Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dear God

Clearly I don't know what to do with any of it. I keep making a mess. Followed by another mess. Seriously this time, I'm giving it to You.

Red Stories 3

Red Stories 3 was last Saturday. This was my favorite of the Red Stories series. Although I have love each one of the shows, this was my favorite because this time I let go and allowed a team to really help me with the show and it took a lot of pressure off of me.

This month the show featured Deana Verse, Kevin Sandbloom and me. Deana played a huge role inteh show this month. She created the beautiful flyers, the promotional video, advertized via word of mouth, performed at other venues to promote, created the advance ticket sales online and so much more. I so appreciate her for all of the work she did. She also gave an amazing performance at the show.

It was also a blessing to have Kevin Sandbloom on the show again. Kevin was on the show last month also. On Friday night, Deana, Kevin and I performed as a group at Still Waters. It was a great performance. Socks and Food 4 Thot run Still Waters and are also the owners of Vibrations, the spot where the show was on Saturday.

Saturday night was the largest crowd of the all three Red Stories shows. It was beautiful beautiful all the way around. The place was packed. The folks were lovely. There was wine, juice, snacks, laughter, some crying, more laughing and listening. Really, you had to be there. Even though I had a crazy cold the whole night, I still had a lot of fun.

The next day a woman called me and told me that she was at the show and that she had a really good time. She told me that she enjoyed my "personality." She has a radio show and invited me to try out being a host on her show. She offered me to start that day but I couldn't do it. Mostly because I wasn't feeling well and also I would have been late for the show by the time I got there on the bus and train. I gotta get a car. Seriously, next month for sure. Anyway, she was cool with me declining that day and extended the invitation for a date early April. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm also looking forward to seeing how Red Stories will grow. Month to month I try to see what progress I have made with each show. This month I have a new cd that I didn't have before and I have what I feel is a better location for the show. Better in terms of my relationship with the owners (Food and Socks are like family to me) and better in terms of the comfort of the audience. The restrooms being closer and food and drinks being more available. I greatly enjoyed being at the theatre and appreciate Ron and Richard for opening up the Lucy Florence space to me. I will say that I may see what I can do at their new performance space on Pico some time in the future. We'll see.

Anyway, I chose to rest all day on Sunday and take care of myself. I was tired of the cold I had. The coughing and conjested chest. I have other things to do this week so I took whatever I needed to take (especially rest) to get rid of it. I feel and sound much much better now and am ready to start promoting for Red Stories 4 featuring Reverdia Trammell (poet, storyteller), Lynette White (singer) and me.

Red Stories is the last Saturday of each month so that will be April 30. The show will be at Vibrations again and already I'm looking forward to it. I hope to see you there. Oh, the address is 2435 Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, CA. Now, I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Big Jack

I don't know his name
But he looks like a Jack to me
He's big and has hammer kinda arms
I would believe it if
He was a stick up dude
Back in the day

We are waiting for the WalMart to open
Big Jack is looking for a place to pee

In my mind I speak to Big Jack
He creeps from the side of the building
Zipping his pants

Stop talking to yourself like that, Big Jack

Although I understand

What happened, Big Jack?
Do you have children?
Boys? Maybe one girl?
Your children don't understand you
Do they, Big Jack?

Were you minding your own business
On your construction job
When a white man said the wrong shit
On the wrong damned day?

Did you choke him
Didn't know your own strength?
Did he pass out, Big Jack?
Then you went to jail?
Huh? Huh, Big Jack? Huh?

You wife's Spanish mother and Republician father
Had warned their princess about marrying you

But you were a big time football star at USC
That made your black blook ok

Where were they?!
Where were they, Big Jack?
She only visited you that one time
To tell you to get help with you anger problems

Anger problems?!
It wasn't even your fault!
She wasn't concerned about
Your fucking anger problems
When you whippped that guys ass
That time on Venice Beach
For calling her a cunt
And grabbing her titties!

You were her hero then, Big Jack
Or was it Jackson or Big Daddy or Honey Baby?

