Monday, March 31, 2014

Good night free write

I had a productive meeting today. I am happy. I am at peace. I am in praise about the many ways God is showing up in my life. God as healer, father, friend, mother, sister. I am pleased with projects to come. I am thankful for my community. For my beloved son. My friends and family. I have to get up early tomorrow, so this is good night, y'all.

Me at Maverick's Flat

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 31 - Still

Orchid my
Body. I am
Caught in cactus grip

Good night (morning)

I am incredibly tired from a show last night and then a long drive after show and just getting in now at 3:33. I'm such a three person so maybe that means something.

I had a pleasant weekend with my son, who is such a dream. He really is. I love his mind. I love that he loves to read. I love what he reads. This weekend he turned me on to Sam Smith, a singer. Yes, awesome. White male, clear powerful crystal voice. Indeed yes.

I was featured Saturday night at The Griot Cafe in Long Beach with Hiram Simms and last night at Maverick's Flat with V Kali and S. Pearl Sharp. And we honored Riua Akinshegun. She was weepy all night. Good happy tears.

I was glad that Laura, Bruce and Opal came.

I'm exhausted and I have a long day today. I'm turning in now.

I'm thankful for my life. For love. For my friends and family. For peace and grace.

Until later.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 30 - Because

When have
I ever needed
Reason to moon around

Friday, March 28, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2013 - Red

You feel
My lick so
Nice wake sky this

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A cinquain a day for March - day 26 - There. I said it.

Don't care
How well you
Recite poems if they're

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A cinquain a day for 2014 - day 23 - Sunday

We together
Fry love hold
Look into eyes we

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 20 - Sage

Paint life
Into skies that
Might river me down

Speak life into yourself

Remember to speak kind words to yourself
Tell yourself how beautiful you are
Tell yourself how lovable you are
Tell yourself how kind you are
Tell yourself how talented you are

Last night at The World Stage

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 19 - Love letter 34

Us red
See us bleed
Sticky like tongue lovers

Da Poetry Lounge last night

New show!

I'm performing at the next Still Waters Experience at Maverick's Flat at 4225 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008. The show is Sunday March 30 from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. This month the features are: S. Pearl Sharp, V. Kali and I. The musical guest is the legendary Dee Dee Mc Neil. I am so happy to announce that Ruia Akinshegun is being honored! She so deserves it! The show this month is called "The grown woman edition." Please be there with us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

For Nadia, and all my sisters

Girls don't come grown as me
Not girls
Not me
Not us
Not these hips

Sister Harriet
Sister Sojourner

Do you know what it is to be grown
You do
You know what it is to be grown and black and artist

Sister Wanda
Sister Octavia

It is to be resilient
It is to be witch
See how witch I am
See the witch in yourself
Do you know which witch you are
See these fingers cast spells

Sister Toni
Sister writer

To be grown and woman is to conjure
To know
To believe

Do you angels in the clouds
Do you know Oshun
Have you seen me dance
Do you dance
Do you dance
Does your belly wiggle
Do you wave hands
Do you hold heart
Do you know the lives I have saved with my words
With these words
With Gods words
Does God open your mouth and speak through you
Do you know the lives I have saved with my feet
With my jelly and grits and biscuits

You are a healer
I know you are a healer

Sister V
Sister Sequoia
Sister Riua
Sister Pam
Sister Imani
Sister Tchise

You are healers
You are brave

Sister Nadia
Sister Mahogany

You are brave
Do you know Obatala
Do you know the heavens
Does tomorrow speak to you

Sister Vashti
Sister Mary
Sister Mary
Sister sister

You are a seer
I know you are a seer
Are you a speaker
Do you tell lives
Does God reveal Herself to you
Does God sit Himself on your sofa
Did you feel Jesus weep
Did you wrap yourself in his tears

Sister Valerie
Sister Leslie
Sister Charisse
Sister Janea

Sister Ocean
Sister Moon
Sister Sky

Are you grown
Are you ready
Do you how grown and ready you are

Do you know what love is
Are you afraid to love yourself
Do you know your breasts so fine
Do you know your legs and thighs

Do you know
Do you know love
Can you look into your eyes without a mirror
Can you dance without a partner

You are brave
You are brave

Do you know what it is to glide
To feed a family on a dollar ninety-nine

Are you ready

Sister Angela
Sister bald fists in the air
Sister song
Sister poet

Do you know what it is like
To not be loved
Except by yourself
Except from your own black skin

Sister Lupita
Sister Alec
Sister model
Sister dancer

Do you know Ogun
Do you know the color red
Do you know Ogun will kill for you
Do you know
Are you careful

