Thursday, August 31, 2006

write anyway

i'm staring at this blank screen without any inclination to say anything.

but it's important to me to write something in order to stay in some kind of a rhythm. if i get out of a rhythm, that's bad for me. i have to keep writing! i'm trying to run around here, going on stages, reading poetry, writing stuff, creating stories, calling myself some kind of a writer. the least i can do is make the effort to continually write, even if i'm not particularly fond of whatever happens to come out.

i've been told that's very important. i had an informational interview with a local author/singer/filmmaker/public relations manager/all around amazing artist, and she said that it's important for people who write to write continuously. makes sense to me. i know a music producer who can be found making music for no particular reason except for the sake of making it - at any time you may inquire with him to see what's going on in his world. i know another producer who had hundreds of hundreds of beats and melodies in reserve in a computer or two, just because. my favorite basketball player growing up was known for his relentless pursuit of perfection, working out on the court, dribbling and shooting all of the time. a poet friend of mine said a few times that she has more poems that she's not impressed by than poems she's proud of.

i can relate to that. i've been looking at my blogs over the past year, and sometimes i can tell from looking at them which ones i was writing just to have something written, like this one, and which ones were written out a particular passion to have something particularly said. what's interesting is that in retrospect, i don't like the ones where i'm floundering any less than the ones where i have an express purpose. they're alright, of their own merit. i like them in a different way. and at the very least, they kept my momentum going. perhaps i'll be a more prolific and more talented communicator, just because of all of the practice. one cool thing about a blog is that it allows me to write for an audience, and even interact with that audience. that's something that i don't often get as a performance poet or a story writer. and as long as i keep up my momentum here, i won't feel like my time writing, even when i'm seemingly at a loss for words, is a waste.

thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

borrowing sugar

this morning i passed my downstairs neighbor, right around the corner from our house. we've met and spoken. the last time i saw her, we were leaving our apartments at the same time, and we each said hello. this time, we were walking facing each other. she was headed out, and i was headed towards the house...

i spoke to her, "hey, how ya doin?"

she just kept walking. as if i weren't standing there. as if i hadn't greeted her. it was like i didn't exist, or as if i were scenery to be ignored, like a telephone pole, or chain-link fence.

i shrugged. she must not have recognized me, 'cause we've only seen each other about two or three times since i moved in a month ago.

then i had the thought sneak in - what if she did recognize me? funny how that question made me feel. i decided not to pay it any more mind. i decided to figure she hadn't recognized me, she was preoccupied with getting to work, she doesn't talk to strangers... hey, maybe she didn't even hear me at all.

should it matter?

i suppose it should. you'd like to have a good rapport with your neighbor. which is why i shouldn't take it personally. or worry about if she would have noticed me or spoken if i was white like her, like everyone else in my building.

oops, did i think that? how silly of me. i've been reading too many messageboard threads about race relations. i've been hanging out with the afrocentric poets too much. garbage in, garbage out, you know? i need to diversify my friendship roster so i can avoid falling into the trap of being around black folks so much that not being around them makes me paranoid - that seems to happen to too many of us... anyway, i don't even know her like that, and i have no good reason to think it was because of my color.

it could be that i have a forgettable face. maybe i thought my voice was louder and more audible than it actually was when i spoke to her. maybe she'd had a nightmare and was stuck in a mental review of what happened to her in her sleep. she could be hearing impaired. who knows?

should it matter?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


it is a joy to tell people your dearest friends and loved ones exactly how they make you feel. some of us don't have the opportunity to do that. they're too inhibited to display emotion, 'cause they're too afraid of how they'll be perceived by others. some of us simply can't talk - my grandma could only communicate with her eyes once cancer had made her so ill that talking was just too much. i had to just KNOW that she loved me and that she wanted me to know. some of us have the opportunity to share their feelings but don't take it, 'cause it's just not something that's on their mind to do.

my personal list of people to call/e-mail/write to just keeps getting longer. it's a blame-my-head-not-my-heart tendency of mine, that i suspect i share with many others who've lived in different places, or who have family scattered all over. i mean well but i don't always do well. what can i say - i'm working on it.

this much i do know: there are some people on this planet that do double-time with, 'cause the joy of knowing them, of being known by them, of spending time with them, of sharing aspects of my life with them - it's just amazing and it bubbles up like soda bubbles. i find profound joy in expressing my love and affection for my people. i hope i do it often and well until the day that i die.

