Friday, May 26, 2006


so i did the two new pieces... at one point in the evening, it looked like we weren't going to get through everyone who'd signed the open mic list, so each poet was limited to just one piece, myself included. i had to make a choice. i could either read the first one i'd finished, one that is creative and fun to read, but which is something that's more expected of me, or the other one i'd planned to try - the one i was nervous about sharing because...

well, because it has a refrain that is sung.

i sing all the time. been singing since i was about seven or eight years old. but i don't sing for audiences, not solo anyway. i've sang with others, on a choir, the happy birthday song, my sorority hymn, the national anthem, the black national anthem... you know, stuff like that. but as a general rule, i don't sing for audiences by myself. i lack confidence, training, and a few essential skills. it's not, as one of my role models would say, my dominant gift, so i don't emphasize it, or often tell people that i like to do it. i consider it a public service. it's only right. i wish someone would tell a few other folks to consider this same policy, but i digress.

a poet i look up to and admire for his skills and his sincerity was on the stage before i was. he didn't share his pieces right off the bat - he talked about how as artists, we need to stop hiding pieces of ourselves, take a chance every once in a while, and jump off a cliff. he reminded us that we're all family, and that we should be able to do that - to take artistic chances - with each other. ain't that something? and he hadn't even read yesterday's blog (nobody had, i'd posted it too late LOL). i decided, right then and there, that if we wound up getting cut down to one piece by the time it was my turn to take the mic, that i would choose the piece that would require my courage.

and that's exactly what happened. i, honestly, told the folks i was nervous, and that i was glad the crowd had thinned out... then i stalled by telling folks via public announcement about the slam we'll be having in a few weeks in south philly... then something in me jumped off a cliff. i opened my mouth, and singing came out. i don't know how it sounded, but it felt like someone was behind me and just pushed me onto a stage from behind a curtain, making me stumble forward and just start. and then it was like putting one foot in front of the other - the more i kept going, the closer i was to getting to the spoken verses, and the next thing you know, i was safe in my world of spoken words again. that wasn't so bad... but right near the end of the first set of spoken verses, i considered cutting the refrain to keep from having to sing again, and just continuing to speak. but i couldn't listen to that fear. i knew that if i did, the piece's character and impact on the listener would change, and that it wouldn't serve its purpose if i altered it, so when the time came to sing again, i opened my mouth, and the words came out. i didn't modulate much - just when my spirit needed to - i simply stuck to the melody and was faithful to the piece as it was intended... and then something special happened.

don't laugh at me... i'm serious, now, don't laugh.

i had a ji.ll scot.t moment. no, i didn't think i was her, or the next best thing, or anything like that. but see, she puts forth the impression that she LOVES what she does immensely. like it's what she was born to do. i've always admired her talent, and how it seems that as a writer, she writes what's in her heart and shares that with people, instead of guessing what people wanna hear and catering to that. you can hear it in the sincerity of her delivery. it makes people feel good. it makes her feel good - you can tell. and at one point when i was singing, i realized that i was doing exactly that - i was sharing the contents of my heart, on a piece that dealt with ministering to the spirit of a friend in need, which is something that is very important to me. i knew the piece was something that perhaps people could get courage and strength from - and the import of the fact that i was really actually finally sharing myself in that way occurred to me, and i was so joyful, i just modulated for the heck of it, and it didn't sound bad at all. it was bliss to share so freely. i couldn't believe i had been scared.

jump off a cliff indeed! i've never done it, but i wonder if the adrenaline rush is as unspeakably wonderful as the feeling that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, right when you're supposed to be doing it.

course now my cherry is broken. i have no excuse to fear sharing that piece again. and the encouragement i got from other poets, even strangers, made me feel like i hadn't made a fool of myself for jumping off that cliff. it's a good feeling to have it pay off when you take a chance. a friend told me this morning that he really felt me deeply. the words did their job. i can't ask for much more than that. and i'm glad i didn't punk out.

Thursday, May 25, 2006






oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, caterpillars and butterflies, i have finally gotten enough focus to turn inspiration/experience into new poems! i'm so tickled! and it's about time, too. i was starting to get worried.

and one of the pieces is what i would consider a stone cold, not meant for the paper only, get on a mic and do the dayum thang spoken word piece. not my usual thing. i like to write stuff that can live and breathe without being uttered. it just so happens that while i'm writing, i read my poems out loud so i can make sure i'll like the way they sound, even if i have no plans to put them on the mic. but this particular piece has to be - must be - uttered. i don't think it really serves its purpose on paper, - it's so simply written, and frankly, so boring on paper to me, that if feel that it must be vocalized - in fact, when i wrote it, there was no question of its purpose in my mind. i'm a little nervous. excited, but nervous because performing this piece will bring stuff out of me that i'm not accustomed to sharing about myself.

it's not that i don't honestly give of myself when i'm out at the open mics, and it's not like i don't express my personality when i'm reading my stuff... i mean, my words are a part of me, so the very act of reading them is a revealing thing. it's just that, like all of us i suppose, there is much more to me than what people who only see me at open mics see when i'm on the spot, sharing. and this new piece will push me to show a little bit of what's underneath the pseudonym and public persona. and i'm nervous about whether or not i will have the courage to let loose in the seconds before i open my mouth... or if i'll punk out and change my mind at the last second and read some of my other pieces - all of which i'm tired of. i'm hoping for the best. i believe good things can happen when you force yourself to try new things.

but so much else is new in my life! i could run down the list, but i don't wanna bore you all. this is definitely a season of change for me, and maybe that's why the stagnancy of my writer's block seems to be breaking, and maybe that's why the words that have most recently come out of me are challenging me to step up my courage in the performance department.

in any case, i'm happy for the creative spurt. and excited to see where it will take me...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


i don't know what it was exactly about what i said to the woman, but it seemed to have made her day. i had some business with one of those state governmental agencies yesterday - one of the ones where you know that going will probably take up more of your day than you'd like, and where you have to take a number to ask even the simplest question... the place was big and somewhat intimidating - i'd never been to this building before, and i had to ask where to go for every little thing. i managed to handle quite a bit by following general directions. most of my business having been completed, i still had one more question that required personal assistance. so i took a number from the little ticket machine and sat down to wait on one of the folks in one of the cubicles. according to the ticket and the big stadium-like four-faced sign hanging from the ceiling, i was next. so i waited and waited while about four cubicles of folks asked their questions... then, finally, some people got up... but whoever helped them didn't advance the number. silly me for thinking it would be that easy.

then some more people got up and the number advanced to mine. should i go to the first empty cube or this newly vacated second one? i paused to figure it out. then i saw a little light come on near the second one and figured, "oh, that must be it." when i got to the cubicle, there was a pretty woman there, shuffling and moving things out of the way off of her desk.