Do you know secrets grown women know
Sister secretary
Sister judge
Sister cook
Sister basketball player
I know we eye each other in the market isles

You know we know the revolution

How you gonna spell revolution without love
Without revolt
Without grown women
Like us

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 18 - KillRadio

Loosed lemons
Late night radio
SISTERS! No language verboten

Me on KillRadio with Inkwell J and Steve Baretta last night

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A cinquain a day for March - day 16 - Forward

Body will
Not fire rage
Because you refuse to

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 15 - Beloved

Son / Sun
You are my
Dew, rise, fire, licorice

Turning in

Lately I have been looking forward to going to bed. Like really loving it. I turn on my iPad and YouTube a writer or speaker I love and drift off. That is after my night prayers and meditation. I love it. James Baldwin, Valerie Bridgeman, Leslie Callahan, James Cone, Renita Weems, Alice Walker, bell hooks, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison... They speak to me. Education is beyond the classroom. I am always in a workshop. Even if it's the workshop of YouTube. I don't know who it will be tonight, but I'll let you know.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Message from my dear sister, Imani

Dear Jaha, You are a magnificent poet. You're words are so clear, so true, so timeless. There are generations of women, men, people all over the world who are blessed that you are here...speaking to us, seeing us, loving us. I am so honored and proud to call you friend, sister, comrade. I love you, Imani


James Baldwin is my pretend uncle and when I'm stressed we sit outside some French cafe and finish each other's sentences and create funny stories and then sometimes out of nowhere Toni Morrison will just join us and make us laugh until we can't take it any more. Then we all go shopping for rare books. Sometimes we find them and sometimes we don't.


I wonder if heaven's got an open mic. I wonder if Wanda Coleman is featured. I wonder if Baba Amiri is hosting. Do the angels clap or do they do that snapping thing? I hope they clap. I don't care for the snapping so much. I wonder if there is a time limit. If there is, I wonder what happens if a poet goes over. Is there a DJ? I wonder if there's a long line. I wonder if they sell Red Vines eight for a dollar before the show.

Red Stories

Red Stories is this Sunday and I'm super excited because two of my poetry and storytelling favorites are booked together! Venela Flagg (V Kali) and Sequoia Olivia Mercier! One stage, two chairs, some poetry, some conversation, some questions if you're brave. I hope to see you there at Nishati Vibrations 2435 Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, CA 7:30, $10.

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 14 - Study

Read me
In the morning
Drink me up under

Good afternoon, friends

I love that I've been journaling a lot lately. I used to all of the time. I literally would carry a backpack with me everywhere I went that held my gratitude journal, my journal where I wrote letters to my son, the journal I would jot my daily events in and other notes.

I stopped keeping journals regularly many years ago when I went to New York for a poetry show and B went through them. At least I suspect he did. He had mentioned to me that he didn't like it when I carried my backpack with my journals. Why? Because it made him uncomfortable. I'm not sure what I was supposed to do with that. He knew I was a writer before we got together. Made him uncomfortable. Wow. He said he felt like when I carried my journals it made him feel like I wasn't coming back home. I came home every night. Those were his insecurities, not mine. Anyway, against my better judgement, I left my journals in my closet when I left. When I returned he said something to me that I had only said in my private writing. I didn't mention it to him because he would have only denied it. I was over him by that time anyway. I had had enough of feeling physically and mentally violated. I had had enough of him undressing me in my sleep, as hard as it has always been for me to get to sleep. I had had enough of waking up to him inserting himself inside of me. I had had enough of him being offended by my no as if my body didn't belong to me. I was over his insults.

When I left I had to admit to myself that the anger I carried most was not directed at him, but at me. I was angry that I felt I needed him. I was angry I let it go so far. I was angry at myself for compromising my non negotiables. I was angry for not being clear to myself about what they were. All these years though, I carried anger against myself and was afraid to say out loud I was angry at him too. Neither of us were faultless. Neither of us were complete devils or angels. But I did what I tend to do, internalized and held blame and guilt. The thing though, is that if I own mine, I should feel free with charging him with his. He is not protected anymore from my stories. Truthfully, beside this blog entry I may never go into further detail but really, I have to remember who said this because it's so brilliant, "If people wanted me to speak warmly about them, they should have behaved better in my life." Or something like that very close.

Well, I didn't intend to say any of that this afternoon. This was just my first post of the day, where I like to begin with a let it out. I didn't even realize how much space that story was taking up inside of me.

Good day, y'all. Good day.

Also, I'm on the road to forgiveness. Of myself and others. Not that there is any difference or space between others and me. Chew on that.

Last night Vibrations

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 13 - Sister. Sister.