Monday, August 28, 2006

some folks

some folks just hardheaded. i'm one of 'em.

now the other day i had somewhere to go and i was having a little bit of car trouble. now the smart thing to do woulda been to take care of the problem once and for all and then move on. i was well aware of this. but i opted for the quick fix, because i had somewhere to go, like i said, and i was hard pressed to make my appointment. i'd deal with the problem later.

up comes a good samaritan, bless his heart. actually, he approached, 'cause he needed help, but he had good timing, 'cause at that particular moment, i was getting frustrated and i coulda used his help too. he asked for help, i told him what i could, then i asked for his help. he suggested the once and for all fix. i told him i opted for the quick fix. he explained that the once and for all fix was better. i told him that i knew that, but i had somewhere to go.

let's pause.

in my opinion, at this point, this is where home skillet shoulda recognized that i was resolute in my decision, for better or for worse, and that he was either going to help me do what i was resolved to do, or he was going to have to get out my way while i struggled to do it myself.

but i wouldn't be telling this story if he did that, now would i?

he commenced to keep on lauding the virtues of his way and kept on talking about how i shouldn't do it my way. which only served to aggravate the hayle out of me. right when i was about to give up on him 'cause he was wasting my time, he gave in and just helped me with my quick fix. i was about to tell him to leave me alone.

see, it's not that i didn't appreciate his advice or his assistance. i did. i really truly did. in my gratitude, i was even later to my appointment because i wanted to make sure that he had the directions that he needed. but and however... once i'd made it clear that i knew what i wanted to do, that i was aware of the particulars of his advice, and that based on that and other information, i was sure of my decision, he had the opportunity to hear me and let me make my own mistake. instead, he continued to talk as if i simply hadn't heard or understood him, as if i was not only deaf, but as if i had the intelligence of cereal.

i hate being underestimated, disregarded, and ignored.

which is why the small talk (so when did you come through your sorority? really, well i came through fall 94. yeah, and blah blah blah) didn't really go over like it would have under other conditions. you know, where he would have just let me be in my own hardheaded fashion.

notice i haven't detailed the particulars of my little issue. that's 'cause i don't want no whole mess of unsolicited auto advice in my comments. let me reiterate - i know i was making an inferior decision. be advised, however, that i got where i was going and back safely, that i'm going to the shop today, and that all is well with me and my ride. hardheaded though i may be.

Friday, August 25, 2006

not a normal night

so although i wasn't sure about what i was going to do, at about 8:00 that night (doors opened 9:30, the venue started at 10) i finally sat down and made some final decisions. i was given the opportunity to do between four and six poems, so i settled on five - three without the notebook and two with the notebook, and the ones i chose to do with the notebook had been done enough for me to not have to rely on the notebook for every single word. i took about the next hour and a half going over the poems, making sure i felt comfortable enough to get through the set without embarrassing myself, and with the ability to keep my energy and some real feeling in every line.

i picked out a dress my mama gave me, some earrings and bracelets, and high heeled silver slippers, just like dorothy from wiz (at least that's what i was thinking when i put them on). i packed a couple of props (more on that later) and headed out. from rehearsal, my voice was a little strained, so some lemon tea helped my throat while i waited to go on. in true procrastinator fashion, i set my notebooks out in front of me to do some last minute cramming, going over the words with my eyes, 'cause you never can prepare too much, and i knew my preparation was on the lean side, anyway.

i paid attention to the room - the traffic in and out of the room, whether or not people were paying attention, whether or not the energy was low, or high, or what. about seven or eight poets came on before me. i tried to pay attention to what they were doing like on a normal night, but this wasn't a normal night - i was a little nervous and i wasn't sure how my set was going to go...

one good thing was that i was following some act out of los angeles - i liked their style enough to enjoy them, and they finished their turn up with a really nice cover of s.ade's is it a crime. i knew i was going next, and i was as ready as i was going to get. so after my wonderfully warm introduction from the host, i got up, lit some incense, took a gourd out of a canvas bag, and hopped up on the stage...

i needed the props to add to the parody of my first poem, deep. i have a tendency to speak to the audience before i start my pieces - perhaps it helps me to build a rapport with the audience before i start to share myself, but really, the bigger purpose it serves is to help me deal with my nerves before i begin my poems. but i wanted to grow a bit, and i decided to get right into it. thing is, there were some folks back by the door that were making a little too much noise for me to get started so i waited... (which reminds me of a story that just popped into my head as i write this. when i started school, and it was my turn to walk across the front of the class holding a pointer up for each letter of the alphabet that was on that banner above the chalkboard, if i wasn't satisfied with the class's pronunciation of a certain letter, i would put my hand on my hip and linger, pointing at the letter again with the pointer until my classmates got it right. i can't imagine how much the teacher must have wanted to laugh her behind off every time i did that.)

but anyway, just like when i was on the step team, or in the gospel choir, or starting a monologue on stage when i was in the drama club, the second i opened my mouth to speak, the nervousness took a backseat to the necessity of hitting the mark, the note, the timing, and giving the people my best. i gave them my satire on stereotypical revolutionary poetry, entitled simply, deep. (i didn't need the incense after that... i wonder what they did with it after i handed it to the audience???) then i introduced myself as a writer, "i write stuff," and cautioned them to love me anyway even if i was going to do some of the poetry from the book instead of off the dome. the folks were with me - favorite poets encouraged me to do what i do, so... i did. i got into the next piece, "just cause," which is a love letter to a friend who needs to leave a relationship that harms her spirit, punctuated by a chorus that i sang. (talk about relief at the end, after i didn't go flat. the benefit of writing my own words and performing the results of my own creativity, is that i got to sing in a comfortable range and at a comfortable pace. i didn't have to blow folks away, i just had to carry the tune. nobody cringed.) i did the first two pieces without the book, and picked up the notebook for my next piece, "me too." i love this poem. it talks about body image and self esteem, and how black nationalism and cultural pride are intertwined. and it's really personal, causing me to get really familiar with the audience. i've gotten so much love for that poem from sisters who understand exactly what i'm talking about.

