Monday, November 29, 2010

xxColors

I let it go. Wrote, stayed up, slept too late, prayed, ate, didn't eat, prayed, created art, wrote bad poetry (and not bad meaning good, the for real bad). Went through the stages of grief, and then...I let the anger go. No wonder my favorite color for the moment is sky blue and not the red is was before.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

xxBack from Utah

I thank God I had a safe journey from Utah to California. I am preparing to go for my morning walk now. Such beautiful sun shine. The snow was great but this is well...home.

xxFrom Zora Neale Hurston's HOW IT FEELS TO BE COLORED ME

"But I am not tragically colored. There is not great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world - I am too busy shaprening my oyster knife."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reading

Just finished reading Amy Tan's SAVING FISH FROM DROWNING. Amy is my Chinese homegirl. She doesn't know it. But she is.

That's what reading is. That's what books do. They expose us to world's and lives we would not know except through those pages. It is our blessing to give back, I think, our own stories. Our own well written stories.

Leaving Utah

I had a wonderful time in Salt Lake City, Utah. I spent Thanksgiving last night with many talented folks at the home of Dr. Samuels. We ate, drank, shared and laughed.

I'm leaving tonight to go back to Los Angeles. Much work to do. Looking forward to coming back next year to Utah.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dear Uraeus, Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for my life and the people and things in it. Thankful for my family and friends. Thankful for my home, for food, shelter, thankful for peace. Uraeus, I am thankful for you. My favorite person.

Mom

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Their nobody's business love

He sold drugs
People bought and used them
He loved her
She loved him too
He cheated
She cheated

She sold sex
People bought it
She wanted him
He wanted her

Two bedroom apartment in the city
One room for their stuff
One room for their love

He sold drugs
She sold sex
Together

Later
It got to be
More complicated
Than that

Dear Venus

I have soooooo been loving your photos on your website and on your Facebook page. Thank you for sharing your awesome gift with the world!

To anyone else reading this: For a good time visit www.venusbernardo.com

Love you,

Jaha

Utah

In Salt Lake City, Utah. Snow is covering everything. It's 16 degrees here. Yes, cold. Yes, beautiful. I was called to do an impromptu class yesterday in another professor's class because the response to my poetry and presentations has been positive but they closed the university until Monday because of the weather. So my last class has ended and I'm here enjoying the view from the front room window.

Today I'm creating a poetry board for John. They are having an exhibit at his church and he was asked to present some of his poetry on a board for them to hang. Me being here provided him to perfect opportunity for him not to do it but to pass the assignment on to me. The exhibit is not until February but I'm only here until Friday and we will be out most of the day for Thanksgiving tomorrow so that pretty much leaves today. All good. I have my materials and some good ideas and I'll get started about two hours, three hours, at least four hours from now.

Enjoy your day today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

To order my book THE CORNERS OF MY SHAPING

You may paypal jahazainabuphotography@yahoo.com and please include the messaage THE CORNERS OF MY SHAPING. $15.00. Thank you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dear Samora (Univ of Utah)

I had such a good time in your class today. Meeting you was very special to me. You were the first student to greet me last week and you did so with such great energy. Your smile, your charm. Thank you for welcoming me to your class. Thank you for being one of the bright faces in the audience I could look out see. You smile and energy is contagious.

I trust that you will continue to do well in your studies and I look forward to communicating with you further.

Jaha Zainabu

New spaces

Being away from home I have taken the time and created for myself the space to breathe. I have allowed myself time to meditate and write. I really enjoyed performing at the university. Working there I got the opportunity to engage in new conversations and be creating new stories at the same time. Something about being away.

I feel my shoulders falling. Let go of anger. Connected myself to myself. Connected myself to God. I am no one's victim. No one is the bad guy in my stories. Not even me.

Space for forgiveness. Space for good health. Space for peace. Space for a happy me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy birthday, Mom

Today is my mother's birthday and I am so honored to call her mother. She truly deserves all of the well wishes and birthday greetings, all the love and honor she has been given today.

I'm looking forward to seeing her when I return to California soon but until then, Happy Birthday, Mom!

Still in Utah

My Uncle John and I got up and went to church this morning. Calvary Baptist in Salt Lake City. We went to both services because he had duties during the first service and a friend of ours was on program during the second. Both services were very moving. It was youth day today so they sang, spoke, danced, received awards...youth day.

Sitting there I was so present to being thankful for the blessing of poetry. I've seen much of this country and most of the traveling I've done in my life has been because of poetry. Some theatre, church, school, jail... sends a ticket and pays my fee and hotel stay and I'm there. But I consider it more than a job. It has been an incredible opportunity. Opportunity to meet other people, experience norms and folkways not like mine, enjoy and not enjoy conversations, food...the list goes on a long time. But I was in church thinking that if it wasn't for this gift I don't know that I could have been the places I've been. Even the reason I'm here now is to perform at the university and inside of that I get to spend time with my uncle and other friends, see this awesome snow, have time and space to write and create new art.

I am thankful. For my family, for those who love me and those who don't, you have all helped me grow. I'm thankfully still on my journey with lessons to learn. Still putting integrity in the areas of my life where it is not there, still prayerful about misunderstandings in friendships, still holding space in my heart for love and peace.

Still, wouldn't take nothing for my journey now. Still standing. Still loving and honoring myself. And you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving

It's snowing snowing snowing snowing snowing here in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm loving it!

'Cause I shake the best

I remember the night my mother announced that she and my father were getting divorced. We were in the house on Cameron St. My sister, Roshann was sitting on the floor below me. I was laying on the couch with my head near hers and my mother was on her knees at the coffee table right in front of us. I remember it was night time.

I wasn't feeling much in those days. Purposely. If I felt tears coming I would fight them off with my contrived, inappropriate joy. Doing cheers was my method of choice. I don't even remember all of my mother's well prepared words.