Writers who
Remember when brothers
Did not call us

Women of The World Stage - a tribute to Wanda Coleman - "Be out of Heaven by sundown, niggah"

Last night at The World Stage in Leimert we held a tribute to our dear sister Wanda Coleman. The event featured some of the women of The World Stage. We of course, had to give the brothas some. Here is just a piece of the night.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 12 - Tired

Too many
Words, hands, notes
Bitch, ho, slut, hate

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reverdia at Vibrations

A cinquain poem a day for March 2014 - day 10 - Zainabu

This storm
Of love falling
Of self like blue fire
Making its way in my mirror
To flesh

Brother Umar Ben Hassan

Last night at the Still Water's Writing Workshop Umar Ben Hassan from The Last Poets was the guest speaker. What an honor and treat it was for us to hear his stories, poems and wisdom. He was funny and honest and in the slang of the 60's and 70's, the brotha was "down."

I was eager to see him again. When he was here for the Still Water's event last year I had the privilege of picking him up from his hotel and driving him to the location. We talked and laughed. He felt like home. He reminded me of my father, who to me, was the funniest man in the world. Last year, after the show some folks were going to a class reunion of Dorsey High School. Hey, it was a party, he wasn't ready to turn in and the gig was over so he was like, "I wanna go." So we went. I didn't even go to Dorsey and here I was crashing, but I was rolling with royalty so I felt due. We danced and had the best time. Folks talked to him and he talked and laughed with folks. We even went to Denny's afterward with some people from the party. Tuesday Conner, a poet I know and graduate of Dorsey was there too and made the evening lovely introducing her crowd to our east coast elder. In fact, Tuesday was the one who invited us to the reunion. Anyway, we had a blast. Brother Umar called me Sista Jihad all night but so what.

So of course I was excited to see him last night. He didn't remember me at first as I am now beginning locks and donning specks. But I reminded him and he said, "Yeah, Sista Jihad!" Hey, it's nice to be remembered.

Last night sat with us through the workshop and gave us notes and encouragement. When he got up to speak he was with us. He was like, "Look, I came down here from Northern California on the bus..." and went on from there. We were quiet kittens at his feet. He opened with a poem he dedicated to Winnie Mandela! Word! "Anybody can be dignified from a chair. But you take a woman fighting for her people and being persecuted and running with children...You gotta give it up!" And we did. To him and to Winnie Mandela.

He went on from there telling us stories about other poets and how they fought and wrote and read. O how they read. "You had to read." He said. Because if somebody came at us talkin' some bullshit we had to know how to come back at 'em. He went on.

Ok. His words and quotes got so good I couldn't keep up so I just started writing down quotes I could catch. Here are some:

"The future needs a friend to believe in." That one was in the poem dedicated to Winnie Mandela

"Poets help build civilizations."

"Poets help to heal people."

"Take the ancestors seriously. They are there to be used and there to help. It ain't spooky stuff. Hug them. Someday all of us will be one learn how to be one."

"Love the children from the beginning. To save them from the end."

"My mornings belong to me!" He said this in response to a friend of his telling him that he should get a job. He said that poetry was his job. To reach people.

"Doctors and lawyers have to have certificates to treat people but an audience of people will give their attention and hearts to poets automatically. That is special."

"This is our history and somebody's got to keep it going."

Special thanks to Food 4 Thot and Queen Socks for providing for us a space to receive such wisdom, entertainment and love.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The weekend

Tonight I went to the Still Waters Writer's workshop and was blessed to hear Umar Ben Hassan feature. He told us stories and presented us with some of his poetry. It was a great honor to be gifted with that time he shared with us. I took some notes and wrote down some great quotes that I'll share later. It's about 11:05 and I'm ready to turn in.

It's been a good weekend. I spent all of it with my son. That's always lights my life. On Saturday we spent about the day at the celebration of the life and legacy of Amiri Baraka. At one point I asked Uraeus if he was ready to go and he was like "Well, kinda but I wanna hear (one of Amiri's poems)" He said he enjoyed it and it was great being able to talk to him intellectually about the black arts movement. I love my son.

Then I spent all day today with both of the boys, Reuben (nephew) and Uraeus. We started off at Denny's with a celebratory breakfast for Reuben who plays for the Long Beach Poly's basketball team who is now the CIF champion team! So proud of him. He's one of the two sophomores on the team. So he'll get his ring this year! Yep.

I already told you I saw Brother Umar and now I'm going to try to get in another chapter of the book I'm currently reading, MILK IN MY COFFEE by Eric Jerome Dickey while listening to some series I've seen a million times on Netflix. I like noise in the background. I just do. Nothing I have to focus on too hard. Just something easy.