"hi. is this where i'm supposed to be?" i asked her.

it was like she breathed a sigh of relief right before my very eyes. i couldn't exactly keep track of everything she was saying - her speech was gushing out with the urgency of air released from a tightly inflated balloon - but it had something to do with her asking God to help her right before i walked up, and that lo and behold, He sent her a customer with the humility to ask her something as simple as, "is this where i'm supposed to be..." apparently the last three weeks of her job were really weighing on her heavily, and the last thing she needed was some more drama. she was actually happy to see me! more than happy to answer my question! more than happy to do the extra digging that my question required! more than happy to take the extra time with me! wow! well i wasn't prepared to be received like a welcome relief - not at all. cordial service was all i'd expected.

now, all because my general way of thinking dictates that i simply ask questions if i want to know something. (with an attitude that doesn't dissuade the people who want to help me), i'm finding out about this woman's awesome track star daughter who's a freshman at the local high school, and about ways that i can expedite the business that i have with this agency, and getting encouragement and, dare i say, love, from this absolute stranger whose day was going badly 'cause she'd had car trouble on the way in that morning - who'd come in to work because she'd had to, but who was taking joy in helping me because she wanted to. amazing. it's strange how you never know how the Creator can use your words and your attitude and demeanor to bless and increase someone... or i suppose, conversely, how you can hurt or damage someone if your words, actions, and demeanor aren't right.

we'd made such an impact on each other that we each lingered momentarily after our business was through, not wanting to stop the flow of good feelings. but i left, feeling good, question answered, old lessons about life affirmed. and she advanced the number and clicked her light on, hopefully optimistic and brave about getting through the rest of the day...

Monday, May 22, 2006


there's a vacant lot in south philly that a bunch of folks are cleaning up on saturdays. in a few weeks, we're going to have a poetry slam there, and we want to make it habitable for all the guests. there used to be two row houses standing there, but they've been razed, and for the most part, cleared. over time, the space has been weathered by rains, snows, and winds... and when people started cleaning it, it had trash all over. when i got there, so much work had already been done, but there was so much more work to do! i put on a pair of working gloves and set about the task of weeding a corner of what is now called "the grass roots garden." i would grasp whatever green things i could get my hands on, pull, and twist at an angle, to really get the plant up and make sure that the roots came out.

while clearing this space for the mulch which was to follow, i found out first that roots are serious - so serious that when you pull them out, they insist on bringing dirt up with them. resilience. all over this patch of urban ground, in the wake of the demolition of someone's former home, on top of the ruins of what remains of a basement structure, there is a lot of stuff - glass shards, brick rubble, a doorknob or two, a decomposing sneaker, bottle tops... but in the midst of all of this man-made hardness and deadness, you can still smell life in the dirt. spend enough time on the ground and you will encounter creepy crawly little things with lots of legs... or no legs at all, as the worm friends i made yesterday would probably interject right about here. these little ones live in the midst of what we look at and see as an eyesore and as a mess with no value. resilience.

we inexperienced urban gardeners tossed a lot of things, including whatever trash we found and whatever weeds we pulled. but there was a lot left behind that we used to our advantage, most especially the very stuff we were standing on. the dirt and the leftover bricks were our primary building blocks for making a weedy mound into a nice place to be. we took advantage of some of the basement structure to edge out a section of the lot where we would put down our mulch (which was free from the dump! we worked with what we had from necessity, being students and starving artists, and all.) then we started raking out whatever debris would cooperate with our efforts... but the ground was low in some places and the existing basement wall didn't extend for the length we needed. so we broke up dirt and moved it around. we took bricks and extended that wall - no mortar and trowel, mind you, just packed dirt, spades, and shovels. if a shovel hit hardness instead of dirt, we'd move it - tap it 'til you find the edges, then get the shovel in there good and get that lever action going - it had me thinking of my physics class taught by mister sciscio years ago. the bricks and slabs would just pop right out of the ground.

it occurred to us that we weren't really creating anything new - the feeling of doing so that we had was an illusion. all we were really doing was moving stuff around to suit our sensibilities of what "nice" is. "nice" wound up being a section of mulch, edged out by brick pavers and some funky abstract shaped slabs of rock. very cool stuff. as i was helping to weed, break up dirt mounds, and construct brick pavers, i couldn't help but to think of some of my favorite scripture attributed to solomon:

to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted... a time to break down, and a time to build up... a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together...

i kind of think of our work as similar to what the worms and bugs were doing - making the best of our environment. finding value in what things are within your grasp. even if it's not necessarily the most natural or organic way to go about it... just working with what you have, and thriving because you will it to be so. resilience. any child growing up with limited means... any recovering substance abuser, anybody with a record who goes straight after lockup, they all have the same task ahead of them. they have to rearrange what is already a part of their experience into something functional, even if the tools they have to work with aren't the easiest ones or the prettiest ones to build with. but it can be done. thank God - it happens every day. resilience.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


veritas vos liberabit.

that's the latin motto on the shield of my esteemed and beloved undergraduate institution. the truth shall make you free. Jesus said so in the Biblical gospel of John, chapter eight, verse thirty-two.

