Sunday, July 26, 2015

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 148 - Your song

On days I only want to sit and let
all these feelings
wash over me
to sit in peace or sadness or glee
whatever

I say your name
his name and hers
your name
all of your names

Your names have become
the saddest songs I know
I sing them off key
I say them like your mama and daddy would
I pronounce all of the syllables

I call you forth
I remember you
I write poems about you
I tell your stories
I carry on your memory

Because you were here
Because you lived
Because you mattered
Because you matter

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Me with Angel - from Women in The Village

The following is a transcribed text from a taped conversation I had with Angel McKinney, a woman I've known from The Village for over fifteen years.

Sunny: When did you know you were bipolar and how did it start?

Angel: I don't know when exactly it started. maybe sometime in middle school if I have to put my finger on it. Maybe seventh or eighth grade. There wasn't all this conversation about mental illness like there is starting to be now. My family just thought I was quiet and moody from time to time. Then other times I was the life of the party. They called it just being an artist. When I called it anything I called it confusing. I didn't understand how I could go from feeling so good and happy like I could fly then a few days later being so low and hopeless I didn't know why life was worth living. I just didn't get it. I used to ask my sister if she ever felt so sad and didn't know why. She told me to stop talking crazy and that's what I did. I stopped talking about it.

Sunny: How do you cope? Was there one person in particular you spoke with or did you take long walks or medicate with something or something like that?

Angel: I took over the counter meds when I was grown to go to sleep because I could never sleep. I could stay up for days. I got hooked on those things too. I'm on a regular dose of prescription meds now though. Mostly I wrote. I still write all the time. I kept journals filled with stories I made up, dark poems, Bible scriptures, quotes I collected to motivate myself, run away notes when I was a child...

Sunny: You ran away?

Angel: No, but I would get so down and being depressed would make me angry and weepy and my parents and brother and sisters telling me I had nothing to cry about made me feel more alone and sad I thought about running away. Actually I thought about suicide more but I was too afraid of burning in hell for the rest of eternity. I knew a girl who killed herself when we were teenagers. She was a good friend of mine. I never knew she was sad or felt that lonely. We never talked about it. We were church friends. She was two years older than I and we sang in the junior choir together at the church I grew up in out in Hawthorne. St. Luke Baptist Church.

Sunny: How did she do it?

Angel: Somehow she got a hold of a gun and shot herself in the head.

Sunny: Wow! How old was she?

Angel: Only in the ninth grade. She was so beautiful too. It was on a school day and she had gotten home before her mother as usual. They say she called her mother to say goodbye, but I don't know what she said. Anyway, when her mother got home she found her body. Whole thing just tore up the church because it was the Friday before Mother's Day. That Sunday the junior choir was lining up to sing for God and our mothers and the ushers were passing out the programs with Mother's Day notes we had written to our mothers and grandmothers. And wouldn't you know it, there on the first page was the note Carmen had written to her mother. It was a sad, sad day. I just kept remembering that I just saw her the Sunday before and she told me I was beautiful. Imagine that. Carmen taking the time out to see some kinda beauty in me with everything she musta had going on inside her head. Sad people can always pick out other sad people and I guess we know what we need to be for each other.

Anyway, Deacon Combs and his wife were talking to Carmen's mother in the pastor's small office in the rear of the church and I was just behind the room and could hear everything and pretended that I couldn't. I was so shocked that Sis. Johnston, Carmen's mother, even had enough energy to come to church. I just had to know what they were saying to her. Even though I was supposed to be in church. I pretended I was drinking water from the fountain behind the office for as long as I could.

Sunny: What were they saying to her?

Angel: Well, I couldn't hear everything but what I did hear devastated me. Deacon Combs said that murder and suicide were great sins and especially suicide because there was no way of asking God's forgiveness and that Ms. Johnston would never see her daughter again because Carmen was going to hell. I heard Ms. Johnston scream a scream I never heard before. She sounded like a cat with its tail on fire. I had to see her face. I came to the front of the office but the thin shabby door was shut but I could still hear her scream. Then it was muffled. Maybe Sis. Combs was hugging her I thought. I will always remember that sound. I thought it was so cruel of them to tell her that. So cruel. How do they know who God forgives and who God doesn't? When I was old enough to stop going to that church without my family getting on my case, I did.