Oh, I had my last (at least for now) session with my therapist Saturday morning. I needed her when I first started seeing her. I really did. Now, I'm not in the same space, we both acknowledged that. Her presence in my life was greatly meaningful. I know that if life shows up I can call her again. But for now, I'm ok. I'm ok, you're ok. Get it?

Enough of my rambling, talk to you tomorrow.

A cinquain a day for March - day 9 - Blessed Vibrations

We vibe
Los Angeles
Manchester Boulevard
Billingsgate free. We use our words
To tell

July 2006 - Zuri

"Jaha, Zuri is dead"
Those were the words that came out of V Kali's mouth
"She is dead"

Zuri is V's daughter
Mother of three babies

She went into a liquor store
In Los Angeles
Los Angeles
And left her son Omar in the car
While she ran in real quick

We are supposed to be right back like we promise
She told him she would be right back
We are supposed to be promise keepers
Magic makers
Why is a store run magic

She heard shots and ran out of the store
My baby! My baby!
Her baby! Her baby!
Our baby! Our baby!

Zuri Williams
Beautiful Zuri
Zuri means beautiful
Do you know that
Shouldn't beauty last forever

Shot in her stomach
In a drive by
Los Angeles
Los Angeles

What does this mean
For Omar
For V
For the world

Years ago I asked V
Why artists go through the struggles we go through

"Because we will tell it"
She said

But not this one
No, not this one

To tell

Time - draft two

I visited the church where I grew up
Against the folkways of dress standard
I wore dashiki and blue jeans
This has been a year of confronting emotional backs and forths and I
To my bewilderment
Longed to feel 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 stern voices of 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 church that kindly held my clouded prayers
From when I first understood praying

Not just on my knees with hands clasped
Like on communion Sundays
In white dress
But pray all the time
For everything
Good grades
New Barbie

For everyone
For my father
Whom I adored but came home drunk early one morning
And did not notice me waiting by the door with my arms
Wrapped around my shoulders to clean up his vomit
Before my mother woke up

For my mother
Who was fascinating in the way she tried
To mask living under more pressure than she may ever be willing to discuss

For myself
That I would one day have a voice
Commanding enough to speak the world of my dreams into fruition

Though I did not have language grown up enough to divulge
All of my narrative
I knew God was listening

Had the whole world in His hands in His hands
Hands so big still somehow fit into me
710 south
Exit PCH east

Where there was my Sunday school class
That began at 9am and held the choir stand
Behind the pulpit

The 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 from Genesis to 1 Corinthians

On second Sundays after we sang in the 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 plastic egg  wrapping and my hair down for the first time
At that church

Thick tight curls from small yellow sponge rollers
That absorbed the excess hair grease
That Aunt Ruth made and prayed over in her kitchen

There were Easter speeches and vacation Bible school classes
Gospel concerts, prayer and usher board meetings
And other weekly and monthly routines
That made our church

The church that held its own
On the KDAY and crip infested streets of 17th and Lemon Ave. in Long Beach
My church
I am still a little girl where all the world is mine
My mother still attends
Like my grandmother before her is the secretary of the church

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

I started to cry watching her march around the church
After the offering
I used to be an usher
Stood knock kneed
Long and lanky in center isle
With my back to the pulpit facing the front double doors

I sat next to a woman who reminded me of my grandmother, Omega Davis
But she was not my grandmother
Had her brown eyes and good skin
Had her outdated Jheri curl and was a pretty woman like her
But she did not shake that belly laugh shake
That made the smallest joke even funnier
Did not pass me fire stick candy during service
Or write notes in perfect cursive that were always inappropriate

My grandmother was a wise woman
Whose ever prediction came true

"Y'all gon see after I'm gone."

After she was gone
We saw

She was our Orson Welles and we did not know it

I listened to the pastor preach and
His message was on the birth of Christ
As it is today the Sunday before Christmas

Bishop Higgins is still new to St. Mark
This great man with the prevailing voice
That comes from the bottom of his abdomen
Whose potent message is ever inspiring and entertaining at the same time
Is not my pastor

He is not the Rev. Ford I grew up with
The pastor who called my mother
And told her where she could pick up her new tire that was already waiting
Because he noticed hers was bald

No, this man looked at me when he led the benediction
As if I were a visiting sinner looking for a Jesus who was not lost

He does not know me
Time has not allowed him to know most of us
Though while we understood that he appreciates the warm cloth
He does not know the private stitching of our tapestry

Our quilt that is not secret but well used and stained just a little
Perhaps we have not paused to realize
That we do not know his

