Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Describing Who I Am by Don Davis

I think ones life journey is in describing who he or she really is. All of us are more than we think we are, less than we take pride in, and a lot of what we ignore.
How do we put this paradox in a format that adequately describes the enigma of Who We Are?
The only one besides the Creator that has a clear view of all of your life is YOU.
When your family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even your enemies paint a picture of you, it is only a snapshot of the you they see even if they say "I've known X for a long time." Yes, it may even be a video but even those are time shortened.
When I hear family and friends giving images of me I think about the poem "The Blind Men Of Indostan" in trying to describe an elephant. "Though all them were partly right, they all were wholly wrong." Most of them are right "in the moment', or right "to the moment", and maybe haaave a clear assessment "of the moment", but I have never known it to be a clear definition of the "time evolved" me.
I am a book still being written. A tale of those things I haave forgotten that hold the key to the treasure of who I really am. Bad to those who think I am good, good to those who think I am bad, and moving back and forth on the seesaw of life to those who are teetering in the area of no opinion.
The conclusion after I scan the current film is that I am still discovering who I am.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Art show Saturday

I'm getting ready for my art show on Saturday evening. Glad it's in the evening. I love evening art shows. Don't know why. I'm not hosting the show. It's being hosted by Wendy Tonsits who is a jewelry maker. The show will feature my work, hers and the paintings of John Carpentier.

Right now I am building frames for the show. I have the art finished that I'm going to show. None of it is framed though. My shoulder is a bit sore from the sawing but the work looks good. I'm due for a hot bath and massage. I'm going to settle for the hot bath.

I'll keep you posted and let you know how things are progressing and how the show goes. Send you prayers. Love yall.

Ps. thanks for your calls and email messages regarding the storm in Georgia. I'm fine. The storm affected the counties east of me. I heard that Six Flags was under water. Please continue to send your prayers and support to those in that area.

Ark. player ends game with noble gesture by Luke Matheson

Thamail Morgan took the kickoff and headed up the field.
He was at the 20 ... 30 ... 40

He had been avoiding, dodging or just simply running through tacklers on the way. Football always had come easily for Morgan. This game was no different. By the time he hit midfield, only open space was ahead of him. The two-time Arkansas all-state selection was headed for a touchdown.

40 ... 30 ... 20

He glanced at the clock and saw the final seconds ticking away. He realized his team, Cave City, was on the way to a victory over Yellville-Summit, comfortably ahead, 34-16. He also realized two other things: This wasn't an ordinary game. And he wasn't the same Thamail Morgan.

When he reached the 2, he stopped. He took a few steps back and took a knee at the 5-yard line.

Yelleville-Summit is a co-op program, a combination of two small rural schools in the northern part of Arkansas, near the Missouri border. Combining the schools allows them to field a football team. But even then, the squad is so small that coach Calvin Mallett has to bring extra uniforms in case a lineman gets hurt and someone needs to fill in.

On Sept. 11, before a game with Salem, the schools came together for a pep rally. Afterward, four of the players piled into the bed of Kymball Duffy's truck to head to his house for a pre-game meal.

According to Marion County Sheriff Roger Vickers, this is what happened next.

As Duffy came over a hill, he quickly came upon a brush pile in the road. Duffy swerved into the other side of the road, attempting to avoid it. He lost control of the truck, sending it into a tumble.

The four players in the back - whose names are not being released - were thrown from the vehicle. Miraculously, three of the players in the back suffered only minor injuries. A fourth remains in the hospital but appears to be headed for recovery. Duffy was killed at the scene.

The game with Salem was cancelled.

The town held memorial services for Duffy, then decided they needed to continue the season as part of the healing process.

Before taking on Cave City, the most seriously injured of the four players in the back of the truck, spoke to the team from his hospital bed.

Players from Yellville-Summit and Cave City met at midfield before the game for a moment of remembrance. Players on both teams were a No. 72 decal - Duffy's number - on their helmet.

The game began and Cave City quickly scored. Minutes later, it scored again. And again. All hope for a storybook ending appeared lost.

Thamail Morgan is the type of player who can dominate a high school game. On every play.

Last year, playing for Newport in a state playoff game against Heber Springs, he had 15 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles on defense. He had 145 yards receiving and two touchdowns on offense.

He was coveted by most Division I programs in the South. Then it all changed.

In January, he violated an unspecified school rule that banned him from athletics for a year. Morgan would be eligible for basketball during his senior season but not football.

A year away from football would hurt his chances of gaining a scholarship, so - after considering a number of options - he transferred roughly 40 miles away to Cave City. His scholarship offers did not travel with him.

"Before I screwed up and got myself into trouble, I had some schools like Arkansas, Florida State, Ole Miss, and some other big schools looking at me,'' he said. "Now they are not looking at me, but I have no one to blame but myself for that. Hopefully I can get on someone's radar, even if it is a lower level D-1 or D-2 school."

Cave City coach Jon Bradley was willing to take a chance on Morgan. But only if he met certain conditions. He not only is required to attend extra weight lifting and conditioning exercises, he is required to participate in after-school activities with a local church and meet with a pastor on a regular basis for counseling.

"Everyone makes mistakes," Bradley said. "Thamail made some mistakes that did not allow him to play football anymore at Newport, and we knew what those mistakes were when he came here. I sat him down and talked to him, and let him know I was willing to give him a chance, but there were certain things that he would have to do in order to play for our program.

"So far, he has accomplished, and continues to do everything he has been asked to do, and then some. He has transitioned well and the kids here have accepted him. He is doing well in class, and is a leader on the football field and is a great athlete. We feel fortunate to have him."