I hate her too, Big Jack
Now here you are
Peeing on the side of the WalMart
And talking crazy shit to yourself

Your twins, Robert and Johnathan
Are grown up and have kids of their own
Robert is leaving his wife
And coming to terms with
The fact that he's gay

And he's blamming that on you, Big Jack!
Like it's your fault
He's been lying to himself about
His own feelings
And it's your fault?
Come on!

Willa Bell, your precious fair skinned princess
The only one with your nappy hair and fury eyebrows and big nostrils
Poor thing cried herself to sleep
The whole time you were locked up

You're free now, Big Jack
Where is she?
You're pissing on the WalMart
She's out shopping

I know
I know, Big Jack
It's not fair

That fucking day, man
That one fucking day

Hot water (3-21-11)

In all of the world right now
my favorite place to be is
the Korean spa downtown

Normally I would mention the name and location
because I like specifics in my poetry
but there are no friends
I want to join me here
by accident or intention

When I am here
I am here alone
There are Korean women next to me
watching their Korean shows on the flat screens

They are there
But tey are not at the same time
I come often so they are use to me
To them perhaps
I am here
and I am not at the same time

Mostly I love to go late at night
or early in the morning
when it is quiet
and the water is too hot for most people
but not for me

Well, for me too
but I can get comfortable in hot water
It's a skill I developed early in life
my therapist said

I get used to hot water
It's what has me stay in relationships
longer than I should

The water is scalding
and I am wading around
with Negro spirituals in my head

Until I look up one day
and my skin is crawling off my body
Then I know it's time to go

I sit in the hot tub for as long
as I can stand it
get out and relax in the chairs just above
watch the steam float off my body

I should be able to resist saying
I let off steam
I can't
I am the same corny third grade girl
I always was

Shower time again
I let the hot water hit my back

Dry off and go into the sauna
The steam is good for my skin
I think
Steam is good for my dreams
I think

I can't handle the sauna as long
as I can the hot tub
but I stay as long as I can

Shower again
Wash away the sweat and steam

I get my water my notebook my pencils my ipad
Go to the rest area
where there are the biggest
most comfortable softest most reclinable
lazyboys ever

I begin a new story new prose
The wi fi is free and sometimes
I browse the internet
mostly I write

I don't know if it's the
sweat the steam all the showers
the hot hot water
but I love what's coming out of me
and into my journals

Well, I don't love it all
but there is freedom in the release
freedom in telling the stories

The abortion the miscarriage the breakup
The marriage in my early twenties
to a man too full of rage to listen
to anything outside the nonsense of
his own revolution
and so was I
so we fit
until the water got too hot

My son my nephew and niece
My mother my sister my friends
the balance of my life

Poetry art the busses and trains
The planes the clubs
the diners the wine
the music the kiss the rain

It all comes out in the hot tub
the sauna the shower

I do love my life
looking back on all of it
I wouldn't choose to be anyone but me

I love hanging out with myself
Knowing and loving me more every day

I know hot now when I feel it
I don't need another relationship
that makes my skin crawl

I have let off enough steam
Dreamed enough good dreams
to recognize
too hot from far away
and not to go near

Friday, March 18, 2011


I don't know why I remember certain things when I remember them, but some memories pop up and make me smile. Earlier I was thinking about when Uraeus and I lived in the jungle (and for those of you who don't know, the jungle is an area in South Central Los Angeles. I know you wanna believe I'm artsy and eccentric enough to live in the real jungle with my child, but no.) Anyway, we were living in the jungle and the way my apartment was laid out was like this: the one bedroom was for Uraeus and was in the rear of the apartment, the dining room I created for my bedroom which was next to the kitchen and the living room was my studio / office / tv room / library / living room. It sounds busy, but it worked. 