That he has a story absent dossier and resume of good deeds
Has an award worthy yesterday
That we cannot Google or confirm

Where did the time go
I am not old enough to wonder where 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

There were memories on these floors behind these 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

There was Vidette and Cheryl and Pam and Corderlia and Kim
And my own Aunt Janice who were women
I looked up to

There were the Harris sisters whose voices could match a team of angels
And Lazette and Sophia who were as beautiful as their names
Sophia who told me the Sunday before her suicide
That I was a pretty girl

There was Rev. Hunter who was strict and respected
Had 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 scared to tell

There are pieces of my shaping that have escaped the surface of my recollection
But the brick and strips of caulk and boards of plaster of this building
Will always

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Korlah Camille at Vibrations

Nation building

I had a wonderful time today with my son at the celebration of honoring the life and legacy of Amiri Baraka.

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 8 - Precious

Time we spend here
Together on this ground
Push and pull complicated we
In love

Play - draft two

In 1973 my sunny days began and ended with me sitting impassively on my front steps
My castle
Not like many children today who seem to require
Expensive electronic gadgets to occupy themselves

I could caper around busying my inquisitive mind for hours on end on my steps
Counting perfectly the cars that went by


Pretending I was the exquisite Dianne Carroll
Giving an eloquent speech to my loyal fans
Head held high and tilted
Looking down beyond my pointed nose
Hair curled and poofy and perfect like a high fashioned helmet
Or pressed straight and pulled back tight in a bun

Me, being a Queen on my royal grounds
Where I first loved the smell of water tasting thirsty sidewalks on hot days
And California cold nights

Where there was my tree
Just nine papa steps in front of my porch
Whose leaves and branches reached to God's house
And hung almost to the grass
But were not strong enough to hold me
Yet assured me that I was strong enough to brook
Whatever should come my way
That I was okay

My front steps

There were only three and that was perfect
My mom, dad and I had recently moved from the green
Or was it brown?
Apartment building on Walnut in Central Long Beach
To the single dwellings on the west side of town at 1367 Cameron

In the apartment before my sister Roshann was born
We lived on the second floor
The steps were ugly and concrete and cobblestone
There was a peek a boo space between each step
And a black iron rod to hold onto as one traversed up and down

But those steps were not mine
They belonged to everyone
No one claimed them as their own
No one dreamed of having long brown hair
And marrying a Prince on those steps

Those were not my friends
I would not tell my secrets there

One day I was in the living room and the door was left open
I was finally, to the surprise of my parents, tall enough to open the screen door
An easy unlock
And rode my tricycle down those steps

God is good

My Cameron Street steps were not disappointing like those
They did not call out to me with the intent of temptation
When I was momentarily unsupervised

They did not propose excitement on a peaceful Sunday
And then produce danger
My new steps did not lie
I was safe on those steps
That were red and three and my own

Next door on Cameron, west of us, in the green house
Lived two girls whose names and faces I can never call to mind
I have not outgrown their raspy voices however
They had cool sneakers and strong arms and could double Dutch a full song
Indeed they were real
Though I have had lovers who wished they were not

They were fifteen and sixteen and their backyard
Shared the same fence as ours
And pomegranate and lemon trees
And they also had a garage and no dog
But theirs was not mine

They had a white tent behind the garage and a nephew who was
A few years older and shy
I remember almost his voice
Barely his hair that was short like big boys wore their hair
Faded blue jeans that looked clean but were not

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

But my young Virgo analyzing 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 for me to suck

But it was not peppermint or Bit o Honey
More like a Bomp Pop or Big Stick
But it was not smooth and orange and sweet
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 led to my porch
Where there was dust and loose gravel and chipped paint and no dicks
My porch had no dicks

I was just next door but far from my porch
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 was not sucking at all

Was gagging on flesh too big for her mouth
Too hard for her jaws
Too long for her throat

I did not like the girl's yelling hand on the back of my head
Touching too firmly my baretts that were red and friendly like my porch
Did not like the bossy one moaning like it felt good to her
With her inhale hiss and ahh
And eyes half closed and head moving passionately in half circles then back again

Then from nowhere there was liquid that was warm and salty and not my spit

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 no longer safe and into my for real castle

Before I could get away
The short haired one caught me and 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 this was for other girls who had pee in their mouths
And ran to get away

She tied thick brown rope around my neck
And the other end to the top of the post
And held my body as it swung
This was a station for girls who could not run faster than a fifteen year and threatened to tell

This was a four year olds Calvary

She whispered me threats I believed
And let me go with a shove that said all I needed to know
Come time for my bath I lied about the rope burn
To a mother too smart for burn lies on her daughter

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

Friday, March 7, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2024 - day 7 - Nestle we us

We are
Want for arms and
Not froward children with
No roots of our own we belong
In love

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 6 - Because

Good day
There is such as
Good in this world we live
All this terror too small for good

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A cinquain a day for March - day 5 - For the record

These words
Poetry and art
My long shaking fingers
Try to tell stories of our lives


Tara and I worked at Downey Municipal Court together. That was back when they had municipal courts. There weren't many black folks working there and Tara and I, at the time, clicked the most. Vanessa worked in accounting and she was cool. A Mexican-American woman with bleached blond hair just a few years older. She wore cute clothes and shoes. That counted.