Bradley said he didn't get word the game with Yellville-Summit was going to be played until Tuesday. He then wondered all week how it would play out.

"I did not know what to expect due to the tragedy,'' he said. "You go into the game wanting to win, but then, you feel bad doing it. When we went up 21-0 in the first quarter, I just can't explain how I felt. The atmosphere was so weird. I just can't explain it."

His players sensed it too.

"They told me on the sidelines that Yellville-Summit was not into it and they did not want to pad stats or run up the score,'' he said. "At that time, I started substituting our kids in and out of the game."

At this point, what the game represented became clear to Bradley.

"Everyone was glad that they were out there playing, getting some sort of return to normalcy,'' he said. "But everyone was going to be glad when it was over."

Yellville-Summit eventually scored in the second quarter, after Cave City had replaced many of its regulars. Bradley did not have a problem with that.

"I talked with Coach Mallet earlier in the week and before the game," Bradley said. "He let me know that if the game was to get out of hand, he simply did not have the players to substitute due to his numbers. So, I knew that when I pulled our guys, that there was a chance they would score."

It was 28-8 at halftime. Then 34-8 at the end of three quarters. Yelleville-Summit scored a second time with little time left to make it 34-16.

They had to kick off, sending a line drive that bounced its way to the back. To Morgan.

"We didn't even think they would kick off," Bradley said. "And we had him (Morgan) all the way back. It was our top return team, but we only have one return team."

What he did next surprised Bradley.

"I did not tell him to kneel down, he did it on his own," Bradley said. "I did not expect them to kick it to him. I figured they would kick away, because he has the ability to break away. I did not know that he was going to do what he did. He broke tackles, ran sideline to sideline, and got to the 2, and just stopped. That is when he backed up and took a knee on the 5-yard line."

Morgan did not do this completely on his own.

"We were on the sidelines yelling for him not to score," Bradley said. "Some of the players on the field were saying it, too. But I'm not sure how much he could have heard all of it."

He heard it, Morgan admitted. But he didn't need to.

"Before the game, we as a team talked about being classy,'' he said. "We did not want to come out in a game like this and not show any class.

"As I was running, some of my teammates told me not to score, and I knew that scoring was not the right thing to do."

He was glad to be a part of what happened.

"I just want to thank my teammates for not only being classy all night, but pushing me to be classy as well,'' he said.

The gesture was well received.

"We weren't sure how gloomy they would be before the game,'' Morgan said. "They had gloom, but it was not as bad as we thought. We met before the game, and they told us that they did not want us to feel sorry for them, and they did not want us to back off just because of what happened. They wanted us to play them like we would have if Duffy has still been there with them, so we did.

"After the game, they complimented us, and even thanked us for the way that we played them. They are some really cool cats, and I wish them the best of luck with their healing process and the rest of their season. I hope they make the playoffs."

What becomes of the rest of Morgan's football career remains to be seen.

He is getting interest from Arkansas State and Central Arkansas. Bigger schools such as Southern Miss and Texas Tech are starting to re-enter the picture.

At 6-1, 195 with a 4.5 time in the 40, there's no doubt he can play. It's the other issues that are a concern. Bradley is doing his best to make those go away.

"I send things out to places and I tell schools, he's had some off the field issues, but if you're interested, please call me because it's not near as bad as what it sounds,'' Bradley said. "They assume his grades are bad or that he's done something really, really bad. Everyone deserves a second chance. He's doing the right thing."

Bradley said he and Morgan have had many talks, but none of them have been about behavior.

"He's not a discipline problem at all,'' Bradley said. "His grades are getting better. He'll have an opportunity to play. He's too good of an athlete and too good of a young man right now."

Bradley admitted he had concerns at the beginning but they have proven to be unfounded.

"I've never seen anything negative out of the kid,'' he said. "He's the most polite kid. He works hard. He knows he has one shot to get his education.

"He's showing people he's doing the right thing."

That was never more evident as when he kneeled down on the field.

Luke Matheson is the Publisher for

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Anybody else?

Ashilita sent you a message. Re: hi "i realy love yr pics..if u blow them up and want 2 sell, i will b 1 of yr buyers...continu with yr grate work."

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"Music don't hab no color," Arty said.
"Not when you're a boy," I replied. "But when you grow up it will be blue that you see when the music makes you cry."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dear Uraeus #5

Remember that no one will ever really know your journey but you. It's up to you to learn from the lessons and cherish the blessing along the path. People will say what they will say. People will be what they will be. So. Stay focused. Right foot. Left foot. One in front of the other. Head up. God will guide you. When you need an opinion that matters, God and you are the majority in any size room.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Me and him never was really all that close
Guess ‘cause I never was really all that cute
But Talanda
She was more

Been friends sixty years and I won’t try to
‘Splain her kinda special
But that what I called her

‘Cause she was more than the better
What thought they was something ‘round there
Only thang
She thot bein’ more meant
She had to put up with bottom

So quite natural like
She married the biggest asshole she could find
Who confused real life with bullshit on the daily
I guess on the other side of thangs
He was more too

He was the most
Yeah I did everything I could to stop that weddin’
‘Cause I just knew
A monkey knew
Yeah I was one of playerhatin’, cock blockin’,
Jealous at the same time
Protectin’ best friends

I know what you thankin’
Here anotha story about anotha brotha don don
Anotha sista wrong
Not this time
Not from me

Yeah he had everything to do with the
Technical parts of her death
But dammit now she did it to herself
May as well gon call a lie a lie
And let the livin’ live
What I always says

I told her
Time over time
Talanda a woman’s gotta love herself
Enough to love herself all by herself
If she got to
You gotta go
‘Cause you’s a dead woman in this house