On the night that I am remembering, my nephew, Reuben spent the night with us. Uraeus slept in the bed with me and Reuben slept in Uraeus' room. Reuben woke up in the middle of the night I guess confused about where he was (I get that way now, a lot.) he stared half asleep half awake walking around and went out the front door. Now, let me say here that going out the front door in the jungle can be a dangerous experience for anyone at anytime, but especially for a young boy in the middle of the night who was not even completely awake. I'm usually a very light sleeper, especially when I have little ones in the house with me, but either he was extra quiet or I was extra tired. 

Reuben opened the door and started to walk downstairs. As usual, there were men hanging out in the stairwell and outside. The men were Country and his crew. In the short story that I wrote for WOMEN IN THE VILLAGE GO 'ROUND AND 'ROUND called The Jungle Story, one of the characters is named Country and that character is loosely based on Country, my neighbor. 

When one of the men saw Reuben, he brought him back up to my place. Reuben had left my door wide open and my bed was easily visible from the front door. The guy walked Reuben into the apartment but didn't want to scare me and so went back to the door and knocked and yelled until I woke up. 

That memory makes me smile because of all of the foul stories told about being in the jungle, the guy didn't touch me or the kids or steal anything or anything like that. He just made sure my nephew was inside safely and made sure I wasn't spooked in the process. Now had that been on some movie, in the same location, you know all kinds of crazy stuff would have happened. That's because, in my opinion, the movies don't portray the very human sides of how we live.

Well the next morning, Reuben didn't remember anything and Uraeus had slept through everything so when I told the story to them they laughed the whole way through and I ended up sounding like the crazy mom / aunt with the funny stories.

The Invitation

I was in Pennsylvania one night and couldn't sleep. I went downstairs to get a book to read and as I judged them all by their covers (we don't like to admit it, but we do), my aunt stopped me and said, "Wait,  have you heard of The Invitation?" I had not heard of the book, the author or the poem before and after I read it, I wondered what bed of flowers I had been sleeping under. 

In her book, she said that she came home from a party one night and wrote this at her desk. In the quiet, late at night. I was greatly inspired after reading this and hope that you will be too .

The Invitation
By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool 
for love
for your dreams 
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals 
or have become shrivelled and closed 
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain 
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it 
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy 
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness 
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, 

It doesn't interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair 
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Simple like a daisy - the new album

I'm in the studio today recording the new cd called Simple like a daisy. I'm staying focused on what I need to do right now. There are other distractions around that don't deserve my full attention and I get to choose. I choose to create this album today.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Now love

When I am not my highest self 
I forget to remember you beautiful
I am caught up sometimes 
In the in the human of my life

And you are always there 
Breathing through the it with me
I never thought of it like this before
Never been mellifluous like this before

You inspire me to be my favorite me
The me I most adore

So remind me lover please
Sometimes when I forget
That you are only here to love me
And I to love you back like that

And why don't you forget?
you always seem connected
To the you you came to be

You are just wind like that, I guess
Better than I will be, I suppose

This is the grown love I was looking for back then
When I ask myself where you been 
I remember that you could not show up in my space before
Because I hadnt been who I was looking for

Monday, March 14, 2011

Los Angeles

Chicken asada con verde sauce
Number 40 Metro bus to the end of the line
Taco trucks and flowers for sale on the corner
Cold sodas by the can 
No water no ice with that
Six tables small space
Meat stand and market to the right
We all familia

The English speaking Mexican brother 
Helps me explain 
I want aluminum foil to wrap what's left of my burrito

"It was good"
I rub my stomach
"Too big"
I spread my hands as if I am measuring an infant baby

She laughs and hands me the foil
She she smiles at me and thanks me for coming
As if I am visiting another country

"Bye bye" she waves again

As I opened the door to leave 
I felt like maybe I was in another country
Burrito as big as a baby
Smiling server who was happy I came
Said bye bye when I left

Those Preaching Women

Those preaching women
Dangerous in their courage 
Standing in the face of no agreement
Speaking to an audience of turned heads and whispered mouths

Those preaching women
Praying and baking and reading and fighting

Those remembering women
With backs straight and heads high
Twisted fingers and ashy knees

