Monday, May 28, 2012

Just checking in

On my way out but wanted to check in. Last week in Philly was beautiful. Show was lovely. A little drama but oh well. Life is good. Boring post huh? But boring can be good too sometimes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happiness is like when:

* I drank too much at a party and fell asleep in his truck on the way home and he held my hand the whole way home and I only know that because he told me so and I believe it 'cause like why would he like lie about that and he wouldn't and so there.

* Like when I was sick that time and found the best position on the couch and a Law and Order marathon was on and I felt better an hour later and still watched like fifteen straight episodes.

* There's the cutest dress at the thrift store and $7.99 is not a lot of money but it's too much to spend at the thrift store then I like get to the register and it's half off 'cause it has a blue tag or something and I can make a $4.00 dress look like a million bucks. Seriously.

Because I will not be beaten

This morning I got up and made banana walunt BREAD! gYEAH! Then because I was feeling all badass I exercised for an hour. Ok, thirty minutes. But still.

Enjoy your day today. I will.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Banana bread ummm...something

I started out making banana walnut bread but it turned into banana walnut pudding. So that's what I'm calling it. Banana bread pudding. 'Cause it's still good. It's all good. Judge yourselves.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dear Robin ch2

Today I was thinking about a particular time I visited the church I grew up in. Against the folkways of the dress standard, I word dashiki and blue jeans. I had been going through some emotional backs and forths and I, to my own bewilderment, longed to feel the sweet breath and look into faces of folks who have known me from baby shoes to press n curls and training bras. Have loved me with praise tongues and and stern voices and forgiveness. Rubbed my belly when I was pregnant. Stood with me. Agreed with me and believed in me. I went to church. The church that was white with rugged cross and red steps. I used to love red steps. The chruch that kindly held my clouded prayers from when I first understood prayin. Not just on my knees with hands clasped on communion Sundays in white dress and before dinner, but pray all the time. For everything. Good grades. New Barbke. Skateboard. For everyone. For my father, my mother, for myself. Myself, that I might have a voice commanding enough to speak the world of my dreams into fruition. Though I did not have language yet grown up to divulge all of my narrative, I knew He was listening. I knew that God had the whole world in His hands. In His hands. He's got the whole world in His hands. And hands so big still somehow fint into me. 710 south, exit PCH east. Church.

Where there was the Sunday school class of my youth that began at 9am and was held in the choir stand behind the pulpit. And Bro. Rentie, who recently passed away, picked us up in his station wagon. In the early years the blue and wood brown one, then the fancy burgundy one with air conditioning, teaching us how to oppose the persistent machinations of the devil the whole trip. My youth choir where I was the president for four years in a row and could not sing a note, but was there every Sunday and knew the books of the Bible at least from Genesis to 1 Corinthians. On second Sundays after we sang in church we went to Bel Vista Convalescent Hospital and sang for the patients and staff. Where I was tall and skinny with long pressed braids and paten leather shoes and fold down socks with white lace on the edges. I wore my first pair of Leggs B coffee grown up stockings from the plstic eg wrapping and my hair down for the first time at that church. Thick and tight curls from the small yellow sponge rollers that absorbed the excess hair grease that Aunt Rugh made and prayed over in her kitchen. There were Easter speeches and Vacation Bible School classes and gospel concerts, prayer and usher board meetings and other weekly and monthly routines that made our church. Home.

The church that held its own on the KDAY and crip infested streets of 17th and Lemon Ave. in Long Beach very close to my old apartment on Walnut. I lived in Compton before that but I was much too young to remember. My mother still attends. And like my grandmother before her, is the church secretary along with Sis. Birdie King who is my mother's very good friend.

Mostly, it was good to see my mother in her element. In her usher uniform. Lavender skirt and jacket with white top and scarf and q tip white gloves that you dare not rush past without permission. I remember looking at my mother with her beautiful tan skin and smooth, short gray hair and authentic grin. I started to cry as I watched her march around the church after the offering to the sharp corner turns and staccato of "We. Are. Sold. Iers." I used to be an usher. Stood knock kneed, long and lanky in the center isle with my back to the pulpit facing the front doors. Left arm behind my back with fist closed and right arm at my side ready to show the parishioners to their seats. But I was not my mother. I did not really care if the saints received a fan or not. Was not concerned if the programs were folded evenly or not. Mostly it mattered to me that I was president of the Jr. Usher Board too. What?

How long will I have her? I wondered. How blessed I am to even know such a woman, whose gloves I could never fill. With her comprehensive eyes and face. With her buoyant spirit, steady feet and unpolished toe nails that keep moving through it. My mother.

I sat next to a woman who reminded me of my grandmother, Omega Davis. Sis. Davis as she was called at St. Mark Baptist Church. But she was not my grandmother. Had her brown eyes and good skin and outdated Jheri curl and was a pretty woman like her. But she was not my grandmother. Did not have her must be jelly 'cause jam don't shake like that belly laugh that made the smallest joke even funnier, did not pass me fire stick candy during service or write notes in perfect cursive that made me laugh and were always inappropriate. My grandmother was a wise woman whose every predictioin came true. "Y'all gon see after I'm gone." After she was gone, we saw. She was our Orsen Wells and we did not even know it. Would not even know it.

Where did the time go and who were these people I used to babysit for fifteen dollars a night and why were they driving and had children of their own? Now I am not old enough to wonder where all the time went. These were the same walls and chairs, different choir robes and pews, but same piano and drum set as before. Only time changes, I was beginning to understand. Even the people were not the same. There were too many funerals and birthdays and communions and weddings and funerals so fast here. Too many peopl I knew eulogized right there on different carpet but same hyms. How will these children survive, I wondered, without Sis. Lang praising every off key song? Without Rev. Roberts who was tall and pigeon toed adn had an afto curl and was grown up and child like with us. And we understood him and loved him. He let us call him Bubba. How will service ever really begin without Bro. Lang leading the devotion in his deep dark skinned bass voice with the old Negro 100's ? "Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me til I want no more" and the church would respond "Breeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaddddd oooooooooouuuuuuuuvvvvvvveeeeee heeeeeeeeeaaaaavvveeennn fffeeeeeeeiiiiiiiieeeeeeeed mee til ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh waaaaaaaaaaoooooooonnnt nooooooooooohhhhhooooooo moooooooooorreeeeeeee."

Then bowing to one knee with the other deacons we would listen to Bro. Crews pray his signature prayer of "Aint gon study war no mo." And my grandfather who smoked and knew teh gospel perhaps as well as Matthew or Paul and with common sense to boot and right in every fight, would follow his prayer with one of his own spoken so softly that we could not hear. "I wasn't speaking to you" was his only reply.

There are memories on those floors behind those doors that are pieces of me like cells and lashes and pinky toes. That feel good like rent paid and stretch jeans. And hurt at the same time like sore feet and friendships gone bad with no completion and misunderstandings between lovers. There was Vidette and Cheryl and Pam and Cordelia and Kim and my own Aunt Janice who were women I looked up to. And I would be amazing like them when I grew up. There were the Harris sisteres whose voices could match a team of angels hands down. And Lezette and Sophia who were always as sophisticated and beautiful as their names. Sophia who was gorgeous. Whose life to me was flawless. Sophia, Sophia, Sophia, who told me the Sunday before her suicide that I was a pretty girl. And there was Nameless was was strict and respected and had a nice house and dutiful wife and new car and his tongue touching mine too many times in a way I was too young to understand and too scare to tell. Again. I suspect now, that I was not the only one. There are pieces of my shaping that have escaped the surface of my recollection, but the bricks, and strips of caulk, and boards of plaster of this building will always know.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Jungle Story

There aint no way to make it sound pretty ‘cause it aint pretty. It aint pretty. It aint ugly. It aint nothin’ but a story to be told. That’s what everything is. All everything is is something that happened. We always gotta make it something. Gotta make it good or bad, right or wrong. Gotta make it left or right. And for what? To fit feel good into our boxes to fit underneath our pillows so we can sleep through the night? That’s what happened to me you know. Was so caught up in savin’ face, protectin’ his image. Protectin’ mine. Lookin’ good. Who I gotta look good for? It happened. We happened.

I had been caught up in my own bout of depression for some time then. I don’t know why. Don’t nobody really know why they be depressed they just be like that that’s all. That’s all it was for me anyway. I was comfortable right there in all my sad too. Didn’t even want nobody to try to get me out of it or nothin’ like that. Just leave me right there in it. I kinda got some kinda attention ‘cause of it too. Would be lyin’ through my teeth if I told you I didn’t like it either. I played it right you know. Not too sad so folks didn’t want to be around me. Not too down folks look the other way when I come. Just enough sad that was just enough company to anybody’s misery. You know?