Sunny: Is that why you never considered suicide?

Angel: I have considered it. But not until I was grown. I never attempted it or anything like that but I sure did think dying might be easier than living on some days. As a child, after I heard that scream, I really didn't know why to believe. So I had fantasies of running away to a place where people understood me. Even when, especially when I didn't have the words to say what was hurting me so badly.

Sunny: Did you ever get close to running away when you were a child?

Angel: Girl, no! I was too scared of neighborhood dogs and the dark!

(We laugh)

No, I just wrote notes. Private notes in my journal. Except one time I left a runaway note folded up on the television in the living room while my mother was sitting close by on the couch. I told her in the note that as soon as I was back from the store for her then I was going to run away. I even signed it, Love, Angel.

(Angel laughs at herself remembering the note)

When I got back the note was gone and I asked her if she read it.

Sunny: What did she say?

Angel: She told me that she didn't read it. She just threw it away because she thought the paper was trash. But I knew she read it. I could see it in her teary red eyes. She read it and maybe just didn't know what to do with and emotionally disturbed child. Her baby at that. Bit I didn't know either. I didn't know what to do with myself.

Sunny: Did it get better for you in high school?

Angel: I wrote more. I would say things got better until I was grown. The mood swings kept coming but I have a friend who is a doctor, a psychologist. We were out for coffee once hen I opened up to him about where I was emotionally. He suggested I see a therapist. It was only because he recommended I see one that I did. This made my second therapist.

Sunny: Your second? Who and when was our first and what was that like?

Angel: I was about forty years old when I say my first. She was referred to me by another friend. Her office was close by and her rates were reasonable enough. We talked mostly about the depression. I saw her for about six months.

Sunny: Why did you stop?

Angel: Because during a particularly bad episode, that's what she called them, episodes (I had just called them the crazies) she asked me how bad the pain was on a scale of one to ten. I told her an eight. She asked if I thought of suicide and I told her that I had but had never tried it. She told me to write down some names of people I would call if things ever got to where I thought I would try it. She even told me to include her name on the list. So I did. I sat in her office and made a list of ten people including her.

The next week I told her I was still feeling down and we talked that full hour. Then I came in the next week and I was about to start talking, because that's how we always began our sessions. Before I could open my mouth or get comfortable on the couch she told me that she wasn't going to be able to see me anymore. She told me that this kind of thing happened from time to time between therapist and client and she was sorry it happened with us but she had come to a point where couldn't see me.

Sunny: Did you ask her why?

Angel: Of course. She said she thought we had some similar family issues and she couldn't tell if she was advising me or working out her own issues. Basically I felt like she gave me the "it's not you, it's me" speech.

She said she had another referral for me and that the other doctor would be a good match for me. I didn't want to see anybody. Especially not anybody she knew. I spent six months spilling my secrets to this woman and then I got dumped. And for reasons I didn't and still don't understand. I asked her if she wanted me to just leave right then and there and to my surprise she said yes. I slowly picked up my bag and walked out of her office. I told myself I would never let myself get that close to anyone again. Here I was living my life and she couldn't even hear about it once a week for a fee. I was cool on therapists. And she was a white woman too. I got a thing about white women. The judgment in their eyes, the snotty sing song in their voices. But I put that aside with her. She was about my age and seemed cool enough. I let my guard down and what did I get? Kicked out. And just think, just two weeks before I told her I was thinking about killing myself. Yeah right, put her name on my list. She was on my list all right.

(We laugh again but even through the laughter I could hear see the pain in her eyes)

Sunny: What was her name?

Angel: I forgot her last name. I just called her Beth.

Sunny: Just Beth?

Angel: She just called me Angel, so yeah.

(Angel reaches for her purse and pulls out a cigarette and lighter. In all the time I've known her I never knew she smoked.)

You mind?