Every time I tell her she just look at me cross
And tell me shame on me for not showin’
Family respect

I never did tell nobody but Talanda
But me and him is first cousins on my daddy side
But that don’t never no mind to me

Woman is thicker than blood

Always has been

Besides…Talanda was my friend
My very good friend

Now I need y’all to ‘scuse me
But I had to tell y’all that
Before I could begin this story right

I saw her blood all over me before he even shot her
For years she put up with senseless beatin's and name callin's
Some stabbin's and gamblin's
And cheatin's was a given ‘cause it was the time we lived in
Time we livin’ in now
So quite right he was a liar too
To this day I’ll never know why he bothered with that
The truth was right there in his drawers
And she washed them out every night for
Forty and nine years
But habit is habit I guess

I was sittin’ right there where you are
He was over there about ten feet from us
And Talanda was standin’ above me to my left
Course the room was facin’ a different way

Me and her had been in the house alone at first
She was still prancin’ around in the dress
She bought that day
I didn’t too much care for it
But I was glad to see her proud
With her head up finally
Some strength about herself

Talanda was a tall woman about 5’9”
Thin too about 125
Lil ole waist and ok breasts and hips for a
Woman our age
Course she never did have no kids she was
Allowed to keep

The dress was red
Not really blood red
But I bet it usta be when it was new
In good shape though
It had small small blue and yellow flowers
Or somethin’ all over it
A long dress
With red buttons goin’ all the way down
‘Cept the one at the waist didn’t match
Not by design though
Like somebody did best they could to
Replace it before they passed it on

It had short sleeves
A swoop neck collar
An elastic band on the back

Yes indeed
She was somebody new in that dress
Somebody I didn’t even know
And I knowed her a long time

She bought the dress from a secondhand store
And I like to believe that the woman who owned it first
Was some kinda kin to her
And was sendin’ her some kinda strength through the dress

Me… I was just sittin’ there drinkin’ wine
I keeps me a short dog in my purse you know
Then he come pushin’ right past us like
He high offa somethin’
Walk straight to the room mumblin’
Somethin’ loud don’t nobody know

The woman I usta know would be shakin’ in
Her slippers by now
But this new Talanda with the dress
Didn’t pay him a bit a mind
And I told you
I had a little ripple in me

So I starts laughin’ at him
And what I do that for

I shol wish she had left him like I told her
Like she knew she wanted to
Just scared is all

Once I even offered her five thousand dollars
Of my own funeral money
As I will have me a very nice funeral
With a fine cherry wood casket
And plenty of ‘spensive wine to go around you know

I offered her the money to just go
Go somewhere far away
Somewhere and have a better life for the both us
I shol wish she took it

He came home marchin’ in the room with all
His man on
And goes over and slaps Talanda in the face
Real hard too

I have told you that
Talanda was my very good friend
But I spent almost my whole life in the
Middle of her and him
You can’t see it but
Right here under my right breast where he
Cut me once
Tryin’ to kill her

For a while I thought I had done somethin’
Honorable like
But aint no honor in riskin’ yo own life
For a woman lookin’ to git on the death train anyway
Leastways aint lookin’ to stop it from comin’

And I gots kids!
Um ummmmm!

I told her after that
That was the last time
And like my daddy says

I keeps my word like I keeps my money

I kept right on laughin’ too

He slapped her again
This time she look at me
Like I’m the one crazy
Like I’m the one spent my life up under
Somebody call me ugly
And do me wrong

Come to think of it
I kinda got mad at her for lookin’ at me that way
And I started to git up and git in both they faces
But I didn’t
I sought right down there and didn’t say a word

You would think that would be enough
Then from nowhere he is holdin’ a gun to her head
Lookin’ straight at me and says

Laugh again and I’ll kill yo friend

And dancin’ wit it too
Like it’s some kinda jump rope song
I just didn’t know which to do

Until I looked at Talanda in that dress

I thought about the woman who was
Her great great grandmother
Who maybe usta own the dress
Holdin’ her real strong and real proud
And I thought
One day he is gonna die
And it will shol be nice if he meets her
In that other world
While she is wearin’ that dress
So she could whip his natural ass good

Then I looks up at him
And I laughs the meanest coldbloodnest laugh
I could muster

I laughed for what she was gon do to him one day
And if she was gonna die
‘Cause everybody is
Then she was gonna die in that dress
I would see to it

Like I have already told you
Talanda was my very good friend

And so I laughed and laughed
Laughed right through the gunshot
Laughed while she fell slow in my lap
I didn’t stop laughin’
I laughed when he dropped the gun
I laughed when he walked out the house
I carried her bloody body to my car
And drove her to my house
And buried her in my own backyard

And now every year on September the twenty-third
I sit on his porch with a candle all lits up
And every year when his new wife ax
When I’m doin’
I looks up at the sky and says sadly and
Happy at the same time

I’m laughin

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Woman is thicker than blood" by E. Amato

This is not so much a review of Jaha Zainabu’s The Science of Chocolate Milk Making as it is an attempt at a rhapsody that will fall far too short of telling you why you must know this poet and her words.

Jaha Zainabu is a gift; and now she is a gift you can give to yourself, anytime, in her new collection of poems. Read it out loud, if you can, in a voice tinged with chocolate and burgundy, with some candles lit, incense burning and something real nice on the stereo. Her voice leaps off the page from the font to the line breaks. This is Jaha doing what she does best—telling you how it is, like it is, no holding back.

