from all points across the country, stragglers from the bouts of late night revelry complete with the accessories of sunglasses and shoes in their hand and those old-time gamblers. From that point on, as I
sipped my coffee I knew it would be a good day ahead. The relative calm was soothing. Time didn’t stop, but it slowed down enough to give me a chance to actually soak up all of the surroundings.

The highlight of course, was the beach. The weather turned out to be better than I expected – 62 degrees. My friend and I walked out onto the
velvet-like sand, and in another bit of luck, made use of one of her jackets
(like me, she had slightly overdressed thinking it would be cold out) as a
blanket to sit on. From that point on, we talked. We laughed. We prayed
for healing, not only for ourselves but for our loved ones and friends and
our community as well as the world. It wasn’t only the sun washing over
us that afternoon, it was a feeling of serenity. Unfiltered, unbridled. Now
I know that to one or two of you, this may come off as something New Age-y and corny. Which would prompt you to crack a joke. But before you
do, let me ask you this: when was the last time YOU felt like that? Or allowed yourself to feel like that? Because that day, the idea of what the holiday is supposed to be grew dramatically. It wasn’t about food. It wasn’t about having a day off from work, or getting bent and watching sports. Looking out at the ocean and the constant music of the waves coming in, reminded me that underneath all of the rush that is created by the way life is being conducted that the life that is within us can be stifled.
Underappreciated. In the name of almost anything except our own freedom. I felt carefree. And that energy has stuck with me since then.

It is powerful, revolutionary to be a person of color and have a carefree
element to your spirit. Being Black in America almost demands that you
lay your carefree air on the altar to be sacrificed just so you can do what you have to do unfettered for a time. Or so the powers that be want you to think. I mean, look at the common phrase that comes to mind: “they can’t let us have NOTHIN’.” This is why I don’t mind folks, my folks, expressing
themselves. That celebration of those moments we can be carefree is so
damn necessary. Even more so now. That’s what I gave thanks for – I had
finally gotten to that place again. It had been returning in pieces, stripped away from bad work experiences, rocky relationships, frayed bonds. But this moment in the sun, was a blessing.

Being carefree as a Black man, to me, doesn’t mean being irresponsible or not accountable. In fact, it’s taking pride in knowing that I’m doing what I need to do that bolsters it. It means doing right by people. It means holding up my own personal code of honor that is good intention but most importantly, better action. It means not beating myself up if I stumble, and knowing that I can stumble but that I can also get back up and move forward. It means less overthinking, and more acceptance of self. And the richness that brings. This will be different for each and every one of us. But it’s important to reclaim that.

If you’ve read this far, I hope that the remaining part of this year sees that
you are reclaiming that carefree part of your spirit. I hope that you are making it a point to sit in the serenity you’ve earned to this point and be thankful for it. I hope that you take the time to be thankful every day for what has gotten to you, in small breaths and loud statements.

Until the next time, thanks for reading and walk good.