Friday, July 28, 2006

from jersey with an r

okay so i'm actually moving my things into the new place this weekend. yay!!!

i have time off next week, too, so i intend to make my place nice and comfortable quickly (i'm not a slow unpacker, 'cause i like to have things just so). i'm looking forward to it! the past month or so, i've felt like a wandering nomad, working in philly but not having a place here, driving back and forth over the bridges, finding free street parking and walking several blocks to get where i'm going, carrying changes of clothes and extra deodorant in a bookbag just in case... it's tiring - it would all take so much time and energy out of my day. and i don't remember the last time i had a home-cooked square meal with vegetables. i haven't been eating right, and i haven't been sleeping right, either.

but with this new place and this time off, i am so very optimistic about next week. i get to just spend some time getting my house in order, literally, and figuratively. after the sccccrrrrrrrd change in direction that i had a few months back, i summoned up the courage to face my fears and be more honest and realistic about my goals. as the weather got hotter, my determination to set out on the right course with my decisions has become more intense. i have ideas and plans on paper for my artistic direction that i'm eager to get rolling. i have financial plans that i've been putting off until the right time - the time is now. i had no idea at my last birthday how much change i would face this year. i'm amazed. and this move is really just a small part of it.

it is sad, though, to go through the apartment i have and disassemble my arranged things that made that space my charming and comfortable home. my walls are bare, my windows have no curtains... those few changes alone have made everything look rather stark and impersonal. but i'm just doing what i have to do to move my stuff from the old to the new. i can arrange things lovingly in my new nest. the next time i blog, i'll be in my new digs. and i can't wait!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

changing lanes

there's a place where the on-ramp to a highway i take sometimes merges in from the left of the highway. i hate it, because it merges into the "fast lane," instead of the far right lane, so other drivers don't want to let you in. plus, there's a concrete median that creates a blind spot where you need to be looking for oncoming traffic, especially since you're coming in on an angle, so you can't see what you're getting into until you get virtually to the end of the on-ramp. at times, the people who are merging simply have to stop at the end of the ramp, look across their car to the passenger side mirror for an opening, and then accelerate really quickly to get onto the highway.

i try not to use this exit and this on-ramp because its design and the other drivers are just dangerous all the way around. but yesterday, i was headed home, and i somehow forgot to take my detour. i was forced to stop at the end of the ramp, and then two cars stopped so closely behind me on an angle that i couldn't see the traffic, and i couldn't move. the other two cars could see, so they merged from behind me. then i could finally see. i saw an opening, and floored it. unfortunately, my transmission didn't pick up as fast as i thought it would (i'm still getting used to this car) and the car i was merging in front of didn't slow down, so they had to get out of the way to keep from hitting my rear end. however, they were okay, i was okay, and i was relieved.

i thought little of it beyond feeling relieved. until the minivan that had to move to make way for me abruptly cut in front of my car. it took a few fractions of a second to realize that this was their retribution for having to go around me when i merged in front of them. if i was them, i'd have been upset, too. but that's where it would have ended. i would have thoroughly cussed them out (without looking at them or making eye contact) from behind the wheel of my car while driving away. i only wished that was the end of it for me. the minivan driver confirmed that it was indeed retribution when the window rolled down and a brown masculine arm came out and artfully flipped me the bird with a passionately dramatic flourish. i laughed out loud! my thoughts were, no worries mon, nobody got hurt, and i'm happy to be alive, aren't you? shooooot. i'm going home.

i don't get that gesture often, and i don't do it to others. but i understand the people who do it. they're angry. they're probably in a hurry, and then this donkey's posterior orifice comes and does something stupid. and they take it personally, because they see their car and the space they're taking up in the road as an extension of their person. and you know how people get when they feel violated or disrespected. it's like when the white guy stepped on gian.carlo espo.sito's (buggin out's) jordans in do the right thing.

but i personally draw a line. i allow myself to verbally vent, but not in a manner that's directed to the other driver. i don't refuse to let people in, nor do i cut people off out of spite. i don't make eye contact and i don't make gestures. i don't tailgate and i don't roadhog. i don't follow people, and i don't carry a weapon in my car. i've seen enough network news magazines to know that stuff can get you killed. and i'm too young and too cute to die. and dangit, i just got this car. it's too young for an accident.

this is exactly why i refused to attempt to pass the minivan driver after they cut me off. they baited me - they wanted me to pass them, i'm sure, so that they could yell at me, or cut me off again, or perhaps even worse, side swipe my car or knock me into the median - you never know what can happen. instead, i decided to ride at a safe distance well behind them and keep them in my vision at all times. we rode together for miles. every lane i got in, they got in. they slowed to a 50 mile an hour crawl while everyone else was doing maybe 65, 70 miles an hour around us. i really wanted to just go home, but i was afraid of their anger, and too cautious to try to pass them. i reached for my cell phone in case i'd have to call the police.

finally, miles down the road, i rode in an "exit only" lane that i didn't intend to take, and they drove away. but even then, i drove cautiously, hoping they didn't stop ahead of me to watch for me from the shoulder so that they could follow me home. it was a nervous little ride, but i made it in one piece. i am sorry for the part i played in that little drama - i should have waited the entire 20 minutes it would have taken for infinite space to open up before merging onto the highway if that's what it took - and i'm sorry if having to change lanes inconvenienced them, but i worry about what may happen the next time someone pisses them off. i'm also glad for them that i don't have a violent temper or a gun, because when they cut me off and flipped me the bird, they put their own life in danger. you never know who you're dealing with on the road, family.

be careful out there.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the scent of fried fish

The first Nyla story: Prodigal
The second Nyla story: Stranger

Mama should have taken me with her, Nyla thought.

It wasn't fair that Kevin got to go to Philadelphia with her and Nyla had to stay home. With Arlene. But they needed one more pallbearer for the funeral Mama was going to, and Uncle Junior and Uncle Billy couldn't take time off from work, so they couldn't go. Kevin was just big enough, thanks to this recent growth spurt, to go help carry Mama's cousin since school was out. And there wasn't enough Greyhound money for three.

Ever since news of the trip came, Nyla prayed to Jesus to be able to go with Mama. For two whole days, Nyla silently protested in her heart against being left behind. She was too afraid to poke out her lips or appear to be upset - that was a sure way to be left at home and earn Mama's displeasure. If she was going to get Mama to change her mind and tell them to get another pallbearer, or maybe even reach into that rusted coffee can Nyla knew was under the shed for more ticket money, she was going to have to be really good and make herself useful for the trip. She asked Mama who would carry the bags. She sat with Mama while she packed her bags and suggested which hat would be best. She asked Mama who would make sure her old pearl earrings from Granddaddy were safe. And when Mama assured her that everything would be fine on the trip, tears welled up in Nyla's eyes. She opened her mouth to cry out, you can't leave me here with that woman! But somehow she knew all was lost. So she simply sat on the bed after willing her tears not to fall, and watched Mama pack her Bible in the suitcase.

Mama sat down next to Nyla and put her arm around her shoulders. "Nye, baby. You shouldn't worry about me and Kevin being gone. We'll be back. Your uncles will be here, and Arlene is your own mama, and she loves you."

Before she could stop herself, Nyla flashed accusatory eyes at Mama, knowing full well that Arlene was no more her mama than Kevin was. A stranger, even. A stranger she couldn't remember ever being around without Mama or Kevin there, and now here she's supposed to believe Arlene loved her? Arlene doesn't even know how to get Nyla's grits right, leaving the sugar out and everything! An angry tear broke through her will, and Nyla looked down quickly to wipe it away.

Mama understood more than Nyla realized. "I'll call you every day from Philadelphia. I'm going to miss you while we're there, but we'll be back soon. But Nye, this is about family. I have to be there for Cousin Emma, and you have to trust me about Arlene. Be patient. Now, go on and get my hat box."

And that's how Nyla wound up at the bus terminal standing next to Arlene, waving goodbye to the only family she felt good around, save her uncles, who were always working. In fact, she and Arlene had to walk back home together, alone. Nyla hadn't realized this when they first set off from the house with Uncle Junior in the borrowed truck, or maybe she wouldn't have even come to say goodbye. Junior had to take the truck back in time to get back to work, so here she was, walking beside Arlene. Red toenail polish wearing, no slip under the dress baring, scar on her face having Arlene.


She felt so awkward walking home from the terminal beside her, scared to speak, scared to reach for her hand, even when they crossed streets. At some point during the walk, Arlene's heart resigned itself to the fact that they'd have no talk of her love for Nyla or her shame at letting things get so distant between them. Now she understood more of what her own mama went through trying to love her as a girl. Nyla's stoic little face didn't cry when Mama and Kevin rolled away on that bus. Her jaw was set. Her body, stiff. She's me, all over again, Arlene saw. A tough little bird, and she hates me.