I met him in The Village. He was playing the piano at The Joint. I guess it was about eight/ nine o’clock because it was dark out. He was inside with the lights off so it was real dark in that little place. Just dark enough for me to look good being sad in. I went inside and sat down in the back and listened to him play. He sang some too. I sure am a sucker for a sucker who can sing. And a sucker with a story who can play the piano and sing at the same time can almost sho nuff get next to me. You know? Well that’s kinda what happened. Of course I could tell the short version right here real easy. He sang. We got together. Shacked up. Broke up. But then that’s the short version. And everybody say they like to make a long story short but they don’t. ‘Cause it’s just too much you gotta leave out. Too much.

He finished singing and someone sure enough came in and turned on the lights. Like it can’t just be that way. Quiet. Still. It’s always somebody don’t see the good in something just the way it already is. Always somebody don’t see that somebody might be havin’ a good time and just gotta mess it up. Well that’s kinda what happened. I know maybe I’m goin’ too fast for you but you just gotta keep up. Just gotta keep up with the tellin’. The tellin’ aint never the easy part. Guess the listenin’ aint either. Well, somebody turned the lights on and I saw him. In the light. Clear as day. Just sittin’ right there on that piano bench like he aint just made heaven sing. That’s what it was to me. I didn’t even feel like bein’ sad right then. It was just about the music. I’ve heard folks say that but don’t know that I’ve ever really experienced it. I’m an old woman now and he’s long gone. Well, not so long. But he gone. He gone all right.

I was a young girl. No I wasn’t. Wasn’t no young girl at all. I was thirty-one. That aint so young. It’s old enough to know. Old enough to look at a situation and make a choice. That’s what I did. I made a choice. Aint no such thing as a good choice or bad one. Just a choice is all. He was old enough to be my daddy’s big cousin and here he was comin’ on to me. Comin’ on to me like I was a woman his age. Remembering aint pretty. Remembering get you mad sometimes. Get you to feeling like you livin’ it all over again. See how the mind work? I found out somethin’ though. Only real reason to get mad at a somethin’ is ‘cause you think life and folks is supposed to fit the standards you make up. But they aint. Life is life and folks is folks. And you you. See how aint none of them the same thing? But there I go. Goin’ on and on with it.


Folks has always thought I wasn’t so smart. That was to them and what they thought. I know me better than any of ‘em and I gots plenty smarts. I just aint never been the kind that gotta always be showin’ em off all around all the time is all. It’s somethin’ to be sad about when you think about it. Folks thinkin’ that you is a fool when you know good and well that you aint. My grandmamma raised me and she knew I wasn’t no fool. She told me to gon and play like one though ‘cause I had the kinda smarts that folks wouldn’t understand. Wouldn’t understand if they really knew. So I got good at playin’ not so smart. Too good I guess.

He told me that I was real real pretty and it wasn’t like aint nobody told me that before ‘cause they have. Just the way he said it. The way he look at me and keep lookin’ at me even after he say it make me really believe it in a way I aint never really looked at it before. You ever have somebody tell you that you pretty and then you go to the nearest bathroom and look in the mirror to hurry up and see what they saw? Well that’s what happened with me. He look at me like he know my kinda smart. Like he got eyes like only me and Grandmamma. But he didn’t though. He didn’t have eyes like us at all.


I was livin’ in The Jungle. Had me a little studio apartment. That’s all I really needed. A space for me. A space for Koko. Just takin’ care of us by myself. Just me by myself. My grandmamma been gone. At night sometime she think she aint gone though. I don’t say nothin’ or nothin’ like that. But she gone. My neighborhood wasn’t no real real nice one if you lookin’ for clean all the time and quiet at night. It just depend on what you lookin’ for in a place to live I guess. It was sure all right to me. Had me a real nice little place to cook and eat and sell my dinner plates every night. A bed that was all mine all by myself. All mine by myself with Koko. A bathroom with a tub and a toilet and a shower and square diamonds on my kitchen floor. I really liked my diamonds. At least they was all mine.

He would come over mostly at night and eat my food and sleep in my bed with me. Then he started comin’ over more than just at night. Was over there a whole lot. Sometimes I liked that and sometimes I did not. I really like my game shows you know? He didn’t like game shows. He didn’t like Country neither. He really didn’t like Koko.


The brothas around there always was real nice to me. They bought my dinners at night and some of them even tell me I’m pretty. Not the way he did so I rush and look in a mirror to see what they was lookin’ at, but they tell me, and that’s nice too in a world like this. To say that to somebody. Don’t you think? Most of them over there hang out in front of my building just there to sell them drugs. I never did mess with none of that. Never did do that. All of them listen real good to Country. I guess he the leader ‘cause he sell the most drugs or ‘cause he got the most guns or know the most cars that pull up. They all listen to him real good and he say don’t mess with me and don’t none of them ever do. Never did. Some folks got a way of messin’ up a good thing though. You know?


I found out that he got kicked out of his place ‘cause he wasn’t payin’ the money every month. You gotta pay the money every every month or they will kick you out. They say I aint got no smarts, but I do know that. He didn’t even ask me, he just move in with me. He told me because I needed somebody to take real good care of me, ‘cause I was over there all by myself, and somebody like me don’t need to be all by they self like I was. I pay the money every month though. Didn’t nobody never kick me out ‘cause I didn’t pay the money. He came and brought his shirts and pants and drums and shoes. Brought his TV and some books. I didn’t ask for none of it. Not none of it. Besides I already got a TV and aint really no room for two. I told him aint no room for two TVs and he say we just gon sell mine. I didn’t wanna sell mine but I didn’t say so. I guess that’s the kinda smarts people talkin’ bout.

He tried to sell the TV to Country downstairs but Country said no. To this day I don’t know why my TV aint good enough for Country. He shol didn’t take it though, and he told him don’t never bring nothin’ down there to him, and stay out his face. And if he knew what was really good for him, he would move out my place and let me be me. It was just a TV. I tried to tell Country later that he didn’t have to get all mad about him tryin’ to sell the TV. It’s just because we didn’t have no room for two. I guess Country aint have no room for two TVs neither. I guess I aint never gon be smart enough for that one to make no sense. Folks use to bring Country stuff all the time, all hours of the night. Some stuff I know for a fact he already two of. TVs is different I guess.

You know it was on the count of TV we had our very first argument. You know I like my game shows. He say wasn’t no game shows gon be played on his TV ‘cause it’s other stuff going on in the world and even though I wasn’t smart enough to understand I could at least try to get some smarts. He aim to teach me some smarts I guess. I was plenty smart, I tell him all the time. I know plenty what’s going on in the world like what country shootin’ what country. How much a house go for in this part of the world. What the weather like over here and over there. Famous people that got married. A whole lot of things. I know. I just love my game shows too. I didn’t never see nothin’ wrong with that. He tell me I can’t watch it though. I shoulda known then.


Koko has been with me since I was sixteen years old. I will say this, if anyone has ever really truly loved me besides my grandmamma then it would have to be Koko. It aint what folks say to you that let you know they love you. It’s how much they let you be yourself that always tell it. That always give it right away. I didn’t never have no pretendin’ to do around her. Never. I wake up in the morning and open the blinds to see the sun. I like to sing. I know that I don’t have the best singin’ style but I do like to sing. Whatever it is that get you goin’ good early in the day gotta be some kinda good to God. Gotta be. Koko like it too I think. She never said so different. He said so.

Koko got short, curly hair and real real dark chocolate skin. Like licorice. She got pink lips and purple eyes. She got magic eyes. She can see and she can hear and talk and understand and got plenty smarts like me, even though folks think she don’t. But she do. She sure do. I made a pallet for her right at the front door ‘cause that’s where she like to sleep. Why anybody wanna sleep right at the crack of the front door I don’t know. But that’s her. I lay it out every night. Every night after folks finish buyin’ dinners from me. After I eat. After he eat. One day he come in late after I already laid her pallet out and done gon to bed myself. He told me don’t ask him where he go late at night so I don’t. I don’t even wanna know. Just when he go I shol do watch my game shows. Gotta watch ‘em on his TV though ‘cause he sold mine. Even though Country didn’t buy it somebody did, so I guess it was an all right TV after all. I never did know how much money he got for it ‘cause I didn’t go with him to sell it and he only got medicine in exchange. I didn’t even know he was sick.

He told me that night to keep Koko’s pallet away from the front door or he would throw it out if he saw it there again. Seem like everybody ought to be able to pick out where they wanna sleep in they own house. Especially if I’m the one that pay the money every every month all by myself and he don’t even help me and that’s the whole reason he say he movin’ in in the first place to help me out and he don’t do that! But me, I try to keep the peace. I guess the smarts I aint got is the mean smarts that just don’t wanna hurt nobody’s feelings by tellin’ them what I wanna say when I’m feelin’ just a little mad at ‘em. I don’t like nobody hurtin’ my feelings so I guess it’s only right. Folks shol do hurt ‘em though. Hurt ‘em all the time. Anyway, after that I just started makin’ a space set up real comfortable for Koko in my closet so won’t be no type a mess.