When Jaha stands on stage and rubs her hand back and forth over her scalp, looks at the audience and speaks,

I will be for love today

there is an audible sigh in the room. “I Am” is a poem beloved by many, not only for its beauty, but also because it is filled with so many things we all need to hear, think, and know more often:

From today
Not the contents of my wallet or weight
Not my relationship status or work
My circumstances shall not decide my worth
I am flawless

In that moment of hearing, you will agree completely that Jaha is flawless, and more, you will know that you yourself are, too. For Jaha’s greatest gift is that she can give yourself back to you. All those little pieces you’ve been holding back for fear of not being understood, the ones you pimped and the ones you ho’ed, the ones you loaned out and didn’t get back and the ones that were straight-up stolen, Jaha will give them back to you, until you are the only you that you truly recognize and honor. That is the gift to inspire, the one that makes us all better, even if sometimes it is only momentary.

All of Jaha Zainabu’s poems contain an undercurrent of the same thing: reassurance. You are not alone in the struggle, each poem seems to cry out. The struggle yields beautiful fruit, the lines say. Stay engaged and you will witness miracles, until you exist from wonder to wonder.

In “Jeans,” it is the voice of a woman not afraid to be one:

These jeans will not ever kiss these lips or

hug these cheeks again

And the beauty finally

Is that I don’t want them anymore

They are not big enough to

hold the woman I am today

These poems take you to that place in yourself that will be so happy to see you when you get there, and hope you’ll stay awhile, ‘cause you just don’t visit often enough.

One of the strongest pieces in this collection is “Friends”. The narrator of the piece is an older woman, looking back, telling the story of her best friend Talanda’s death. In this piece the promise of Zainabu’s writing is revealed. She weaves a tale worthy of a literary descendant of Hurston and Morrison; she glides us in and through a narrative tinged with love, sadness, emotional regret, bitterness, revenge, and violence, and she does it expertly without losing her distinctive voice:

I told her time over time
Talanda a woman’s gotta love herself
enough to love herself all by herself
If she got to
You gotta go
Cos you’s a dead woman in this house

Every time I tell her she just look at me cross
And tell me shame on me for not
showin family respect
See I never did tell nobody but Talanda
But me and him is first cousins on my daddy side
But that don’t never no mind to me

Woman is thicker than blood

This is a love story between friends. It is a cautionary tale veiled as a down home, good old-fashioned juicy story.

It is the small things, Zainabu shows us, that illuminate the goodness of continued survival, even in the daily face of extinction, even when we are so far from thriving. In “Times,” one of my favorite pieces, she illuminates what really holds us back from that moment of complete suicidal despair:

Ain’t that really the struggle
Seeing the rainbows through the smog
And how would you know it was winter
if you never felt the fog
You see it’s all about the goin through it to
the getting to it

One of my teen heroes, Abbie Hoffman, wrote Steal this Book. Well, let’s not steal from anyone. Let’s put art and spirit where it deserves to be: on a pedestal. Buy this book and buy it knowing that however much you may pay for it, you are not paying what it is worth. You cannot pay Jaha what it cost her to live, experience, process and then turn into art this life she is inhabiting, and you cannot pay for what it will mean to you as you read it and hear her voice come to life, wrap itself around you like the afghan knit by your auntie that’s a little worn and doesn’t match your new couch, but is all you ever want around you on a night like this. This book is your best friend on the phone after a bad day, it is your Sunday Church when you are too lazy to get out of bed, it is the lover you wish were next to you on a Saturday afternoon, it is the hot bath ready when you come home tired. This book loves you, the best in you, even if it hasn’t met you yet.

In the Living Room with Jaha Zainabu by Nicole D. Sconiers

Nicole D. Sconiers writes about Jaha Zainabu on July 16, 2002:

In the Living Room with Jaha Zainabu

“I live for a living.”

That’s Jaha Zainabu’s mantra for success. With so many spoken word artists living for money or glory or a coveted spot on “Def Poetry Jam,” it’s refreshing to find an unjaded soul dedicated to keeping it real.

The poetic princess recently hosted an intimate gathering at the newly opened Brixx Koffee on Wilshire. Over the din of traffic whizzing by on the boulevard, Jaha joked that she wanted a living room vibe, but not in her living room. Jaha is no stranger to playing big venues and sharing the stage, meat market style, with many poets. This night, however, the poised performer simply wanted a cozy locale where she could converse with the crowd in between poems and field questions about her work. As we sat on wooden bleachers and watched Jaha doing her thing on stage against the backdrop of a mock fireplace, throw rug and book shelves built into the walls, we truly felt at home with her.

Jaha opened the show by thanking the Most High for continually blessing her. She’s a spiritual sister, but doesn’t “set trip” with religion. “I see God in everybody,” she says. Jaha is a walking goddess; an ethereal everywoman who draws you into her aura and anoints you with her words. When she blows, you feel that someone else understands your angst-and also has your back.

Jaha sings; she got jokes and she’s a master story teller. She recounted the gang-related murder of a young boy in her ’hood and also the poignant tale of a strung out mother whose seven-year-old son sold drugs for her. That poem, “Dry Sheets,” was written in a Laundromat, “would you believe/one out in the Valley on Magnolia and Cahuenga.”

She still manages to keep her head up despite student loan woes, being a thirtysomething woman in a youth-driven, testosterone-fueled market, and having motherhood force her out of a favorite pair of jeans: “these jeans will not ever kiss these lips or hug these cheeks again/and the beauty, finally, is that I don’t want them anymore/they are not quite big enough to hold the woman I am today.”