The house loomed up in her vision from blocks away as Arlene realized that with Junior and Billy working until well after nightfall, she and Nyla would be completely alone for the first time since Junior carried her into the house weeks ago, bleeding and grieving and probably scaring Nyla to death with the very sight of her. How much did she understand about Fish? Did she know about Little Boo? Would Nye listen to an explanation? Did she need one? They climbed the steps, walked across the porch, and entered the house, in silence. Nyla grabbed a newspaper from the coffee table and went back to the kitchen.

Arlene stood, watching her, and took a deep breath as her eyes settled somewhat absentmindedly on the kitchen doorframe. Except her mind wasn't absent. It was keenly present, listening to Nye opening the newspaper, smelling the grease from that morning's fried fish, remembering how she hated to be approached when she was angry, and debating whether she wanted to walk into the kitchen or go outside to the front porch.

She took a step.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


so i was driving, but at the time i was stopped at a traffic light, and this young woman walked across the street in front of my car. her hair was long and beautiful, and she'd washed it this morning, just like how i've been doing the wash-and-air-dry all summer. i gave her hair and facial features the once-over, knowing she didn't notice me, trying to determine if this fair skinned girl was black or not. (she was. and that's a whole 'nother topic - how we're indoctrinated with the need to put folks in boxes and figure out what they are...) but anyway, she led my gaze to light upon a man standing on the corner she was headed to, who seemed to be enjoying his morning coffee. he was about my dad's age and complexion - i liked him and his middle aged belly immediately. i noticed that as the girl approached him, he looked rather indifferent to her presence... but the moment she walked past him, his head turned to watch her walk away from him. i did a double take. did he just check that girl out? that's so funny! he's all old and stuff. but i kinda doubted what i saw, and in that instant, i noticed another woman walking up with a great figure and a beautiful head of hair. i thought to myself, i bet he'll check her out. and sure enough, when she turned the corner, his head did too. he started at the top of her head and worked his way down as she walked away.

without hesitation, because i knew the light would soon change, and i just had to get it in, i rolled my window down and teasingly hollered,

"you know you ain't right, lookin' at dem girls!"

he turned around, surprised that he was being watched, and then a little sheepish for having been caught being a dirty old man. he looked in the car and saw me laughing, and started to laugh at himself along with me.

i said through my laughter, "you need to leave them pretty young girls alone."

and he said, "aww, i ain't hurting nobody! shoot, i'm looking at you, too." he laughed. he addressed me as if i was some niece that had caught him pinching his wife's booty. "no harm done, long as i don't..."

"yeah, i know, i know!"

the light changed. i had to go.

i grinned. "you have a good day!"

"you too!"

i giggled off and on for the next five minutes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

going to the fair

yes, i did pick up eight books that i'm proud to own, a mix of fiction and historical/biographical nonfiction. and yes, i did miss the workshops because i got there late (which was not my fault, 'cause i had to wait for my passengers to convene before i finally hit the road). and yes, i realize that the gathering was what folks collectively put into it. and no, it wasn't the rain sprinkles or clouds. it was the other stuff, like the fact one of the two blocks seemed to be predominantly food, jewelry and clothes instead of books. and then, of the books that were there, most were what a friend of mine has termed, "ghetto fiction."

i'm sure there's a term they use for it in publishing that isn't so charged. i realize that the word "ghetto" has in recent years become a word that no longer carries the innocuous "ethnic enclave" meaning that you may find in a dictionary. folk generally use the term now with disdain, or alternatively bothersome, with praise, when talking about the bad stereotypes, character flaws, and various degrees of shady activity and ignorance that folks like to pin on poor urban minorities. the term ghetto fiction has been used, at least by my friends, to describe the legion of books that are being marketed en masse to black folks, often by black folks, seemingly everywhere that books are being sold to black folks. the books are all paperback. most of the covers have pictures of black people on them (to reassure us that we're not picking up a book about white folks, since surely, we wouldn't be interested in reading about anything or anyone other than ourselves.) many times the women are wearing really provocative clothing, or no clothing at all. and the men all look angry, with bandanas on their heads. if you read the back cover, you'll often find that the protagonist faces some dilemma that has something to do with "the streets," "the hood life," or "the game." many of these books are like extended written versions of the lyrics and videos of the latest r&b or hip hop songs. their plots commonly twist and turn around drug culture, sexuality, and violence. some are cautionary tales. others are simply tales, like pu.zo's the god.father, except that the characters are black and poorer, but somehow even more glamorous and daring. unfortunately, the books are often poorly written and edited, with predictable plots, unimaginative language and character development, rampant misspelling, and bad grammar outside of dialectical speech or narration. publishing houses (first the small ones, and increasingly, bigger and bigger ones) are really cleaning up with these books, with the exception of the many that are independently published.

i've read some of these ghetto fiction novels on the rare occasions that i have overestimated certain books because the cover didn't fit the profile. i avoid these books like the plague. i grew up reading classic short stories by writers of all colors, and my introduction to black authors' novels and poetry came from toni mor.rison, maya ang.elou, james, rich.ard wright, nikki gio.vanni, and the like. i'm a snob. i've had prime steak, i don't want canned potted meat now. to me, ghetto fiction is a dented can of potted meat. that's been sitting in the corner store since it fell off the back of a truck when the store opened seven years ago. that's been sitting untouched on the shelf through numerous fumigations.

anyone can write a book. get their little cousin who took art at the vo/tech to draw a cover. get their little sister who has a computer to type it up and edit it. get some money from somewhere and print it, selling it out of the trunk of their car. don't get me wrong, i'm not knocking the hustle. some folks even start small publishing companies, some of which specialize in creating and marketing these books. i find that to be very enterprising and smart. there's a demand, and they're just supplying it.

but at what cost? some folks say they're glamorizing immorality and the kinds of lives that we shouldn't want for ourselves. others say that the books have gotten people reading who wouldn't otherwise be reading. (unfortunately, young people can be included in this population.) but i'll be honest, i'd rather this trend stop now. i hate the idea of our literary ability as a people to decline because we expect and demand less creativity and skill from the folks and write and tell our stories. it's actually not the subject matter that grates at my nerves so much as it is the treatment of the subject matter and the bad quality of the books. it's getting more and more difficult to find new creative books by black authors that fall outside of the ghetto fiction or ter.ry-mc.millan-sistagirl-dilemma trends. could it be that aspiring black authors will one day choose to write ghetto fiction merely because it's the lucrative genre, instead of striving for their own personal literary heights? could ghetto fiction dull the senses of those who would otherwise be skilled readers with discriminating taste? in other words, would the nightmare that's happened in the black music industry happen in the black literature industry as well? would i wind up being a "backpacker" author, hustling my book underground to the "conscious" heads 'cause i'm too old school and counter-trend for the mainstream publishing houses to sign me, 'cause i won't sell out and write a simple book with no style, value, or nuance just to move units and keep the people simple yet hungry for more to dull their intellect?

i actually heard a very annoyed someone ask at one of the booths, "do you have any lang.ston hughes here?" as if they'd been looking all day. i felt their pain.

i'm nervous. the harlem book fair made me nervous. not just for my future in writing, but for all of us.

Friday, July 21, 2006

milkman's sister

there are many ways to express love.

one of them is to stay out to support a sistapoet who's on her way out of town to pursue an academic dream, staying until every last drop of the send-off has dripped, even if it means that my body wasn't going to hit the sheets until something-to-three in the morning.

wait for it...