He ain't never lied.

you know what's amazing? you have knowledge in your head. and your ability to reason can take that knowledge and examine it, assess it for reasonableness and soundness and reliability, and come to the conclusion that such knowledge is good to have and abide by. so this knowledge sits there, part of your mental file cabinet, waiting to be useful. then, by chance or circumstance, situations arise where you find yourself calling upon that knowledge, rifling through your file cabinet, ready and willing to use that knowledge, and it's there - you find it, you use it, and all is well with the world.

but you know what's more amazing? when you're just living life, and by chance or circumstance, situations arise. you get through the situation, and then look back. and the experience you have gets added to your knowledge. you go into your mental file cabinet to file it away in the appropriate spot, and behold, you find that there's already something filed in that folder. you pick the folder up, glance at its contents, and then realize that what you're looking at is knowledge version 1.0. this experienced knowledge you're trying to file away is like version 2.0. it's trial by action - it's the illustrated version - it's got bolded print and underscores, detailed examples, and really, really comes alive.

over and over and over again, in situation after situation, i have witnessed the value and the wisdom and the truth in veritas vos liberabit. it's not that i've never appreciated the statement or lived its value through experience before... but it's amazing to me how relevant its truth has been to me lately, not just for my life but for the lives of the people that i love.

truth can be scary sometimes. 'cause it's like math: either it is or it ain't. see, something is either absolutely clear or it's not. i don't pretend to know or understand all of the philosophical posturing about objective and subjective truth. truth is, sometimes something simply is or it ain't. you are happy or you are not. you want to do something, or you don't. someone increases your life by being in it, or they don't. you are optimistic about your future or you are not. you desire to love (the verb) someone or you don't. all of the hemming and hawing, and telling yourself possibilities, and creating plausible theories that will justify ignoring your own internal truth... it simply isn't good for you. in fact, when you ignore your inner compass and your better judgment - when you ignore those gifts from your Creator - you not only imprison yourself, you not only hurt yourself, but you also run the risk of hurting those who are most important to you - those who have nothing to do with your decision to not embrace the truth.

it may be difficult, but if you take loving yourself seriously, and if you seriously love those who are closest to you (those who you are responsible for), you have to make it a priority to examine yourself and hold fast to the truth you find there. it will make you free.

i know. i'm doing it, every day. i'm getting better with practice and with faith.

would you?

do you like your life? really? really?

if there was something you could change, would you change it?

if given the opportunity to change it, would you change it?

even if it was scary? unpredictable? a gamble? contrary to convention? contrary to popular opinion? would you? really?

if you could do ANYTHING you wanted to do... ANYTHING... would you? would you work for it? go crazy for it? go broke for it? lose the people you're closest to? put your religion on the spot and dare it to perform? would you?

do you really live what you espouse to believe?

better yet, do you believe? what do you believe? how do you know you believe it? 'cause you say so? is that enough?


who are you living for?
what are you living for?

i almost turned the comments off on this thread... but i don't want to force a rhetorical bend onto these questions - these questions are real.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


(see the Prodigal entry to remember what happened before this...)

She had wanted the baby. She was scared when she found out about it. She knew Fish might put two and two together and discover her secret, but Arlene just couldn't force herself down to Fawn's place to get it "taken care of" like the other times. This time, she knew it wasn't from Fish's mean, hard seed. He had been away for so long, and on one of those nights she had a rent party, some stranger, somebody's cousin from some big city stayed late to send the drunks home, to lock up, to make sure none of the records got taken out the door. He was tall and good-natured and had the broadest, brightest smile... his face was like God wanted people to know what Peace looked like on two legs... and Arlene knew he didn't belong at her party, didn't fit in among her no 'count "friends." But he loved on her all night with his eyes, and did all the things she hadn't counted on needing when she hastily decided to have a party without Fish. Ice needed picking. Drinks needed pouring. Records needed changing. And with Smarty Artie at the door and Arlene handling the plates of food, he was just the extra set of hands she needed. Said his name was Boo. Black as midnight, he laughed as he said that wasn't nobody spookier than him. He smiled at Arlene, but she saw the sadness in his eyes. She checked his hands as he carried the ice in, and though the ring wasn't there, the skin left behind wasn't quite as black as the rest of his hand. Had he left? Had he been put out? He was so much goodness standing in her kitchen, surely no woman had turned him away...

When all was quiet, and all that was left was the scent of unfiltered Pell Mells and the silence that can only follow the noise of her parties... she asked him if he wanted to take a plate home. She started putting chitlins on the plate before he even answered, and she was still going on and on about him sending the plate back through his cousin when she noticed that he hadn't answered. She slowly turned around and saw that he hadn't, in fact, stopped making love to her with his sad eyes since she whirled around to fix his plate, hoping to evade that gaze. He was hungry, but it wasn't chitlins on his mind, and she knew it, but if she could just get the plate in his hands and get him on out the door... Fish had been gone for so long...

It was light before Boo had made it out the door. She didn't ask about an address or when he'd be back. She knew all that passion and sweat and lust wasn't really for her. She knew that brown band of skin on his black left hand was all the answer she'd get. But he had been so much goodness, all in her house, all in her bed, all in her body.

He was still so much goodness, all in her memory. Arlene planned to tell their child one day about her real daddy. How kind and how pure he inspired her to be. The moment now robbed from her, she felt her womb and winced, not from the pain of the stitches Mama had put in her face, but because she feared that her last chance to be like Mama had passed. With this child, it would have been different. Her wild days would have passed on. Kevin would be unashamed. Nye would be unafraid. And Lil Boo, little peace on two legs, would have made four.

But like so many other times, Arlene wasn't thinking about consequences. Fish wasn't having it. He didn't want any children, ever, that was part of the deal, and when he and Arlene slipped, she got it taken care of without words. And this time, he hadn't been home no good time 'fore she come talkin 'bout some, she was carrying and didn't wanna take care of it. She underestimated him - he knew it not too long after he got home, and he knew it too long before she decided to tell him - he knew it when cleaning made her sick on Saturday mornings, he knew it when she said she didn't want no more parties, and he knew it when she asked him about trying to work... Lying whore. She better had swallowed it when word would get back about his women. But he'd be damned if he'd let her make a fool of him. He just bided his time, 'cause he wasn't ready to leave yet, and he wanted to see how she handled it.