My name is Robin, yeah. I am a virgo, yeah. Blah blah blah, yeah. Blah blah blah blah blahblah! Hey hey! 'Cause I shake the best, hey hey! "Your dad and I both love..." 'Cause I shake the best, hey hey! "...will always be your father..." My name is Robin and my favorite color is red... "nobody will ever replace..." I'm better than you 'cause you pee in the bed. Hey hey! "...although he won't be livng here..." 'Cause I shake the best, hey hey!

I knew what was going on but I didn't want to hear it or feel it and most of all I didn't want anyone to see me crying about it. So if I had to sit through it, I would not do so without my off beat soundtrack in the background (foreground really). While I don't need that little girl doing cheers during stressful times anymore, I do pull her out every now and then for fun. In traffic. Hey hey! A few times when I was late for work and had to "meet" with the supervisor. 'Cause I shake the best! Hey hey! Sometimes in church when clearly the minister is unprepared (or I just don't want to be there.) My name is Robin... The night I thought I was having a heartattack and had to spend a two days in the hospital. "Hello, Ms. Reed, I'm Dr...." Hey hey! "We're concerned about..." My name is Robin.

Interesting horoscope today

You may be feeling emotionally good, Virgo, but unfortunately the people around you don't seem to share this feeling. Your first instinct may be to sacrifice yourself in order to make the path easier for the next guy. Remember that other people need to learn how to do things on their own. If someone is in a bad mood, let them be in a bad mood. You may be better off spending the day alone.

His rules. Her rules?

While I am in Utah I am staying with my Uncle (mother's brother) John. Last night we visited Dr. Samuels, a professor at the University and friend of John's. When we arrived, Dr. Samuels was there with a mentee, Demarcus. We all laughed, talked, ate, drank, listened to Demarcus share his incredible music and poetry. And his story. Oh his story.

After dinner another friend of Dr. Samuels stopped by to return a computer. He sat with us and joined the conversation. "You look good man. How are things?" Dr. Samuels asked.

"It's cool. It's cool." He responded. I don't remember his name. His name? His name? His name? He had a really beautiful smile though. But his name?

"And how are things going with you and your girlfriend?"

"It's cool."

"You always say that. 'It's cool. It's cool.'"

"Yeah, man, you know. It's cool." He smiled (beautifully). "Just, she gotta follow the rules though or..."

They all laughed. Well, we all laughed because I did too. For different reasons though. "Oh, she has to follow the rules, huh?" Dr. Samuels laughingly repeated. In his laughter I heard the knowing sounds of an older, divorced man on how well his young friends rules were going to play out.

I didn't ask, but I wondered. About her. Did she have rules? Rules he had to follow or...?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dear Carlene

It's been too long since we caught up. But that's the thing with friends. We always know. The short quick "you ok?" "you good" "love you." But I miss those times. Your couch, my couch, wine, talk. Good woman talk.

I'll be out there soon. No set date yet, but soon. You are always where I am though. I hear your voice. It's my blessing to call you friend.

Love you

Jaha

xxPlay

My mama yo mama hangin’ out some clothes
My mama socked yo mama in the nose
Did it hurt!?!
No!
Did it hurt!?!
No!
(from a girls jump rope song, ‘cause that’s how we had fun)

In 1973 my sunny days began and ended with me sitting impassively on my front steps. My castle. Not like many children today who seem to require expensive electronic gadgets to occupy themselves. I could caper around busying my inquisitive mind for hours on end on my steps counting perfectly the cars that went by. Ford, Ford, Toyota, Pinto. Pretending I was the exquisite Diahann Carroll giving an eloquent speech to my loyal fans, head held high and tilted, looking down beyond my pointed nose, hair curled and poofey and perfect like a high fashioned helmet, or pressed straight and pulled back tight in a bun.

Me, being a queen on my royal grounds where I first loved the smell of water tasting thirsty sidewalk on hot days and California cold nights. Where the smell of grass was my favorite fluffy lounge chair at Starbucks and chamomile tea. Though I did not drink tea in those days. And there was no Starbucks. Where there was my tree, just nine papa steps in front of my porch. Whose leaves and branches reached to God’s house and hung almost to the grass but were not strong enough to hold me. Yet assured me that I was strong enough to brook whatever should come my way. That I was okay. My front steps. I have blocked out, or it has been blocked out for me, some of the details of this story, but that part is clear, those were my steps. There were only three and that was perfect.

My mom, dad and I had recently moved from the green (or was it brown?) apartment building on Walnut in Central Long Beach commonly known as the east side, to the single family dwellings on the west side of town at 1367 Cameron. Right around the corner from both sets of my grandparents who lived on Taper Street across from each other. In the apartment on Walnut, before my sister Roshann was born, we lived on the second floor. The steps were ugly and concrete and cobblestone. There was a peek a boo space between each step and a black iron rod to hold onto as one traversed up and down.

But those steps were not mine. No. They belonged to everyone. And no one claimed them as their own. No one dreamed of having long brown hair and marrying a prince on those steps. Those steps were not my friends. I would not tell my secrets there. One day I was in the living room and the door was left open. I was finally, to the surprise of my parents, tall enough to open the screen door. A screen that barely held out flies. An easy unlock.

My tricycle was parked at the top of the steps and was blue and had white strips of plastic hanging from the handlebars to flitter in the wind as I rocketed by. I opened the door and I was on the top of the steps. I sat there wondering, visualizing myself gliding down on my tricycle. I fancied my plastic strips waving away in the wind. Like fire. A delightful way to spend an uneventful Sunday afternoon. The coast was clear and I went for it.

God is wonderful in what He allows us to forget. I don’t remember tumbling all the way down, but I must have. About five years later I fell and was in the intensive care unit at Memorial Hospital for two weeks with a fractured skull from another fall. Again, I remember falling, but not the hitting the ground part. God is wonderful. From the stairs I do remember landing and crying at the bottom step. I remember being hurt, but safe. Mostly I suppose I was disappointed. That was not what I had envisioned. There were three teenaged boys strolling by who thought without thinking that my tumbling was funny. My father, annoyed by their mocking and buffoonery and suddenly sobered from Schlitz Malt Liquor and Mary Jane, reminded them in his special way, that surely it was not.