*yawn* (excuse me.)

i also noticed lately that a lot of the poetry i write - the substantial majority of it, in fact - is love poetry. notice, i didn't say romantic, i said love, because love is bigger than the erotic and sentimental, though i do write romantic and sensual pieces. i write poems that are in tribute to different kinds of people, like women, men, black folks, my old neighborhood, and my dad. i have other poems that are about my disappointment in certain events, like the aftermath of hurricane katrina or the incidents where people lose their lives to violence and receive no justice because of apathy. still other poems center around my identity politics, and where my place is in this society and the various microcosms of society i deal with, and more often than not, those poems are written towards the love of self, the love of the Creator, and the love of others. i suppose it's fitting that my poems all boil down like greens to love in one way shape or form. i'm happy about that. i'm very pleased to know that the contents of my mind that my expressive side feels imperative to share with others is essentially all the stuff about love.

my faith teaches me that the two greatest and most imperative things a person can do are to love the Creator and love the neighbors (more than you love yourself, which is really just an extension and natural companion to the other two acts of loving.) i think i actually understand that ordering too. because in order to love the Creator, you have to earnestly be open and respectful of and generous toward Someone you can't even reach out and put your hands on... unless you can recognize that that loving Someone's breath respirates in every person you'll ever see. and that alone is enough reason to be open and respectful and generous to everyone who will allow you to be, and to at least be respectful from a distance if folks force you to. i think that once you've done that, then maybe you can truly do that for yourself. because without that first understanding, we love ourselves merely out of self-interest and intrinsic self-preservation. that's such a biased and limited love - it's the kind that allows us to criticize and doubt and hold contempt for our fallibilities and shortcomings that perhaps we'd be able to forgive if we could love ourselves with the same lack of conditions with which we can look at a stranger and love what we see. the more we practice the effort, the less we see good reason to put exceptions and conditions on love, with others and with ourselves. i walk several blocks in the city most mornings, and i pass all kinds of people. practice makes perfect, so i look at them and i try to see myself in them. well, not so much myself, but the part of myself that is like the part of them that is in common to both of us because it's both of us and not of us, that Divinity - that shared original breath some people call soul, or spirit. it gets easier as i continue to try. i've seen myself in middle aged asian ladies, and weather beaten old homeless dudes, and cosmopolitan white girls walking their little dogs, and brothers riding low in their seats listening to hip hop loud at eight in the morning. it's the most amazing thing.

i've noticed lately that my posts lately keep going back to the spiritual. i don't plan this stuff. i just write where the words take me. i try not to beat folks over the head with my spirituality and my faith tradition, 'cause one of my main gripes with it is that people who preach generally annoy the hell out of me. i can get past those who are self-righteous, or those who are regurgitating stuff they haven't even understood or internalized yet, and those who are condemning. but it's the persistence of those folks who don't realize that only those who have ears for what you're saying will be the ones to grow from it. and whoever ain't listening for it, won't be ready until they are listening for it, in which case the best you can do is plant a seed and keep it moving. i'm not here to save anyone. everybody has to decide if they even need saving, and if so, from what, and only then will a decision they make on how to get what they need hold any water. only then will they know whether or not to accept or reject the seed. till then, their ears are closed, and they're just going through the motions of apathy or ambivalence or perhaps even persistent rote activity, with no ground being gained. i live and let live, and hope that my living speaks louder than the oft-repeated phrases in a misunderstood paradigm of religious thought that dull the ears of the otherwise willing.

anyway, that was a big digression. or maybe not, 'cause i was talking about love, after all, and that all fits in - because i love folks, or at least am learning how to really do it. and because of that, i will set aside my pride as best i can in order to respect that there is always hope in the Divinity within them. i'm learning the art of it as i go along. and i like that my poems and blogs are telling the story of how i'm coming closer and closer to understanding. for now we see through a glass darkly... (ooh let me stop before i start mangling first corinthians (one of my favorite toni morrison characters) up in here. i didn't even know this post was gonna go there...)

have a good weekend.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

because i said so dammit

what is it about my pride that is so fierce when someone tells me i'm wrong? why does it vex me so? it shouldn't. people are wrong, all the time, all over the place. the world keeps turning. more often than not, we don't hate people just 'cause they're wrong, with the exception of stuff like, oh i dunno, making up reasons for war and bullying everybody into going along with you. but besides stuff like that, being wrong is so not that big a deal, especially if you make some kind of mistake. honestly made mistakes are really just these understandable little occurrences that happen to everyone.

there's a possibility that i made a mistake. to my understanding, i have not. there are only two possibilities, that i have, or that i haven't. and the world won't end if i did, in fact, make a mistake. but to some extent, it's a matter of remembering what i have or haven't done, and i remember doing what i was supposed to do. i'm confident that i have not manufactured some recollection of not making a mistake in order to dub over having made one. i was there. i know. i'm not wrong!

i don't like how condescending people can be when they think you're wrong. i wonder if i'm like that when i think someone is wrong. i'm argumentative by training, yet smart enough to know how to choose my battles. but sometimes it can take all of my restraint to take the humble route and allow folks to say what they believe without correcting them and being... right.

i am so often right that it's difficult to carry either being wrong, or being possibly wrong, or being presumed wrong, with grace. i am usually on the other side of the divide between right and wrong, comfortably ensconced in the superiority of righteousness, generously taking the high road by using discretion to decide whether or not to condemn or to lovingly and patiently correct whoever has made a mistake, or uttered a faux pas, or misspelled something beyond recognition.

i attribute some of my struggle with this to my experience with my dad. bless his heart, he always means well, but in true virgo fashion, he is quite the critic, and even when he's wrong, he ain't wrong. i never really liked his self-righteousness much, or the fact that he didn't even realize (or care) that he was so proud that he was beyond reproach. funny how the traits you dislike in others may very well irk you despite the fact (or because of the fact) that they're traits that mirror your own. i like to think of myself as openminded and humble enough to own up to my share of being wrong. and in many respects, i do, and i'll readily admit when i've been in the wrong, whether reluctantly or eagerly. but it's not so easy when i disagree. if i subjectively believe that i'm right, that's all that matters, besides using my acuity with words and the strength of my will to make sure whoever else may be "confused" about my righteousness gets set straight on the matter. i suppose that i can do better than that, and i suppose that i can try to recognize that my subjective opinion is but one side of an objective reality, and that just because i find myself to be right, that doesn't necessarily mean that i am.

pssssshhhhhh, who am i kidding. i know myself. i'm more likely to hold on to my opinion and inwardly accuse my opponent of some inferiority - a warped memory, a blind eye, a swollen sense of pride, a lack of intelligence, a judgmental impatience. this, my friends, is why my faith tradition is important. i have to believe in a Creator that's better and more perfect than me. otherwise, understanding of my human frailties and forgiveness of my mistakes would take a backseat to condemnation, and my memory and existence would be forever marred by my shortcomings through the infinity of existence, long after the earth reclaims me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

green girl outgrows clothes

there are times when i feel like the Lord just wants me to deal with my chronic impatience. today and yesterday are some of those times. i have exhausted more time and gas and energy and sweat than usual in the last 24 hours, and i have not been a happy camper. pick a moment - the moment i realized an expensive package delivered to me was knowingly delivered to the wrong person, and that i had no control over when or if i would ever see it. or maybe the moment i really wanted to be there for someone and i couldn't because i was obligated to do something else... or wait, maybe the time i had to really really relieve myself to the point where i considered relieving myself in the street... or the moment i noticed my mobile phone - my ONLY phone - had no juice and i had no access to my charger. or maybe pick the moment when i was held up for about five extra minutes on the way to work because of a road hog who insisted on driving in both lanes, or the minute i realized i was rushing to leave for work so fast that i forgot deodorant after my shower, causing me to buy a stick even though i already have three at home. maybe try picking the time when i looked at the sky and saw and felt rain, but had to go to three stores just to find one umbrella. which didn't keep my legs and feet from getting wet. speaking of legs and feet, maybe pick when a cramp seized my calf muscle so hard it woke me up overnight, and still is stiff today. or maybe choose when i bit into a piece of fruit salad before realizing that maybe i shouldn't have. and i'm having a bad hair day. and my sunglasses, the ones with sentimental value, are broken. i never have so many things go so inconveniently for me in such a short 24-hour period. people keep talking about some mercury retrograde thing. look, i don't know what it is, but it's making me nuts. i need a break.

i've been telling myself not to overreact to things. that all these things are inconveniences that will all soon pass and be remedied. that there's no need for me to act out and make situations worse. that it wouldn't be worth it to cuss out the folks who might deserve it. that some of this stuff is very much my fault for being hasty and allowing stuff to distract me. but you know what? sometimes all the good sense in the world is no decent match for full-blown frustration. all these things are happening as if annoyances have agreed to play tag-team wrestling - taking turns burning up my energy and time. it's hard to be reasonable when you feel like every step you take in any direction is liable to wind up in some doo doo. i could soooooo relate to the incredibl.e h.ulk over the past days. i so wanted to choke that man who giggled at me at the carrier for my package when they told me that yes, they had messed up, and wow, that sucks for me. i so wanted to cause him bodily harm. or at least to cut him to the quick with something scathing from my lips. and after i'd held onto my hometraining and left the store with my dignity intact, i got mad with myself for being non-confrontational and not venting my frustration.

but now, i am writing. all isn't well with the world, but it's a little better. i'll get phone access back at lunch. my carrier is supposed to be getting my package back, and if they don't i'll just do what I have to do to get what want, no less blessed just because of the inconvenience. i woke up in the comfort of my pleasantly cooled home, after a comfortable sleep, and had the health and means to get to work and earn some money. all that other stuff is just other stuff. i might have a popsicle with lunch.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006