She lied about her monthlies. Said they'd started to skip around. She fixed him chicken and dumplings, fixed him a few drinks to slow him, to mellow him - real sweet she was, when said she was already pregnant, though he hadn't been home long and she didn't halfway want him since he'd been back. Fish told her to take care of it, since it wasn't his anyway. Arlene's face shrank for a moment, then bravery and cunning fixed her face, and she said, in a small, still voice, that she was going to keep the baby no matter what he said. That's when he slapped her, and she fell, cutting her head on an ashtray. The blood was everywhere. He lost time beating her - didn't know how long it was or where all that storm he rained on her came from. He only knew that she was a lying whore, and he told her so, over and over between the blows... until he was gone. And then she waited, in pain. Bleeding. Breathing heavy. Then shallow. And she wondered about Little Boo. She lost. Little Boo lost.

She lay in Nye's little bed, feeling lost. Embarrassed. Billy's eyes were so shy when he entered with the plate... Arlene felt so weak. But she knew that at some point, she would need to get up and get her strength back. She lost Little Boo by living for herself. Arlene wondered what lay ahead, searching herself, wondering who she would be living for after the physical healing.

Monday, May 15, 2006


my best friend was telling me about some drama that happened in the city we grew up in... some men went to this woman's house - they had some business with her son - and found him, shot him as he was coming down the stairs, right in front of his mother, before leaving. they did it during broad daylight. with children going to school. around the corner from a school. now that was bold to do with all those people running here and there. seems like to me that smart criminals would do their darkness in the dark. but my friend and i figure the reason for their boldness is the recent focus on the street adage, "stop snitching."

the code of the street. mm hmm. it ain't nothing new - as long as there's been hustling, there've been people who needed to understand that if you didn't mind your own business, you put yourself in harm's way. and you know what, i understand that. as long as we have things that people can do to get by or get over, people will do them. and as long as governments can profit from outlawing and persecuting an underground economy, they will. i don't approve of it - it ain't for me and mine, but i understand that factors are at work that persuade folks to make their money that way. but they run the risk of catching hell if they can't go on about their business without people staying out of their business. i also understand that the police can be friend or foe - that the brothers out there are hit or miss (and all too often, it's a miss) when it comes to whether or not they get railroaded by the police. and it seems this is the deciding factor for those who nod their heads in agreement when they hear, "stop snitching," and "snitches get snitches."

i won't lie. to some extent, i agree. i've seen or known of some shady things - not much, thank God - but in any case, when i did know something, i didn't feel the need to report anybody to law enforcement. say, for example that you know somebody who stands out on a corner, nickel-and-diming. what if you say something? (repeatedly, of course, 'cause a simple phone call ain't enough.) then (finally) the cops do a sweep, come out in grand fashion, lights flashing, sirens blaring, nightsticks swinging, barking orders, kicking asses, taking names. give it three days. then, in come the reinforcements. the corner is the most fertile ground for nickel and dimers - no matter how hard you weed, those strong roots - poverty, materialism, supply-and-demand, raggedy schools, raggedy parenting, elusive, unnamed, never prosecuted sources for product - keep on producing more nickel-and-dimers. it's pretty much how i grew up - ignoring those corner boys, minding my own business. they and student loans have one thing in common: like herpes, they won't ever go away. and i'm not snitching.

but i do have an exception to my general policy on snitching. see, i think the concept of stop snitching is lacking in that it really only is a good thing when the community is full of neighborly people who would be just to each other without the help of the police. justice doesn't always happen in court. in fact, it often doesn't happen in court. say, for example, some man beats on his woman. this woman, bloodied up and swollen, runs out into the night to get her family's help. her brother sees her broken body, goes to her man's place, and beats the living shit out of the boyfriend - drags him outside where everybody sees it. they should identify the brother to the police, right? he committed assault and battery - that's bad, right? naw, man. he SHOULDA beat that man's ass. and if i was there i wouldn'ta said nothing, 'cause that was justice. justice moreso than the woman pressing and then dropping charges on this man she loves, despite herself... justice moreso than the boyfriend pressing charges on the brother and succeeding in court. and that brother ain't no danger to nobody except whoever harms his family. i can't be mad at that. that's about blood.

but say, there's a hustler who has an issue of money with some of his associates. the associates decide to administer their own underground justice to remedy their underground issue. so they go over to where this man lays his head, push his mama around, then blow his innards all over her stairs in front of her horrified eyes. they leave, after shocking a neighborhood with the sound of their gunshots, passing neighbors who are both watching and not watching, both terrified and curious. the men hop in cars and drive off, long after the sun has made their exodus visible and plain. justice? perhaps, for these men, there was justice in their murderous revenge. but these men are dangerous. they're a danger to anybody who gets in the way of their profit. i can be mad at that. 'cause that "anybody" could be a grandmother, a little child, or me. that's about money, not blood. and you know what, if i was that woman's neighbor, i'd be an anonymous tip leak - no, a fountain - well, depending on the amount of information i could give, i'd be a waterfall. to be silent would be to contribute to the genocide implosion.

oh, the difference is dubious, i know. downright arbitrary to others, perhaps. but i'm okay with that. i've talked about this on the blog before, but here it is coming up again, and i really needed to get at this topic. we have to make our choices in this world, and mine is to snitch when necessary. 'cause it would be nice if we didn't need police - if we knew our neighbors, cared for them, looked in on the sick, fed the hungry, raised the children, swept the stoops, protected the weak, respected each other - as a community. as a family. but it ain't like that, and sometimes we do need police, because sometimes we're unjust, and sometimes - too many times - the community don't care bout you - won't care about you.