Those beautiful women
Locks and afros 
Blondes and browns 
Blacks and reds 

Those chocolate of many hued women
Those moving women
Still in the middle of the night 
Listening to God's voice
Knowing Her tenor
Swinging to His alto

Those old young women 
Wise and words 
Building and tearing down bridges
Breaking and repairing bones
Filling the space of broken circles

Those mothers and friends 
Aunties and big mammas
Sisters and teachers

Those prophesying women
With word from the Lord
Those scary women 
Who know good when they see it
Smell a lie when they taste it
Call a foul when they feel one
Conjure blessing when they need one

These are our beloved preaching praying loving women
Whether we love them or not
Listen or not
Care or not

These are our women always praying
Always connecting
These are our women 
Holding life for us
To be

Back in Los Angeles

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm back in Los Angeles. The event in Philadelphia went very well. I absolutely love working out there. I love working with WomanPreach. For this event WomanPreach was partnering with another organization called Daughters of Thunder. I am the artist in residence for WomanPreach and performed poetry for the event. I'm typing this blog on the go so please forgive its quick sentences.

I'm here in L.A. To promote my show, Red Stories coming up on the 26th. This month the artists on the show with me will be Deana Verse and Kevin Sandbloom. 

Woman on the Greyhound

One of the benefits of being outside of the house and paying attention to poetry around me is that I witness some interesting stories. Stories I just wouldn't make up. So in the space of I just wouldn't make this up, on the Greyhound the other night it was dark, just past midnight and quiet. We were about ten minutes from a stop, I don't remember which one, and a woman got on her phone. That is common when we are that close to a stop, but usually the calls go some thing like, "Hey, we are almost there. Can't wait to see you." or something like that. But no, not this time. This woman was on her phone and was talking so loudly. Seriously, this was the conversation:

"Hey. Yeah we almost there. You coming? Stop playin' we almost there, for real. I got my baby with me."

And she did have a young baby with her in a car seat.

"Ok I'm light skinned with curly hair like yours. I have on a green jacket..." 

The whole conversation sounded like she just met someone on the internet and asked him to meet her for the first time with her baby in the middle of the night at. Greyhound station somewhere between North Carolina and Pennsylvania. 

As her conversation began to disturb and wake up the other passengers on the bus I could hear the chuckles and disapproving grunts. Like no one could believe it. If I was watching this play out on a movie I would have to rewind. When we stopped, I couldn't see who she got in the car with but I sure do hope that she and her child are ok. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dear Uraeus

This evening I am in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at Aunt Val's house. I was just downstairs and I was thinking about last summer when we were here and she taught you how to make pancakes. And you learned very well. I love you very much and am looking forward to seeing your perfect face soon.

Always always love,


Me with me part 5

Me with me part 5
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

J. So what's up? Where are you? (As if I don't know)

Me. "What's up?" is a loaded question, and a boring one too so I'll answer the second. I am on the Greyhound going to Philly.

J. For what? 

Me. Poetry. The gig came at the perfect time too because I was in Atlanta doing a couple of shows out there and handling some personal business also. I was gonna catch the bus back to Los Angeles but they called and asked if I was available for this show and I was. My only thing about doing this show in Philly on Friday is that I have to be in Cali Saturday morning so they are flying me out after the show Friday night. Cool.

J. How is the bus ride? What is it, eleven hours on the road to Philly?

Me. About that. But the bus is gon have a way of stretching that out to twenty. I don't mind the ride though. I suggested it. I've taken many long rides but not usually this way, and it saved them some money. Besides, and I don't know why, but I sleep well and come up with some real good stories on long bus rides. 

J. But what about your back and legs.

Me. Yeah. I'm sore sometimes but I go to the spa and sit in the hot tubs and saunas then stretch real good and I'm straight. Haa get it? I stretch and then I'm straight??

J. Yeah I got it but it wasn't funny. 

Me. Yeah well.

J. What time is it anyway?

Me. 1:26 am

J. You ain't tired?

Me. A little. But I like this time on the bus when everybody is sleep. I let myself feel the pattern of bumps in the road, look out at the dark trees, make up stories, pray. Stuff like that.