One day Vanessa invited Tara and me to her church. It was an evening service and I forgot what the event was but, we accepted. Tara and I spent many weekends together. We went to movies, parties, double dates....That particular Sunday night, we went to Vanessa's church. It was way out in Orange County somewhere.

We took our seats way in the back. Most of the congregation we Mexicans and whites and Mexicans who looked like they identified as white, if one can peruse a crowd and make such an assumption. Now let me say here, I was reared in the church. A black church at that. So I know the shenanigans. Tara wasn't though and all the hand waving praise seemed a little theatric for her. So whatever the special event was for, they had a guest preacher come out. The pastor spoke briefly again before he introduced the guest speaker. The hallelujahs seemed sparing during his talk, but all this is just my perspective, please understand.

Then the guest came up. Almost immediately he had our attention. The whole audience. He was handsome and charismatic. As he was in full flow, the pastor of the church stood up and stopped the guest from speaking and said, "The Holy Spirit is giving me a message and it is telling me to tell you all to stand and speak in tongues!" Then he snapped his fingers and just like THAT they all spoke in tongues and shouted. It all stopped with another SNAP of his fingers. Then he turned to the guest preacher and instructed him to continue. And of course now who could just pick up with the same flow after that? Ask me, the pastor was being shown up by a younger, fresher, minister.

The next day as Tara and I were at our desks, Vanessa approached us and asked, "So, do you have any questions about what you experienced last night?"

"No, I'm cool. Thanks though." Was all I had for her.

"Me too." Tara said.

"Well if you do, don't be afraid to ask."

I wanted to tell her not to be afraid to tell her player hating pastor to stop lying on the Holy Spirit and interrupting people when they are speaking. But I didn't. I just didn't.

Dear God

Thank You for my son. Protect him. Watch over him. Keep him in Your care. Bless him always with laughter and fun. Thank You for his wonderful sense of humor and intelligence. Be a fence around him, Mother, Father God.

Thank You, thank You.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 4 - Get steady

We are reaching
Ready ourselves for fight
Bricks and stones and votes break these chains
U. S.


I am thankful for this day
For love and health and strength
For my son
For my mother, friends, family
For peace and understanding
For forgiveness and acceptance
I am thankful

Monday, March 3, 2014

What we do

I had a show late that night and Allie had a show that evening. I was a poet. I am still. She was a dancer. A good dancer whose driver had cancelled earlier that day. The rent though. It had to get paid. I understood that.

What did I know about being somebody's driver? Her show was in Inglewood. Mine was in Hollywood. I drove her south on Crenshaw from an area in Los Angeles called the jungle. I lived on Buckingham Rd. She was on Santa Rosalia. By the time I got to Manchester and made that left headed to West she had changed into her dancing clothes. She was and still is a beautiful woman.

When we got to the house there were about twelve men there in the living room drinking and speaking to each other in Spanish. I knew being there was a huge mistake but Allie was my friend. A beautiful Mexican woman in her early thirties carrying a baby directed us to a back room so Allie could put her make up on.

"Aren't you scared to take you clothes off and dance?" The woman asked Allie.

"Um, sometimes. But not today." Allie answered then looked at me. The woman smiled and closed the door. "I wasn't scared until she said that." Allie took a deep breath and said, "the hustle."

Apparently they were in the middle of a party. I could see from the room we were in the food tables in the backyard. There were women and children playing and singing. Even a small band. I thought it was weird that the women, who were probably the wives and girlfriends of the men in the living room seemed okay with what was about to happen. What women allowed this? They did I guess. I was uncomfortable as hell.

As Allie was putting on the last shimmer of her lipgloss, the beautiful woman who showed us to the room tapped three times on the door. "Come in." Allie said.

"I'm Bonita. What's your name?" She asked us as she sat on the bed next to me.

"Stacy. Bonita? That's beautiful, right? That suits you. You're very pretty." Allie said. Stacy was her dance name. We all have dance names. No matter what we do, I thought.

"Yes. Thank you. Um, are you going to dance too?" She asked me.