Merriam-Webster says:

Main Entry: focus
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): fo·cused also fo·cussed; fo·cus·ing also fo·cus·sing
transitive verb
1 a : to bring into focus b : to adjust the focus of (as the eye or a lens)
2 : to cause to be concentrated <focused their attention on the most urgent problems>
3 : to bring (as light rays) to a focus : CONCENTRATE
intransitive verb
1 : to come to a focus : CONVERGE
2 : to adjust one's eye or a camera to a particular range
3 : to concentrate attention or effort
fo·cus·able /-k&-s&-b&l/ adjective
fo·cus·er noun

I find particular value in the third definition of the intransitive verb: to concentrate attention or effort. Writing is my friend. Books are my friends. Poetry and I are becoming friends. And in that vein, I've treated my relationship with the written word much like how I treat my relationship with friends. Casually. I relate to the craft of using and reading the written word when I feel like it. If I need pleasure or release or solace or companionship in written words, then, in that instant of need, that's when I grab a pen, or curl up with a book, or venture to an open-mic or poetry concert or slam. If I don't feel like it - if I'm otherwise preoccupied, I know that the affection I have for reading and writing is constantly there, and ready to flow like water from a tap when I need it. In that way, my casual friendship with words is even better than the one I have with my living, breathing friends who are sometimes needy or unavailable or disappointing.

Now, there's nothing wrong with having this casual approach towards the written word. However, if I have dreams of being able to write things and have my words spread out beyond my physical reach, to eyes and people that I may never even see, then I am entering another world. A world of measurable predictors of attention and financial success. Whether I edit and bind my book(s) myself or whether I have a major company do it, there are considerations of supply and demand, target audiences, marketability, production costs and profit margins, shelf space - things I know precious little about. It's a whole 'nother world. A world where a casual relationship alone just won't do. It's business, not casual. And a business relationship means that I can't tell the written word, "I'll see you when I see you," or "I'll be around when I get a chance." A successful business relationship takes a concentration of attention and effort. It takes focus.

This is why it is important that you love what you do. I intend to invest my attention and my effort into the written word every chance that I purposely make. I have to. This is business. And because my nose will constantly be stuck in a book or alternatively, my eyes will always be on a computer screen as I type or read, and I know my fingers will often be scribbling writing ideas on post-it notes or forcing the poetry of my mind into my black and white composition notebook, whether or not I think I have anything to say, or whether or not I've been christened with the sweet nutritious water of inspiration, I had better like - LOVE - what I'm doing. This is how I know I'm doing the right thing for my spirit. In a perfect world without bills, I know I would quit my job to do this full time - no, scratch that, more than full time - just to get it done and done well.

Remember when I was blogging every day for the discipline of it? When I slacked off, I was not as personally fulfilled, and it took me a while to get my rhythm back. I learned from that. Focus will help me to be a more prolific writer with a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses. Focus will help to keep folks coming to my blog because they'll know I won't disappoint them by posting erratically - and that's important to me because their comments give me food for thought and keep me writing. Focus will get me closer to my dream of having something between two covers that I wrote, with my first name and my parents' last name on it. They can take it to work and say, "See this author? This is my child." And my children can take it to show and tell one day and say, "See, my mama wrote this book. She writes all the time - she says focus is important. She writes me stories from my ideas, and she writes for grown-ups too. We see her books in the bookstore. And that's her picture in the back. My mama is a writer." That's what focus can give me.

Monday, July 17, 2006

good morning

i am thankful for my faith tradition that keeps me out of big trouble and encourages me to take responsibility for my actions and attitudes. i'm thankful that the Creator has given me a heart that desires goodness in all things. i'm thankful to have a job with air conditioning, and for the food and drink i've had to eat and drink this morning. i woke up happy and cared for and i'm thankful for that, too. i'm thankful for honesty and friendship, for long lazy days and good things to read. i'm thankful that there are people who are thankful for me. i'm thankful for prayer. i'm thankful that my grandma and my parents are still healthy and independent and that i still have time to prepare for when they need me. i'm thankful that my children are but thoughts and intentions and that i still have time to prepare for when they have beating hearts and open mouths. i'm thankful for craig's list and monster and blogger and writerblocks and hotmail and haloscan. i'm thankful for forgiveness, the passage of time, and both the persistence and the weakness of memory. i write and i communicate and i articulate and from that i grow and foster others' growth, and for that, i am truly thankful. thankful to be increasing in wisdom and discernment. thankful to have so many constant opportunities to choose to change. i'm thankful for my car. thankful for my financial prudence and knowledge. i am thankful for my dreams. i am thankful for good boo lovin. i am thankful that the true meaning of that sentence remains an enigma to the reader, though it holds much meaning for me. i'm thankful for my body, all its strength, and its excellent design, the persistent breath within, and its beauty. i am thankful for free nights and weekends, and for my mom and dad. and music! and laughter! and fruit! and children! and love! and popsicles! and poetry. and i'm thankful that i understand the importance of appreciating stuff.

Friday, July 14, 2006

laid to rest

it has served me well for the better part of a decade, that bed. right now it is either leaning against the no parking sign where i left it last night, or taking a ride to that bedroom in the sky in the back of a south jersey sanitation truck. *sigh.* it was my first bed that was bigger than a twin. the first piece of furniture i ever bought. the only piece of furniture in my first apartment for the first few days. i bought it at the corner store with money i earned at my summer temp job down near baltimore's inner harbor. i'm not joking when i say corner store, either. there's a furniture store at 33rd and greenmount (or at least there was one then... it's the area you see in the opening montage of ch.ris rock's movie about the brother who ran for president - the name escapes me now - yeah, i know the movie was set in d.c., but i also know my old neighborhood when i see it, and that stuff in the background is in b-more, right up the street from the store on the corner where i bought my bed.) my bed was cheap. i was making about $9 an hour, full time - the most money i'd ever made in my life to that point - and i was itching to get out of an uncomfortable roommate situation. i'd just handed over first month's rent and security for my first apartment, a converted attic within walking distance from both campus and the hood storefronts where i could get chicken boxes with the little square rolls for two dollars if i was ever out of instant grits or oo.dles of noo.dles. i didn't have no s.ealy, s.erta, or c.oil money. so i paid $99.00 plus tax and delivery for a full size, no-name, no-pillowtop, no warranty mattress with no exterior satiny quilting, the boxspring, and the frame. the men who delivered my bed put it on the porch and my downstairs animal house neighbors helped move it up the two flights of stairs, in the middle of summer, to my empty hot box - a truly humble abode.

i was so proud.

i was an adult, taking care of myself. i had keys to my own place and a brand new bed i'd paid for myself. don't stop, get it, get it! if nothing else, i didn't have to sleep on the floor.

that bed rode with me through college and two graduations. though i did eventually get more furniture, i still ate on it, studied on it, wrote in my diary in it, wrote poetry in it, read and listened to music in it, prayed beside it, took sick in it, consoled myself in it, made love in it, and cried over lost loves in it. in the numerous times i worked numerous jobs at once to keep the bills and rent paid, it was there to support my weary body. it moved with me three times, even though the springs began to lose their spring, and the lining began to peel off the bottom of the boxspring, and i had to cover the top with a feather mattress to make the thing bearable to sleep on. it was so silly: the feather mattress was a twin size. the bed was a full size. i'd set that mattress in the middle and the sides would be all hanging bare, like the edges of bread slices when you put a hamburger on it. but i loved my bed - was thankful for and proud of my bed - it was the symbol of my independence and the beginning of my adult life.

it's been several years, now, and i am both the same and a different person. moving, AGAIN. and eager to embrace the changes that are happening in my life, and in that vein, many things are being tossed in my purge - first, to prepare for a smaller apartment, and secondly, because i'm not a big girl, i'm a grown woman. my hand-me-down couch. my fam.ily college tupperware. the dishes and glasses i bought at a yard sale for $20 the weekend after i moved into that first place. my hand-me-down microwave with the broken timer dial that still works, no matter what all my friends say. ("how am i supposed to know how long it's been in there?" "it don't matter - just touch it to see if it's hot - shoot, it'll be done when it's done, and shutup talking about my microwave! my auntie gave me that!") no matter what, everything i owned was a miracle to me. i was, and still am thankful for every thing i had, no matter whether i bought it cheap, or it was someone else' s trash - it was all blessing in my eyes. God has blessed me and continues to do so. ax about me. ask my visitors if my dwelling places were anything less than welcoming and as comfortable as love could make them. ask the guests who i've surrendered my bed to whether or not they slept well at night.