J. And tonight you're talking to yourself and writing it down.

Me. You always point that out. So what?

J. Yeah. You are sleepy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Heading to Philly

Good morning loved ones. I am speaking positively today. That's the plan. Thinking positive thoughts and speaking positive words.

I'm up packing for Philly. Unpacking really. When I travel I try not to travel with more than two bags. My product bag and another bag with a few clothes. Also I carry a small purse that I try to fit into my clothes bag, when it can't fit that makes three bags total. I like to travel lightly.

I gotta get moving because Carlene will be here in about an hour.

Thank You God for this day. Thank You for waking me up this morning. I am thankful that there is nowhere I can be that You are not. Thank You God for always being with Uraeus and loving him. Please continue to bless and protect him and all around him. Please bless me Mother/Father to be love. Thank You.

And so it is.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Very rough draft of my story

Chapter 1

I have been revisiting my journals. There are so many memories in them. I have always enjoyed writing. It was my passion and my escape. My stories were and are my friends and release. I have thought a lot about writing a novel or some other book besides the poetry and short stories I'm used to. When I go over in my head what I want to write about what comes up first is to write my own story. So that's why I'm going through old journals. I will share many of the entries with you.

As a child I wanted to grow up and be the writer who would write the book that would change the world one day. Change the world? Please, 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 really unsuitable? They come, I feel, when they are ready to be handled with care, written about, sketched out, set free. My stories are my most consistant company at night. Nudging me, and that's putting it politely, telling me "Let me out next. Me. Ok? Me next."

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 in this memoir, 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 them. 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. These are my words, wishes, prayers, to God's ear. My story that I share with you.

There is no place to begin to tell your story, you know? 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. Lives are to be lived. Stories to be told. In tracing the steps to tell my story I find myself laughing out loud, at me. 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.

One of my favorite parts of The Wisdom Course at Landmark Education was the section on how as adults we are still triggered by things that happened to us as children. Yes, as children when we didn't know how to use or have the tools we needed to properly defend ourselves. So we grow up (physically anyway) and similar things happen and while the adult incidences feel like and seem like isolated incidences, they are only adult versions of what happened to us as children.

I remember once when I was at John Muir Elementary 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 cootie carrier of the day. The boy, whoever he was, was very big. He was tv sitcom schoolyard bully big. Probably what The Gouch from Different Strokes looked like had we ever got to see him. 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 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. The small one without the tether balls. Where I was safe and people wanted me around and I didn't have the cooties.

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.

When we are willing and ready to do the work we can connect our current pains to a pain before the moment we are in. A moment we didn't deal with or haven't healed from. I connect many of my relationship issues from me not taking the time to heal from an incident at only four years old. Sure, I thought I took the time. But for a long time my idea of healing was to just say "God's got it" and then sweep it under the rug. But we have a bigger responsibility to our pain, to ourselves, to our lives than that. But, to our credit, we are doing what we know how to do. A lot of times in church that's all we are taught. To just "let go and let God." And for many in pain that statement falls like a slogan no different from Nike's "Just do it." Or telling a drug addict to "Just say no." Or a rapist that "No means no." Yes, all of those statements are true but they mean nothing without the proper tools to handle real life situations.

I'm in therapy now. Don't be surprised or judgemental about me having a therapist. You probably need one too. I knew it was time for me to do something. I kept repeating patterns in my life that kept getting me the same undesired result. Now, is therapy a subsitute for my spiritual pracitice? Not at all. God is my all. I wake up every morning in prayer and live my day inside of it. Just like I drink tea, take herbs or medicine when I'm ill knowing that those remedies aren't a subsitute for God. Therapy is my gift from God as much as is the $5.99 God blesses me with to buy Tylonol (I know! $5.99 for headache medicine!) Perhaps I sound like I'm going on a bit too much about therapy, but it's an issue, at least within the black community, that is still a little taboo. What does it mean about us? What does it say about our faith in God? What will people think? But we are dealing with some serious issues. Issues of our own and issues we inherited from great grandparents. And we are walking around like it's no big deal. Walking around with all this stuff stuffed under the rug. We are ticking bombs with pretty faces and good jobs and other people's lives in our hands, waiting for the next trigger to explode and be done with it all.