The woman Jaha is today came a long way from the tall kid with the deep voice who hated to sing because of the extra bass in her vocal chords. She’s been blessing the mic for three years, and recently dropped a new CD “Unmasked.” The earthy performance artist got her start at a divey bookstore in Long Beach, but now features at venues across the country. When Jaha first got into the game, she wondered why the lives of poets and artists seem to be extra laden with problems. She now realizes that wordsmiths endure so many woes “because we tell it.”

“Whatever you’re going through, own it. I’ve spent years not owning anything,” she testifies in her trademark tell-it-like-it-is style. Jaha now believes that she has a responsibility, particularly to younger females, to touch lives with her words and help others reconnect to what’s real. She’s also very humble about her talent, overwhelmed to have the respect of her mic-ripping peers. She let Sekou, who was in the room, end the showcase with his crowd-pleaser about beige Jeep Grand Cherokees. The unpretentious diva also shouted out Toby and Thea for coming to her set to show love.

As Jaha’s words washed over the walls like a baptism, it was evident that this metaphoric missionary is out the box with her poetry, and can truly turn any venue into a “living” room.

The Brixx Koffee, owned and operated by Kathy and Akil, is located at 5466 Wilshire Boulevard and features open mic poetry every Tuesday night from midnight to 2 a.m. Visit their website:

Nicole’s Website:

Words and Flow by . . . . . . . Jaha Zainabu

Sound Production by . . . . . . . Bili Redd (Middle Passage Productions [2001])

Interface Design and Programming by . . . . . . . Bryan Wilhite

Behind the Wall by Tracy Chapman

Last night I talked to Val and found out that we, along with my mother and son, share a love of Tracy Chapman's music. Tracy's voice rang in my head this morning and then was the second song to come on on my mp3 player this morning during my walk. So, in keeping with Tracy Tracy Tracy all day I'm posting the lyrics to this song that makes me think of THE WATER CENTER.

Last night I heard the screaming
Loud voices behind the wall
Another sleepless night for me
It won't do no good to call the police
Always come late
If they come at all

And when they arrived
They said they can't interfere
With domestic affairs
Between a man and his wife
And as they walked out the door
The tears welled up in her eyes

Last night I heard the screaming
Then a silence that chilled my soul
Prayed that I was dreaming
When I saw the ambulance in the road

Then the policeman said
I'm here to keep teh peace
Would the crowd disperse
I think we all could use some sleep

Last night I heard the screaming
Loud voices behind the wall
Another sleepless night for me
It won't do no good
To call the police
Always come late
If they come at all

Me with Val

J* I don’t have a place to begin.

V* As it turns out, I don’t have a place to begin either.

J* Good.

V* I don’t think I would have been willing to have the conversation if I hadn’t spent the time I spent with Janice this summer.

J* What happened?

V* Don and I had been divorced for a year. I didn’t know how to continue those relationships (with family). I didn’t know whether to do that. People have said different things. People have said, “You just don’t know how to move on.” I’ve been a part of a family for twenty-nine years. So how do you step out of that? And I am mother to Darius and Deon, who are probably just as disconnected to the Davis family as I am. And they are dna Davises. I have some vested interest in them being connected to their family.

So back to why. Let me back up. John had been trying to get me to go to the family reunion in Chicago. I didn’t know how people would receive me. Janice and I had some really good conversations and I read her the poem that I had written to you. And she said that I should send it to you. I wouldn’t have, but then your fortieth birthday came up .

(Val’s poem to me)

How do you explain
to your niece(?)
that you have admired her
since she was a girl
wide-eyed, knowing, questioning

how do you claim
any space in a life
of the little-girl-cum-woman
when you never bought her ice cream
from the "mulberry bush" playing truck
never played hide-and-seek
never bought a book you knew she would like

how do you explain
that you have prayed for her often
and loved her in algebraic distance
longed to be an x factor
in one of her poems

that her bold bravery
has always made you smile
that you love the richness
of her voice/of her poverty
knowing she would rather scavenge
for change in the sofa
than settle for 9-to-5
mind-numbing mundanity
that yardwork feels your soul, too
that the next show she does
just might be the one
that lands her hunting
for dollars,
find the dreams she dreams
just around the corner
(c) Valerie Bridgeman 7-11-09/rvd 9-3-09

I love you.

V* Do you know who Sharon Bridgforth is?

J* No.

V* She’s a play writer. I got to perform with her in Austin. After the show we went to lunch at Mother’s, which is one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Austin. We were sitting there and eating and talking about art. My art, her art. She told me that the only thing holding me back from being great is my lack of commitment to the art.

I admire your commitment to the art. I use it as a place of deep thinking, meditation to the art or fear of the art. I have pieces that are in print, none of which I have submitted unless someone asks me to submit. If I don’t get asked to perform, I don’t perform. But this year has made me think a lot about not just what I do, but who I am. So I have been writing again. Then John sent me your blog. John has been the only person in the Davis family who has been trying to stay connected.

J* What are you writing now?

V* A lot of different pieces. Some memoir pieces. I’m trying to figure out how to do my art. Trying to figure out how to do my one woman show. Working on getting a space and a time.

My postponement of the art has been around the expectations (others). Being in the academic community… This year I decided I would do what’s life giving for me. I will get the academic writing done. But my soul’s work is the art.

(I stopped typing and taking notes here to really be in the conversation with Val. This is a conversation I wish I would have recorded. This conversation with Val for me was a lot like my conversation with Bettye. Here is another aunt I’ve known almost all of my life yet I felt like it was my first time talking with her. Her. As human being. My first time recognizing her as friend, artist, mother, aunt.)