My Cameron Street steps were not disappointing like those. They did not call out to me with the intent of temptation when I was momentarily unsupervised. They did not propose excitement on a peaceful Sunday and then produce danger. My new steps did not lie. I was only safe on those steps that were red and three and my own.

Next door on Cameron, west of us, in the green house where I do not recall a mommy or daddy (but there must have been at least a mommy) lived two girls whose names and faces I can never call to mind. I have not outgrown their voices however, raspy and bumptious, heavy for such thin girls as it occurs to me in my hindsight. They had cool sneakers and strong arms, cold fingers and could Double Dutch a full song. Indeed they were real. Though I have had lovers who wished they were not. I remember them to be about fifteen and sixteen. My mother remembers that too.

The oldest lead the ghetto bureaucracy. In short, she was the boss of us. Of her sister, who was taller with shorter hair, quiet with issues of her own brewing with no place to unfold. Of me, lucky and next door. Of what seemed like the neighborhood where each house appeared occupied with private business. After some time it was okay with my parents that I went in their backyard with them that shared the same fence as ours. Whose grass was the same green. That was the same size and also had pomegranate and lemon trees and a garage and no dog. We did not have a dog yet. But theirs was not mine.

They had a white tent behind the garage and a nephew who was a few years older than I and shy. There was also a big boy, a teenager or older in the tent. I do not remember his name. Almost his voice. Barely his hair that was short like big boys wore their hair. Faded blue jeans slightly too big and looked clean but were not. Was callow and slim but had burly black boy sad eyes that had been in trouble before with full lips and a half happy smile poked and held to one side. The oldest was the cagey heavy whisperer of the cabal. Something was up. I saw the fusee signals and heard the cacophony of voices in my head but crossed the line anyway.

I was four and they demanded I stop being a big baby and suck his dick. I remember that it had never been a dick before. Somehow I knew that boys had pee pees, but dicks were new. Perhaps pee pees grew into dicks, I must have thought. But my young Virgo analyzing and attention to the byplay was not going to postpone this. There was a dick in front of me and big girls I thought were my friends begging in their demanding voices to suck. But it was not peppermint or Bit o Honey, more like a Bomb Pop or Big Stick. But not from the ice cream truck with bells and whistles. It was not smooth and orange and sweet and inviting. It was Play-Do left open. Ashy and uncared for.
I wanted my steps. This was my first dick and I wanted my steps that were safe and red and lead to my porch, where there was dust and loose gravel and chipped paint and no dicks. My porch had no dicks. But I was far away from my porch. Far from my lawn never perfectly manicured but mine. Just next door but miles from my father who would beat that dick up if he knew. Far from my mother who would spank their big girl butts if she knew that her daughter, who was sugar and spice and everything nice, was not sucking at all. Was gagging on flesh too big for her mouth, too hard for her jaws, too long for her throat. A dick. Even the name was not nice. If my father knew… If my mother knew… What if I was not everything nice anymore?

I did not like her yelling hand with dark brown rough knuckles on the back of my head touching too firmly my barrettes that were red and friendly like my porch. Did not like the bossy one moaning like it felt good to her. Her eyes half closed and head moving passionately in half circle then back again. The slow inhale hiss and ahh. Like I was doing it right. Then from nowhere there was liquid that was warm and salty and not my spit anymore. I ran out of the tent screaming. “He peed in my mouth! He peed in my mouth!” I ran as fast as I could to get past my porch, that was just a porch and not safe, into my bed, my for real castle.

Before I could get to the gate the shorthaired one caught me. I kicked and screamed but she carried me to the t shaped clothesline post that was strong and sturdy. Like maybe this was for more than sun drying skirts and blouses to be worn on Sundays. Maybe for other girls who had pee in their mouths and ran to get away.

She tied thick brown rope around my neck and tied the other end to the top of the post. She picked me up and held my body as it swung. Surely that was a station for girls who did not swallow pee. For girls who could not run faster than a fifteen year old and threatened to tell. This was a four year olds Calvary. She told me that I would not say anything because if I did she would tell my mother that it was all my idea and I was a nasty girl. Me?

My mother could not believe that I was a nasty bad girl. But what if she did? What if I was? She let me go with a shove that said all I needed to know. I was too scared to tell my mother, too scared to tell my father. That night when it was time for bath my mother noticed the rope burn around my neck. I lied to her about how I got it. Told her that I was playing some game and it didn’t even hurt. My mother, being a mother, wasn’t satisfied with the story. I couldn’t go in their backyard anymore. I couldn’t be with the girls at all. Fine with me.

I don’t remember the speech after the bath. Don’t remember what happened to the dick or the nephew. I vaguely recall the girls after that. I do remember that my steps were too close to theirs. They were not my steps anymore. There was a dick.

Memories 6 - Uraeus - Just things

When my son was in the first grade he was in a math competition in his class. Easy rules. Whoever answered the math questions correctly first was the winner. The winner of this fierce competition, that lasted twenty minutes (maybe), would get a package of flexipencils. Twelve of them. I mean, FLEXI-PENCILS! TWELVE OF THEM!

When I picked him up from school that day he got into the car with a solemn look on his face. I knew that he did not win. I felt…sad? because he felt sad. I knew that he knew the answers to the math questions. All of them. I was also aware of what he made the prize mean. Him receiving flexi-pencils from the teacher that day in front of his peers would have meant (to him, and to his classmates) that he was smart, wonderful, special, a great person. The list goes on. Uraeus, my wonderful son, is already awesome, already incredible, already all of it. Flexi-pencils, by the way, are just pencils that bend. And not all the way mind you. But more than regular pencils do. A package of twelve I think are $1.29. The ones with SpongeBob’s face on them are sixty cents more, I think. Anyway, flexi-pencils do not define Uraeus. But of course I understood the desire to win.