We wonder why our relationships don't work? And when I say relationships here, I mean relationships of all types. Romantic, work, friendships... all of them. We have sores we haven't dealt with and we bring them into our relationships expecting (at least on some level) for our partners to fix or be more responsibile for them then they are capable of being. As for me, I had issues I wasn't communicating to anyone but my journals. And even then that was the politically correct polite watered down pretty version. I wasn't intenionally keeping many of them secret but it was almost like I had a magic disappearing cloak I could/would put my pain under, say a prayer, wiggle my nose Bewitched style and then VOILA! Pain be gone! It was my "disconnect to pain" my therapist called it. At some point as a child I developed it and it did help me, but now that I am an adult fully capable of connecting to and feeling it. I can. I am. Now, is therapy the answer to everything. No, but it's helping me right now.

Helping me? Yes, helping me. Helping me heal. Helping me feel. Helping me write. Helping me feel and move on. I don't have to babysit old pains. No, I didn't need therapy for that lesson. But I am growing to a place where I don't pick up old pains to hurt myself even more. That's the work of prayer. A lot of prayer. Because of prayer, faith, God (always only God), because I am talking talking talking, letting go of shame, talking, feeling, I let go of something I held on to for too many years.

I mentioned earlier that I connect many of my relationship pains to an incident when I was only four. They may not seem connected, but I know. Now again, when I say relationships I don't only mean romantic relationships. I connect this incident as a source of why I don't like feeling pushed.

It was 1973 and 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, 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 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 hitting the ground. 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 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.

And that's how I went into my relationships, one pee pee after the next afraid that they would grow into dicks. And I'm healing. Each day more than the one before.

And it's too easy to put the ownness on them. On him. The random hims, the ones that came and went. I have to take responsibility for my fears. And we all have them. Fears, wounds, scars, joys, faults, all of it. Each relationship we enter we bring all of it there too. For right now, just for right 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. And brothas have given them to me.

So as I sit here (today I am in Utah) watching leaves fall, hoping for snow, preparing for work tomorrow and writing today and celebrating that thirteen years ago this month my water broke and fourteen hours later came the most beautiful face I've ever seen, my son, Uraeus. Every pain I can be rid of, I'm ready to rid. If not for me, for him. Ready yourself, as you will read my spiritual, Chirstian, womanist/feminist, black, human stories about love, about life, about me, about the world and how I see it. I will warn you here, not to let your judgements hook you. Remember that being a feminist does not mean man hater any more than a black power fist means white hater. Again, this is the world from my side of the street. Hopefully you will be moved to write your own story.

Chapter 2

Dear God,
listening to You
letting go
taking on


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. I did have a great breakthrough while I was there though. I spent quality time with myself without the noramal distractions of my daily life. 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. I read this quote in a book by Zora Neale Hurston, I don't remember which book it was. I don't know why I don't recall it right now, but it will come to mind soon. Anyway the quote resonated with my bones in such a way I knew I had to write it down. And so I did. "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." And if I may add my cents to her story, nor am I tragically womaned.

I think that we are all doing what we can do to get through our lives. We are using the tools we have to work it out. Prayer, positive thinking, whatever. Lately I have been waking up lately setting an intention or a declared way of being for the day. I create this intention as creation, not from how I felt last night or what I want to accomplish, but from...nothing. "Nothing" if there is actually "nothing." Today I created happiness as a way of being for the day. Not just happiness for myself but happiness every place I am today.

And so what does that look like? Does it mean that everywhere I go today will look like a scene from High School Musical where folks spontaneously break into song and dance? No. The happiness I am creating for today is happiness as a point of view. There are always a million and one ways to look at something. My declaration is that today I will look through happy glasses. Sounds corny? Hopefully. I have been through a lot in my life and today I am affording myself a little...corn. What are you creating?