J* It’s great that I’m talking to you for this blog because, I don’t know if you’ve read this in other of my entries but one of the reasons I started this blog was for my younger cousins and family members that I may not meet, or get to know well anyway. Specifically Deon’s daughter. I keep forgetting her name. I keep calling her “Deon’s daughter.”

V* Imani.

J* Imani.

(And how could I forget a name like Imani? It’s one of my favorite girl names.)

J* I imagine that she and I could be so much alike and that she could discover some kind of connection with me, even if it’s just through reading things about me here. I used to make up things about Mary. Mary was my grandmother’s first child who lived only three days.

V* Yeah.

J* I used to imagine what she would have been like. I made up stories that she was this artist who was a lot like me. I imagined having conversations with her and a relationship with her. I have a bunch of poems and stories about her now.

V* Did you make up stories about who we were? We, who were right there?

J* I did. But the stories I made up about you all were made up out of my insecurities. Not from really imagining or the truth. Just… my insecurities. Like I had made up that Bettye didn’t like me because I didn’t finish college and you didn’t like me because I wasn’t religious enough. Or something like that.

V* I remember when I first met you. You must have been around ten. I remember that you were always quiet around me. I said even back then that you were this deep child.

(Pause from typing and note taking here. Just listening. To my aunt.)

A part of my deep regret is that my children didn’t grow up around cousins. That had an impact on us. An impact on me knowing you.

J* You know, I believe that whenever you have your mind made up that something is true then evidence for that belief shows up all around you. Since I believed I wasn’t religious enough or something enough for you something was bound to happen as proof of my belief.

One day, a long time ago, I was on Roshann’s computer and you instant messaged her while I was on it. I think you said something like, “Hello my wonderful niece.” I responded saying that it was me and not her. Then you didn’t respond. For me that was my “proof” that said seeeeeeeeeee, it’s true. If I was Roshann she would have kept talking to me.

Looking back, I know that it’s possible that something could have happened or that I’m not even remembering the event accurately. But in my remembering, that’s what happened. I guess that was as much my proof as was when Mo didn’t know that we were related was proof for you. Of something. Of our disconnection at least.

(Val shared an incident with me when a group of poets we know were in her home and she had cooked for them and they were sharing together. In their conversation my name came up and the group was surprised not just that we were related but that we even knew each other.)

V* I’m sorry that whatever happened that day (when I was at Roshann’s computer) built further separation between us.

J* Like I said, something was bound to happen, because I believed something was true. Proof was going to show up.

V* There are things I could have and maybe ought to have done as an aunt. And I don’t think there are too many ought tos in the earth. I think elders have responsibilities in the community. If you’re not practicing with your own kin then how are you going to be an elder? When my dad died and my mom died I became the matriarch in the family. I was so not ready to be a matriarch. I was not ready to be hearing from my nieces and nephews. I didn’t have practice in being present to the people that need me. I say that to say that I would imagine that you and the other nieces and nephews on the Davis side, Bridgeman side, need elders. The people who need elders shouldn’t always have to go looking for them. They should be ready to be that. I hope that makes sense.

J* We do what we know how to do. And that’s it.

V* Yeah, I don’t feel guilty about it. I feel sad about it. It goes back to what Sharon was saying about my commitment to the art. Not buying into the lie that it’s too late. It’s never too late to be who you’re supposed to be.

J* What do you wanna do, with your show, with you art?

V* Right now I wanna reconnect to it. (She laughs. But I can tell it’s not a joke. I know that laughter. I know that need to reconnect to… art.) I’ve been living in the fear around it. Like maybe I’m not as good as my friends think I am. Now I’m at a spot in my life where I have to. Even if it’s not beautiful to anybody but me. And it doesn’t even have to be beautiful to me. Just done. Both doing the poetry and some stage stuff.

I’m learning to swim. I was going over it in my head. “In my fiftieth year, do I learn to swim or pick the clarinet back up?” It took me half the year to decide that swimming would get me further down the road with my art.

J* I’m glad you chose swimming. I don’t have a relationship with the clarinet, but I know water. Swimming is very healing for me.

V* Don used to say to me, “Other people bring home stray puppies, you bring home stray people.” But I, in the midst of everything that has happened in the last couple of years, find myself getting small and I don’t like that. I don’t want to be a small person. I used to trust first. And just trust people. Really trust them. Then I got to the place where I didn’t. And I don’t like that.

My life started unraveling. I felt myself getting smaller and smaller and trusting fewer and fewer. And so this year for me has really been about shifting that to the open space. People hurt you. You hurt people. It’s called being human. That’s what forgiveness is for. But rather than work through the pain I started battening down the hatches. Started pulling my heart back in from the world.

When I moved to Memphis, Jonathan moved upstairs. When he talked to my kids on the phone he would say, “I can’t say enough about your mom. Opening her heart and her doors to me.” My son would say, my mom is a mama. I think about Alice Walker saying in IN SEARCH OF OUR MOTHERS’ GARDENS, “She stays in community. She doesn’t withdraw except for reasons of heath.”

As I started to withdraw I thought it would just be too easy to not get naked on the stage again. In any way. This year I went on a cruise. Even with my friends there with me I found myself being guarded. I found myself saying, “You gotta get over this. You gotta risk being hurt again.” As a part of being human.

I remember one day my mom was in the kitchen and my dad was yelling about her not being enough of something and he quoted from 1 Peter “Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, whose daughters you are, calling Abraham lord”. I can see it like it was yesterday. She stopped and she said, “Well, you’re not Abraham and I’m not Sarah and these are not Abrahams times.” It was that moment that she told us without telling us that you don’t have to take that. And don’t let anyone use the Bible to make you feel small.

J* What is the tribe?