i love my block, still, to this day. i've been gone almost ten years, and most of the people i grew up knowing are gone. but my memories remain. i knew the neighbors' names and faces and which cars and children were whose. we generally respected each other's property and our own. silent squabbles over parking spaces or domestic arguments were the worst things that would happen. and because everyone worked for what they had, everyone was watching, and the street was safe enough. interloping nickel-and-dimers knew better than to come to our block 'cause people cared too much and paid too much attention to the goings-on - our parents stayed by the phone and snitched if necessary - and it worked, even if it only kept the boys a block away. it wasn't totally my utopian vision for communal love, but it was reasonably warm and cordial. there was an understanding, a respect, that lived there. i drive through now and some of the houses are better and some are worse, the kids ain't kids and/or ain't there. today's kids are loud and wild - like we were then. there is still joy on my block. there is love there - people with families.

threaten that joy and that love, and i'm telling. yeah i said it. my answer to wannabe gangsters who say "stop snitching" is that people work for what little stuff and safety and peace they have, the least you can do is respect it. and when you don't - my loyalty ain't going to you or the police, it's going to the people. 'cause old ladies should be able to sit on their porch and be happy. babies should be able to play outside. have some respect for that and do your darkness in the dark - away from the babies and the straighter and narrower folks. don't put us in a position to choose between snitching and not snitching. such boldness deserves to be snitched on and punished. so that our homes can be homes and not war zones. be about your business, and stop being so sloppy with your amateur ass scarfa.ce impressions. professionals don't have to worry about snitches - they keep their shit in the shadows where it belongs. nobody knows their business. be professional about your shit. and don't forget, when your little niece or daughter gets blown off a tricycle by a semi-automatic - brain matter and plastic barrettes mixing with discarded nickel bags and used cigar tips on the sidewalk - that there's no point in you getting on the news asking for tips unless, suddenly, "stop snitching" means nothing to you. 'cause at the rate we're going, it's not an if, but a when.

Friday, May 12, 2006

friendship and semantics

i hate the word, "boyfriend." it sounds so childish and trivial. i only acquiesce to the usage of the word when other people use it and i have neither the words nor the patience at that time to explain how much that word irks me, or how much i'd rather someone use another word. in general, i use "my friend," or even better, the man's name! (which avoids the pretentious "ain't i special 'cause i'm not single"-ness that is connoted by the use of "my boyfriend," or "my man") see, that bothers me 'cause "boyfriend" is too associated with "dating." i'll get to what i mean by that in a second. plus, we're all conditioned to put certain silly expectations forth when the words, "boyfriend," or "girlfriend," are used. the whole way we semantically deal with unmarried matters of the heart annoys me. i'm old-fashioned in some ways. i don't like the concept of casual dating. i tried it a couple of times, and it sucked. probably 'cause i'm not emotionally built for it. i don't have the patience to deal with another person's idiosyncrasies if there's no commitment there to uphold. and besides, the word "dating" lacks the substance of the word i prefer: courtship.

ahhh, courtship. courting. wooing. it puts me in the mind of two people exploring each other with a goal in mind. the goal, you may ask? to make something monogamous and beautiful where there was stranger-hood before. there is nothing miscellaneous or aimless about the concept of courtship. flirtation with a purpose. time spent for a purpose. i am so much more impressed by the idea of a man "courting" me than i am by the idea of a man "dating" me. everybody "dates." special, goal-oriented people "court." and more importantly, it has an old-school feel to it - women don't court men, it's the other way around. but that's a whole nother topic and i'm already way off topic - or maybe not so much....

friendship is golden. that's it. when a man offers me his friendship, that is the true key to getting my interest. if it seems like he's just going through the motions of what a "boyfriend" is supposed to do for a "girlfriend," without actually seeming interested in befriending a woman, the courtship is lacking. and i don't mean stuff like finding out what she likes and trying to give it to her, remembering her sibling's names, or what her high school clubs were, just for "he pays attention to me" points. no - i mean spending time with her just to spend time with her. not to show her how great a guy you are, or to put in requisite hours so she feels like y'all spent quality time together. not as a mere prelude to sex. just time spent because, in earnest, you really do enjoy each other's company. you really do see elements of yourselves in each other and have experiences and thoughts and even dreams in common. you really do like talking about stuff and experiencing stuff together, no less than you would if you were with other platonic friends. it's like, "hey, if we didn't fall into courting, our friendship would still make sense."

now that feels appropriate. friendship like that is inspiring. it makes you feel like a man sees value in you beyond merely being willing and able to fill in the empty woman-spot in his life. this is no small message to send to a woman you spend time with - this is no small message to be looking for from a man you spend time with. i know what the other side of this is like - how it feels to find out he was only dating you 'cause he was curious or lonely or horny and then he thought, "oh hey, she'll do." i know men get the same treatment. it's deplorable. but it's all in the name of dating. i've seen what happens to people who date but aren't friends. it's not pretty. what happens when the conquest (not courtship, mind you, but conquest) is settled and the people are "stuck with each other" and they don't enjoy each other more than, or at least as much as, they enjoy their platonic friends? how stupid. screw that, courtship is better. friendship is better.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


i do aight with confrontation depending on the conflict. i'm not very confrontational. but in general, a little conflict usually makes you stronger - shows you something about yourself and others. you can learn from it. especially when the one confronting you is you.

i'm switching my internet service, and i was going through my e-mail account trolling for addresses i wanted to notify about a forwarding e-mail address. see, i don't keep address books in my e-mail accounts, 'cause that woulda made too much sense and made things too easy for me right about now. so, i'll looking, and clicking and scrolling through my inbox, jotting down the names of folks i don't want to forget... then i switched to the "sent" box.