I began to think about how often we chase things and people and prizes because someone gave them a special meaning and we dedicated our lives to achieving them without stopping to recognize that these prizes, all of them are flexi-pencils. Understand here that I am not saying that flexi-pencils are meaningless. Instead I am saying that they mean exactly what we make them mean. The prizes in our lives mean what we make them mean. The hardships we go through mean what we make them mean. We shape them with our words, our dreams. What we believe.

Univ Utah

I woke up this morning ready. What an empty and full statement. Like ready for what, right? Ready for the day. Ready, finally to let go some pain I was holding on to. Let go of some doubt, fear. I woke up this morning, open. The more I let go of the more room I have inside of my body for love, laughter, new experiences, remembering old experiences that made me smile.

I spoke at the University of Utah in the English department today. They are covering black literature and I spoke as a "contemporary poet." I loved it. I was here last year also and had a great experience then too. I opened up with a poem called Take Us Back giving honor to "the Negro." It was well recieved and then went on to some work about women (you know me). The class and I had a great discussion. About hip hop, women's issues, black literature in the 60's, black poetry now, what is spoken word? We even talked about hot combs and perms. There is a line in one of my poems where I talk about our hair and you know... there is no conversation about our hair without perms. It was funny, mostly to the four black students when I gave a demonstration of pressing someones hair. "But if you put a comb that close to someone's scalp, won't they get burned?" She asked. "Yes, sweetheart, they will."

I closed the class with a poem about what our people are going through in the congo. My little poem, I know, could never scratch the surface of what they are going though, who am I kidding. But it did open a conversation about it that they may not have had anyway.

After class they all wanted to know if I was going to be performing somewhere this weekend. "I don't plan to, but I'd love to. What's going on?" "Oh, we'll find something, put something together. You do coffee houses? That cool?" "Sure, let me know."

After class I walked with a few of the students (the four black ones. Hey, it just happened like that.) and one of the young ladies opened her backpack and said, "I'm taking a poetry class. I wrote some yesterday." I'm usually nervous about that because if it's bad poetry I'm sitting there with this...smile on my face wondering what to say. I ususally settle for, "Mmmmmmmm?!mmmm. Thank you for sharing that." But this sista was really good. Uga muga, what is her name? How could I forget her name? If you're reading this sis, I'm sory I forgot your name, but I really really did enjoy your poems. I'll see you on Monday. Yes, I'll be back on Monday, but not doing much poetry. I'm sharing short stories Monday. Looking forward to it.

I'm back at the house and will do some more writing. Much more writing before I take a nap. Just wanted to say that I had a good day today and I'm feeling more and more like...like me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dream

In my dream last night I was driving a black Ford Escort on the west side of Long Beach near where I grew up. I was in an area that looked like Willow St. just before Pacific. I suddenly stopped my car in the fast lane.

Side bar. I don't know if that's lane four or one. I should know that! My driver's license is expired and I have to take the test when I get back to California in a week. But back to my dream.

I stopped the car in traffic, gently held a beautiful empty crystal champange glass and walked across the street and then up the block a bit. I left the car door open then I noticed a police car coming toward the car. I hurriedly headed to the car and reluctantly threw the crystal glass on the grass.

I remember praying along the way to the car that the police not ask for my license because it is an expired Georgia license. I remember praying that I not go to jail about my license.

Note to self: Hurry up and get license taken care of. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not get beans rice and cheese burrito from El Pollo Loco. Go straight to DMV when you get back to Los Angeles.

When I returned to my car (which somehow now was not on Willow St. anymore but on the street I grew up on) the police was gone and I drove off. Only when I drove off I was riding a bicycle. I was so happy the police didn't stop me for my license I don't know if I registered the significance of my riding a bike from where my car was parked.

I know that the setting of a dream is relavent so here it is, as much as I can recall. It was daytime. Probably about 4ish based on the traffic. Sunny.

That's it. Until next dream.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You 5

I had a dream a couple of nights ago that you started drinking again. Yes you, the cannot control your liquor intake guy. You know who you are. In the dream you were opening your second can of a really tall beer. Even now I can hear the click and see the beer fuzz escaping the can.

The bigger part of me hopes that's not true but there is also a part of me that doesn't care if you're drinking or not. For that part I ask forgiveness and compassion.

xxMemories 5 - Pushy pushy

I remember once when I was in elementary at John Muir in Long Beach, I don't remember exactly what grade, but I believe it was third. Yes, third because I wasn't on the big playground with the tether balls yet. I was in the cafeteria eating my lunch. That day I was eating alone. Why was I was eating alone? I usually ate with my best friend, Tara and a group of other chatty girls practicing cheers too loud. My name is Robin, yeah! I am a virgo, yeah...But that day I was eating alone.

I sat between two older students who were probably in the fifth or sixth grade. I don't remember why, but for some reason, neither of them wanted me to sit next to them. They didn't know me so I was probably the one designated to have the cooties that day. The boy, whoever he was, was very big. He was tv sitcom schoolyard bully big. He had really dark skin and wore his hair in a black fluffy afro. He made some negative remark about me and told his friend, a girl who was also big and dark and wore her hair in short pig tails. Why do I remember short pig tails? Whatever he said to her, she immediately agreed to it and didn't want me to sit next to her either. Children! As it was, I was sitting between them. Duh!

He told me to scoot over. And I did. I was a nervous child. Nervous and smart enough to not get into a fight if I didn't have to. Still, not bold enough to defend my boundaries. So, I scooted as much as I could without touching the girl who seemed to be equally grossed out by me and my apparant cooties. "Ugh! I don't want you sittin' by me either. Scoot over!" So I did. Voice! Oh voice! Where are you? Again I scooted as much as I could. The scoot over game went on until the cafeteria coach walked by and heard them taunting me.

I ate my lunch. Silently. Got up. Threw my trash in the appropriate dumpster and went to the playground.