i thanked the audience for riding with me through the feature, and told them that i had just a couple more and then i'd yield the stage. i brought back an older piece that i hadn't really done in months called, "he wants to be assassinated," which is my adaptation of a well-known traditional piece in at jus words, which is the name of the event. the first pieces were all by men, who were expressing their desire to be so influential in the elevation of our people that they'd be shot at - my piece talks about that from the woman's point of view. it's an energetic piece, and the audience rolled with me. i knew that one by heart, but i read my last poem, "regal tresses," straight from the notebook. i think it was right when i was in the middle of it that i noticed the whole place was quiet - and it was all i could do to hope that it was the sound of folks listening with interest instead of the sound of folks waiting patiently for me to shutup. it's hard to tell when you're on stage and the lights are in your eyes and you can't see faces, just bodies.

before i knew it, my poems were over, my set was done, i thanked everybody for listening, and i scooped up my stuff and bounced off the stage, relieved and happy that i got through the set. i got applause, i got daps, and when i asked for feedback from people i trusted, the most common response i got was that i didn't seem nervous, and that i seemed like i was just comfortably being myself up there. *smile* that sounds good to me!

i just wanted to let y'all know that i survived.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

blessings abound

i'm not even really excited about tonight's feature. wow. i thought i would be by now. and everytime i think i know which pieces i'm definitely doing, i change - even though last week i had a whole list figured out...

it's official, i'm a flake.

but anyway... i spent a couple hours with my mom on the phone last night. i love doing that. i love talking to her about just about everything. i love the cadence of her speech and the sound of her voice. and i love how when we talk, it's like i don't have to miss her 'cause she's right there. i love cooking something and tasting it and thinking that it tastes like my mom's. she is the most important friend i have. my most reliable soundingboard, my most faithful dose of reality, and simultaneously, she is, along with my dad, the best cheering section! without fail, they believe in me. i am so blessed.

money is tight right now, and it had come to affect my attitude lately. i've found myself battling to make sure that i keep my attitude right and keep circumstances in their proper perspective. i was driving to a venue the other night, dressed comfortably, in my car, loving the drive down the side of the schuykill river, rejoicing in the feel of the night air, happy that i was going somewhere to enjoy the artistry of friends... and it just helped to put things right in my mind, and all i could do was thank the Creator from my heart for the life that i have and the decisions that i've made. it's truly a blessing that even with my money being tight, i'm still able to enjoy the life that i have and the provisions that are available to me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

crunch time

i was really inspired by the show i went to last night at a venue called the womb. everyone did an excellent job - the stage presence was amazing, consistently. and i got nervous because i am the featured poet at one of my favorite venues tomorrow night, and i am not ready. i wanted to do everything without reading from my notebooks. i wanted to show growth in my ability to command the stage with my words. i don't want a pity clap, or a that's-my-peoples clap. but i'm not quite prepared for that now, and i'm a little disappointed in myself, 'cause i've known this night was coming for several weeks now. procrastination is the only thing i ever seem to be on time for - if only because it doesn't require promptness and preparation. so now, i'm cramming. we'll see what happens in front of my dearest poetry aficionado friends. maybe i'll learn something valuable from this experience, and hopefully i won't fall on my face...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

clouded vision

maturity seems like a major factor in whether or not a relationship works out. all around me people are getting together and doing the couple thing... and all around me, relationships are just not working out. i think a big part of the collapse sometimes is that people just weren't ready for the kind of relationship that they were trying to be in. i used to think that it was age - that the people got together or got married too young. but now i'm amending that. i think maybe it has more to do with the people not being developed enough - at that certain point in their own development where they are ready to be patient with someone else's changes, or where they are really comfortable with who they are as a person, or where they haven't experienced enough to emphasize the importance of weathering the bumps and bruises with a resolve to do well by the other person... i just keep seeing those same problems over and over in the failing relationships i witness from the sidelines.

notice i said failing, not failed. people stay together, like whitney and bobby, 'cause apparently they like the ins and outs and ups and downs. they complain to their friends and family, but continue to stay together unhappily ever after. they won't accept responsibility for how they contribute to the relationship's problems. they won't communicate honestly in word, or in deed, with their partner. they act vindictive. they shut down because they don't want to go through the drama of actually facing and working on the problems with their partner - even if a real happy resolution for the both of them could possibly mean going their separate ways.

and what's interesting to me about this is that these things are happening with people who are capable of handling bills and jobs and careers... not all of these people are just point blank immature, as in childish or sophomoric. but when i look at the things they do and the reasoning behind their decisions, they just seem immature, as in unripe or naive.