"No. No, I'm just here with her."

"Are you Eric's girlfriend?"

"His fiancé." Bonita said to Allie. I sat quietly as they continued their conversation. I could tell that Bonita was checking Allie out trying to see if Allie was more bonita and a possible threat and not just a dancer. I wondered why she couldn't see that Allie was the least of her worries if he was having dancers come to the house while she was there in the middle of a party.

"So is this Eric's birthday gift?"

"In a way. Just a good time at his party for him and his friends."

"I can understand that. Hey girl!" Allie smiled. Bonita didn't.

I stayed in the room as Allie danced. I could look through the crack of the door and watch her fling her hair and shake her hips and entice the men. Bonita and the other women were in the backyard I guess pretending that none of it bothered them.

I closed the door and stood between the bed and chest of drawers and practiced my set of poetry I was going to do that night. I thought about the irony of practicing poetry about women's empowerment while my best friend was dropping it low and fast.

Suddenly the door opened and Allie started throwing her make up and five, ten and twenty dollar bills into her bag. "What's going on?" I asked.

"These muthafuckas is trippin'!" She said as she pulled a lighter out of her bag.

"Whatchu doin' with that?"

"They on some gang rape shit and think I don't understand enough Spanish to know that. I told them I needed a quick bathroom break but we gettin' the fuck outa here if I gotta burn the curtains down gettin' out. Walk out with me like we just takin' a smoke. Be easy though. Then when we get outside we gon jet to the car and get the hell outa this crazy house!"

"Okay." I said. "Stop sweating. Nice and cool."

"Don't take anything though. Just your keys. Let's go. Easy."

We walked out easily and jumped into the car. I started running a bit too early and alerted the men. We heard them calling us black bitches as we ran off.

"You get any money?" I asked as I was driving and shaking. I felt like I had robbed a bank. This wasn't my life. What the fuck did I know about being someone's driver? Fuck!

"A hundred fifty somethin' plus I stole one of the fucker's wallet!"

"That was some crazy shit. Don't ever ask me to drive again."

"Girl, I know. Thanks though. Ain't none of this easy. " Allie said as she was changing clothes to go to the poetry spot in Hollywood. I got to the venue as the ventriloquist was coming off. What the fuck? The host butchered my name but I walked up proudly anyway.

"Hey y'all!" I said to the crowd. I saw Allie in the audience in her long white African dress and red head wrap. I was up there telling stories about my life and it occurred to me that Allie and I both got naked and raw in front of strangers. Both of us did what we had to do and in the end, Allie was right. Ain't none of this easy.

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 3 - Red. Stories.

My bleeding toes
Hit hard this rock pavement
All these pages I have lived now


I am thankful for my life this morning. For my health and strength. I am thankful for my son, my mother, my friends and family. I am thankful for the sun shining and energy for the day.

Cinquain poem

Here is another form of a cinquain poem:

Cinquain Pattern #3Line1: Two syllables
Line2: Four syllables
Line 3: Six syllables
Line 4: Eight syllables
Line 5: Two syllables

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Oscars!

I'm so glad that 12 Years a Slave won for best picture! I'm so glad that Lupita Nyung'o won for best supporting actress!

Pointing the finger

Dre was coming out of the corner store. I was twelve years old, a seventh grader at Bancroft Junior High School. I got off the bus and saw him. Dre was my mother's friend's son about six years older. I hadn't seen Dre in a long time because he had been away. I didn't know what away meant back then.

He opened his arms to hug me and I responded. Or did I open my arms to hug him and he responded?  I don't remember. He asked if my parents were home as he walked with me toward my house. Home was only three doors from the bus stop. By the time we got to the house it was already too late. My father was sitting on the porch saying goodbye to one of his buddies who had come by earlier. My father was wondering why I was walking with Dre. My father knew what away meant. 

Dre walked up the walkway and my father shook his hand sternly. I walked into the house and Dre stood at the door. My father didn't let him in farther than that. My mother sat on the couch in the living room and spoke to him from there. "You doin' okay?" She asked. I walked away and went to my room, but I could easily hear the conversation. 

"Yes, I am."

"What are you doin' around here?"

"Oh, my friend lives a block over. I was on my way over there." 

"Okay, don't be walkin' up my walkway with my daughter." I heard my father say. Then Dre left. 

That night my mom was reading late and sleeping in the living room on the couch. My father was in the bedroom. My sister was in her room and I was in my room next to my parent's room. Some time around the early morning, maybe between one and three, there was a scuffle outside my door. Then the police were called and came. 

According to my dad, Dre had been in the house and was slowly headed to my room. How did he know what room I slept in? 