Diary, I’m really tired of him livin’ here with me. He don’t help me out none and he sick all the time now and when I wanna help him get better he just get mad. Mad all the time now seem like. Mad and sick sick and mad. I tell him over and over he feel a little bit better if he just eat somethin’. Just a little bit of somethin’ and lie down and get some rest. He hard headed though. Hard headed just because. He stay up late all night watchin’ TV then go downstairs and sometimes knock on Country’s door. Country don’t wanna be bothered with him though. Country don’t like him. Country like a lotta people, but he don’t like him. He say it’s ‘cause Country just jealous ‘cause he get to live up here with me. He say Country kinda gotta feelin’ for me in a sweet way. I don’t know, maybe he do. I mean he do buy my dinners every night and buy some for a whole buncha kids in the neighborhood too. Maybe Country is kinda sweet on me and just was always too scared to tell me ‘cause he know I know he sellin’ them drugs and I’m a good girl.

After I found out about Country bein’ sweet on me I started lookin’ kinda cute when he come at night to get the dinners. I never let on that I know. I just smile a lot. Put lip gloss on a lot. I kept it cool though ‘cause I didn’t want him to find out I was looking cute for Country.


Diary, Yesterday was my birthday and me and him went out on a date. We haven’t been out on a date in a real long time. We went to a restaurant to eat. I didn’t know the name of it. I ate meatloaf and he ordered some chicken and he ate it too. All of it. Maybe he’ll put on some more weight now that it look like he back to eatin’. He told me that he was real real sorry that he haven’t been takin’ good care of me like he said he would but he just needed to test me out to see if I could really really handle myself ‘cause he aint gon be around forever. I asked him where he goin’ he say home to be with the good Lord one of these days.

He told me he need to talk to me about a big job he got comin’ up out in Dallas. It’s a real real big job and we gon be rich. He just gotta be trained real real good to do the job. He gotta leave soon so he don’t miss no part of the teachin’. He only gon be gon a week and I keep thinking’ about watchin’ my game shows every every night for a whole entire week. He need money for the trainin’ class and he gon pay me back every single penny with the money from the job. He promised me we gon be rich. I’m scared to give him the money for the trainin’ ‘cause it’s the money for the apartment. All of the money for the apartment. I always pay all the money every month. Every month. He got mad when I told him I can’t give him the money for the trainin’ and I always get scared when he get mad. We caught the bus home from the restaurant and he didn’t sit with me. He was cryin’. I saw him cryin’. I never saw that before ever. Right then I knew how much that trainin’ meant to him. He cried the whole way home but he didn’t want me to see him. I pretended that I didn’t.


The police came one night. A whole lotta police. They came the night before he was supposed to get back from Dallas. I was scared that night and I wished he was home with me. There were about twenty of them and they all came in the stairwell screamin’ and yellin’ and all that. They went into Country’s place and took him out wearing his robe and house shoes. He was in the back seat of the police car and was sad sittin’ back there. I could tell. Just then it came to me that with Country gon things would be a whole lot different for me. I mean folks had not been buyin’ my dinners as much since he moved in and Country said that would happen. A lotta folks didn’t like him, not just Country all by himself. Turns out he was mean to folks comin’ round just to get my dinners. Country started buyin’ more and more. Sometimes it was ‘cause of Country I had all the money I needed to pay all the money every month and I didn’t never have to get none from Koko. No no I didn’t want them to take away my Country. I took to callin’ him that. My Country. All of a sudden it came to me to tell the police that I needed Country to stay ‘cause he was a real real good guy and even though he sold them drugs he didn’t make nobody buy ‘em or nothin’ like that and let him know how good he been to me. Buyin’ my dinners and all and lettin’ all them other guys around there know not to be messin’ with me. Yeah, I knew that if I told him they would understand and let Country out that car and out them handcuffs.

I put my robe on and ran out fast as I could. “Don’t take him! Don’t take him!” I started bangin’ on the windows. “Don’t you take my Country!” Then one of the police grabbed my arms and tell me to go get back in the house before he take me away too. I told him I don’t wanna go away I just want Country to stay here. “Leave him here! Leave my Country here!”

I saw him just then, runnin’ up the street. Runnin’ real fast too. I didn’t even know that he could run so fast. I guess he saw the police cars and all of that. He grabbed me from the police and held me right by my shoulders shakin’ me and everything. “What you talkin’ bout ‘my Country’? That aint yo Country! You look like one fool. I’m gonna teach you something real good. You get inside that house right now!”
My Country was sittin’ in the back of that car and heard him yellin’ at me like that and then started screamin’ himself. “Don’t you touch her! Don’t you put your hands on her you hear me!” But I don’t know if he heard him or not ‘cause he was still yellin’ at me. Yellin’ and draggin’ me up to the apartment.

We got inside and he closed the door and threw me down on the floor. He stopped screamin’ real sudden and stood real still. Just stopped right there in front of the TV. He stopped and stared at the game show on the TV. My game show. His TV. How did I know he was gon come back a whole night early? I didn’t that’s how. He turned around and I saw a fire in his eyes I aint never seen in nobody before. And then there was me always tryin’ to help a situation out when sometimes it aint no good to be brought to it. It just gotta play its own bad self out.

“Come on baby you just upset right now about something aint got nothin’ to do with us. Lemmie make you some food and pour you a drink, ok?” Yeah, he had took to drinkin’ more than usual round that time. “Lemmie gon and start fixin you a bath too.” He didn’t say nothin’ so I got up slow and went into the kitchen. I went and hurried up and fixed him a dinner plate. Took some greens out the fridge and some corn and I had some bread from the day before. Didn’t have no meat ready so I went and microwaved some frozen fish sticks and I hoped that would do. I put the plate down real quick to run into the bathroom and start fixin’ his bath. I passed the living room and saw him just sittin’ there in the big chair with the same fire in his eyes starin’ off into space. I didn’t know what was wrong with him but I was shol scared. The white part of his eyes was red and the black part of his eyes was real big. Real big. He was sittin’ there rockin’ back and forth. That wasn’t even no rockin’ chair he was in either. But there he was. Just rockin’ rockin’ rockin’.

“What is she doin’ in here?!” I heard him screamin’ from the chair. I was still in the kitchen fixin’ his plate. I brought it into him real fast. I wanted to see what he was talkin’ bout. “You heard me! What is she doin’ in here?!”

Then my whole heart just stopped. There he was holdin’ Koko by the neck. Squeezin’ real hard too. “Please don’t hurt her. Please. I didn’t know you was comin’ back early and I had to give her just a little break from that closet. She don’t like it in there. Besides I was so lonely with you gon’ I needed some kinda company.”
“She aint no company you stupid gal! She aint even real!”

“She real to me though. She like my very own baby.” And what I say that for? He come chargin’ at me so fast my own two feet froze. I sat the plate on the table so I wouldn’t drop it to the floor, except I spilled his drink at his feet. The glass slipped right out of my hand before I even knew it and shattered on the wood floor. “I’m sorry Baby! I’m real real sorry! I shol didn’t mean to do it!”
Then he started laughin’ real hard at me. Real hard laughin’. I don’t like nobody laughin’ at me but it was shol better than him chokin’ me like I thought he was gon do. Like he was doin’ to Koko. So I start laughin’ at me too. Laughin’ and cleanin’ up all the glass. He turned around and go into the bathroom I guess to take his bath. I heard him get in the tub talkin’ loud. I don’t know what he was sayin’ but the words sound like laughin’ words not killin’ words so I don’t pay it no mind. Then I heard the cats and I knew.

The cats in the alley under my window always let me know when she comin’ ‘fore she get here. She wasn’t gon like what she saw not one bit. I stopped cleanin’ the floor and go over to the big chair and grab up Koko and just sit there. She a let me know what she want me to do. Maybe she don’t want me to do nothin’.

I saw her come in shortly after I’m good in the chair. She come right through the door singin’ just like she did when I was a little girl. She always did have a focus on her eyes. Even when she happy about somethin’ there was always a focus there. She walk in and don’t even look at me that night. She usually look at me and sit with me a minute then sometime she say somethin’ and sometime she don’t. But she always sit with me a minute. Not then. She go straight over to the window where he keep his drums and start playin’ ‘em real loud. Now me, I didn’t even know she could play no African drums but there she was. She had on a long white skirt. A real long one with a white scarf on her head coverin’ her long pretty gray hair. She sittin’ there just a playin’. Bang a di bang a di bang a di bangadibandadibangadi bang bang bop bop bop bopbopbop! She just a goin’! Her head bobbin’ back and forth and elbows movin’ everywhere and breast saggin’ and swayin’. I don’t know what it mean that she come with no shirt on but she always got her own way of doin’ a thing.