i'm not immune. looking back i've done my share of holding on when i shouldn't have, poking my lips out and digging my heels in when i should have walked away... it's so much easier to see now that i'm removed from those situations. it's so much easier for me to see what's wrong because i'm not in those relationships. i used to explain it to my friends as the "happy cloud," which is short for "the happy cloud of sex." it doesn't even have to be good sex, either. pheromones start flying all over the place, and they attach like cataracts to your eyes and plug up your ears like seawater, so you don't see or hear the dumb things that are going on in the relationship, or you can't see yourself in the mirror, or hear the dumb things you say yourself. the happy cloud doesn't work alone. you don't think mrs. brown has the sole rights to being stubborn for the sake of not being wrong?

but at some point, shouldn't the cloud dissipate? it's like all these people are extremely masochistic, and they like walking around with these huge boulders on their backs. why stay in something that doesn't make you happy? why simultaneously give up on trying to make the thing work? even in my weakest moments, i've had breaking points where the isht i was going through was not worth me staying, and i resolved within myself to let go. i think i'm more developed now than i was then. i think that, from experience, and from being more comfortable and secure with myself than i've ever been, that i'm far less likely to make those old holding-on mistakes. i also think that simply knowing about the happy cloud changes its ability to affect me. and i'm thankful for the passage of time and the benefit of experiences, good and bad, that help me to see these things about myself and to tread carefully and more wisely through the waters of my own future. i just wish i could bottle this, and spray it all up in the relationships of my family and friends that need it most.

Monday, August 21, 2006

new glasses

i'm wondering if my dissatisfaction with unity day yesterday was all on my end - as if i'm looking at things with a different set of glasses - or if it really was wack this year.

i've been going to unity day off and on since i was a little kid. the city of philadelphia clears the benjamin franklin parkway (site of live 8, the million woman march, and countless other gatherings) and philly's oldest FM station for black music holds a gathering called unity day. i've been back in the area for almost a year and a half, and i remember going last year - in fact, i even blogged about it and what a good time i had. but this year? i coulda had a V8.

the parkway is generally filled with vendors in between a handful of music stages - an R&B stage, a gospel stage, a main stage. the vendors sell all kinds of food, jewelry, books, art, clothing, and african wares like raw shea butter, wooden instruments like drums and kalimbas and shaking gourds, and fabrics. to their credit, there are also booths about healthcare, housing, and community activism, among other positive things. it is definitely my kind of thing - i used to like to go to people watch and check out the marketplace.

but this year, i just didn't have the patience with the crowds, first of all. the lines for the food were so long that weren't even worth getting in. the food lines extended all the way into the middle of where everyone was trying to walk and get by, so noone was walking. instead, everyone was just creeping, half step by half step. and i'll tell you who frustrated me the most - mothers with strollers. having your child down there in that stroller is a sure way to have that child bombarded with all kinds of bags as people shuffle by in the crowd. plus, those heifers run all over everybody's feet and trip people in the wheels. and they expect you to defer to them because they have children in a stroller - they should either be carrying those babies in one of those little baby backpacks or be leaving them with grandma or something. i saw too many women dragging little two to five-year-old kids around in that crowd, in that heat, under that sun, and felt sorry for the kids. it's too much for some of them.

then i really started to have my shame-on-me-i'm-a-self-righteous-heffa moments. the first one was when i walked into a book booth, attracted by the "book sale, $5.00" signs, and encountered one of my pet peeves: you guessed it, ghetto fiction. i mean, all of it! and there were my people, scrambling in the crowded booth, handing over bills and bills for that unimaginative garbage to make their minds spin in place. and no, i didn't want any souvenir t-shirts, or giveaways from the local crappy hip-hop station, or posters.

another such shameful moment was when i started fighting the urge to go up to children and ask them where their mothers were and if they knew they were dressed like that in public. i mean, unity day is a family gathering. i didn't fear for the girls' safety. but i was still disturbed by what they had on and what their mentality was - innocently naive, or just fast and grown? either way, some of those girls needed some more damn clothes on. yeah, i said it. but i knew better than to take that up with them, 'cause i'da got arrested for fighting somebody's insolent smart-mouthed child. i just know it.

another thing that made me angry was the ridiculous commercialism there. cars and motorcycles all over the place. ridiculous and typical sponsors all over the place. like we need to be spending our (usually ill-spent but heavily coveted) disposable income on a har.ley, or contributing to the hypertension and heart disease statistics by eating more fried chicken. i guess the organizers had to get what sponsors they could, and being responsible wasn't much of a factor. i'm not saying that we don't have the willpower to say no to ads, but i just feel like taking the money was like taking dirty money...

with the exception of watching children playing with the water plugs or doing what children do, i wasn't entertained. i really just wasn't. i was actually happy to leave. i'll probably be back next year, optimism back in effect, but for now, i'm thinking that once a year is enough!