All these years I held onto that story. I don't think I've ever mentioned it. As an adult I'm triggered by people trying to push me around. Maybe that's where it came from. I don't know, but I don't like it. I don't like it happening to me or to anyone. Thankfully I have grown to use my voice. A voice big and powerful enough to call the foul when I see, feel, hear it.

xxTime out (for now)

I'm taking a break from relationships. That is, intimate relationships where I call him my man, boyfriend, baby, whatever. Taking time for me with me. Me for me. Men, it seems, will be there. They've always been. I noticed that I don't choose them well. I do, to my credit, choose pretty cool right now partners. It's just that right now goes away so fast I can't believe it's over when it is. I have given way too many extensions in my day.

xxThe beginning?

There is no place to begin to tell your story, only a place you choose to start. Because later you find places to begin before that moment and you try to go back. And then it happens again. There are places even before that. I am thankful for those places. Those before and before places that allow me the reasons I need to justify my procrastination.

Too many reasons to hold on to stories. But they are lies. Every voice in my head that tells me that I am not good enough. Every whisper that shouts and threatens to tell the world (what the world already knows) that I am a human being. Perfect in all my imperfections. Beautiful in my ugly.

From Whitney Huston

"No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity... Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all... And if by chance that special place that you've been dreaming of, leads you to a lonely place, find your strength in love."

xxOld Days

It's a funny thing, me revisiting journals. There is always this urge to edit and pretend that I was always this...wise...woman (lol). I wasn't. Who was? Am I even now?

I am honoring myself for the courage to read my journals from forever ago and love the young, silly girl. Sure, I would love to retype them and when he said...and called me a...I looked at him square in the face and said...! Grabbed my bag and walked out and slammed the door! But I didn't. I cried. Hoped he would stay.

From Left Eye from TLC

"My mishap is that I'm destined to snap."

xxThe Corners of My Shaping

Every writer sets out to write the book that will change the world. Change the world? At this point in my life I just wanna let it out. Finally. Honestly. My own stories. My own life. Breathe in and out with no lingering stories there nagging to get out. And right now, they are nagging. Memories, stories, self-conversations popping up at unsuitable times. But are the times ever unsuitable? They come, I feel, when they are ready to be handled with care, written about, sketched out, set free.

Life is what it is. We are dealt the cards we're dealt and expectantly play the best hand we can play. I have humbly learned that I am not the accretion of my stories. I am not my bank statements or career choices, height or maritial status. Not my gender or shoe size or gynecological appointments, kept or not. I am not completed by the words I have used to describe myself. Woman, lover, mother, daughter, writer, sister, friend, dot dot dot. I am infinite possibilities and have decided to embrace all of who I am, and who I am not. I embrace all of my experiences, understanding that I needed them to form me into who I am today. Wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now. My experiences are, each of them, the pleasant ones and those that still hurt too much to mention, plainly the corners of my shaping.

I, right now, abdicate my position of right and fautless, knowing that it never existed, accepting that it doesn't matter anyway. I also release, right here on this blog, my stories. Ok, some of them. I am now of the understanding that what has happened in my life and my stories about what has happened in my life are separate. The drama has always come with me trying to make them the same. They are not. What happened is what happened. I created my stories from my own background and sensitivities and ran with it. Called enough people to validate my point of view and there you have it. Me, the self appointed victim of my life, choosing to pay more attention to the ebb than the flow.

I accept that as I created that position, I am powerful enough to create a new reality. I heretofore create a space and possibility of a life of me achieving my goals, loving myself fully and accepting others as I love and accept myself. I create right now, a journey of success and lessons learned and love given and received. And so it is.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

writing day

it's writing day
my hand is getting cramped
my fingers sore
but i am not finished

there is more inside my head
more memories
more thoughts
more musings
even more songs to share

the music stopped
all of those cds
all of those songs
the music just stopped

and that is ok
because it's writing day
and i wasn't writing to the music anyway

only to the cacaphony
of poems in my head
the dreams while i sleep
the sound the merlot makes
sneaking down my throat
into my stomach
connecting with bread
with cheese

Dear God

i can be stong in You
You are everything i need
You show up as Mother
as Father
as Protector
as Provider

You are friend
and comforter

You breathe life into me
poetry into me
stories and truth
You paint pictures
through me
You love and forgive through me

i am song in You
my simple words can never describe You

You are not man
not woman
not big not small
You are everything i cannot describe

and i get to live in You
i get to call You Sister, Brother, Friend
and You live in me
and create in me a love more grand
than could ever be without You

and i get to live in You
and You live in me

in the moment

reading amy tan's SAVING FISH FROM DROWING
working on material to present this week
at the university of utah
listening to luther's rendition of Lovely Day
hearing the wind blow
hearing the leaves spread over the roof
race across the lawn

open the curtains
sun shine through the house
unpack my clothes
my hats my scarves
my jewelry

send prayers of thanksgiving
for life
for my son
my family

listening again to luther's rendition
of bill withers' Lovely Day

agreeing

new

sunday morning phone call
breakfast at cj's
walk on venice beach
drive down the 405
stories about you
stories about me
back into the city
taking it slow
slow

honoring me

i honor myself for not getting
on that plane with you
going back with you
starting over with you
why this
why these messages
why this release

because i am making room these days
making space these days
honoring me these ways

out

getting it all out is the most good i
can do for myself
all out in bitsy pieces at a time
slowly in the wee hours of dark
one stanza at a time
word by word i release
stories
lies
pains
joys

paragraph by paragraph
i let go
to make room
for love
to make room
for me

my poetry

my poetry is los angeles
traffic jams and cars goin'
too fast over speed bumps
old school chevys and
crenshaw blvd on sunday nights

about poetry houses
the world stage
da poetry lounge
mic and dim lights
my poetry is jazz in leimert park
5th st dicks
chamomile tea, the moon, and microwaved tv dinners

my poetry is red wine and always
so good food at nailah's
and we let it all out

210 bus
pico
venice beach
pawn shops
gangsta rap

sistas talkin loud
say hell naw and mean it too
brothas hustlin on both sides
of the law
and we eatin the best way we can

my poetry is therapy
like in the middle of the night
i know i can say it all in
a stanza
a page
a chapbook

like the old folks say
it's better out than in
and this is how i get mine out

frustrations
fears
fantasies
prayers
desires
dreams

my journals know it all
they know it all

Sunday, November 14, 2010

xxmemories 4 - Uraeus

Thirteen years ago today my water broke and fourteen hours later I saw the most beautiful face I have ever seen.