last night, i slept on my fold-out loveseat. i'll be getting a nice new wooden futon with a spring mattress for this new place, that will probably be a guest bed when i move on up into homeownership. but before i move too quickly, i just had to stop and acknowledge that old bed jostling in the back of some green trash truck, and how thankful i was for the blessing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

sealing wax

we are such movers and shakers! in my adult life, which hasn't been a good ten years yet, I will have lived in five different places in four different cities in four different states, not counting dorms. i've changed my mobile phone number once, and my license plate about four times. i have keychain discount cards for grocery stores up and down the east coast. i know how and when to get cardboard boxes for free, and at this point, i could probably parallel park a u-h.aul blindfolded. and i am not alone. i purposely put names, addresses, and phone numbers into my little blue book in pencil only. 'cause everybody i know moves and changes their number and/or e-mail address constantly, depending on jobs, marital status, internet service providers, bad credit - you name it, people will find reasons to tell you that something about how to find them is different this week than it was last week.

perhaps part of what lets you in on whether or not somebody really wants to stay in your life is whether or not they let you know they will be moving, but even more so, whether or not they leave their new address with you. when they change their number, have they called you to tell you, or do you just get the "not in service" message when you dial the old number? i can think of some folks right now that won't be getting my new contact information...

people always say that they want to keep in touch. i know i've said it. and each time, i've had the best of intentions. but i think it really depends on a few circumstances. 'cause right now i can think of some people i really wanted to keep in touch with, and it just didn't happen. because we are such movers and shakers, it's difficult for many of us to create a space in our schedule to really, truly keep in touch. then one day, you may bump into each other one day and remember how nice it used to be way back when you were still in touch - before the phone calls went from daily or weekly to monthly or quarterly, or even worse, annually or semi-annually. the problem with letters is that noone writes them anymore. there used to be an art to it, with practiced and beautiful calligraphy, special stationery, and wax seals with monograms. then we all got long distance. and mobile phones with night and weekend minutes. instant messaging, text messaging, and e(lectronic)-mail. everything has to happen quickly. our communication is getting truncated, along with the length of our friendships.

then there's that awkward feeling you get when you think about someone you said you'd keep in touch with, that you haven't spoken to in an awfully long time. it's a silly feeling, by the way, because the phones work in two directions, and they haven't called you either. in fact, they thought about you just a week and a half ago, but didn't call you 'cause they thought that you would be angry with them for not having called. plus your life has changed. their life has probably changed. or maybe, (and this would be a worse possibility) they haven't changed at all, but you have. or you haven't changed. but they have. so instead of reaching back and catching up with the friend, you just say, "i wonder how so-and-so is doing..." and shrug the whole thing off. "they ain't even thinking about me, anyway! humph."

well that's stupid. i guess if we all always said that nobody would have any friendship. i figure we should do the best we can to keep things rolling. be honest with each other. be good to each other, and be diligent in reserving time with our friends, no matter how far away they are. you never know what goodness they have within themselves to keep giving to you as you both grow. and you should be there to receive it and give of yourself, even if it means you have to buy stationery.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

ya been hoodwinked, led astray...

you know, i really really don't like cooning. really.


i was on my way to the post office and i was rushing lunch, so i bought a hot dog from a vendor and proceeded, hustling and bustling in the heat towards the post office, after telling the vendor i'd be back for another in a moment. on the way there, i noticed a man squeegeeing someone's windshield for cash. it caught my eye 'cause it had been some time since i'd seen that on the street. as i continued to walk down the block, the squeegee man came back to the sidewalk out of traffic, and i noticed that he wasn't alone, that there were maybe two or three other men with him standing around.

when you are a girl in the city, you learn quickly as you grow into a woman that it's in your best interest to find a (somewhat) happy medium between acknowledging men's presence and attention and unquestionably holding them at bay. my girlfriends and i used to do just that very balancing act when we were teenagers on the way up the avenue to the little stores for chinese food or hair products. there's a little bit of science to it. you can't be too friendly, 'cause then they'll bother the mess out of you. on the other hand, you can't ignore them altogether, no matter how much you may not want to talk to them, because being regarded as a stuck-up female canine isn't the safest thing to have on your back as you're walking in the city, sans car, sans male companion, sans pepper spray. women have been verbally and physically assaulted over something as simple as not wanting to flirt with random strange men on the street. i actually have a poem about this. y'all should come hear me read it one day.

but anyway, i knew what to do. as i approached them and walked through their chosen sidewalk hangout, i gave them the universal "i see you and acknowledge that you're standing there" head nod, without a smile, but with a little eye contact, never breaking my brisk got-to-get-to-the-post-office-and-back-to-work stride. "how ya doin." that shoulda been enough. but, to my dismay, mr. squeegee man decides to cut up. in his best man.tan moreland/ impression, he opened his eyes wide and cooned all over the sidewalk, jerking his arms and shoulders as if mister charlie himself was having a good time playing marionette with his manhood. grinning at me, as if i was supposed to somehow be entertained. *sigh.* as i continued to walk on, i think i gave him one of those insincere smiles people give when they don't want to be rude, but can't help it - you know, the one where the corners of your mouth turn up a little, but your lips never part to show your teeth, and in fact, your facial muscles contort a little as if it pains you to be polite. my nose wrinkled up, and i could feel my eyes glaze over as i attempted to somehow NOT see this full grown african male acting with less dignity than little buck.wheat. what was he doing! what response did he expect towards such a shameless display? arrggghhhh...

after i passed, one of the men (who was old enough to be my father) asked, "lemme ask you a question." i continued walking as i responded, "MmHmm" as in, go ahead. this repeated, as i suppose he hadn't heard me the first time, or was thrown off by the fact that i didn't stop just to hear his question. he said he'd like to buy me lunch. i held up my half-eaten hot dog and he responded, "no, a REAL lunch," to which i thanked him and told him i was alright. "have a good one," he said. "you too," i responded, and the encounter ended. now, i could have lived with that. but even now, over an hour later, the image of mr. squeegee cooning still smarts in my memory. i'm thankful that as i walk down city streets, i come into contact with more brothers who are not like that. but the fact that there are any men who coon like mr. squeegee did today... it disturbs me.

i never made it back to the hot dog vendor after the post office. i walked around the other end of the block and picked up a sandwich instead. i don't think i would have been able to stomach bambooz.led the sequel.

part of me wishes i'd stopped and spoke to him, lovingly ministered to his spirit, and sternly admonished him to stand with an erect spine and have the bearing of man of worth - a Malcolm X, or a Muhammad Ali, or my own daddy. but i was so taken aback, so disappointed, so eager to shed the taint of being in the presence of that mess, that i felt no inclination at that time but to escape the madness. yet it has seared itself into my visual memory. i find his actions to be no different than those who pretend to be thugs when they're not, who posture and dumb themselves down, yet somehow find themselves superior to people who simply are who they are. they're no different from people who value their limited knowledge and celebrate their own ignorance, or who perpetuate the foolish idea that there are parameters for acceptable Black behavior or experience, beyond which blackness is challengable, excluding those of us who hunger for knowledge or who try anything new. no different from those who embrace and embellish and roll around in the dust of our stereotypes. people who think "ghetto," and "hood-rich," and "nigga," are endearing or cute. and i am so disappointed in us, all of us, for allowing any of our people to be this way in this day and time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Greed is stupid. Some people are so eager to get their hands on money or power, they stop being considerate of other people. Dealing with people lately, I've run into this truth a little more often than I'd like. I'd just like to say that you can only be that way for so long before some situation humbles you. I don't wish anything bad on people, it's just that I know that karma is real. There's too much ill will floating around out there for the inconsiderate people to go unscathed.

What goodness I do find in people is so noticeable in the midst of all this mess. I love people with good hearts - easy to give, graceful in receiving, slow to grudge (or at least quick to let stuff go), eager to help... I try to be that way. I believe that it's important for us to extend the best parts of ourselves as often and as broadly as we can, to the extent that we're able. Group dynamics are a trip. 'Cause I know I'm a better person when I'm around good people with good intentions. I also know that I'm more negative when I'm surrounded by ugliness. Basically, when people say that we each have to be the change that we want to be in the world, I understand why. We are the steering wheels. As we act, so will we influence those around us. If you walk down the street, and you pass someone and happen to make eye contact, smile at them. They are more likely to smile back than anything else. I figure you know what will happen if you make eye contact and glare at them, or scowl at them. Good will and ill will are both contagious, but the beginning point of either is the personal choice we make as individuals regarding what we will offer to the world around us. It's so simple. It's so true. It doesn't always work - Jesus offered His everything, His very best, and was killed. They shot and killed Martin and Malcolm. But look at the impact that Mother Teresa had on folks' charitable giving. Ever heard of Alex's Lemonade Stand? (Google it.) Goodness can grow large from small seeds.