“Gal, what you doin’ in there? Did I tell you to never touch my drums?!” He yellin’ from the tub. “You hear me gal, I know you do!” Grandmamma look at me as if to say I bet not say a word. So I don’t. I sit there with Koko. Now the bangin’ just get louder and louder. And she got her focus right there on the door. She know he comin’ through it any minute. Sure enough he come. Screamin’ loud before he get in the room. He had a red towel wrapped around his waist and his eyes was the same color red. He get to the door and just stopped. She don’t stop though. She goin’ on and on. Louder and louder with her eyes focused right on his. Right then his eyes aint red no more. They white. Scared white. He walkin’ over to her like he aint scared but I know scared when I see it. Then his feet start movin’ toward her real slow like he aint even controlin’ ‘em. She playin’ hard and he walkin’ slow. Then before I even know it he right there in front of her and she stop. Just stop. She get up real slow and I’m thinkin’ it somethin’ real dramatic gon happen like in the movies but it don’t. She look up at him and hold his face in her old hands. Just held his face. Seem like for a real long time.

Then she start laughin’. Laughin’. Laughin’! He so scared he don’t know which to do so he start laughin’ too. I know that kinda laugh. Then I see her hands start holdin’ his face hard. Squeezin’. Squeezin’ like he was doin’ to Koko. She still laughin’ hard. He aint laughin’ no more. He cryin’. Ugly cryin’. Like the kind when you know you done somethin’ wrong and you think don’t nobody know but then you remember that God see everything. Then blood is comin’ out of his eyes where the tears should be. By now she lay him down on the floor and he still cryin’. Blood cryin’ and lookin’ up at the ceilin’. She take the scarf off of her head and her long pretty hair fall down over her shoulders. She give me the scarf and tell me to tie it around his head coverin’ his eyes so I do like she tell me. I tie it real tight. Too tight ‘cause I’m still kinda sore at him for squeezin’ Koko and laughin’ at me. I don’t like folks laughin’ at me.

I get back in my chair with Koko and Grandmamma start rubbin’ her hands together real fast. I feel sorry a little bit for him now. He cryin’ like he was that night on the bus. Like he really sorry for his whole life. Grandmamma stop rubbin’ her hands and hold ‘em up high and start singin’. I never heard no song like that before and I don’t know what language it was in. She was lookin’ up at the ceilin’ and so was I ‘cause what was she lookin’ at? But me and Koko just do what she do. Look up. I think Koko look down at him first so I did too. And there he was. All burnt completely up. Grandmamma blow the ashes all in one pile together and hold it in the cups of her hands.

I look down at my own clothes and see blood on my shoes. I thought it was from his tears but it wasn’t. Koko was cryin’ blood tears too. I look at Grandmamma but she was just lookin’ in the mirror into her own eyes. Koko gettin’ wetter and wetter by the minute so I take my stash out her stomach for it get wet too. When Grandmamma died she left me some money but I don’t trust no banks and no banks don’t trust me so I put it in Koko. If anybody can keep a good secret I know Koko can. Grandmamma still lookin’ into her own eyes and finally say “I’m goin’ home.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

An interesting conversation on Facebook

Valerie Bridgeman: I need my QBLGT friends to help me. Riddle me this: WHY do you continue to support churches that are full of hatred (homophobic is a euphemism for vitriolic hatred) and pastors who you know are on the down low, BUT beat queer folk up from the pulpit and the airwaves? Why do you tithe to them and sing in the choir and direct ministries? Why do you allow straight allies like Dennis and Christine Wiley at Covenant Baptist in D.C. to struggle financially and be persecuted by other ministers while you go down the street and across the way to hear how much God hates you. Riddle me that?


John Taz Harris: TELL THEM Reverend Bridgeman!

Joshua A. Holiday: Because they are too busy saying they love God, but living in fear. Otherwise known as internalized homo& transphobia.

Charlene Hill: I saw this experiment with fleas. After you keep them in jar for so many hours when you take the top off they will not come out. They are conditioned and their offspring to stay in the jar. I think folks grow accustomed to such conditions and they simply like the fleas stay but that's a guess.

Amy Howard: Pharacies (sp?) were always in the church spouting their bs and hatred. Jesus was chillin with us less than perfect folk. I'd rather b where Jesus is.

Maxine Allen: By the same token why do Black women continue to support ministries where they are so misogynistic and women's leadership is denied in the pulpit, in classrooms, and even as ushers? Why would you supervise people, represent people in courthouses, and when you get to your church where you pay your tithe you can't even make an announcement from the pulpit. Riddle me this as well...Internalized oppression????

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Morning song

Open up the door
And I will walk through

Tell me the way
I'll heed what You say

My hand in Yours
Forever more

When I am weak
Please keep me strong

Those days when I feel
I cannot go on

Breathe stronger in me
Push farther in me

Lord I believe
Oh Lord I believe

Dear Robin


My life is really, really cool and it's fun to be me sometimes. What's cool about me is that I'm always sometimes the tallest person in my class so the kids pick me on there team to play kick ball even though I can't kick that far but they think I can. Terry can kick farther than I can but they don't pick her because she's fat and mean. It's not bad that she's fat because people can't help it if they eat too much but she don't have to be mean to people. Especially people that don't be mean to her.

But anyways, my hair is longer than some of the other black girls at my school but not all of them. The Japaneese girls think I'm cool but I'm not though but I'm cooler than them! I have a little sister and I even like her alot. One day I'm going to be a very famous writer and if I have time I might be a model and actress and lawyer. I am also going to work at JC Penney because they have cute clothes and I'm going to give my mom alot of free clothes and makeup too. She is pretty.

Anyways, when I am a famous writer I'm going to write a letter to the president of the United States of America and tell him that black people have rights too and not to be mean to black people because we useto be slaves like on Roots but we are not anymore! My uncle knows all about everything about black people and he told me. I like to get letters from him. He is in jail so he rights me alot. He is not bad. He's fun. My dad is fun too and he is not in jail. When I'm big I'm going to be rich and when I march around to put money in the offering at church I'm going to be up there a long time because I have more money than they do. I sing in the little kids choir at church but I don't sing loud. I sing soft because the other kids sing better than me but I can run faster than them so it's ok. None of them can sing better than my auntie Janice. She can sing better than anybody and my mom can usher better than anybody. And my grandmother has the most firestick candy of all of the old ladies at my church.

I don't have a boyfriend but oneday I will. Sometimes I think I'm not cute and sometimes I think I am. They say that Donna P. is the cutest girl in school but she is not taller than me. I think she can run faster than me so I don't race her. I have the best writing in my class. One of these days when I'm like 20 years old or something I'm going to travel around the whole entire world and write a famous book about it. Everybody in my class is going to remember me and the boys are going to whish they were my boyfriend but to bad for them because I will be marry already to somebody who is cuter than them and has a faster car and is nicer too. My husband is going to hold my hand when we go to church and the movies. I dont have to give him a kiss if I don't want to. He won't be mad. He will be lucky. I will tell my daughter not to be kissing boys at the park like Lisa useto. She wasn't fass she just like to kiss but not me. I don't like other peoples germs because I might be a doctor one day and a doctor can't have germs. I'm probably going to have a boy to.

I don't think I will have a whole lotta kids like my grandmother did. Maybe just a boy and a girl and they can travel around the world with me and my husband can come too. but he might have to work construction. I will take pictures of the world for him. He will be lucky! When I finish eating my food and writing this famous story about my life then I'm going to go to cheerleading practice. I'm not the best one on my team but I can run faster than all of them except for 2 of them. But my hair is longer than those 2 girls so it's ok. Being a cheeleader is not as important as being a famous writer anyways. Maybe I won't let my daughter be a cheerleader. She needs to be practicing her cursive writing anyway. Sunday I'm going to give a speech at church and I hope I don't mess up. The boys at my church don't think I'm cute but that's ok because they aren't either. If I could have anything I want I will probably pick to be able to sing real good and not to be scared of anything. There is alot to write about me but I'm not going to tell you everything because I don't no you.

Chapter 1

Dear Robin,
You were beautifully fragile. Nervous and often you were happy. You were inquisitive and sheep. Soft spoken. You tried to say everything correctly so that everyone was pleased. You were so gentle. That's how I remember you. I love you. I do.

I stayed a few days at Sam and Tatiana's house. They have such a welcoming backyard. There are pink flowers and trees. I don't know what kind but I know beauty when I see it. Past the trees and flowers is a table with two chairs begging a human body to come, sit, eat, pray, write. I bit. Tatiana came minutes later.