Sunny: No go ahead.

Angel: I told you I got a thing about white women. I can't call another one by title or Ms. If they don't like the sound of their first name out my mouth we can't deal. Especially if they aren't calling me Ms.

Sunny: And how long was it between the last time you saw Beth and when you saw the next doctor?

Angel: About a year. And I liked her too. A black woman. A real sista, you know. I knew I was gonna relate with her right off. She understood things that I didn't have words to say. It was because of her I saw my first psychiatrist.

Sunny: Wait a minute. What kind of doctor was she?

Angel: She was a psychologist. A doctor you talk to. Psychiatrists can issue meds.

Sunny: Okay. How did you come to see the other doctor?

Angel: I had an appointment with my therapist, Marie one day and I showed up about fifteen minutes late, which was not my habit. I was going through another bad episode. I was off. Way off. And she could tell. She told me that I had to give her the number of a friend of mine to call to have me checked into a hospital. Of course I refused. Then she said if I didn't she was going to call the police. After some whining on my part, I gave her my friend, Kiesha's number. As much as I didn't want to go into the mental hospital it was the best thing for me. I was diagnosed as being bipolar with sever depression. I had never been diagnosed before. I didn't like having a label but I did like finally knowing what was going on with me. I spent a week in the hospital and wrote about it in my journal. You wanna see it?

Sunny: Sure. You mind if I publish it

Angel: No, not at all. I know what it's like not having the words for the dark clouds inside. If my words will bring clarity to someone else I wanna do that. I have another journal entry and a poem you can have too. You want 'em?

Sunny: Yep, and thank you so much for being open with me.

Angel: Girl, thank you for the space to be. I hope it will be useful.


Friday, July 24, 2015

For Sharon Edwards - from Women in The Village

Sharon ain't much talkin' to nobody these days. You can't much blame her. She barely put two sentences together for me and I'm her only sister. Ain't sayin' much to Big Marv neither. That's her husband so he do best he can to support her but you gotta remember that boy was his son too. Ain't just the mama grievin', it's all of us. And everybody handle it in a different way. You know that. Ain't never seen no grief like what Sharon holding onto though. And what to do what all the grief? That's the question.

Ain't like she could carry it to the white woman at the phone company and explain that a man killed her son and got away with it. Because who besides us care about black boys anyway And even though the story is no longer on the news his picture still on the coffee table next to the Bible and Vogue mags and the bills. Ain't like it's possible to get an extension on the mortgage and car payments 'cause sleeping only on the couch for a month straight and goin' nowhere fast shouldn't cost as much anyway.

And who really understands all this except someone who been through it. Still going through it like our family goin' through it. And the doctor tell her to eat something and take something and try to get some sleep. But who can sleep and think straight when every time her eyes close she see cops with devil horns and baby pictures.

And you tell me who can be a normal woman and mother when you don't know whether to call yourself a mother anymore? Who can go outside and see teenagers wearing shirts that say they remember and they will never forget? Who can put on lipstick every day and walk past an empty room. Why are mothers supposed to be this strong and pray this hard? I have twin  baby girls of my own and I still have to explain to them that they gotta wait to see their cousin Marvin in heaven. This is not God's plan. It's not. Black boys faces on t-shirts every time I turn around like dead black boys are fashion. And how come ain't not black girls on shirts nowhere?

This ain't what God wanted. Can't be. What God would plan this? What God would need an angel so badly it would have to take ours? And how could anyone have nothing to do when there are babies lives to save and streets to walk down and teachers to meet with and good cops to find and drug dealers to cuss out. And are white boys and girls needed in heaven too?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Patrice and the rebellion - from Women in The Village

We've come here for many reasons and from many different places. I met Raz about a year and a half after I got here. We only dated about three months then moved in together. You just know when you know. She had a place and I had a place but we knew we wanted our own place together. You know, to start new memories and stories in that place.

I loved to write stories and essays. Still do. I don't do it as much as I used to but I keep journals still. Mostly about my life, my life with Raz, struggles and blessings we experience, being black and gay in this country, all kinds of things. Raz is the painter. She painted most of these in here.