from the beginning of this two-year-old account, i see stuff i haven't thought much about in... well, two years. starting with e-mails sent to an old paramour. bless his heart. i was enamored with him but he got bored with my personality and annoyed by my affectionate nature, so he moved on. nothing wrong with that, it's just the way he chose to move on - as i read through the e-mails, i could see the blossom of a friendship in full bloom, turning into a flower needing to be watered more often, turning into a plant with weak and struggling roots, to a corpse sitting in a dusty pot. the view of myself then from where i stand now was so hard to see. i didn't see his messages, i only saw mine. the things i said evoked memories of how i felt and what was going through my mind as i willed myself to have hope that we could get back the wonder and joy of the best of times, though i should have let go with the same resignation and understanding that he did during our decline. my idealism and openness make me who i am, but it was through that relationship and its aftermath that i learned the true meaning of, "wide open wide, the mistake was made," and understood the plaintive, painful, wistful tone of jill's voice as she sang it so real - real enough to lay the regret bare, while leaving the longing to be loved intact.

then i felt a worry flutter through my mind and gut. i thought about my relationships and wondered to myself if i've truly learned the lesson... if i have retained the innocence and idealism and openness that come naturally to me... if i have gained the ability to avoid the wide open wide mistake... if i can trust myself to make the right decisions when letting someone into my life. yes, i know that i can do the best i can, and get it all right on my end, and still get hurt, because not everybody is for everybody. but it's not so much that i don't want to take the chance ever again so much as it is that if i do hurt at another man's hands ever again, i don't want to feel afterwards that it was only because of what i allowed. i don't want it to be my fault for allowing something in my life that i shouldn't allow, all in the name of trying to force the hand of happiness and being loved. there is bending to accommodate, and then there is compromising the self - compromising the better judgment - compromising the standards i deserve. and those are two different things. that relationship taught me that, though it was a hard lesson. i pray that i can put it into practice from now on and balance myself better.

i also found a lot of poetry i'd written that i'd forgotten all about. i didn't take the time to read it all, but it was nice to remember that poetry has been with me all this time, since even before this spurt i experienced in months past. and that i've gone through phases of not writing much before, so what i'm going through now just has to run its course. it was reassuring to see the pattern in my past and know that the words haven't left me. they'll be back when they get back. in the meanwhile, i e-mailed all the poems to myself in another account, so that i can read through them later and re-feel what i felt then. assess my writing to see if or how i've changed.

the last thing - and perhaps the most monumental. there is an address that i have decided not to send my forwarding address to. some past you just need to leave in the past. two years ago, i found it appropriate to keep in touch. but now, as i become more and more who i was born to be, i can see that "appropriate" can change over time. it has for me. and now i need to keep it moving.

my past me confronted my present me last night, as if i were reading one of my old diaries, and i'd say it was a good thing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


had a thought while sitting at the venue last night... i was going to freestyle a poem. i've done it before, like once, last thanksgiving. the audience was small and intimate - just the kind of crowd that's most receptive and understanding when you want to try something new. it went fine. and last night, the audience was small and intimate...

and a line popped into my head, like, "start with me, and see where it takes us..."
and i was like, "word, words."
i even knew the mood of the poem and had some idea of why that first line was flirting with me.

but then when i got up to say something, i pulled some old featherweight mess, talking bout some, "let me just flip through the book and the first thing i see is what i'll read." it's weird how in the quickly fleeting moments between having the inclination to freestyle and getting up on my two feet, i just backed down off of what could have been something good.

on the one hand, i feel like i punked out because i didn't know if i would like what resulted if i just went for it with no plan. on the other hand, i understand how tempting it is to have control over where a poem takes you - when i create something, there's a sense of power there, and there's always that knowledge that if want to change directions, i can pump the brakes with a simple erase or scribble. not so with something off the dome. once your words are out of your mouth, there's no pulling them back, and if you want to bring the piece to any kind of resolution, you have to work with what you've already uttered, or reject something you've just said without being able to make those words non-existent.

writers don't need to improvise.
performers do.

and a large part of the reason i love writing is because it allows me to say something in just the right way - i can mull things over and take whatever time is needed to articulate things from unsaid to said in a way that is faithful to what needs to be communicated.

the difference between a "paper poet" and a spoken word artist is not their writing, nor is it their creativity, nor is it their intelligence, nor is it their passion. it has something to do with the art of performance.

now some of us are blessed to be able to do both. i have met some of these folks. i consider myself someone who can do both, thanks to poet friends who led me to see the value in opening my mouth. but even so, there are strengths and weaknesses. over this past (almost a) year that i've been sharing what i write with my voice, i've been learning what my strengths and weaknesses are. and i know that my true comfort zone is in the writing process. speaking my words is an adventure - it reminds me of my acting days, and it adds a rich and valuable layer to this poetry thing for me... but ultimately for me, home is the page. performance will always be peripheral to me in favor of the act of getting the words just so.

so yeah, i'm a little disturbed that i didn't go out on that limb and freestyle that poem last night. but... not so much. 'cause i still remember that first line that tempted me. and i still remember the mood of the piece and why that line popped up. and you betta believe, i'ma get it on some page... and the brightside is, it'll be captured. it may lack spontaneity, but it'll have a home in my notebook, where i can visit it time and time again, instead of having the words evaporate to the four winds, never to be heard again, like it would've if i'd freestyled it last night. *shuddering at the thought of losing one of my brainchildren that way*

like my reader dean says, write on, write on...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


i couldn't help it.

i was in the car this morning, and pulled out my ja.ckson fiv.e cd, and was chillin, enjoying myself... and then "got to be there" came on. this song!!! oh my goodness - it stops time for me. it always has. there is an innocence and a caring within the lyrics to this song that is simply exceptional. and when michael gets to the, "i need her sharing the world, beside me" part - more often than not, especially when i pay attention to the lyrics - i start to cry like i did this morning. as i type this, there are tear streaks on my cheeks. those words, and more compellingly, those notes are so clear, and so powerful, and so very pure...

maybe a little too saccharine. and maybe i'm a little too emotional. but i don't really care, 'cause this is who i am. i cry when a voice does some that in just. such. a way. i can't even remember ever being any different.

and don't let me hear a children's choir. i can't sit still - the whole time those babies are singing the Lord's praises, i'm busy reaching for tissues, wiping my cheeks, wiping my nose. trust me, if i had a choice, i wouldn't do it. afterwards, i always feel all crusty, so i search for a mirror and maybe some hand lotion or something. then i think about how silly i must have looked carrying on like that. but it's totally involuntary. it's something that just happens when voices paint the audible picture of innocence so truly and so clearly. it touches the spirit inside me, and the joy spills out in silent saltwater streaks. i feel it in my chest, something that makes me feel full, yet light enough to float...

even though i feel silly, it's okay. i like that about myself. when that happens, i feel connected to the Creator - like the spirit of Himself that He placed in me is alive and well and carries His characteristics of appreciation for something pure and good. it's a humbling feeling, because i can't override the tears. i can't override His spirit. there is indeed something more powerful than me, and the good news is, it - He - loves purity.