T: When I was a little girl I didn't like the color pink.
Me: Me either.
T: Maybe because pink is the color of self love and maybe I didn't like myself when I was a little girl. I love pink now.
Me: Me too. Yeah (inside smile) Me too.

About a year ago I was driving to work and I called my uncle Therman. We talked about legacies and what we will pass on to our children, to the children of the world after we leave. We discussed the relevance of leaving our thoughts and ideas. This is what happens when I talk to Therman.

It's too easy and dismissive to assume that the world doesn't need my two cents. Your two cents. Whoever you are. The world needs all of our cents. That's why we are here. For me, it was Anne Frank's two cents that shed the best light on what she and many Jews experienced during their persecution. As I read her words in the seventh grade I hid in the basement with her. I heard the footsteps she heard. I cried when she cried.

I listened to my grandmother tell stories about how she grew up in Louisiana as the youngestnof sixteen children. Listened to how she navigated her parent's and the white man's rules. How she worked, cooked, went to school.
And thank God Alex Hailey told his story. In telling his, he told the story of his family. His ROOTS. Our roots. Yes, his story too. Your story too. My story too. They are all necessary, I believe.

I think we get caught up in believing that our story has to be this dramatic, explosive thing. And if we don't have have that kind of sizzle then it's not worth reading or telling. No. Children who grow up in abusive homes need to read and hear stories about loving households. My mother used to say "You might be the only Bible that someone else reads." Your story of a loving household might be the example that touches an abused child. She might be touched so deeply that she does not become a statistic and grow up to be an abuser. Who knows?

Someone might be embarrassed about telling his story about rape but your story about abuse is necessary because someone else might be living with the same struggles and just needs to know that he's not alone. Also your story might bring awareness to someone who may not be aware except through your story.

I'm just free writing here. I know I'm sounding preachy here. That's not my intent. I just believe that all of us have a story to tell a particular way to a particular person or people. We may not know who our audience is. For some of us our audience might not even be born yet. That's not our job to worry about that. Our charge is to put the work out there. Take the pictures. Tell the stories. Write the poems. Build the houses. Sew the clothes. Find the cure. Every one of us is charged, as Noah was, to build the boat. Whatever your boat.

Quote from Valerie Bridgeman

How is supporting someone's right to marry a "war on marriage?" I'm confused... How is ANYONE else getting married (or not) a threat to YOUR marriage???? I'm just confused...How are LGBTQ people a threat to hetero marriage? Are heterosexual people leaving their STABLE marriages to be in relationship with Queer Folk? Are Queer Folk responsible for the more than 50% demise of presumed heterosexual marriages? I'm just very confused...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rough draft of my story

Dear Robin
Today I thought about how beautifully soft you were. You spoke softly, your language was peaceful, you were so gentle. Today that's how I remembered you. I love you. I do.

T: When I was a little girl I didn't like the color pink.

Me: Me either.

T: Maybe because pink is the color of self love and maybe I didn't like myself when I was a little girl. I love pink now.

Me: Me too. 

Yeah. (Inside smile) Me too.

Right now I am thinking about the conversation that my uncle Therman and I had while on my way to work over a year ago. We talked about legacies and what we will pass on to our children, to the children of the world, to the world after we leave. We discussed the relevance of leaving our thoughts and ideas. 

It is easy for one to take the attitude, "Who me? The world doesn't need my two cents." Yes, your cents too. For me, it was Anne Frank's two cents that shed the best light on what she and many Jews experienced during their persecution. As a seventh grader, reading her words, I hid in the basement with her. I heard the footsteps she heard. Cried when she cried. I believe that all of us have a story to tell a particular way to a particular people. Now, we may not know who our audience is, for some of us, the audience may not even be born yet. But that's not our job to worry about that. Our charge, I believe, is to put the work out there. Take the pictures, tell the stories, write the poems, build the houses, sew the clothes, find the cure. Each one of us is charged, as Noah was, to build the boat. Whatever your boat. 

Telling your story, as you know if you know me, is something I am passionate about. As Therman and I discussed, we, black Americans especially, come from a people who kept quiet about such things as domestic violence and sexual abuse, even a lot of the racial prejudice experienced wasn't verbally expressed. I do understand that the silence could have been the best way they felt to protect themselves and their families. But we can use our voices now to help someone going through what we went through. We can use our voices now to gift the world with our view of the elephant. I invite you now to push beyond how insignificant you think you are or your story is. I invite you to get so busy living your life and taking in your story, so busy building the boat you were charged to build, that when others cross your path you have headspace enouch, decency enough to see that she is building her boat. She is just leaving her legacy. Acknowledge her for it. Appreciate the courage it takes to fully live a life. You fully living your own leaves you little desire and time to judge others. In fact, consider that every judgment of someone else is you physically taking a plank of wood off a boat they are building. Imaginge the time and energy it takes to literally do that. And at no benefit to you. No benefit to the world. 

I think about people who have produced popular movies and written popular books and the many many people who came along later just to criticize the work. The critiques are often very well written and thought out and so I wonder why the critic just doesn't spend time creating his or her own art. But then that is my judgment, I guess, on them. 

A few months ago I was listening to a friend and super hero of a poet, Nyasha Khalfani read a poem she wrote about us caring for other human beings, being concerned about something outside of ourelves. In the poem, and I wish I had it in front of me, she said, when a woman comes up to you and needs..."have the decency to stop the world." "The decency to stop the world." I love that line so much. It inspires me to care enough about another man's, another woman's journey to give more than I take. Whether or not I am going where he or she is going on their path. "The decency to stop the world."

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 was in therapy a year ago. 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 am letting go of something I held on to for too many years.

I know it's time for me to see someone again. I had a dream night before last that I was in jail. And as I have never been to jail before, it looked and felt all Oz and Scared Straight enough to me. Tami from Basketball Wives was in with me and we were buddied up and she was showing me the ropes. The jail ropes. Don't eat over there. She stare you down, you stare her down right back. He gon try to hit it, watch yo back. Occasionally she would flip her lip and go ape on someone who, in my opinion, didn't deserve it. Afraid will never describe how I felt. If ever I longed for a V8 or Calgon take me away, or if the earth could actually swallow me up, oh to be Enoch and just be not anymore. If there was anything I was certain of, it was that I would not survive that place. And it was only a dream; but who knows from dreams when you are dreaming?

I woke up the next morning in thank Jesus shout that it was a dream. But my dream, as my dreams are, was only a visual description of my mental world. The fear that I felt when I was in jail is how I feel when my mind sells me out for someplace better. That's what it feels like. Like we were cool and then all of a sudden things seem to shift right before me. Transformers. The tears fall, the sadness ensues and lately I keep having these episodes where I can't seem to do the simplest things. I was in therapy for about a year last year up until October. And I'm tired of talking about crazy about last night episodes and sadness clouds that loom so I contacted another therapist. We meet next Wednesday morning. 

I know it's time for me to see someone again because I have seriously gone off on myself and too many folks in the last two weeks for super nothing stuff. I'm afraid of talking to my friends because of some random blow up that might come out of my mouth. Because that's how it happens. I could be casually talking, texting, Facebooking ('cause that's a verb) and out of the blue I will just go IN, Son! Then I make it worse by being super apologetic as if that helps. Then I'm all embarrassed and wish I could just "I want to go home I want to go home I want to go home" the whole thing away. 

Years ago I met with an herb "doctor" who examined my eyes and told me I have a chemical imbalance. I've heard of that but I don't know what that means. His lame response was "Well, you know what a chemical is right?" Me: Umm, right. "And you know what imbalance means right?" Me (thinking): That you're an idiot. So I never saw him or anyone who called themselves an herb doctor again. 
But back then I wasn't "trippin'" as much as I am now so I just put the whole thing in the whateverrrrr basket and moved on. Plus, there was no Internet back then so I couldn't just Google ('cause that's a verb too) chemical imbalance and like I said, it just wasn't serious enough for me to go to the library about. And no, I didn't have health insurance back then either. Judge yourself. 

Alas, March 2012 and it is that serious now. Wednesday night I was driving home and had this...this...I don't know, this heavy so heavy I was afraid to go home. Before I go on here, to my family and close friends who may read this, I get that this is not where or how you would want to find out about this, but think about me and how much I don't want to have this conversation with you and answer questions I can't even answer for myself. Anyway I was driving home and felt...afraid. Of? Being with myself I guess. So I drove to the hospital. I've never done that before. It was almost 10:30 and what was I gonna say? Um, I and um I was like wondering...The closer I got to the hospital the more anxiety I felt. But I could feel a voice telling me to just keep driving to the hospital. So I did. When I got there I was scared to pull into the parking lot because I couldn't figure out how much the parking would be. I was adding and subtracting and carrying ones and it was crazy because I had enough on me to cover the parking. I knew that the whole parking money thing was silly and that at the bottom of it was that I just didn't want to go in. So I didn't. I drove home and on the way home for some reason couldn't figure out how to change lanes. So I drove like 20mph almost the whole way. I could feel myself, my real self, outside of the me breaking down telling me to get it together. Yes I made it home and then, as if I needed to break down further, I couldn't figure out how to unlock my friggin' car. By the time I got inside I was so wiped out. But the cloud. The cloud was still there. Now, I don't have episodes on that scale everyday, but everyday it's something. Even if it's just the tears from nowhere.