Friday, August 18, 2006

free your mind

i heard a poem at the venue that got me to thinking.

i think that one of the biggest problems some black people face is a tendency to be too reactionary. i think this afflicts some in the well-to-do set just as bad as if affects some in the no-pot-to-piss-in set. the people who shop for thousand dollar hand bags and hundred dollar bags, and the people who carry canvas sacks and put edible products in their hair and smell like patchouli. but all of us are busy pointing fingers and looking down our noses at each other about the lifestyle choices we make.

this is difficult for me to explain, but let me break it down as best i can with some examples. just because christianity was introduced to the slaves as part of a self-important, myopic, eurocentric worldview (and because it helped to make the africans more docile), that doesn't mean that christianity itself is invalid. just because european descendants in this country are the favored majority and their worldview dominates the media, that doesn't mean that their values and way of life are suitable for everyone's happiness and well being. just because it's easier to get a job when you have a relaxer in your hair and you're able to speak english with their cadences and their octaves, that doesn't mean you have to look down your nose at people who choose to go to work representing themselves in another way, with ethnic hairstyle, clothing, and dialect. just because all your starving-artist type friends lock their hair, go vegetarian, reject organized religion, and wear famous black hero t-shirts, cowrie shells, and denim all the time, that doesn't mean that you have to do it to be an artist. some educated people are so cerebral and academic and social-climbing, they yield no benefit to their own people, but that doesn't mean that higher learning is a bad thing.

people take one extreme over another and think that they're better than others for it. they're too busy "keepin it real." real simple minded. it's like people pick their favorite stereotype and then slip right into its expectations in order to avoid being lumped in with some other stereotype they don't like as much. they don't want to be the lazy nigger, so they get some hustle and get all corporate and kill their spirit, when maybe if they'd examined their own goals instead of accepting someone's else prescribed plan for them, they personally would have been happy living life another way. they see hypocrisy in people who are steady claiming religion, so instead of searching out its principles and tenets for their own understanding, they just throw the baby out with the bathwater and walk around in self-righteousness, looking down their nose at the religious adherents who are doing the best they can with what spiritual knowledge they have. they're told negative things about their own people of another socioeconomic status, so they live their lives making sure that nothing they do or wear or say can be described as "ghetto," or "booghie," as the case may be.

oh yeah, just because there are many instances of this society rejecting you or your values, it doesn't mean that rejecting the society around us in turn makes any sense. i don't care how anti-establishment you are, you got bills and your kids have to eat. i don't care how much you hate what the police do and what they stand for, they will crack your head open if you disrespect them. some things are just damn stupid. you gotta eat if you don't wanna starve. you gotta pay taxes if you don't wanna go to jail. you gotta have shelter and clothing if you don't wanna die of heat exhaustion or hypothermia. there's only so much we can eschew "the white man's capitalism" no matter how much you hate the profits over people ethos of the corporations - nine times out of ten the people mouthing off the most about this are buying ivory that african elephants died for, wearing sandals made at slave wages in some southeast asian country all while their dollars go into a white-owned corporation's pockets ('cause we all know that blacks don't buy black). nothing is perfect. nobody is perfect. we all have a hard row to hoe. we each have to make choices on what we buy and why, and how integrated we want to be in the economy, and why.

but on a quality of life level, it's deeper than that. you deny yourself the joy of self-discovery and inner peace if you don't think for yourself. examine YOUR OWN conscience and whatever beliefs stir YOUR soul. i think you'll live life happier if you expend energy learning what type of work satisfies YOU. if you take the time to be honest about what kinds possessions and activities are enough for YOU? what personal standards of beauty are enough for YOU? why should you care what works for someone else? your mamanem included. we retard our mental and spiritual growth by fitting lifestyle options into these stereotypes, then we retard our community ethos by thumbing our noses at the people who make different choices than us. it's so frustrating to me.

i am at once a bohemian/black american princess/sorority girl/bookworm/hip-hop lover from the hood whose higher education receipts total about 200,000 dollars but whose favorite sneakers cost less than thirty. i have business suits and power pumps and i have an ankh necklace and egyptian musk purchased off the street. and whoever doesn't like it that i eat pork on my pizza and worship Jesus... well, let's just say i don't want to mix His name in this sentence with what i figure those people can go and do. i'm keeping my bacon bits unless i see fit to change that, and i'm keeping my bible unless i see fit to change that. i know who marcu.s g.arvey is, and i know the tax value of having a good retirement plan. i can put in extensions and jump double dutch, and i can do my own 1040s and understand my credit report. i eat out of bulletproofed chinese storefronts and places with menus and cloth napkins. i can quote both snoo.p d.ogg and the preamble to the Constitution. and i'm happy with myself and my own choices because i made them, not out of reaction to what others require of me, but because i am building my OWN life based on the knowledge i seek and on the back on my OWN choices. i know what type of life i want to live, what level of financial means is too little or too much for me to feel comfortable, and what type of work does and doesn't inspire me. i am taking responsibility for my own choices, instead of just reacting to others'. i wish more people would do the same. the Creator gave us minds and autonomy for a reason.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