Dear Uraeus

Happy birthday to the human spirit who has my heart. I love you dearly, Uraeus. Happy thriteenth birthday!

Writer's prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
Somebody please spell check my blog

Amen

Saturday, November 13, 2010

memories 3

him: I don't think that what you do will ever be enough to take care of anybody.

me: (thinking) wow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dear Uraeus

I have words and letters, journals and stories, musings and monologues. Many of them. More than too many. They all belong to you.

seasons change

Spring
Your lips next to mine
Your stories made me laugh
I let myself cry
Let myself let go
Let you

Winter
With my poetry
With my words
My music
Myself
Again

I like this me
Too
Again

she dance

and dont even care if they watchin
cause she dance just for the groove
just cause
God gave her two shoes

if you knew better
then you would dance too

The thing about writing

Is to sit in the seat
One comfortable for you
I am best at the Lavenderia
On Pico
Just before noon

Something about Los Angeles, Pico, the smell of detergent, noon
That is when my stories come
You find your own
But find them

The thing about writing
Is to tell the truth
Even / especially when it
Doesn’t make you look good
There is no truth about any human being
Without the ugly of it somewhere

The thing about writing is
The story
Spin
Soak
Rinse
Dry

And so what about your looking good anyway
When there is
The story
The tapestry of lines and letters
Words that form
World

Something we can hold on to
Grow from
Re member
Remember
Add soap to and
Wear again

Give me something I can
Connect to
And tell someone else to help her heal
Him heal
What good is your story if it only massages
Your ego / your pocket
So what about yourself

There are others in the world you know
Loving / living / breathing / taking up space on this planet too
You know

Painting, writing, washing
Trying to make ourselves new

I don’t care about your erotic poetry
I don’t want you to make me moan all night
I don’t want to bend in positions
That make me scream for you
Calling your name
So what about your name

I want you to feed me words
Real words I can remember and love
Wrap up in and sop my ugliest tears

Words that don’t wash out

In laundry, on Pico, before noon

from Iyanla Vanzant

“I learned the hard way that you must be disciplined, vigilant, and obedient about the practices that will build your spiritual muscles and put the old you to rest. The truth is that you really are sleeping with the enemy, and the enemy knows that you are doubtful and fearful.”

from James Baldwin

“They hit the streets in Watts not because Negros like to drink or to steal, but because they’ve been in jail too long. Because a new law had been passed making fair housing illegal. Looting went on all right. What was not said was who stole from whom first. It’s a great thing to be in Sacramento devising laws locking people into a ghetto. It’s another thing to be in that ghetto.”

Your judgments

Being a feminist does not mean man hater and a black power fist does not mean white hater.

My mother's words

"One day your work is gonna be so big. So big all over the world."

Dear Mom,
Thank you. For words like these that lift me and remind me to write another story, then another one. The next poem, the next show. Then another story then the next...

Love you,
Robin

What a wonder

You are wonderful
speaking softly to me
in the middle of the night
when i thought i would never sleep
You took away every worry
melted each concern

what wonderful grace
on my journey throughout the day
always a way where i could see no way
i rest and walk assured now
knowing that we are never separated

i applaud You
glorify and magnify
the Is ness of You
only You
always You

You remember to remind me
that i am made of You
my words are not big enough to describe You
not grand enough to sing Your name
I know You
You know me
You breathe Your life in me

I meditate in You
live my life in You

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dear Jaha

If you don't get up right now, you aint goin' nowhere.

Love,
Me

ps I meant that literally but that's so poetic. Really.

Trees

The leaves are changing colors
Green red orange yellow brown
I stand at my window
I cannot stop staring

The leaves are not this color
In Los Angeles
Not this color
Not in the jungle
Not on Adams or Crenshaw
Not on Pico or LaBrea

But right here right now
They are red orange yellow
I stand in front of my mirror
I am changing colors

I have become a tree
A Georgia tree
There are spots of gray at my temples
Brown on my teeth
Charcoal under my eyes
Red clay in my toes
Green in my eyes
Breeze on my tongue

I have become a tree
Where birds nest
And fly away
Where dogs piss
And make their mark
Where God whispers
The angels gather

It is raining now
And that is ok
Because I am a tree
We are made to stand tall through rain
Changing colors
Housing squirrels

It is raining now
And that is ok
The sun will shine
And I will still be a tree

A taller tree
Shading lovers
Forgiving the fearful

I was not this color in Los Angeles
Not in the jungle
Not on Adams or Pico
Not on Western or Slauson
And not on Degnan

And I am still the same tree
Taller
Older
Deeper
More colorful tree

Love after time

Sometimes it’s in the I love yous not said
The noises you make that drive me mad
During sex
Over food
While sleeping
It’s the comfortable familiar of a fart
Uncensored
Not apologized for
Because a fart between lovers is
Not nothing
But something
That says
Welcome to the inside
Of who I am
The good the bad
But lovers know that there is no good no bad
Just love that gets closer and bigger
And comes this close to
Swallowing the other in
Bitsy pieces at a time

Sometimes I am uncomfortable and afraid
But then who is not
Sometimes I want to run far away from this
Whatever it is
Because caring about you takes too much time
(this is an old poem)
Too much energy
And it’s too much hard
To not love you
When you fart

Dream?