V* A group of young adults gathered around me. I started saying in Memphis, I can’t find my tribe. Then I heard Spirit saying, “It’s time to call them together.” I called four people and said, “Hey, I’m having a gathering at my house. Will you come? We did poetry and sang and I don’t remember if we painted. But we shared art. That began a season of people saying, “Hey, I have somebody they I think you need to meet.” They would bring people to the house. I never knew who would be there. I wasn’t producing as much, but I felt like we were holding each other accountable.

J* Are they still with you?

V* Yeah. The tribe exists no matter where we are. We did a major performance together in Austin. Then my life started falling apart and I don’t think they could reach me. emotionally. But then we slowly started coming back around. Yeah. There is still work to do around that.

I sat there and listened to her. To Val. Aunt Val. Though I don’t really call any of my aunts or uncles aunt or uncle. I listened to her stories. The texture of her wonderful voice. The passion she has for her art. Her path to reconnection to it. As she read her poetry to me I was inspired. In awe. In love.

When I am Asked

For my sons

When I am asked, “what did you do for the revolution?”
I will answer that I was suckling the seeds
Of the next rebellion at my breast,
Raising black men whose first response
To every request will be “why?”

I will answer that I was instructing the saplings
Of the next revolution in the school of my experiences,
Raising black men whose first response
To every adversity will be a straight back
And a stiffened will.

I will say that I used my time wisely,
Making forays into enemy territory
To reclaim the stolen esteem
And broken spirit of my offspring,
That I rocked them back to health
Time and again in the lap of my resolve.

When I am asked, “what did you do for the revolution?”
I will introduce to the world
My sons.

It will happen

You consciously pour your words like a libation
Onto the world, and worry that your content
Is not deep.

But what do you know, yet, of the political lives we lead?

Your life is connected mainly at your loins,
And the main goal you hold is not to be alone.
But it will happen, brother, that one day, dead babies
In the Sudan, Nicaragua, Bosnia, and Afghanistan
Will direct your passion from the bedroom to the streets.

You will wonder at April days that steal black leaders
For death; you will miss Barbara Jordan’s deep voice,
And Carl Stokes’ laughter and cigarettes

You will know the revolutionaries Angela Davis,
Eldridge Cleave, Martin King, Malcolm X, and Sonya Sanchez
You will know the exiles and pray for them

It will happen
That you will see the color-coded world around you
You will honor your skin by acknowledging it
You will not romanticize or demonize it
You will know it and name it rightly,
Giving it the amount of attention it deserves

And you will write love songs, erotic poems
That capture every sensation and take our breath with yours,
Making us pause and gasp in unison.

You will begin to hear voices, louder, more insistent,
Demanding you to write these words, here.
You will wander into forgotten neighborhoods,
Look into forgotten faces, tell forgotten stories
So we will never forget.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Note to self:


Friday, September 11, 2009

My birthday celebration at Ann's (photos by E. Amato)

Dear Uraeus #4

My Uncle Bubba used to tell me that the truth is not always right in your face. It's something you have to search for. Now I'm telling you.


Message from Angela (I LOVE PERRIN!)

Angela Denise September 11 at 12:15pm

Hey mama!! Happy belated 40th! Are you still in Utah? I had a hell of a week and got busy and off line. Perrin hated his birthday! He said, "that's enough happy birthday Mommy!"
He's nuts!
And please come! We would love to see you!

My McDonough, GA shots

Brandon Bowlin's note and conversation on Facebook after President Obama's speech

Okay. It’s a gimmie that if you were down with President Obama or even questioning his resolve, you’re pretty impressed with tonight’s speech. He said a lot but the issue has changed…right there…and I will write about that tomorrow. Right now I would like to present to you what sane people (dems, indys and repubs) are up against. It is part of the new way of attacking that has become the calling card of the Right. I’m sorry. It is long but reads fast.

A FB friend (I’ll call him DON) had posted that he was going to drop Friends who, after the speech, were posting Obama hate-speech on his WALL.

This is an exchange between two of his White FB friends (I’ll Call them SAM and BOB) and I.

Not a horrible idea. I should have done than when all the Bush-haters were cursing up a storm here, too.

Don't need to be a hater to dislike Bush...just a realist...

@Brandon, same as I feel with Obama. Hated Bush too though. I am naturally suspicious of "god is on my side" (Bush) and the "cult of personality" (Obama) in equal measure.

Although, I think part of the problem is that Dems construe "Nazi Socialist" as a four letter word, probably because they've called Bush a "Nazi Fascist" for so long. When I refer to Obama as a "Nazi Socialist," I (well, and most of my level-headed pals) mean it in the true sense of "Natioinal Socialism." It's state-run socialism. You either like ... Read Moreit--as some do, or you hate it--as I do...but I hate it because it is a form of G'ment where the government (ie., state) tries to run all facets of our lives.
Okay--fire away--call me nasty names now for having an opinion! :)

I know where you're coming from. I'm also of the "too much gov't is bad" camp. but I believe there are two paths to that. rep and dems both want to control people.

oh--I also did NOT like the fact that Bush GREW the government. and I totally agree with you, @DAP, I think there is little REAL difference between the dems and repubs in that they are both trying to control us THROUGH government. It's very scary either way you look at it.

Marry me? ;)

whoops, nm... I have a wife already... got confused for a sec

BRANDON gotta luv when White folk discount history enough to call a Black man a Nazi...hmmm maybe we'll burn all the books that trace your complexion to the annihilation of millions of human know, since we're throwin' Nazi around all willy nilly-like.