And with all these greedy, inconsiderate actions out there, goodness can use all the help it can get. So please, be nice to people. Considerate, kind, helpful, and loving. 'Cause for real for real? I need some goodness to spread through the world and come to me, to help me combat the negative ill will that is snatching at the edges of my peace. It's trying to get me to step out of the character I aspire towards daily - trying to get me to take my earrings off, shed my better upbringing, sully the fruit of my lips, and show some folks that stereotypical ball-busting sista who wouldn't have to exist if only people did what they were supposed to do.

wooooo saaaahhhhhh...

relax, relate, release...

nam yo ho ren ge kyoooooooooo...

mamasay mamasah ma ma ku sah...


Monday, July 10, 2006

these little piggies

so i'm one of those do-it-yourself types. things that many others pay for as a service are often things that i do for myself, out of habit. i might go to the hairdresser once or twice a year - only if i need a professional trim. i do my own cleaning and laundry. i use dryel instead of the cleaners. and if i had a backyard and a hose, i'd wash and detail my own car, too. consider these habits a hold over from my lean, lean, funny-money strange-change college years. another one of the tasks i do myself is my nails. i've done my own nails for as long as i remember. shoot, even when i was in high school, i went to the nail shop to let them hook up my acryclic and tips, just long enough to learn the process, and then i bought supplies and copied what i saw at the shop on myself. did a pretty good job, too, before i decided to forego wearing fake nails forever, a promise i've stuck to ever since high school.

well, in light of all this, i suppose there should be no surprise that i've never had a pedicure except the ones i've given myself. today, at lunch, i walked by a shop and decided to give it a go, just because i've heard from my friends that it's nice, and i wanted to treat myself. it was so funny - i haven't been in a nail shop in years, so i didn't even know what to do. but the ladies were nice and let me know where to sit and everything. one lady soaked my feet in the warm bubbles, and then she made my toenails all nice and neat before softening the rough spots and painting my nails with the opalescent mother-of-pearl polish i'd picked out. she did... aight. when i do it for myself, i generally do as good, if not better, than she did. but i really liked the little warm bubble spa. and it was funny rolling up my pants legs. i thought about highwaters as i made the cuffs. it's weird - she used lotion on my calves and ankles but not on my feet! duh! now my feet are all cute... and ashy! i can't wait to get home to some cocoa butter or shea butter or something. i would have appreciated a little foot massage, too. thing is, i have nothing to compare it to, so far as price or service are concerned, since this was my first pedicure, so i don't know if i came out well or badly. maybe next time i'll try another place and see if i like the experience any better. so far, the main benefits are time and convenience.

know what's really weird? this was kinda like a rite of passage. to me, a pedicure is a really grownfolks thing to do. when i told my co-worker and another woman in the elevator that i'd just gotten my first pedicure, i got approving nods of assent, encouragement to keep going, a warning that it's addictive, and it was like i'd stepped into some weird sisterhood of women who go to the shop. i doubt that i'll make a habit of this, but i reserve the right to be tended to. and now my curiosity about the experience has been satisfied. i enjoyed it just enough to do it again here and there, on a whim.

hail the sisterhood of the little piggies...

Friday, July 07, 2006


so i read the poem. they liked it. i am happy. it goes well with music and theatrics. yay!

lesson of today? sometimes people who suck need to be told that they suck. i was a punk today. i didn't say nothing. and now somebody else (watch my luck, it'll be me) will have to hear that wack-ness again, 'cause i didn't say nothing today. i ain't gon say who sucked. but i'll try to get up the cajones to tell them, personally, the next time i catch them sucking.

and before you get all righteous on me, i guess i'll just have to deal with it if the tables are turned and i suck and somebody has to tell me. shoot, i hope somebody does tell me. so i don't go around oblivious to the flagrant degree of my own suckiness.

and yeah, i know that sucking is relative. what sucks to one may not suck to another. but sometimes, stuff is just a mess. period. an example. william h.un.g. i don't care what anyone says, that dude sucked. he got famous because of how obviously he sucked. if somebody's borderline, i'll give them a pass. but i will not celebrate mediocrity. i will not applaud for that which sucks. and i know i sould judgmental. but tell me truly: don't you wish somebody had stopped vanill.a ic.e before he got too far? mis.s cleo? well, shoot. i do..

the power is in our hands, y'all. i'm just sayin...

Thursday, July 06, 2006


So this morning I got on the train, picked up the free weekly newspaper, and began to read this article by a sista whose writing always entertains, or at least provokes thought:

You Wouldn't Snitch Either (If you knew it would get you killed), Kia Gregory

Then, as I meandered through the blocks between my train stop and work, I passed about three homeless people, and at least two people who were lost in their own world and talking to themselves. (Actually, one of them was singing gospel on a bike and seemed to be following me.) I thought to myself, in a fleeting moment of doubt, what am I getting myself into, moving into the city? Isn't this what I pursued higher education to get away from? I was raised just over the bridge, in a city named most dangerous in America (most violence per capita) more times than anyone there wants it to be true. I grew up staying away from bad areas and going elsewhere for fun and shopping and resenting suburbanites who I was sure were judging me based on my city and zip code. On the one foot, I wanted to go away and never come back. On the other, I wanted to come back and save the world.

I suppose that on both feet, I was half right. I went away. But I'm back in the area, and I'm about to leave my Mayberry-like Southern New Jersey hamlet (replete with VFW posts, little league, and a ladies auxiliary) at the end of this month for the city. A city in which a four year old child gets shot and noone can say anything, because the thugs are stronger than the people, the cops, and the law. I don't know nothing about how to save the world.

I wrote about snitching before. I stand by everything that I said, even though, even at that time, I realized that certain circumstances needed to apply for my utopian vision of functional community to be possible. One of those circumstances would have to be safety for the people, from the people. Other articles I've read suggest that existing witness relocation programs do not work. We can't trust the cops to protect us. Ms. Gregory does an excellent job of pointing out the problem for those who didn't already know about it.

The problem is the solution - if we knew what it was, we'd have done it already.

The other problem is apathy. Upon finishing her article, your average person, myself included, will think, "damn, that's a shame," then fold the paper up and toss it on a shelf. Don't misread those four words for concern. Those are merely the obligatory words of acknowledgment. I remember thinking this morning that the neighborhood I'm moving into and the neighborhoods I find myself in when visiting friends are nothing like the one I grew up in - nothing like the one in which this child was shot. I am blessed. But does that mean that the problem isn't mine? Alternatively, what makes the problem mine? The threat that thugs who are stronger than the people, the cops, and the law could, upon gaining strength, find good business in my neighborhood one day? The fact that the people in those violent neighborhoods look just like me and my family and my friends, and by extension and various degrees of separation are my family? The fact that my tax dollars will probably work harder to incarcerate and chase those we have a chance at locking up than they will to educate those who probably wouldn't get locked up if we just got them some damn textbooks? And if this problem is my problem too, I wonder, then what should I be doing about it, 'cause frankly, I don't know.

The problem is the solution - if we knew what it was, we'd have done it already.

I can't make grown boys become adult men and make them - rather, teach them how - to love and mentor their own and others' children in the wake of their fathers' absences. I don't have the mass appeal to compete with the gangsta culture that grips our children's imaginations from an early age. I can't stop the guns and drugs from coming into communities where they are neither manufactured nor grown. I can't suspend and completely overhaul and adequately fund the educational and criminal justice systems. I can't make parents talk with their children, expose their children to more than cable and the radio and the streets, discipline their children when they're bad, or set good examples of work ethic and responsibility for their children. I can't open up the job market to receive the people who need to make a living wage, neither can I train the people for these non-existent jobs. I can't pistol whip hardheaded young white tee wearers who won't go to school. I can't address the mental health issues and the chemical dependencies that fuel the demand for rocks, blow, dope, weed, and let's not forget those pills. I can't make the Witness Protection Programs effective. I can't make people who don't care, care. I can't change our economy's ethos to people over profit.

Obviously there are too many causes, and true solutions would address them all. I suppose it would make sense to say that everyone needs to take up a shovel and start digging where they can. Stop pretending that this isn't everyone's problem. 'Cause we're all paying for it. Some by taxes, others by carjacking, muggings, and burglary, higher prices because of stock "shrinkage" and thefts, higher insurance premiums, and the like. Others by pediatric emergency surgery. Small casket after small casket. Funeral after funeral after funeral.