Monday, May 08, 2006

times gone by...

so my car is gone. i sold it.

i was driving my first car, a red 88 nis.san sen.tra from hopewell to richmond, coming from a visit to my cousin's house after dark one summer. you know that sucker cut off on me? i'm on I-95, going maybe 60-some miles an hour, and this thing's engine so i put on my hazards, and slowed down, and got over into the shoulder and stopped. tried to cut the engine back on. riiiiiiight. i had to call my dad to come get me. while he was on his way, a virginia state trooper pulled up behind me - i thought, oooh how nice, a caring cavalry! not! he just wanted to tell me to stay in the car (which is dangerous with cars whizzing past) with the doors locked instead of getting out, 'cause they were chasing a suspect in the woods that were on the right side of my car... he directed my attention to the helicopters with search lights and all the marked police vehicles riding on the highway. oh - and then the trooper went on about his business. well dayum! neva mind i was a damsel in distress or something like that. luckily for me, my daddy got there before the bad guy did.

he decided it would be easier on us as a family if he gave me his car and got himself another one. so i became the proud owner of a gray 1991 h.onda accor.d. oh it was sooooooo nice. clean inside and out. so much more comfortable. and age well, so even though the car was like, eleven years old at the time, the body was still handsome and modern looking. the car was well taken care of and it ran so much better than the sen.tra. my poor baby. engine was done - i donated it to the national kidney foundation. i remember cleaning all my stuff out of it, caressing the steering wheel, thinking about times that have passed and how happy i was when my auntie gave it to me. i knew i was gonna miss that car, and the day i came home and saw that the kidney foundation had come to tow it away, i just paused in mourning for times gone by...

but the ac.cord was hot! i put my sorority frames around the front and back tags, programmed my stations in, and i was good to go. the car's handling and sweet interior and just general handsomeness helped me get over the loss of the sen.tra. and then as time passed, the car got sentimental value - oh the places we've been! the times i changed clothes in the back seat - the jokes people had about how the radio kept going in and out before i had it replaced. then how proud i was of it when it made the trip from virginia with no problem when i moved back to jersey. how it became the poetry mobile over the last year...

but poor thing - it had exactly one full tank of gas and 199,750 miles on it when it decided to act retarded. *sigh* i was worrying about getting back and forth to work, and worse yet, do you know how hard it is to get to poetry in philly from where i live in jersey without a car? do i look like someone who does the bus in the burbs, adhering to a 10:00 curfew? aw naw dawg... so one weekend my cousins and i went shopping, and i found another means of transportation. but i didn't want to part ways with my ac.cord just yet - no, no. my dad LOVED that car. i considered having him come get it, but he has a jillion reasons not to, so i decided to sell it for the money i could certainly use. i'd rather it have stayed in the family, but you know how family don't like to pay for stuff. wanna get that consanguineal discount. if i could pass the consanguineal discount on to my bills, it'd be all good, but no such luck. noone in the family was in dire auto straits (thank God) so i sold it.

some guy over philly saw my free ad on craig's list (yeah i'm plugging them, 'cause they're the hotness) and came and bought my car for his niece/cousin/something like that - even though he said he liked the car so much he just might keep it for himself... we signed papers, and he gave me money. the last time i drove it was from my cousin's house to my house 'cause i'd forgotten the title at home. just thinking about how nice that car was to me. the times i prayed and it started when it didn't want to so i could get to home, work, or school. it was worth way more to me than i sold it for. but it had to go. no one person needs two cars, especially in new jersey, the home of ridiculous auto insurance premiums. i'ma turn the plates in today, and then all i'll have left are the memories and the pictures. oh yeah, i got me some pictures, now. and i won't forget how i cleaned all my stuff out of it, caressing the steering wheel, thinking about times that have passed and how relieved i was when my dad gave it to me. i know i'm gonna miss that car, and the minute i watched that man drive away with my baby, i just paused in mourning for times gone by...

but now i have a new ride. the first car i've ever gotten on my own. the car i joke and say i'll probably be taking my babies to their first day of kindergarten with... and i bet that over time i'll have new memories to help me get over the loss of my car for the last four years...

Friday, May 05, 2006


my life
my life
my life
my life
in the sunshi-i-ine

everybody loves the sunshi-i-ine
folks get down in the sunshi-i-ine...

i need some sunshine, too, 'cause i'm trying to find something. matta fact, y'all seen it? i ain't seen my you-betta-write-it in a minute. i haven't written a new poem in some time. i've had ideas and thoughts, but haven't pulled out the paper to write with. see, that's my you-betta-write-it's job. it compels me to stop thinking to myself and start thinking with ink. and though i've been writing in my journal and in my blog, it hasn't been with the same frequency or even with the same passion. but i want it back. 'cause maybe if i got it back, i would enjoy the open mics like i did before i stopped going as frequently. and maybe i would be more inspired in general, like i was when i was writing more frequently. 'cause as good as popsicles are, they still don't do what writing does for me. i gotta find my you-betta-write-it. it's gotta be around here somewhere. i'm just like my mama - always losing stuff. don't make no sense...