Today was a slow wake up day. Nowhere to get to fast. I will add fresh water and a new plant to my father's alter. Had a dream about him last night again. He held me and told me that he loved me. He wanted me to know he was with me. I will walk today, cut the grass, I will paint today and mop the floor. Today is that kind of day. Today is a day of observing all of the movement in the quiet. The sound in all the stillness.

There is the some celebration going on in the bird's world right now. They are singing like it's the queen birds birthday. I am ok with that. There was a time when I would not have been. Back then my windows and blinds would have been closed, praying would not have been the first intentional action, except a prayer of "God, please get me through this day." I am thankful today. For where I've come from. For where I will be. For where I am right now. This right now. This blessed right now.

Dear God

My heart is open
Spirit listening
Knowing that You know
Every way I should go

You take my hand
I follow Your lead
Where I am wrong
Wash me with love
When I am weak
Hold me with wings
What I don't understand
Let me know as I grow

I will be still
As You pave my way
Keep my eyes seeing
You guiding my way

He said She said

He: $.)(!!!!!!!!!$!!!!$$$!!!!!!!

She: Your hatred of me is killing you.

The journey continues

The shows in Atlanta went well. The weather is beautiful, slightly brisk like I like it. I went to North Carolina for the weekend with Aquiah. It was the NCAA weekend so it was way crowded. I didn't get all of the North Carolina pictures I wanted but I did have a fun time. I don't remember the last time I went somewhere and just had fun and neither work nor education was the agenda.

I'm back in McDonough now packing my things to head off to Philadelphia for a show on Friday then I'm going back to Los Angeles on Saturday. Saturday night is Grooveology night and also Patrice's birthday so we're expecting a good turn out.

I'm staying prayerful, centered, focused, drinking water, eating healthy.

That's what's up for now. Be your best you.

Me with Aquiah

Aquiah and I have been friends for over ten years now. Rodzilla asked me recently how many people really know me. I told him four but I know in my heart that I answered too quickly and that number is way too high. Even when I spend time thinking about it, I don't know what the actual number is but Aquiah is definitely high on that list. Currently, we are driving from a weekend in North Carolina back to Atlanta. I'm going to take advantage of this time to capture a quick conversation for the blog.

J. Ok so we have to start with Sweet Daddy.

A. The Sweet Daddy story?

J. Yeah, I had never experienced that before. I ain't never even heard of The United House of Prayer for all People.

(We pull off the freeway into a gas station. When we returned to the car we were on a new topic.)

A. I want my father to read my book.

J. Why?

A. Because I want him to be able to see himself as himself and not as a character he created.

J. Say more.

A. He ran around his whole life and pretended he was a Puerto Rican and how that gave his children an identity crises. I mean even me being in the strip club telling people I was from Brazil. I mean? I want him to see how while he was lying to everybody, everybody was lying to him by not telling him the truth about him. I'm guilty of it too because I've cushioned him. 

I think that I might be the only one who could get him to see. I love him but I'm willing to risk him not speaking to me. If the curse started with him, then it has to end with him. 

J. Then where did the curse come from? Because he didn't just wake up one day like BAAM!

A. Well, my mother told me that my grandfather was a habitual liar. I don't know about the sex shit.

My mother told me that my grandmother, my father's mother, use to cry to my mother about my father being ashamed of her. Not of her, but of her being a black woman. 'Cause if he was a Puerto Rican then his mother couldn't be black.

I don't know where all the sex shit came from. I don't know if he molested the boys but he could have done it by his over exposure of him being how he is in front of them. 

D (brother) has apologized for his behavior. Not that that meant anything 'cause he still fucked his niece. C (brother) didn't even see it (the rampant sexual abuse in the family). He didn't see it till that shit went down at my father's birthday party. Did I ever tell you that? 