The Messiah said the poor will always be with us. He didn't say we are justified in pretending they're not there or that their lives aren't worthy of saving.

That said, after all that soapbox pondering... I am still at a loss for what I am personally supposed to actually do. Where should my shovel dig? At least, where can my chisel chip? Perhaps I can use my poetry to inspire young minds, like some other poets are doing? (And which I find difficult to do, since I have to work while the kids are in school.) Any suggestions? Are you inspired enough to try to figure out what you can do? Are you not convinced that this is your problem too? No matter their ruthless ways, there are still more of us than there are of them. Short of streetfighting, something has to give us a fighting chance against the violence that kills innocent people. Give me back real talk.

no scale, no cry

now before you go all reading this post and everything, you may want to notice that it's labeled thursday. and that there are at least two new posts underneath it, labeled monday and wednesday. and that i won't be back until at least friday... just a friendly heads up! also, sorry i haven't been responding to comments. but i'm reading them all (and loving them all!). thanks for reading, despite all the changes i'm putting this blog through. you guys inspire me.

i've gone through the change. not the change. no, there's another change. i don't know if they have a name for it, or anything, but i know that the body i'm living in now is not the same as the body i was living in last year. now maybe the fact that i've been mostly sedentary for most of the past two years has contributed to it. maybe it's because i'm celebrating anniversaries of a certain birthday as i approach thirty instead of letting my numbers climb gracefully. maybe my DNA has a time released ATCGCTGATGTAGCT. (unlike these non-time released posts). who knows why?

all i know is that i've been filling out, folks. according to the doctor and the scale at my mamanem's, i've gained about six pounds in the past six months. people who haven't seen me in a while can see the change in my face, and the clothes i've had for some time are fitting differently. pants that didn't used to cling are clinging. zippers that used to fly (pun intended) seem more content now to creep instead... with a little prodding. now luckily for me, i haven't had to buy new clothes, 'cause the ones i had before left room for growth in the places where my new weight has settled. but i have noticed that changes, and so have others. another thing i've noticed is that i can't eat like i used to. once upon a time, i could house half a large pizza with toppings by myself in one sitting. i could eat a holiday plate, full of rich rich soul food, take a breather, and dive back in for seconds before dessert (which would sometimes get seconded, too). now, i eat slower, and my eyes are bigger than my capacity to put stuff away. it's frustrating. i've been getting full quicker. and my body now punishes me if i don't listen when it tells me not to eat anymore, now matter how good dessert was. and the 'itis comes now with a stealth swiftness and strength like never before.

i must face the facts.

i am not a child.

i am a grown woman.

i now have the slower metabolism of a grown woman.

i now have the lifestyle and health responsibilities of a grown woman.

i’m not worried, though. my parents have given me good genes, and i’ll probably never gain an unhealthy amount of weight, it’s just that i like the body I have and there’s no need to change it. not to mention that like most other blacks, i’m at higher genetic risk of heart disease, diabetes, and the like, if i don’t take care of myself. this change has already happened to just about all my girlfriends, and i always suspected that my change would come. in fact, in anticipation of it, i started to pay more attention to what i eat before this moment came. i started frying less and baking or sauteeing without grease. i switched my milk and my butter and my corn oil for 2%, then lactaid, then vanilla soymilk and canola spread and canola oil. i started making my cuts of meat leaner and having occasional meals with no meat at all. brown, not white. fresh, not processed. potato, not fries. fruit juice, not soda. steamed, not boiled. homecooked, not drive-thru. no meals right before bed. but i exercise all of these rules in a loose moderation. 'cause i got southern roots after all, and i'm a woman-on-the-go after all. and shoot, sometimes you just want what you want. i refuse to diet, 'cause the idea of a temporary fix over a lifestyle practice will fail every time. you know what my diet is? my diet is: eat what i want, in moderation, and learn to want and cook good things. and so far, i'm doing... aight. i could do better. i'll continue to plug away at it. but people always like to leave the other part out...

exercise. guess what? i am not joining a gym to pay money sweat in front of a bunch of crazed strangers. besides, repetitive physical activity for its own sake bores me to tears. i don't like gyms or their machines. i don't like jogging. i don't like power walking. i find routine hard to keep (which is why that old pilates dvd i have is collecting dust on top of my television as i write this). so this is what i'm gonna do. i am moving into the city. part of that is because my entire social life is there and i work there, now. another part is 'cause i love urban life. but do you know that one of the reasons i love urban life is 'cause you can walk to places, walk to catch the train or bus, walk to shop, walk to run errands... plus, you know what else? bikes make sense in the city - way more than they do in the stupid 'burbs. so guess who is buying a bike (and a helmet, and bike locks, and this is getting expensive already - shoot, the bike might take a minute to come by but let me end this sentence now)? oh yeah, and since i was interested in doing it anyway, i’ll probably be joining a dance class in the foreseeable future. so anyway, here is my little manifesto:

here's to good eating.

may it never be a drag or a chore. may it never become a hindrance to my health. may my appetite never control me.

here's to good moving.

may physical activity be a part of my life - never a drag, never a chore, ever present, ever satisfying.

here's to a good body.

may it not be plagued by bad living. may it keep its feminine shape and healthiness inside and out. may i love it, for bigger or for smaller, for single digits or for double digits, for as long as i'm trying my best to be good to it, for as long as i shall live.

here's to a good mind.

may it never get obsessed with weight.

and here's the most important of all: may i never buy a bathroom scale. here's to not having one.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


i wrote a poem, called "me too." and i really like it. i like my use of rhythm, rhyming, imagery, voice. cool stuff. the poem has been in the making for about the past fifteen or sixteen years, because it expresses feelings i've had and have been working with since then. to see those thoughts expressed succinctly and artistically in my handwriting on paper was nothing short of amazing to me. i wrote it like how i've written many of my other poems - right when inspiration hit, in a matter of moments, flowing with the current of my train of thought. when i was done with this new offering, i looked at it, checking it all over for weaknesses, examining my choices for words, reading it out loud to make sure i liked the way it sounded... i read it for a couple of people, who both liked it, and then i thought, i really should call home.

for as long as i've been writing my poems, i've been reading them to my mom. not all of them, just the ones that i think she might like or find interesting. i don't really read them to her just for her approval, but it doesn't hurt that she's very supportive. she hasn't hated any of the ones i've read to her. sometimes, i can hear the smile in her voice. other times, i can imagine the forehead lines that she got from her parents deepening as she thinks about what she says before she says it to me. her feedback and constructive criticism have always been honest, but mild. i never fear sharing with her.

when i called, she was especially in an honest mood, i figure, 'cause i'd just gotten her up from a nap. i read her this new piece and she listened in silence as she always does. when i finished, she paused before speaking, then hemmed and hawed uncomfortably. the words she spoke next have been replaying in my mind all weekend long:

"it sounds really personal."

i didn't really know how to react. i was a little surprised by her reaction. she didn't really talk about the construction or quality of the poem - whether she thought it was good or bad until later (when i found out that she thought it was good). but in her honest mood, her first reaction was concern over whether the poem was too personal. that bothered me a little bit, 'cause inside i was asking myself, "what's wrong with being personal?" however, you have to understand that my mom knows that i'm reading these poems on stages all over the city, and that it's not like a poem on paper. people are looking at you and drawing conclusions about you as you read, she always warns, and she has said before that i need to be careful of people seeking to exploit vulnerabilities that i expose through my poems on stage. this particular poem deals with the shapes of women's bodies, and when i started writing the poem, part of what captured and excited my imagination was that i would be calling particular attention to the shape of my own body and the particulars of my own description - in front of rooms full of strangers. that's pretty personal. as we talked, i saw that she was concerned that listeners would think that i was writing the poem from a position of insecurity about myself, no matter whether or not that was actually my perspective.

that possibility really doesn't worry me much. honestly, i do have a little fear of that. but i also know that no matter what i write, i can't control the assumptions that people make about me, whether it be based on my writing, my demeanor, my style (*snickering at myself for saying i have a style, knowing full well my "style" is generally whatever is clean and matches*), or my mere unobtrusive presence in a room. i wrote that poem personally, based on my personal experience, and my personal feelings, and i meant every word of it quite personally. so far as my confidence is concerned, i absolutely love this body. it took work to get to this comfortable place of loving it, but i'm here now, and i'm happier being happy with myself. if anyone wants to think otherwise, hey, that's their thing. i'ma be alright either way. part of the benefit to loving yourself is that you get to care less what other people think about you - not just your physical, but your mental and emotional. they may think what they want, but i can handle it. i am energized by each act of courage in which i make myself shed the shame of being a fallible human being. that's why so much of my poetry is so very personal. that's why my blog is so introspective. that's why people who like my poetry and/or my blog continue to listen to or read what i have to say - i often wind up echoing the things that others are thinking and feeling, except that i do it audibly and tangibly, venting and contemplating and articulating in others' stead. shoot. somebody's got to do it. i ain't scared. so why not me?

i explained to my mommy that all i know to write about is personal - that i anticipate eyes on me and assumptions about me. that provides a huge part of the satisfaction of sharing my writing with others. she understood. i don't think that if we were reversed, that my mom would read that poem about herself in front of a room full of people. but that's okay, since we are not each other. (thank God!) that's part of what makes us friends. we are learning from each other's different life experiences. who knew that one day my mom and i would be two women, sharing and comparing the experiences of womanhood, contributing to each other's growth as we approach life from different perspectives with different personalities? i am so thankful that my mom and dad didn't raise me to be a carbon copy of them, and that they encourage me, even now, in all of my personal piscean weirdness.

i'll probably read it the next time i get on a mic. and i will sooooo be studying crowd reaction. can't wait!