Last night
I had a dream
I was cleaning out
An apartment
My apartment
An apartment I don’t know

I was busy
I was angry
I was screaming at
An ex lover
Who will remain
Nameless
Until I get over his name
(this is an old poem)

He came to my house
To collect items he had
Given to me
How dare he

But I gave them to him
Because they were his
And not mine
I had me
And that was enough

That was more
I had won

In the dream
A fish appeared
An orange and yellow
Large flying fish
Flying around my apartment
My dream apartment
That I had never known
A home I would not choose
This fish
This flying fish

A fish out of water
Cleaning house
Finding home

Lessons From Jaha's House (An illustrated cartoon by EbonyJanice)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dear Socks

Last night I finished painting the mural in your and Food's spot, Vibrations. Well, no painting of mine is ever finished, but finished until I do something else to it. I'm glad that you both like it. I like it too. Mostly though, I enjoyed spending time with yall. Talking, sharing, eating, being quiet, being our comfortable selves with no crowd around. No poems to rehearse. No microphones to adjust. No product to sell. No none of that. Just us. Our words. Our time. Thank you for that.

I was honored to be at your surprise party last week. Hearing all of the wonderful things people said about you made me even more proud / honored/ blessed to call you friend, collegue, sister, poet, artist.

I have always loved you. I have always admired the way you carried yourself and that you were such an awesome representative of woman to the sistas on the scene, the brothas too. Thank you. You have always showed so much love to our people in your poetry, your actions, your way of being. Again, thank you.

I wish you much success in your love, your shop, your life. Thank you for all the years of friendship. I'm glad we share the page of this journey right now.

Love you dearly,

Jaha

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dear Uraeus

Just a week away from your birthday!

Love you,
Mom

V. Kali's birthday

we was all sittin around talkin
erwin hotel room 510
venice beach
all us found close free parking
we knew the night was goin somewhere

v, sequoia and s.pearl
was already there when
me and george showed up
catchin up is always easy with sequoia
she hold my face in her hands
i know i aint got to carry
nothin right now
all us just seen For Colored Girls
but s. pearl is a film maker
so didnt nothin slip by her
but even she said it was so good
so good so good
seein all us colored girls up there
on the screen like that
colored girl issues and all
its 2010 and we still runnin
to the backroom and say
mama its some colored folks on tv

pam knock on the door
then portia
the princess
clearly
zuri was there with us
showin up all through portias smile

then come valdez then jean
jean so beautiful
eyes so white
teeth so bright
skin so smooth and ocean
like a marble
like a moon

valdez look through locks fallin to his face
tell us grown man stories
about dating
about art
about strength and being venelas brother
cause who in the room know her better

kamala come in
baby girl of the bunch
she sit in the center
think she got so much to learn
we the ones hangin on her every word

she take us through stories
about livin life on dancers toes
we was there with her
on those toes those toes
like we could really keep up
with those genius toes

dj come through
its been too long
too long since i seen dj
she dont have to say much
with a butter sunshine raspberry
river deep sex voice like that
she sit back and listen
put her two cents five dollars in
where she want to
we all lost in the rhythm of what she say
how she say

there are life lessons spilled
all on the floor the table
carpet couch
all on the walls and mirrors

who gon clean all this gospel
up in the mornin

we laughin all our blues away
keep our drama close enough
fo we dont leave without it
we just hold it different
when we walk
not so close to our titties
carry that drama at arms length
like we takin dirty diaper to trash

we drinkin spillin secrets
we know kept safe
we home now
brothas wanna know why sistas be...
like we got any answers
like we know so well to explain
we wanna know why brothas dont...
like they can tell
like they know
like it matter anyway

we all in different stages
of this dance we do called love
i aint got nothin good to say about it
not yet
not tonight
one day
not yet though

sequoia and pam tell me
baby, soon
let all that hurt go
leave it right there where you left it
love gon be sweet
baby so sweet
so sweet so sweet

i keep thinkin
i dont even know what so sweet so sweet love look like

we drinkin and talkin
laughin and cussin
security knock his chocolate
dimpled six feet self on the door
tell us folks complainin about our noise

our noise?
our so good gospel noise?

we just laughin and talkin
drinkin and cussin
aint no noise here

obama won! i scream to the wall
wonder how long we gon hafta pay for that

we calm down
cause he was cute
and ask us real nice
with them pretty white teeth
them dimples and all

we pour another drink
i keep thinkin
so sweet? so sweet?

and who gon clean up all this
blues spilled on the floor

For Colored Girls

my mom
my sister
me
my nine year old niece
we were there
in line for the 12:50 show
long beach
to see the movie

i saw the play
too long ago
wonder what tyler gon do
what he think he know about
ntozake shange
one of my favorite poets

we walk in and theatre filled
black women
young girls
hip chicks
colored girls

zayikah was there with her daughter kashima
we reach through locks
hug necks and see ourselves
in each others gray temples

i was there up on that screen
i am those issues
those fears
i am that beauty
that fire

that eagerness to love
that rock around my heart

that mouth
that shut up oh please shut up mouth

that silence
that speak up oh say something right now silence

i sat there
no popcorn no soda
closed my eyes
when he dropped the babies

i know that dedication to foolishness
gave him excuses he never deserved
i got them shoulders too
them carry the world shoulders
always gotta mama somebody

got that forgive him
take him back too many times
no good
dont trust myself enough

that was me up there
takin myself back
letting him go
him go
him go
reconnecting myself to myself
myself to myself

we clap during the credits
when we hear nina simone sing
i wear all the colors
as i step into the restroom
hear colored girls confess their issues
black women
long line
we dont mind

all colored girls
we ask each other
how you like the movie
the movie
we dont ask what movie

the movie
we all know

we are those colored girls
reconnecting ourselves to ourselves
ourselves to each other
ourselves to ourselves

Friday, November 5, 2010

This day

I am so thankful for this day. To wake up and see the sun and the beautiful sky. I am thankful for friends and family. For the gifts of poetry, art, photography and laughter. I am thankful for love.

I am on my way to Long Beach this morning to see For Colored Girls with my mom and sister. Our time is special to me. The Reed women. Though none of us use that name anymore it is who I remember us to be.