plane tickets

my latest phase of fascination is with culture. not that i haven't always been interested in culture, but lately i just can't get enough of reading about it and thinking about it. my favorite fiction books right now are books that celebrate or examine or somehow illustrate the cultures of the african diaspora. i've loved the concept of a diaspora ever since i first read about it and had to look it up years ago. to me it's all about the dynamics of legacy - what things about life are handed to us, and how do we use it in conjunction with what we ourselves make apart of our present lives? what was lost? what will be gained? what will we pass on? and how will all of that legacy be handed from person to person? i think that with african descendants around the world, it's a little different than with some other races, because of the particular circumstances that have caused us to scatter all over the globe. (i should have been an anthropologist). i've just made the decision to actually leave america (and not just talk about leaving) and go to see some of these manifestations of africa's legacy for myself. i really want to go to africa, the caribbean, brazil, the american gullah islands, backwoods louisiana... i want to see us in all our different colors and languages. i want to understand how we all came to be so different, and find out if we came to remain somehow similar - and if so, how we have. i think in my search i will find new knowledge, new appreciation for things, old familiar things, and some level of personal fulfillment at having reached a goal. i think it will help me to grow as a person and as a writer... and though it will take some time and planning, it's a really reachable goal - and i am so looking forward to the journeys!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

finding/taking/making a place

it felt good to be at my venue last night - the one where i first read my poetry in front of others, the one where i became one of the folks who help to put it together every month, the one that holds a special place in my heart.

i wasn't feeling well immediately before it was time to leave. i think i was dehydrated or something - dizzy, hot, unreasonably exhausted. i ate, drank, rested... and got to the venue late. without my notebook. but hey, i got there without missing too much, and i'm glad for that. the place was packed, more behinds than chairs for them to fit in. the poetry was varied, and we saw faces old and new. i was thoroughly entertained!

i got a chance to feel for a moment like i wasn't out of the loop. i renewed my commitment to myself to find a way to stay in it. i have a featured performance coming up next week (for which i have to prepare my time). i have to write through my writer's block - sometimes writing is a discipline thing, not an inspiration thing.

also, two major things have developed as potential community projects for me to help organize and run. it's interesting that although i'm comfortable with being the impetus for these projects, i'm not comfortable with being the only one to make them happen. i realize i'm too selfish and guarded with my time. i'm not a sacrificial type of person - at least not to the extent that i'm willing to pick up all the pieces if noone else wants to put their time into a project. i want these things to come together where the people involved have an understanding that this thing is ours, not mine. in any case, the projects are important to me and potentially very useful for many of us, and i hope i'm able to get them off the ground.

i've decided to be more proactive - i'm such a dreamer. but i've lately been confronted with circumstances that make me passionate enough to get a move on. they say necessity is the mother of invention. but that saying doesn't say anything about people taking responsibility for the inventing. i need to stop being so comfortable with having other people take the lead, or waiting for other people to get things started, or settling into the easy role of following someone else's directions. i have the ability to inspire people - that's a gift i should learn how to use. i have the ability to organize and think ahead and plan - i need to exercise that ability. i want to give more to this community that i've already taken so much from.

Monday, August 14, 2006

hard candy

Her mother's words echoed in her mind. "I am the mother, you are the child." Nevermind the porch or that child, Arlene wanted some time to herself in Nyla's little room, in private, with the freedom to sit with her legs wide open and forget for a moment the circumstances that placed her back in her mother's house. Time enough later to deal with eviction and the loss of her rented rooms, the loss of her part-time job at the luncheonette, the loss of her man, the loss of her baby...

That child don't know nothing about going through nothing, Arlene thought. Ain't never been hungry or without attention. Never had to do whatever she could to keep a roof over her head. Never been shamed to walk to the store 'cause of what people got to say about your life and how sorry it turned out to be. All she know is love and comfort, Mama's food and Kevin's company. Bet she think she mad at me for not being the one to raise her, 'cause she too young and simple to know she's better off that way. Matter of fact, it's probably better for her to hate me, and wish I wasn't her mama, and think I'm crazy, and want nothing to do with me. Better that than to be disappointed in me like Mama, 'cause I sure can't deal with it coming from both ends of me.

Arlene remembered the tone in her mama's voice when she heard her testifying right out loud in church about how she needed the Lord's help to raise this unruly child. Even now, her face got hot with heat up from her neck, up around her ears, creeping up into her temples. She took a baby doll dress from the trunk at the foot of Nye's bed and dabbed her forehead like her mama did that first bad Sunday in front of the whole church.

It was just a kiss. Something so sweet and so innocent compared with the places her lips went later on after the shame compelled to act out even more.

Dennis was always there. Mama had an old picture of Arlene and Dennis at their Tom Thumb wedding, all dressed up in a little white dress and a little white suit. Arlene stood pin-toed, holding a little sunflower, but she was too caught up in the petals to look at Daddy behind the camera. Dennis was the model, grinning and preening, sticking out his six-year-old bird chest like his own daddy did on Sunday mornings. That day Arlene was his girl, and though he was, in his innocence, indifferent to marriage or love, he had always liked her pretty face with the long eyelashes and and her toothless grin. Among the children, these cater-corner neighbors ran and jumped and played for years from Radio-Flyer wagons, to string tops, to dodgeball. Could the children help it if over time, their natural affinity for each other's banter and teasing turned into flirting?