J. No.

A. My sister P had on a little black skirt with no panties. She took C's son's hand and put it between her legs and came on to him. C finally saw the curse of our family and now he was the victim having experienced it through his son. He was the victim and not the perpetrator this time. 

J. So C's son told?

A. She did it in the car while other people were right there. 

J. What?

A. Yeah, but this was on the heels of us being at my dad's birthday party and my dad rubbing all over ass!

J. Rubbing on her ass?

A. Yes, he was rubbing on her ass like "Girl, look at all that ass." And she was just like, "Daaaaaady." (Said sweetly)


A. Girl,  one time C's wife came to me and asked me if I fucked her husband!

J. Your brother?

A. I let her have it!

J. How old were you?

A. 'Bout fourteen, fifteen.

J. What did you say?

A. I told her "No, I didn't fuck yo husband, but when I was little yo husband taught me how to kiss. No, I didn't fuck him but when I was younger and found out that C was using drugs, I would use sexual energy to get him to stop."

J. How did you use sexual energy to get him to stop?

A. Like we might be having a conversation and I would be like (saying very sweetly) "You know C, I just don't want you out there doin' drugs" and shit like that and I would kiss his face or somethin'. 

J. Which one is the brother that died?

A. R. The only brother I ever had that I didn't feel squeamish when he hugged me. The only brother that never made a muthafuckin' sexual advance. Well, G, 'cause G never did that shit either. I wonder how he escaped that shit. 

J. Do you talk to your nieces about him?

A. No, it's a lot of them that don't know. Like my bother C's daughter,  she don't know nothin' about him.

J. Her grandfather?

A. Well, that's his step granddaughter 'cause that's C's wife's daughter, but he been with her so long that...

J. What would your dad say if he read your book?

A. I don't know what he would say, but I'll tell you what he did say. One time years and years ago when I took Ch to meet him he was so inappropriate. He told her about when he had my mom doing a threesome he said that one pussy is good but two pussies is better. 

I went home and wrote him like a five page letter and told him that my first memories of him were of him molesting me and beating my mother. He called me and told me to meet him at a club where he was playing. He said he couldn't believe I would say that. He didn't apologize or anything, he just put it on me. He tried to guilt me. 

J. Damn.

A. Yeah, I don't know how red handed he would have to be caught to come out and tell the truth. 

J. How old is he now?

A. 'Bout to be eighty-two.

J. Wow.

A. It's funny how my dad will tell me how he saw me strapped to my mother while she was on her motorcycle.

J. Strapped to her?

A. Yeah, she would strap me to her and we would be gone on her bike 'cause she was gon be out when the fuck she had to be out. But he won't talk about how he made my mother have ten abortions before she had me.

I can only imagine how many ass whoppin's my mother took for me. 'Cause she wouldn't let him hit me. The one time he hit me was because I had this Strawberry Shortcake sweater on that I LOVED, and my cousins had moved in and put my shirt on and I was like "Take my muthafuckin' shirt off now!" Then my father came in and slapped me so hard I flew across the room. I think that's when my mother left. You could whip her ass but she didn't let him hit me.

J. Then how did your mother react when you told her that he touched you or whatever?

A. She was mad but I didn't say it like "Mom, this is what happened..." I just kinda said it like she already knew. Like I do with you. I have a hard time believing she didn't she didn't know. But, I mean, what grown ass man takes a bath with his daughter with the door closed?

But you know, my father usta walk around butt ass naked like a nudist?

J. Did your mother ever say anything?

A. 'Bout what?

J. 'Bout him walking around like that.

A. My father was tolerated. I mean, if he wasn't he was gon beat you. So even if she felt a way about it, she could'na done nothin'. She was like, that's just how he do. He walk around with his dick out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Today in Atlanta

Good morning loved ones. I'm still in Atlanta. The weather is wonderful. Today I'm going to the taping of the Monique Show and will get some behind the scenes shots. Tonight I'm performing at Mingles in Atlanta. I'm looking forward to seeing my good friend Rodney and laughing all day.

God is good. All day, all the time. Be your highest selves today.