Dear Uraeus

Tonight I performed at a poetry spot called The Sacred Lounge and before I started my set the host asked me what was sacred to me. You are. You are sacred to me.

Love you,
Mom

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bus stories 4

210 bus south on Crenshaw.

The young woman sitting across from me is wearing short shorts. She looks to be about 19 years old. She looks like she's black and white. Her age and ethnicity are only important because I like to include those facts. Why are her shorts so relevant? Because she is wearing an ankle bracelet. Yes, from the police. Not the jewelry store. I don't think I've ever seen one before that wasn't on TV. I don't want to stare. But I am a writer and am filled with questions.

What did she do? Alcohol? Drugs? Is she on probation? Why? For how long?

None of this is my business but what else is there to do while riding the 210 south on Crenshaw headed to Slauson Ave.?

Bus stories 3

210 bus south on Crenshaw. Two black men in their early 20s talking.

man 1: No, Tanisha just a side bitch I'm fuckin'. I really want a white girl.

man 2: You trippin'.

man 1: Sheeeeiit.

man 2: Where you on yo way to?

man 1: This bitch house.

man 2: You need to be lookin' for a job, muthafucka.

man 1: Shit, maybe in a coupla months when I get offa probation.

man 2: Aight then.

man 1: Aight.

This blog

is like a box of chocolate...

Bus stories 2

210 bus south on Crenshaw

old man: How you doin', pretty lady?

me: I'm fine.

old man: (smiling) I was fine too till I lost my teeth. I caint find 'em nowhere.

(we laugh)

Memories 2 - the bus stop

when i was 18 i looked about 15
i was sitting on the bus stop in the valley
a white man who was probably 40 but looked 50
parked his car in front of me
got out and sat on the bench with me

i didnt want to show him i was afraid
so i sat there
i should have run
but i didnt

he unzipped his pants
jerked his penis
asked me if i learned about masterbation in school

i looked at him
rolled my eyes and said
thats nothin

he zipped his pants and left

Bus stories

210 bus on Monday night. 7:30. South on Crenshaw. Crowded bus. Starting point Crenshaw and Pico. Black man in his late 40s in wheelchair enters bus and tries to make his way to wheelchair post. There is a 70 yr old frail woman standing in front of him.

man: Move, lady! You see I'm tryina get to the post over here. You see I'm in a wheelchair! Get out my way!

woman: Sorry. Sorry. I trying. No room.

man: You standing there like I got all damn day!

black woman in her early 40s: What the fuck you expect her to do? You see she tryina move.

man: This aint even yo bizniz so won't you juss stay out the kool aid?!

black woman: you just stressin' this old lady 'cause you know she aint gon say nothin' back to you. Won't you scream on somebody thata fight back?!

man: Won't you juss stay out of it. I aint even talkin' to you. I'm talkin' to these damn Mexicans on the bus all in my way.

black woman: What all the Mexicans got to do with anything? Why you still talkin'? The lady out yo way now. You juss mad 'cause you in a wheelchair.
You need ta juss accept yo condition!

man: Hell yeah I'm mad.

black woman: Well you don't need to be tryina run over this old lady. You don't know if she got diabetes or if her bones are brittle or what. Juss go somewhere witcho fuckin' chair.

man: You better shut the fuck up before I ram you and her.

black woman: You aint gon do shit. (turns to lady) Don't worry, Ma'am. He aint gon do shit. He juss mad 'cause he in a wheelchair. (turns to man) Accept yo condition and shut up! (back to woman) That's what's wrong wit em. He mad 'cause he in a wheelchair and he younger than you and you all old and shit walkin' around. Don't pay him no attention and don't be scared of him. I got yo back. Don't nobody give a fuck that he in a fuckin' wheelchair. I'll fuck him up. Ma'am, don't trip. You ok. I got you.

Freedom - haiku

my name is Jaha
Zainabu and I was
sleeping with evil

Memories - Sophia

i was in high school when sophia shot herself
herself
shot
her
self

beautiful sophia
who left us too soon
too young
high school graduation
real world
then dead

i sang with sophia
in the church choir
then she was gone
laughed at her jokes
admired her beauty
listened to her big girl stories
and then she was gone

sophia
only three years older than i
sophia who was beautiful
then gone

none of us knew how to handle
her death
we couldnt wrap our church girl brains
around suicide
bold lines arond sin
became blurry

we didnt know what to do with
her death
death

neither did they
the big people who knew
everything
and everyones silence served
no one

Street life

I. I am sitting outside on the benches on a campus in Culver City. Waiting. I am early for a meeting and I perfer waiting outside. Outside. Where real life is going on. Squirrels chasing each other. Women wearing too much make up walking by. Men rushing off to lunch. The brotha just came out of the office like it was the last day of school and the final bell just rang. "Where you going fa lunch?" The sista yells. "El Pollo!" He yells back. He means El Pollo Loco. I like that spot too. "Dang, thas yo favorite place." "Shol is." He responds. I laughed to myself because he pronounced El Pollo, El Po-lo.

II. An hour before my meeting. Two white men who look like doctors, maybe teachers, yeah teachers since I am on a college campus walk by. I only hear part of their conversation as they wisk by me. The part where the short one says "Yeah, generally they are not attractive people." I wonder who he's talking about.

III. Where is El Pollo Loco around here?

IV. Why are there so many soldiers walking around in uniform?

V. I am not ready for this meeting because I am waiting outside. Outside where real life is going on. Women wearing high high too high heels walk by. Hurting feet walk by. Cats looking for mice dashing by. Students getting out of class and men carry books by authors I don't know walk by. Walking by. Everyone walking by. With all of these places to sit and all this life to see everyone is walking by.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My bad - haiku

remember when i
said i would always love you
i dont anymore

Dear Toni Morrison

Thank you for TAR BABY.

Love,
Jaha Zainabu (you don't know me)

Still - haiku

something about the
quiet late night that reminds
me to always remember