Dennis' hands became wonders to Arlene's eyes. She traced the paths on the insides of his palms with her fingertips, driving him crazy. His crooked front tooth that she once teased him about became charming. She liked the chewing-gum smell of his breath. He liked to buy her hard candy so he could watch her pretty eyelashes go up slow and happy when she looked up at him. She let him touch her once, on her new breasts that were soft and squishy, but just that once. They would walk home together after school with the group of other kids, but once they grabbed hands, it was like they were all alone. For three wonderful saccharine weeks, their Tom Thumb wedding seemed like a vision of times to come, when they would grow up and get married for real.

Then Mama walked into the backyard with a basket of her little brothers' denims one Saturday afternoon and saw Arlene and Dennis under the clotheslines, using their preteen tongues to probe and lick, and using their hands to search and grab. As a shocked Dennis ran out of the yard in the pregnant moment of Mama's shock, all three discovered his shame when his hands shot down to cover the bulge in his pants.

Not long having buried her husband, Mama was not trying to have another mouth to feed. To Junior's dismay, he was enlisted as a chaperone and sentry (and tattletale). Arlene walked to school with a sore behind the next day, and her sullen eyelids sagged with the weight of eyelashes that had always scared Mama to death, and which had suddenly become the heaviest burden. Hemlines dropped. Ace bandages bound what lumps and bumps as best they could. Outings were forbidden. And church became the only place besides home where Arlene was allowed. No more trips to the store for cornmeal. Girlfriends had to come by the house to see her, and the visits got less and less often. At school she could barely look in Dennis' direction.

Arlene's will could only take so much.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


be afraid.

be very afraid.

they're coming to get us and the sky is falling. 'cause uh, we might get blown up. or like, bombed or something. 'cause so-and-so told so-and-so and see, right, they don't like us and they have a plan and they might do something and it would be bad and we could all die and stuff. so ah... we can't take toothpaste on the planes, and um... we have to buy contact lens solution wherever we wind up. or something like that. 'cause that should help us be, uh, safer or something. yeah, that's it. so um, big big alert. be really scared.

whateva man. i ain't got no time for paranoia. too busy living life.

i saw someone on the road today and they had a banner painted at the top of their car windshield: "Jesus is coming soon." it made me think of the guy i learned about on public television who lived centuries before now. he lived in a cave in philadelphia's woods. he was waiting for the second coming of the Messiah. he predicted His arrival. like three times. remember the parable of the talents? where the master goes away and leaves talents (money) with his servants, and two invest the talents but the third just buries it in the ground (to the master's resulting disappointment)?

to me it seems like shivering and watching and waiting and fretting yourself into a paralysis of fear is like burying your talent in the ground.


pull back

sometimes i just need to pull back and be more patient with myself.

significant parts of my day were spent just trying to stay upbeat, because i was losing patience with my own artistic progress, my own financial progress, my own progress with - ironically enough - my lack of patience in general.

i can sometimes be more forgiving of others than with myself. i was really aggravated by something that my beloved father said to me this evening. within the hour, i'd forgiven him, mentally walked in his shoes, decided against railing against him to prove my point, and decided to let the anger go. but today, for hours, i held myself up to my own measuring stick about what i shoulda woulda could have accomplished by now. then i walked around with the screwface (or alternatively, the everything's-okay mask) for way longer than i allowed myself to be upset with my dad.

i think it's important to be my own judge. i think it would be better to catch myself slipping and correct myself than to let someone else catch me messing up and not even realizing it. i'm my father's child, can't help that bit of pride. but sometimes i can be a little hard on myself, maybe in an attempt to balance out the times when i'm not diligent enough with my tasks. my own progress in whatever goals or development i aim to achieve will not be instantaneous. growth takes time, progress takes time too. and i think that today i needed to be a little more forgiving. i am so blessed to have someone in my space who sees me the way i need to see myself sometimes. otherwise, i probably would still be poking at my own scabs.

i have, however, endured enough self-admonishment to know some of the goals and tasks i have to prioritize in order to make myself happier with the fruits of my labor, so that the time i spend can be as productive as possible. once i get on that track, i'm sure i'll feel better about myself, and that can only feed my momentum and help me to get even better. i'm a firm believer that attitude can make all the difference.

so, ah, i'ma just pull back and stop berating myself for not being ahead of where i currently am on this path. c'est la vie, right? i'll keep it moving and try to remember to keep my attitude in check!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

glory who?

i miss poetry. i haven't been out in about two weeks. i'm going out tonight. the move and some other things, like the heatwave, have distracted me. distraction is a trip. but tonight and this week, i plan to reclaim my poetic life. i want to get some new pieces written and to let the community know that just because they haven't seen me, it doesn't mean that i've left my love for the words and the people who share them.

it's so annoying how "real-life" concerns get in the way of the things that truly bring me joy. but whaddaya gonna do? i'm working on the balance. that's what it all boils down to, the balance...