But today was pretty cool. There were tears, but tears are regular now. But it was a good day. Not posting or responding or like ing anything on Facebook. Not texting or calling or just saying hi today. Although I did go to a birthday party today and thankfully it was just two blocks from where I live. I enjoyed myself and got through it without being too weird (I think). That's the other thing, I over judge myself. All the time. For now I am just happy to be home and making soup for my son and doing laundry and writing this whatever this is and watching television with my son, who is one of the few folks in my life I have not gone bezerko on. And with all this Trayvon going on that I have justifiable anxiety about, I am happy to be here with him on this Saturday night watching a marathon of the silliest show ever that is actually called "Ridiculousness." And nothing is better than this right now.

Something is always happening. A couple of years ago I was in Chicago visiting my cousin and her family. Her three year old daughter was dancing in the middle of the floor late one night and she kept sing this song she made up earlier that day. "Roller coaster, roller coaster! Up, up, up, up, down, down, down, down! Roller coaster, roller coaster!"

I know that ride. 

Stories have to come out
Otherwise they fill up until stink
Rottenness of bad memories
Cooked over and over like leftover rice

I tell my stories to save my life
Until telling scrapes metal of my gut
I keep telling

In secret journals and blocked and published blogs
In poems and stories
Tell my stories with paint and photos

Tell my stories with tongue 
With pussy with ashy knuckles and dirty knees
In the shower 
On stages

I keep talking myself out of some stories
Telling myself that too much time has gone by 
To be important
But stories are not avocados
They do not get stale and disolve 
They live and grow into something

When they have outlived their purpose 
They must be buried properly
Walked away from 
Stories will not be ignored

I must tell cursed and hallelujah stories
To save my life
Maybe my stories will save your life too
And then you will tell yours 
And save a life again

My life, my stories are like shoe laces. Twisting. Knotting up. Wrapping into pretty bows. Twisting. Knotting again. Complicated. Simple. Letting go. On this journey of mine called life, called womanhood, called artistry, newly added called menopause and bipolar 2 and everything else going on, there are emotional ups and downs. I don't know all of the triggers; but I'm learning some along the way: stress, diet, daily experiences that bring up memories from painful, embarrasing, uncomfortable parts of my past I thought I was over. This journey is Revolution (yes, the roller coaster at Six Flags). There are smooth even spots where I am brick enough to handle the trials and blessings on my platter. Then, and sometimes by surprise but often not, the tracks jerk right or left and the sun is in my face or water is all over me from who knows where? Somebody's coke, an irresponsibly placed pond, you get it. From zero to sixty I am cotton candy. Pickled. 

On my high days, and high is becoming just as dangerous and scary as low, I am discovering, I am the life of the party. I am all over the place. Talking crazy fast, buzzing around everwhere, laughing... What's scary is that on even days I'm like this too so it's hard to tell from the outside whether I'm sky rocketing or just feeling good. But I know. I know because of the out of control feeling I have throughout it. I'm on the outside of the party my evil way too happy twin is throwing. The coffee, I think is responsible for the new off the chart highs. When I "gave up" sugar (and I use the phrase gave up so loosely I shouldn't even use it) I "replaced" sweets with coffee. I was never really a coffee drinker. And no, I couldn't use the organic coffee with fake sugar from Trader Joes, nooooooo, I had to go full out and get the good Mobil gas station French vanilla. Always a large too. Always. Anyway after the crazy talking too fast highs there is always a crash that follows. Uuuuugggg, the crash. When none of the fun folks from the day before are around. Just me. Me. I get invited to this party. Thanks. 

I read an article by Bassey Ipki (awesome poet doing phenomenal work speaking out on her experience living with Bipolar 2 disorder) and she said something I now use when I'm feeling...low. "Allow yourself morning." How powerful is that? Because morning feels so far away and almost impossible when I'm going through it. Morning? Are you kidding? The next breath is a bitch. But I do, I allow myself morning. No matter the thoughts, I breathe and know (or at least search for the knowing) that the low is temporary, no matter how scary. It gets tiring sometimes, checking in with where my mood is every minute of the day. "Uncle. Goddammit. Uncle." Bassey Ipki. 

Right now I am sitting on the floor of my new for now place. I will move again. It’s what I do. I move. I’m a runner. I don’t call myself a runner.  An ex, several exes ago called me that. I never liked that label and perhaps there is something to be said about why it always irritated me when he said it. Maybe it’s true. 

It’s time I write my story. Not in my blog, not in a poem, not in notes and texts I send to friends, but in a book, this one. A for real book. That’s what my mother says when she asks if I’m writing and I respond, “Yeah, I’m blogging like every day.” She says, “No, I mean in a for real book.” The book is not what scares me. It’s the for real part. I’m free writing. Really I’m procrastinating. I am holding secrets that would be better out of me than in and I am afraid of you. Your judgment. Bear with me. 

I have fibroids and as I mentioned was diagnosed earlier this month as bipolar 2. Not a surprise to me. I have battled with anxiety and depression on some level all of my adult life. The out of control ups are a new addition to my head but whatever, the more the…wait…what? My therapist said that many women diagnosed as bipolar who also have fibroids are women who have held secrets, especially as children. That energy creates form and manifests into something.  Makes sense to me. I kept my share.  More on that later. 

My earliest vivid memory goes back to when I was three years old and I was at the top of the cement stairs of the apartment where I lived with my parents in Long Beach, California on Orange Ave. There was a quick moment when no one was watching and I opened the screen door. I guess they assumed I was too short to reach. Well, I wasn’t. I escaped. I went outside and got on my tricycle. My plan was simple. I was just gonna ride my bike down the stairs super fast and that would be fun, then I would bring the bike up the stairs and be back inside before anyone knew I was gone. What? I opened the door. Got on my bike and tumbled all the way down the cement steps.  There were boys walking by, I remember, who laughed, until my father informed them that my falling wasn’t funny. He had his own way of informing. Oddly, or not, I don’t remember most of the fall, just those first few steps. Just the laughing boys. Just my father’s broken face. 

That’s my first memory. And I wonder why my ex called me a runner. I’ve always been running. Sometimes away from someone/something, sometimes to. Always moving. Even in elementary I was usually one of the fastest runners in my classes. In elementary

(I’m with a friend in Malibu now. She is visiting her grandson who is in a detention camp. I am sitting in the car. The birds, I think, are speaking to me.)

In elementary I used to run to and away from at the same time. My life, I knew, was different than the picture I saw before me. I was not going to get married and live in the same house and work at the same job and drive the same car and same the same same. I was going to see the world. Even if I had to see the whole world through stories I created myself. I was always going to be a writer (and a lawyer, painter, model, actress.) But always a writer. Writing was how I ran away. Writing was how I ran to. I had a notebook that I wrote my stories in called My Famous stories. Because I was going to be a writer and famous and stories and…get it? I changed my world every day in that notebook. Allllll the boys liked me in my stories. I wasn’t tall and skinny with long shiny pressed braids in eight ponytails. Seriously, I looked like a taranchula. 

(Four young boys from the camp are walking by carrying trash or laundry or cakes with knives- I don’t know- and I said a prayer for them that they find some peace with whatever they are running from or to. The prayer was after I wondered why they were so close to my car and was I going to be womannapped by some kids and end up on the evening news.)

So the book was called My Famous Stories by Robin R. Reed and then each story would have its own title but always followed by by Robin R. Reed. That’s my name. 

I was born Robin Rachael Reed. Rachael is pronounced Rashelle but looks too much like it's pronounced Ray-Chel (cha like charity) and Robin Rachael Reed is so not cute. I remember having a conversation with my mother when I was in the sixth grade. I asked her why she spelled my middle name like that. And because the question was more an accusation I don't know if I even listened for a response. I remember explaining to her that I was going to be a famous writer and because of her people all over the whole wide world were going to think my name was Robin Ray-Chel Reed and that sounds stupid. My mother ruined my career, my life. 

"But you're going to be so famous that when you go on TV to be interviewed then you will tell them how to say your name." By then I was crying real tears. I used to cry a lot. "But everyone won't be watching! And they don't interview writers on TV, they write about writers." She just didn't get it. It was het fault and she just kept driving along like she had done nothing. "Well if you don't like it, you can change it."