My mother and his were still friends, since childhood. I'm sure the news was hard to deliver. Dre, anyway, had narrowly escaped my father's grasp through the bathroom window. They deduced that he  had gotten through the front door. As crazy twists of life would have it, the locks on our front door were changed a couple of days before and the new keys were sitting on the television along with all the other things that sat on super large televisions of that time. Jet magazines, newspapers, mail. Televisions then were like large pieces of furniture. Ours, like many, sat by the front door. 

The whole time he spoke with my parents he was standing at the door and must have slipped the keys into his pockets. He came into the front and my mother must have been asleep. My sisters room was next to the living room. Maybe he opened that door and saw that it was her. My father's room was open and Dre probably thought he was sleep. My door was closed and was the last choice. My father opened his eyes as he was going into my room.

The police showed up and displayed a selection of photos and Dre's picture was among them. I screamed when I saw Dre's face on our family's kitchen table. My father pointed him out to the police.

Then court. I don't remember how much time went by until we went to court. We all went. My father drove. My mother sat in the front with him. I sat in the back and Dre's mother went with us. My father didn't like that. My sister didn't go to court. I think Dre's mother's presence was her way of saying that she was sorry and showing support. I don't know. My father, even on the stand stated that she rode in the car with us and that he didn't like it. Of course it wasn't a question that had been asked, but my dad wasn't afraid to express what he didn't like.

There were other girls. Girls younger than I who were also on the stand that day. Two in fact. One girl was about my sisters age. Four years younger than I. I still remember her little face. Her brown face like mine. Her shoulder length puffy ponytails like mine. Her soft and sweet voice. 

The attorney was a white man who walked up to her slowly and asked her to explain what happened. She said that she was in her bed and then felt someone rubbing her leg. That woke her up but he didn't stop and he told her not to scream then he left and then she screamed.

"And do you see the man who rubbed your leg?" The attorney asked the little brown girl.

"Yes." She nodded her head slowly and pointed at Dre.

Then I screamed. There in the court. I screamed. Not out loud. I swallowed the scream. Was that what he was going to do to me? Rub on my leg and tell me not to scream? And then I would have been too scared to scream. And then I would have screamed when he left. I hoped I would have been brave enough to scream when he left. What if I would have swallowed the scream? I had swallowed screams before. Screams before the court. Screams before Dre. I knew what screams tasted like in my throat. They were nasty and salty and went down slowly, but letting them out always seemed worse.

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 2 - Together

Sunday morning.
Breakfast cooking. Rain.
Waffle days like this.

Cinquain poems

Here is another form of a cinquain poem:

Cinquain Pattern #1Line1: One word
Line2: Two words
Line 3: Three words
Line 4: Four words
Line 5: One word


I am thankful this morning for waking up
For the smell of breakfast cooking in the kitchen
For my niece, nephew, brother in law, mother, sister, son
I am thankful for love and understanding
For peace and thanksgiving
I am thankful for my health and strength
For art and creativity

Saturday, March 1, 2014

So. Tired. Of. This.

Rebecca, an African-American woman, thirty-four, dark caramel complexion with shoulder length locks, beautiful.

Brian, an African-American man, thirty-one, night black, bald, handsome.

Brian: The girl behind the counter at the spot last night, was that Eric's girlfriend?

Rebecca: Which one?

Brian: The real beautiful one. The exotic looking one.

Rebecca: They were both beautiful. What do you mean by exotic?

Brian: You know what I mean. She looked like she was mixed with something and had her hair pulled back in the long straight ponytail. She was fine!

Rebecca: And what about the other one? She was beautiful. With the short Afro and chocolate skin. She was fly.

Brian: She was. But if you ask ten black guys which of the two girls they liked, I bet you at least eight of them are gonna say the exotic one is the best. That's just how it is.

Joy at Vibrations

Thursday night a young beautiful sister walked into Vibrations and blessed the mic a few times. She kept opening her mouth and all this richness fell out over and over. This one is the only one I caught. She promised she would return so perhaps she will let me record more in the future.


I am thankful for this day
For all of the rain and thunder and lightening
I am thankful for my son
For my mother
My sister
My family and friends
I am thankful for my life
For the moment
All of the moments
I am thankful for peace and understanding
For art and creativity

A cinquain a day for March 2014 - day 1 - The elephant bar

Attentive, beautiful
Loving, hiding, reaching
Tonight we sit and stare

Cinquain poems for March

There are at least three forms of cinquain poems. For now I'm going to stick with this one:

Line 1: a noun
Line 2: two adjectives
Line 3: three ing words
Line 4: a phrase
Line 5: another word for the noun