Monday, July 03, 2006

purge it!

don't underestimate the value of having things done. it's funny what little things you come to appreciate when they become hard to come by. time has been short, but this weekend i made good use of it. my laundry is done - and not just the unmentionables that i handwashed last week 'cause i knew i'd have to postpone my trip to the laundromat, either. and i've got pots of food in the fridge that i cooked early sunday, before the temperature got into the nineties, in anticipation for the rest of the week. when i woke up this morning, my clothes were picked out and ironed and my lunch was packed. with the exception of my lately-always-unmade-bed ('cause it be hot and who needs sheets anyway), and my kitchen floor (rainy weather, combined with plant soil from an upset pot, doesn't make for floors you can eat off of) my house is clean, from wall to wall. and all of this is good. very very good. 'cause i should now be able to purge without problems.

purging is great! i've got guidelines: if i haven't worn it all season, or it's outworn its appeal in my wardrobe, it's got to go. if it's something i won't need or want to read, it's got to go. if i can't see myself in tears missing it in years to come, it's got to go. if it's worn out and i can afford better, it's got to go. if it's worn out, and i can't afford better yet, but i can in the foreseeable future, and the only way i'm gonna replace it is if i get rid of it to make room for a new one, well, it's got to go, too. if i kept it for sentimental value some time back, and i realize the sentiment has lost its value, it's got to go. i am not a pack rat. i have a lot of stuff, but all my stuff has a utility. and when stuff loses its utility, i get rid of it. my stuff gets given away to charity and friends and family, and in certain cases, even sold. stuff that i think isn't nice gets trashed. i don't give raggedy stuff to charity. i get boxes and bags and my paper shredder and then i tear through the whole entire place, downsizing. it's a very cool thing. it's like, going through my stuff gives me a chance to see how i'm doing. you know how archaeologists of ancient cultures go to dig sites and look at the people's stuff and then draw from their knowledge of human behavior to get an understanding of who those people were? when i purge my house, it's kind of like the same thing, except i'm getting an understanding of myself instead of others.

as i evolve as a person, my stuff changes. and the difference between wanting or needing something in the past and not wanting or needing it now signals a change in me. purging gives me the opportunity to notice the changes and the growth. i think that otherwise, i would be changing and evolving without any markers of the change. and i like watching my changes. i remember that, as a child, i taped a growth chart to my bedroom door that stayed up for years. then i would take a ruler and make a mark on it before borrowing my dad's tape measure and finding out my height. as the lines went up the paper (which is one of those things i still have and will keep through this and future purges), i got a chance to see the process, instead of looking up one day and saying, "hey! i'm five four and three quarters! seems like just yesterday i was four eight... wow - when did that happen?" same thing with the purging. i witness the evolution in my sense of my personal style, taste in music, taste in books, homemaking and decoration preferences, spiritual wellness... it's great - it's like a progress report, telling me the direction i'm heading in. it's also good because it bolsters my confidence that i am not dependent on stuff. i am not a hopeless american consumer who has stuff just to have it. i never want to find satisfaction in simply being surrounded by (choked by, imprisoned by, enslaved by) stuff. the less stuff i have, the better.

maybe that's why, unlike many others, i like moving. i've done it enough in my adult life to be an expert - dorm to dorm, apartments, different cities and states. i like scavenging for boxes and wrapping my breakables in newspaper. i like having to find creative ways to fit my old stuff into new space. and i love to pack and unpack... 'cause i always wind up purging. so, this should be an interesting month, as i prepare to move into the city next month. i found a place last friday in a big brownstone on a tree lined street. i'm right around the corner from the drugstore, the sub shop, a couple laundromats, a little park, a grocery store, a coffee shop, all within walking or biking distance (once i get my bike)... it's great! i'm excited! and what's more, the place is smaller, which meeeeans... i have to purge. it's craaaaaaazy glory's!!! stuff liquidation! EVERY! THING! MUST! GO!!! i'm downsizing and purging and shaving time off my commute. i’m getting rid of all this stuff, and yet i feel like i'm gaining something. i couldn't be happier.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


this is the year of self-definition and change for me so far.

everything is being overhauled. new goals, new friendship, new address, new ride, new job, and new understanding of what is and is not important to me. i've been coming full circle, facing old dreams and old understanding of who i was and have always been and i'm trying to reconcile my new growth to my old knowledge of self. it's and exciting and amazing time for me. it's good to know that you don't simply get to a certain age and life stops evolving and developing. i hope i always have at least enough wisdom to know that there is more wisdom out there for me to get.

in the meantime, i am running. ain't nobody heard from me except precious few people. i've been calling home less and less. my best girlfriends and i have missed appointments to see each other. my extended family is probably all but mad at me for my silence and distance and unreturned calls. twelve hours out of every day are taken up by getting to and from work. i've been trying to build artistically with people, and i've been sketching out plans, and i haven't been able to get up with the other poets to build and learn from them and give them what i have to offer. i've been missing poetry venues. i haven't been on the boards. i haven't been on myspace, or reading the blogs i like, and it hurts my heart that i haven't had time to blog.

i ain't down on myself though. this is a transitional period. i'm blessed, my bills are paid and i am making some progress, here and there, wherever i can. i got a few poems written over the last few days. i've been out to jus words. i'll be back in the venues. i'll schedule writing sessions so i can get it in. i'll reach out to the writers i want to build with and make (and keep!) appointments. i'll visit my aunties and reconnect with my girls. i am a person who handled full time classes and three jobs when i was in school - i'm not invincible, but i'm clever, and divinely inspired and energized. be patient with me. there is so much good stuff in store from me. features coming up. projects in the works. this is what i get for being around eagles. i can't help but elevate my own flight.

without my radio

internet radio.

okay so maybe you're already up on this stuff. but i always come around slowly to stuff. it's not that i've never listened to music on the internet before. it's just that i never really did it at work. and when i did, i listened to regular broadcast radio stations (double u blah blah blah) that happened to have an internet broadcast. and even then, it was always the same particular station. d.c.'s howard university radio - the only radio one station that is actually worth the airtime. i never really got into listening to radio stations that existed only on the internet. i didn't really know what to look for. and sometimes i'd work somewhere where there was no way to play audio.

but recently i've been exploring the musical universe. and i am having so so much fun! who knew there were so many names for music? my favorites so far are east coast/old school hip hop, latin jazz, spoken word, and broken beat, none of which can be listened to for hours at a time on the radio anytime i want. i thought that i would like the neo-soul stuff, but they're all trying to sound like each other and it's more annoying than refreshing. i'm also realizing that i can't stand r&b as we know it. neither do i want to listen to the same 70s jams ad nauseum. oh yeah, and i'm just getting started with this internet thing... i figure i'll give all these different types of music a chance - why not?

all my independent artist friends keep telling me that internet radio is the future. they ain't never lied. and if satellite radio is anything like it? oh i'm about to be in some trouble.

'cause i HATE black radio. and i HATE black syndicated talk shows. all of them are cooning. and i don't want to hear all that talking in the morning or my evening drive. if i wanted talk, i'd turn to talk radio. if i wanted cooning, i'd put BET on in the car. when i want music, give me music. the commercials are a necessary evil, but please, miss me with all that gossip and laughing at bad jokes. playlists should be less redundant than 30 songs a day, 200 songs a month, or whatever these people are doing. there's a whole world of good sounds out here, and if we depended on black radio, major record labels, and BET for music, our brains and our ability to appreciate good music would turn just to mush. in fact, it's already happened to too many of us.

but there is hope.
internet radio.