Any group in charge is "nazi"

No sir. The Nazi's were a small core in the Nationalist movement after Germany had experienced a slight recession that rose, democratically, through the republic based on a platform of patriotism and what became the "living space" strategy. Once in power they marginalized huge numbers of the German population and began to exterminate them almost immediately in the East. First by firing squad, then by car exhaust and then by Zyklon B gas. They began WWII which ended in 71 million dead. That is a Nazi sir, and your cavalier use of it beckons me to illuminate once again White Men's (especially conservative) need to rewrite history in terms of their supposed innocuous effect on it. Nazi indeed.

@BB...LOL. Nazi isn't a skin color. Just because your skin is black doesn't mean you are ineligible to be a nazi...nor are you inelible to be a racist. My "people" fought against the nazis of Germany--but oh...YOU burned that book already.
I'd suggest you read a few history books if you really believe "The Nazi's (sic) were a small core... Read More"...Before the military takeover, the Nazis were a legitimate political party that grew FROM a small core to the largest political party in Germany during the depression. You are certainly correct in your accessment of their post power antics. Again, those were German Nazis. But Nazis come in all sorts of flavors...including black, mein freund.

@ SAM...No sir. The word Nazi is not a catch all. It is a Proper Noun. Connected to specific set of circumstances to a specific set of inhumanity. Government is a common noun. I know you wish for it to be a catch all. So that you can relate, say Health Care reform to the crimes of starting 2 wars where a million plus are dead...but the latter is... closer to the invasion of Poland than Health Care reform which means your beloved Bush and Nazi's are well...related. And the doctrine of Nazism IS ABSOLUTELY RACIALLY defined. I'm sorry your people never got that through to you. It is race specific especially since, well you ain't gonna find any race that has killed in the name of race like Nazi's. Notice I didn't write White Nazi's...don't have to. You don't get to "spread the vile" to all races and circumstances. If you wanna say it, White folk own that one. Go ahead and ask your people who bled against it how they feel when you call their social security system Nazism. I'll wait.

@Brandon...sorry, sir. I cannot continue a non-sensical attempt at conversation with a racist full of hate like yourself.
@Don, my friend, I offer my apologies for filling your wall full of ... mess.

@ SAM...don't worry. I already understood that any man who would argue for the cause of gentrifying "Nazi" is an intellectual coward. Just sharpening my teeth for real competition. And no, apologizing to Don neither softens your idiocy nor buttresses you hypocrisy including your racist subtext.

Don take note. There are folk who claim egalitarianism whose sense of entitlement can actually be a danger to you, your color or belief in fair play. Everyone has a right to speak their mind...just make sure civility stands. Genocide cannot be undone because someone if afraid of a Black President. Nor can it be slathered about and projected as the responsibility of those who would stand against wars of choice. Cowards need not

I take it personally anytime White folk call Barack Obama Hitler. Or any of this Nazism. The Nazis inflicted world damage. They killed without repentance and nothing…NOTHING this man has done…equates them. No Honky, you can’t call Mr. Barack Obama a Nazi…not without a fight.
Thanx for readin'---peace.

Letter from a concerned parent re: school not airing President Obama's speech

Mr. Bazon,

I received your letter concerning the Life School Red Oak choosing not to broadcast President Obama’s speech to America ’s young students yesterday. I find this decision somewhat disturbing and completely inconsistent with what the Life School continuously advertises as its core values.

In the letter, you stated that views “may not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Life School , its Board of Directors, faculty, and staff”. Really, that’s surprising? What parts of hard work, respect for ones peers, respect for your teachers, overcoming adversity, parent/teacher/government responsibility, determination and perhaps most importantly, personal responsibility don’t “necessarily” reflect Life School ’s views? What part of this speech, which I’ve attached for your review, doesn’t reflect Life School ’s opinions? Please be specific. Yet in the same week that you send a letter to the parents about NOT making the speech mandatory viewing, you send home a letter highlighting an Education Summit that will highlight opinions of senators, city council, mayors, county commissioners and sheriffs. Really? There was no disclaimer attached to that letter, why not? Also, you highlight that the Pledge of Allegiance will open the ceremony, which is very patriotic. But doesn’t listening to our country’s President addressing our children also qualify as patriotic? Doesn’t this event and your letter advertising the event seem to be a bit of a contradiction to you? If not, please explain. Just to be clear, please note that I have no problem with the planned Education Summit.

Basically, these two actions speak volumes about the complete lack of respect that the school has for our President and reeks of political/“other” messages. In addition last year my child came home with the impression that (at that time Presidential candidate Obama) was a Muslim after a discussion with his Social Studies teacher there at Life School , which was addressed with a letter to that particular teacher. Which, to be perfectly honest, I was not pleased or satisfied with the response as my concerns were more or less glossed over as I asked her to clarify to the entire class that Mr. Obama was not Muslim, an important fact that should not have been ignored. Between that incident and your decision not to air yesterday’s broadcast, I’m very concerned that this type of disrespect, teaching and decision making is becoming a “trend” at your school. Is it?

As I picked my children up from school yesterday, one of my children voiced that she was very “disappointed” that she was not allowed to view President’s Obama’s speech, as she had followed the story on this for a few days. The school’s decision robbed her and her classmates of a rare opportunity to feel included in today’s political process, in “real time”. She also stated that she thought it was unfair. This, from a fourth grader.

I’ve already spoken with other parents of students at your school and they share similar concerns. I’d like to meet with you to discuss these issues, but most likely it will require a group setting, because as I’ve stated, other parents have similar views on these decisions. I look forward to your prompt response.

Thank you,

Vincent Grase

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dear Uraeus #3

Cherish your friendships. Water them. Watch them grow. Deeper. Stronger. Then water them some more.