Then the heavens opened. I could change it. I didn't have to be cursed with my beloved fans thinking that I was Robin Ray-Chel. Then hey, why not go full out? Maybe I didn't even have to be Robin anymore. "So what was my name going to be if I was a boy?" Because I've always loved boy names on girls. "Robert, because I wanted your initials to be RRR." To this day I don't like that. 

So I wasn't going to be Robert Reed but the next day, after a late midnights scribbling, I was Robyn Rochelle Reed. The next week I was Robynne Rachelle Reed. The week after that Robyn Rachelle Reed. Ms. Koss, my sixth grade teacher told me to pick one and Robyn Rachelle Reed stuck. Until I got a passport and the name on my birth certificate and passport had to match and I was back to Robin Rachael Reed and if anyone knows me at all today as a writer, they know me as Jaha Zainabu. Told you. I've always been running.

Not running just for kicks. From jump there were things to run from. Of course I didn't call it running then. I called it pretending. Pretending was my way of getting out of wherever I didn't wanna be. It was how I escaped arguments. My body, to this day, does this thing when I hear people fighting. Sometimes my parents would argue and I would poof away to my magic land. But be close enough to protect whoever needed saving. Oh yeah, I'm a protector. Somehow I manage to be a runner and protector (because I'm also a super hero. Shut up.) 

From the time I was a young girl, even before I started school, before MY FAMOUS STORIES, I would sit outside and play pretend. Pretend I was a white girl with yellow hair like my doll. Pretend I was a dark chocolate grown up woman with pointy breasts and tippy toes like my doll. Pretend I was one of the kids on The Electric Company. I would sit on my porch with its chipped red paint and pretend, pretend, pretend. 

Before my sister, Roshann was born, we moved from the brown apartments on Orange Avenue to a house on Cameron Street on the west side of Long Beach. I loved my front steps. Loved combing my dolls hair and pretending on those steps. My castle. I was the queen. I said who. I said when. I said what happened in my castle. 

There was another castle, though, next door, throned by two other queens. I was four. They were sixteen and seventeen. Sisters. They were fass girls. That's what my grandmother called girls like them, "fass assded" girls. 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 sixteen 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.

There were fears, emotions, things to run away from. To put it mildly. I learned early how to brush real shit under proverbial rugs. Writing always made me feel safe. It was the one thing I could control. In my stories little girls don't suck dicks. They protect other little girls. They beat up bad guys. They fly, Robin, fly.

Thats how I found poetry. During workshops, travelling to various poetry events throughout the country, interviews and a few times at the bus stop the question has come up. "How did you become a poet?" It's phrased a few different ways. "Why would you become a poet?" "Seriously, a poet?" "That's cool. A poet? I write poetry too. Ever been on Def Poetry Jam?" My answer to why poetry usually begins the same, "the money of course." Then the laughter dies down and if they still wanna know I get serious. 

Poetry is how I found my voice. It's how I knew what was garbled all in my head. Looking back I was like a free style rapper who could mellifluously flow all night but if you asked him a straight question sans mic and beat boxer you got bumpy three word answers. I used to keep a notebook with me all of the time and write whenever I could. I still do. Jotting down random stanzas on my phone, ipad, dollar store notebook, the leg of my jeans, whatever. 

In high school I became addicted to black poetry. Nikki Giovanni was my favorite. Loved me some Nikki ok! I started morphing my thoughts into stanzas, haikus, quatrains, prose. My poetry was the other world where I could write all of society’s wrongs. I healed sick. I educated children. I told stories. I changed myself from skinny legs press and curl shy afraid girl to woman. Woman with a voice that mattered. Woman who could point finger and say "Hey, don't you rape that girl again! I see you!" Woman who saw others mistreated and knew I could make a difference. 

I don't know why. Somehow I knew that my heart beat through poetry and my beating heart would reach other hearts. Hearts around the world. Hearts that needed help beating. I knew that when I couldn't wouldn't talk to another human being the words would always be there for me when I wanted to communicate in poetry. And they always were. 

I graduated from high school and kept reading and loving poetry. Not just Nikki, but Sonia Sanchez, Shakespeare. I listened to everything as poetry. Sermons, lectures, Martin Luther King, Jr. tapes, my grandmother and any southern woman I could find and all their "quieter than a rat peein' on cotton" analogies they came up with. Poetry was everywhere I turned. I wrote poetry in college, at work, in bed. 

Then I started going to open mic nights where ever I could find them. I started at a bookstore in Long Beach, California where maybe ten or twelve of us would "spit" on Tuesdays (or whenever it was.) I was in heaven, yo! Flowin' with the other raised black fisted twenty somethingers in the group. Shortly after that I "discovered" The World Stage in Leimert Park. You know, discovered like Columbus discovered. The World Stage became church for me. I would race to get to the open mic list on Wednesday nights before the list got full. I would recite my pieces and listen with the widest ears ever to the other "performers" then count down the breaths until the next Wednesday. Yes, it was that serious for me. 

I got heavily involved in the poetry scene in Los Angeles and was a regular at all the spots. I would get coffee shops to let me present my one woman shows and they agreed. My one woman shows were me on stage (or where ever was the farthest away from the cappuccino machine) and recite and perform my poetry. Back then I memorized all my work. I don't now. Whatever. Judge yourself. In about 2000 I met up with Ryan Cross, a superbaaad upright bass player and we created a show called "Journey." I was on poetry and he was on bass. We were everything I saw in my dreams. And more. Our show was once a month in coffee houses we could book in Los Angeles. We also travelled to Oakland and other areas in Northern California. Then we went to New York and also to Washington. Folks dug it. We "Journey"ed together for about two years then made an album called guess what...yeah, Journey. 

I was getting invited to perform in colleges, at birthday parties, graduation parties, black history shows, churches, schools, hotels, parks, festivals. I mean, back then it didn't really matter. I loved performing like nobody’s business. I was selling my poetry chapbooks and cds everywhere I went. Everywhere. My son was born in 97 and was right there with me. Oh the teas and cookies and cheeses and juices he tasted in greenrooms throughout Los Angeles. 

Time passed and I still loved poetry but was less willing to go ev e ry where. Mostly just churches, colleges and events like black history, woman’s month and things like that. The "donations" got bigger so while I still sold my chapbooks and cds I was also able to go home with a check. I was so proud. I was doing what I loved doing. Don't get me wrong. It wasn’t all lovely. Most of it wasn't but what didn't kill me was a lesson I learned and I took the good times with me. The way I figured, if I was working at a "regular" job then I would have had some hard times there too and not be as fulfilled at the end of the day. Hey, I was making a difference.

The stages got bigger and smaller and bigger and bigger and smaller...and the money vacillated the same. But my heart was still true to word. The spoken word. The written word. The prose was it. I could go on forever about the gigs but the meat of what I'm saying here is that the answer to how I became a poet is simply that I said yes to the call.

These days I am working on saying yes to my happiness as well as the call for my life. Some of us were born feeling like we have to suffer or we aren't right with God. Like our happiness has to be the sacrifice. It doesn't. I've noticed that I seem very willing to fight for my safety but am willing to sacrifice my happiness. Somewhere I learned this. I think many young girls did. What's good about this learning is the unlearning. The conscious letting go of that behavior. The ding that goes off in my head when I whatever my happiness away for the sake of anyone, anything. It's the small voice in my head that repeats "I matter. My happiness is important." 

I thought about a girl’s group that I used to belong to when I was a little girl growing up in church. The group was called Rosebuds and I don’t know if that’s a name that St. Mark made up or if that was actually an organized group that existed in other churches. My guess now is that it’s something someone at St. Mark made up. Anyway, the age range was from maybe seven to twelve years old. Miss Williams was our leader. I think. We met once a week in the back room of the church where we discussed various lessons that were specifically designed for girls. What stands out now is that each week we had to recite in unison the Rosebud motto which was “I’ll gladly try.” Miss Williams would ask a series of questions and together we would repeat the motto. “So if someone asks you to do something what do you say?” We took a deep breath and let it out “I’ll gladly try.” “Well what if you don’t feel like doing anything?” Another deep breath. “I’ll gladly try.” 

Don’t get me wrong here, I think it’s great to teach a group of young girls to gladly try. I believe the purpose of having us repeat the motto was to enforce the idea of possibility into us. The problem, if it can be called a problem, is that there was no next level class for young ladies where we learned to check in with ourselves and see if the request being made honored who we were and whether or not we could with any degree of integrity fulfill the request. No, every request is not met with “I’ll gladly try.” Our motto that we raced to shout left no room for us to say “no.” Not only that, it left us, if I may speak for us, feeling that there was something sinfully wrong if we did. That teaching, with nothing to follow it, trained young girls to be good sheep who didn’t use our own minds or connect to the God power within us all. 