Thursday, May 04, 2006


i am smiling this morning. more energetic. pretty inspired to have a great day. i mean, there are good things that i have to look forward to today, like getting some money to come into my pocket, and getting a new, modern mobile phone, and graduating from dial-up to broadband (at least for the six month trial LOL!). but beyond that, i am just generally optimistic. adulthood anxieties and impending life changing decisions notwithstanding... today is simply a good day. i woke up in amber sunlight, surrounded by warm comfort and peace, with nothing but time and opportunity stretched out before me... what a good morning! i am smiling this morning. happy to have a job this morning. happy to have popsicles to look forward to when i go home for lunch this afternoon. what more can i say, top illin!

praise the Lord! i'm feeling good and spoiled today.

and oh! the weekend i have to look forward to! a cd release party! where i get to dress in 70's inspired gear... and perform for all my poetry friends (which reminds me, i should ah... think of which pieces i wanna do - or better yet, challenge myself to write and learn one overnight)... and then some other stuff... and then some other stuff... and then some other stuff after that... (well, i mean, shoot, if i tell the whole story now, the recap on monday won't be as fun, now will it?) i'ma bring my camera along for the ride...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


sometimes it's just little, simple things... you look up and see something someone else would shrug at - but for whatever reason, you find something to appreciate. or maybe something you've shrugged at before, or maybe something you just didn't notice... it's weird how we make value judgments sometimes when we're not paying attention. then we realize we were bugging, when suddenly something is gone and we miss it, or our soul craves something and we instinctively seek it out for solace, or inspiration, or nostalgia - whatever the case may be. i wish sometimes i could walk slower on this path. everything seems to be flying by so so very fast. i'm not the inhaling type - i'm the one still licking the popsicle after everyone else is left holding a stained stick. make it last forever. take your time. savor the moment, the feeling, the sensation... let it linger. i just know that if i could do that with every thing, then i'd get even more satisfaction out of life, 'cause then maybe little simple gems wouldn't go by unappreciated by me. i think that's why ole folks tend to walk and talk and tell stories slowly - they know what we young folks have yet to learn. we gotta appreciate the journey, not fast forward to the end result. that last chapter won't have the same punch without an appreciation for the rising and falling action. climax to conclusion can leave you hongry... page by page gives you more food for thought. patience is not always my strong suit, and depending on the situation, sometimes i find myself struggling to hold back and pace myself - sometimes i'm lucky enough to appreciate something right off, and i just wanna get allllll the juice. but then i remember that when a moment is over, that's it, and then i have to look for something else to appreciate, when there are no guarantees. that's like speeding from red light to red light. nope. the best, is when you time it just right, get a little lighter in the foot, and hit those corners riiiiiiight when the lights turn green, baby. it's all in the pacing. you notice more that way. life gets more delicious...

Monday, May 01, 2006

i am not my hair

i am privileged to call her "friend." i met her on my first time venturing out to discover philly's spoken word. i went out by myself after getting the information on when and where to go. she hosted the venue with great personality and skill. she is the one who convinced me to hunt down my poetry from the internet and read it for the group. she is the one whose appreciation for my words made me hungry to share even more. in that sense, in poetry, she's like my big sister/mama. she's really smart, funny, talented on a mic, beautiful, energetic. she is loved by her family, loved by her fiancee, loved by her friends. and, she throws good parties, is the life of the party when she goes out, and can make some mean pasta that will burn your mouth out. i am proud to know her - blessed to know her. she has since encouraged my writing, and taken me under her wing, so to speak, by bringing me into her poetry collective.

another friend and i came across her and her best friend having lunch on a south street sidewalk yesterday. we chatted, then talked about our outfits for an upcoming cd release party that's going to be all 70's themed. then she mentioned that she'd stopped in a store, checked out the wigs, found one she liked, went to try it on, and they wouldn't let her. *gasp* why? she said that they said it was the policy of the store, with no further explanation. that's interesting. i haven't seen such a thing - shoot, even heard of such a thing - outside of books and anecdotes that recount how black folks couldn't try on hats in department stores. in fact, that's what my friend alluded to when she told the story. what's the difference between a hat and a wig? my friend guessed that it was because of her color that they wouldn't let her try on the wig, and talked about sending a white friend to the store to see if they would let her try it on...

we were on our way towards that store, and indignantly, i said that if i found it, i'd see if they'd let me try on a wig once i got there. how dare they not let my friend try on a wig? we did come across the store. it was full of little beauty trinkets, cosmetics, extension clips, sunglasses, and the like. the wigs were in the back so i walked to them, reached up to the shelf, and pulled down the one i guessed that my friend had tried to sample. i stroked my fingers through the silky hair, examined it as if i wanted to purchase it, and took the cap off of the dummy. there were two women working in the store - an asian woman behind the counter, and a latina on the floor. i looked to see if i was seen. the latina had noticed me. good. i had the dummy under one arm and the wig in the other.

the girl on the floor suggested that i could put the dummy down on the floor if i wanted. surprised, i thanked her and took her suggestion, then used a scrunchie to pull my hair back into a ponytail. the young lady then showed me where a mirror was, and i flipped over, put on the cap, and played with the wig, feathering the bangs, checking out its length, and just chatting with her about whether or not i'd like it, to which she pleasantly encouraged me about how cute it was...

my witness and i exchanged incredulous glances before putting the wig back on the dummy, back on the shelf, and heading back out to south street. i called her back at lunch. "hey... they let me try it on." (to her best friend) "they let her try it on!" i described the store, the personnel, the wig, the service... it was all the same place, she confirmed - the same staff, the same wig.

only the service was way, way different.

we're both black. we're both women. the other women in the store were minority women too. it wasn't beauty - my friend looks like a model, no lie. the only thing i could pinpoint - the only difference between me and her that i imagined they could see - was that my head was a mop of loosely tossed crinkles and waves, and that her head holds the locs i've been envious of since i met her about a year ago at the poetry venue.

that's it.

that's all.