Monday, August 07, 2006

ocean spray

my body hurts. drove all morning and all night yesterday, but it was sooooo worth it, 'cause i went to the beach.

i love the beach!

there's definitely something spiritual about the beach. when i'm there, i look out at the ocean, as far as my eyes can travel, and i scan the horizon from north to south, thinking about how far out it goes, how big the world is, how big the universe is and how amazing the Creator is. i think about how the moon influences the movement of the water, and how the water itself seems to be a living thing with its own will, pushing and pulling, moving the sand and tickling and tossing the people and fish... being at the beach causes me to pause and think about how profound it is to be. to be alive. to be reverent of the Creator. to be happy.

i dug my toes in the wet sand and in the dry sand. i flirted with the edges of the water, racing it, charging it... the smell of the ocean and the spray of the crashing choppy waves brought out the kid in me. i danced all over my little chosen section of the beach, rejoicing because i've finally made it to the shore after all these busy weekends. the sky was blue and cloudless. the wind was gentle and cool. the water was tepid - not too cool, but cool enough to excite my body and tempt it to stay in the surf. i spied on the birds, leaving their stick-like bird prints in the sand, and gliding overhead. i entertained myself by watching the children and the shoreline walkers. i loved being there. and i loved the company...

after dark, a walk through the carnival-like boardwalk was topped off with funnel cake and water ice. the drive home through the fragrant pine barrens topped it all off. if i live to be an old woman, i'm getting a house somewhere near an ocean. i can't think of a better way to spend my summers...

the way my body hurts is that goooooood hurt. the dull ache that comes from struggling against insistent waves that meant to knock me down (and that sometimes succeeded). i've been flexing my calves and rolling my head around on this neck. and if i had to do it all over again...

i'd have played harder, splashed more, and danced until falling down in a sandy mess.

maybe i will next time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


today's philly moment: i'm only allowed to go out after dark or before about noon during this heatwave, so this morning, i stopped into the drugstore around the corner from my place to pick up something up right quick. as i started toward the register, i noticed that the lady at the counter was working on a crossword puzzle. she took her time putting the paper down to get to me. i stood there patiently and waited for her to ring me through. it reminded me of being down south, 'cause folks there just don't rush to do everything as much as they do here. in the northeast cities, we walk, talk, think and move faster, even if we don't have to. so when this lady didn't get right to me, it didn't bother me so much (since it's too hot to be in a rush anyway). she started to ring me through, over her puzzle, and then asked me:

"do you know how to spell hieroglyphic?"

i told her that i did, and she gave me the pen and pushed the puzzle toward me to fill out the word. she'd already put in the h-i-e-r-o into the first few boxes, and i looked at the other boxes to see if the rest of the word fit. nope, it didn't. i told her that the i-c wouldn't fit, and that maybe the word was just hieroglyph. she had the word spelled correctly in the top margin of the paper, and i told her to leave off the end and see if it worked.

i noticed that she'd finished ringing me through, had given me my change, and that it was time to go.

"good luck with that. i don't fool with those things."

she laughed that conspiratorial yeah-girlfriend laugh we learn from our mothers and aunties, and i headed out.

it didn't occur to me until i was outside of the store that i sounded real country when i said my last few words, as if her leisurely pace reached into me and pulled out the chesterfield county accent that surrounds me everytime i go down home. in any case, don't let it be said that folks here are automatons who don't know how to be friendly.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

cabin fever

so i'm loving the changes!

i'm still unpacking.

never underestimate the value of a clean toilet.

thank God for air conditioning, free cable, and wireless laptop connections. i've got time off from working, but it's all being spent in the house, 'cause of the heatwave. i don't mind the heat as long as i'm not in it, and i have stuff to do, which i do.

people talk about moving like they hate it. i like it, though. not the physical labor (especially on 90+ degree days), and not having to ask people to help (i don't usually have to ask anyone for anything and sometimes it's difficult for me). however, there are good things i get from moving. first, my friends are awesome. they moved my things as if they were their own belongings. they battled the heat to help me with no promise of getting anything for their time or energy. and most importantly, they were patient with me during the moments i was frustrated, and they were understanding of the stress i was going through with the move. i already knew my friends were awesome, but on sunday, they just showed out. they are wonderful. i kept them hydrated throughout the day, and fed them afterwards, but i just hope that they know i would do the same for them if they need me...

another good thing from moving is the nostalgic tour i get to go through. sometimes i get so caught up in the moments of this present that i forget who i've been. sometimes i'm so distracted by pressing concerns that i forget who i am. stuff like checking out my books and music, or coming across my high school yearbooks, or my sorority scrapbook... the memories remind me of my journey and how far i've come. and how much i am loving this life, and how much i have to be thankful for, especially given where i am today in knowledge and independence.

as i unpack and fit my stuff into a new space, i wonder about the memories that i'll have when i pack this stuff back up and move on again. though i may be in this city for a long time, this apartment is just a rest stop while i get my hustle on to reach some other dreams i have. moving inspires me. thanks to all for the congratulations and well wishes.

but this heat - oh my gosh! when it's over, i am so getting out of town. it's a good thing i like this place, 'cause i've been up in here for days. viva la beach!!!