I grew up that good girl. And it was odd to me as a little girl when Rev. Hunter would kiss me. I often felt his strawberry soda tasting tongue touch my tongue. Even slightly was too much. I shouldn’t know his favorite soda. But I did. And young, good girls who gladly try don’t put reverends on blast. Where was the class for that? In addition to "I'll gladly try!" was the other we loudly shouted, "God first! Others second! Self last!" So when I explained to my mother that I left that good job because I wasn't happy, she had no place to put that because she wasn't taught to put happiness anywhere. Neither were we. 

Chapter 2

Dear Robin
I remember when you used to walk the little girl down the street to school because she was younger and your mother and her mother asked you to. The little girl, I don't remember her name, but you, precious you walked her to school and she was nasty and mean sometimes. She would sit on the corner to make you late for school and you were so patient with her. What a great heart. I love you for that. Thank you, Robin, for always being willing to carry a load bigger than your hands were designed to hold.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently, really I was complaining about someone else when my friend asked, "I ever tell you the story about the man on the bus?" I hadn't heard the story and she began to tell me. And it went a little something like this...

There was a man riding a crowded bus with his three small children. The man stared blankly out the window as his children made their way up and down the bus screaming and playing and distrubing the other passengers. The passengers were getting furious when finally someone asked the man why he was letting his children behave so badly on the bus. The man sadly looked up and said "I'm so sorry. We just left the hospital and I just found out that their mother just died. I don't know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to tell them." Hearing this, the passengers were less botherd by the children and were sympathetic with the man. They began to play with the children and offer them things to play with. 

What the story is trying to tell us is that sometimes when we have just a small piece of someone else's perspective we can see a bothersome situation much differently. Today I am encouraged to know that I don't know the whole story, I only know my side of it. There is always some small piece missing, the presence of which would make the difference in the story.

I'm up this morning getting ready for the day. I was just thinking about my drive home from Bakersfield last night. There were a few major accidents that were really hard to just pass up without sending out some kind of prayer. One car was completely turned over and on fire. Another car was smashed against the middle wall like it was on a scene of a way too violent for kids movie. And then there was another I didn't know what was going on but the traffic was completely stopped for twenty minutes. And that's a long time. And then long is relative because what's twenty minutes when someone needs help?

So last night I was presented with opportunity after opportunity to take the focus off of myself and send out healing energy, love energy, peace energy to others. And by doing this of course, I shared in the energy I sent because really, what we send out to others is what we give to ourselves. Even the negative energy. Because after all, we are only all one, right?

Send good energy out today at least to yourself. And if you can't think of love to send to yourself, then send some to me. Or someone on the side of the road. 

I'm bothered in the moment by as comment by Geraldo Rivera. He said Trayvon Martin's hoodie was as much to blame for his death as Zimmerman, the man who shot him. So, with that logic, is a woman's skirt as much to blame for her rape? I thought we were past that. We're not though. 

So much senseless killing. I was a high school senior at Long Beach Poly and Trent Allen went to school in Compton. He was a well respected basketball player whose future looked bright. We never met face to face but he was a friend of my high school bestie and she introduced us one night on a three way call. Trent called me often and he was the first boy I ever liked liked whose face I had never seen. 

He drove a z something something and one night he was out and another young man, black like Trent. Black like me. Shot him in the head and took his car. Just like that. His short promising life on this planet was over. Just like that. For a 280z something something xyz.

Chapter 3

Dear Robin
There were good times. Plenty of good times. In the sixth grade you were the best cursive writer in the whole class and Ms. Koss let you write on the board because your penmenship was so great. Remember? I do. I remember good times. I remember your laugh. That laugh that wanted more laughter. I love you. I do.

Chapter 4

Dear Robin
Why all the notes? Why all the praise now? Because I beat you up for so long. I'm sorry about that. But this isn't about my sorry. This is about my love for you. This is about acknowledging how awesome you were/are. This is to let you know that I remember. 

Chapter 5

Dear Robin
I remember in the sixth grade when the other children teased Bridget about wearing fake ponytails to school and you saw her crying and sitting alone. You knew what it felt like to be teased. You sat with Bridget. Sat and talked and was quiet with her. How generous, Robin. Precious you.

Chapter 6

Dear Robin

Thank you for being a beautiful girl. I acknowledge your love and faith in God and the sweetness in which you prayed for others. For yourself. I remember. I do.

Chapter 7

Dear Robin

Thank you. Just thank you for being. Thank you Robin for living through days that were hard for you. Thank you for being kind in the face of their teasing. You didn't deserve it. You didn't. But thank you for holding your head up anyway. 
I so love you.

My dream last night

I had a dream last night that I was riding in a truck with some white woman and  we were dressed like safari people but we were driving through Compton. When we got to wherever we were going, a bunch of black and girls ran to the truck. They had very matted hair and some were only half dressed. The scene reminded me of movies where white hunters drive through a small African village.

The children kept asking for food and water and whatever we would give them. This made me sad and angry and j because this was Compton, California. I was a black woman from Long Beach, a city over. I was riding with an American white woman (whoever she was). We were wearing brown short sets. 

Why were we dressed alike? Where were the adults? Was this a dream? Whatthe? Where were the Laker flags and Whitney t shirts and churches and liquor stores? Why didn't anyone have food? These are not rhetorical questions. Somebody, seriously! Was this a sign of some times to come? Scary. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I walked quickly across the perfectly manicured grass, up two flights of camel colored stairs, past the drama department to my English class and waited for Professor Cheatham to hand out the writing assignment. Each week it was something else to keep me on my creative toes. I stared at the assumed privilege of the other students. The fancy clothes and expensive cars. Trips home every vacation. The assumed privilege. I love this class. I love Professor Cheatham. She reminds me of the women from home with her round bottom and thin dresses. Chocolate skin and big legs. And every now and then after a great big laugh, the music comes out in her tongue. Home. The assignment was…home.

Create a project describing your community… your home.

This assignment could not have come at a better time. Lately I sit in my dorm room at night and stare out of the window. Remembering. The trees. The lovin’. The language. The women in The Village.

My name is Phoebe Sunday Morning Waters but most folks call me Sunny. I have lived most of my life in The Village. All of my life until I went off to college. If it was left completely up to me I would have continued school right there in The Village at Harriet Tubman College behind The Joint where the drums never stopped, but Daddy wouldn’t have it. Mama and Daddy divorced when I was only four months old and I lived with my Daddy. They both raised me ‘cause Mama lived less than six miles away in The Jungle. Daddy made sure I did well in school and Mama made sure I kept writing poetry and painting and playing chess. She taught me how to play chess. She said I was born writing poetry. They both said I would go away to college and see the whole world someday. See the whole world? Why? The whole world oughta know The Village is what I always felt.

I didn’t know how magical it was until I left. I spent nights in my dorm room laughing over and over at things that were normal in The Village that would be so strange to the rest of the world. I’m so sorry for the children who don’t have The Village. When my schoolmates and I are having lunch sometimes I entertain them with a Village story or two. They think I’m making most of them up. None of them have ever heard of The Village. It’s next to a big city but The Village itself is nowhere on any map.
I write home often to my favorite cousin Michelle who I keep trying to get to fly out and visit me here. “Leave for what?” she always says. I get it. I really do. The drama of real life is more real there than anywhere. And I don’t have to go everywhere to know that.

From the outside looking in it is easy for one to believe that we are slow and not progressive, that we are ignorant and stale. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s what’s so funny, you know? Watching the faces of folks who could never understand why we do what we do, speak how we speak, love how we love. Like Michelle, who had her first baby when we were seventeen. She named him Thomas Jones Pride, Jr. the first. See, Michelle and Thomas had been going together since the ninth grade at Bishop Tolliver’s Junior High School, and he pinky blood promised her that they would get married and stay married forever. She believed him. Maybe he believed him too at the time. She got pregnant and just three months after that Sharita Bailey with the big breast and long hair got pregnant too. Turns out he told her that they would get married and live happily ever after too. Michelle and Sharita never got along very well and this just added salt to a fresh cut. Michelle still wanted Thomas and of course Sharita did too. You would think that there was some shortage of men in The Village but folks want what and who they want you know? At the same time they both found out that they were having boys and Michelle’s baby was due first so of course hers would be da da dadaaaa!!! Thomas Jones Pride Junior the first! And Sharita’s boy was just plain ole Thomas Pride Jr. (poor Sharita.) See, we love the way we love.

They come from everywhere and ended up here. They aint goin' nowhere. Aint nowhere to go. Aint nothin’ to get. These women in the village are being. Don’t concern yourself with time and space. Don’t be fooled by the lazy tongue. Don’t you confuse grammar and wisdom. They aint nothin’ to do with one the nother. These women, they know the secret. This is The Village that raised me.