"I used to take her painting classes when I was a teenager."

She talks about those times. I was still at Berkeley then.

"Tell me about the riot."

Not the riot, honey, the rebellion. We rebelled! Well Marvin had just been killed by the police. Had been a string of police shootings and Marvin Edwards was just the straw that set the city off. Like a lot of the cases, Marvin was with his friends and the police decided to harass a group of black children. People talk about how bad race relations were in the sixties in the deep south, but the same thing was going on right here in L.A. mid nineties. Not just L.A. either. All over this country.

Seem like we were getting harassed all around then. Just two days before I had gotten jumped by two black men and one woman because I was gay. Then I show up at the rally for Marvin protesting he killing and harassment of black people by the police. We were all gathered at the fountain. There were about two hundred folks there. From all parts of the state. We were chanting with our fists up 'Stop! Stop! Kill no more! Police brutality at our door!' Then I don't know who but somebody set off a fire cracker and seem like all hell broke loose. I saw one of those cops lift up his stick over a woman and was about to swing on her. I just had to do something. She had tripped and was at the bottom of the tree holding her hands up to protect herself from the inevitable swing. I just couldn't let that happen. I ran over and jumped on his back. I was clawing at his face and trying to hold on. He was screaming 'Get off me you bitch! Get off me!' My weight on his back had him crouched over then he got some power from somewhere and stood straight up. Just shot up. He did that and shook me right off him. I fell straight back and hit my head on something. Just happened news cameras was all around and one of the stations got a video of the whole thing. We end up going to court 'cause I sure did sue them, yes I did. I won too. We settled out of court and I can't talk about how much I got. But I won though. Been five years now and the still ain't let me forget it. I didn't pick up and move or nothin'. I stayed right in here. They still drive by waitin' for me to slip up. I ain't the one they need to watch though. They need to watch themselves 'cause they still doin' dirt. You know that don't you. They messier then these gangs out here.

I don't know how much you want me to tell you but that's about all I have.

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 147 - Who are we

We are souls caught on fire
Hand clapping and rain dancing
Telling stories and casting spells
We are shouts and big voices
To the heavens
To the streets
To the police
Hands off our boys
Hands off our girls
Hands off our women and men

Who are we
Who are we
Walking up and down the road
Screaming black lives matter
Power to the people

Who are we
We are fighting to be happy
And educated and safe
We are the brokenhearted
You see all these tears
Staining up our shirts
You see all these fists
Balled up so proud and free
You see these hands in the air
These hoodies on our heads
We know you see

Who are we
Who are we
You hear us screaming for freedom
You hear us fighting for justice
Calling out names to the heavens
You see us
Gone too soon
You see us
In jail and homeless
You see us
Powerful and brave
You hear us
You see us
I know you do
You know who we are
And you know what we want

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hallelujah (draft 2)

For every hallelujah
A fist is raised in the air
Slowly and surely
Nails bloody up palms
Veins thump
Like give me some freedom
Keep this dog off my back
Let me breathe

Hallelujah
Prayers are tied in balled fingers like
Lord, I can't hold this no more
Lord, carry this burden
These tears are tired of the struggle
Struggle of being colored
And poor
And woman
And underpaid
Struggle of not fitting in or out of the margins

Every hallelujah holds
A heartbreak underneath
Holds nerves shaking bold as earthquakes

Every hallelujah holds
The hot still breath of mamas and papas
Waiting for boys and girls
To come home
Come home
Come home
Be alive and well
Jesus be a fence around our babies

Every hallelujah holds
A praise for how we got over
How our souls look back and wonder

Hallelujahs say thank You, praise You, bless Your name
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah holds a promise to hang on a little longer
Give me strength, Lord
Give me strength, Lord
Hallelujah holds hope
Holds questions
So many questions
To a God big enough for our questions
For now questions
For later questions
Oh Lord questions

A hallelujah wonders
A hallelujah knows
A hallelujah believes
A hallelujah has lost faith
A hallelujah has found its way
A hallelujah has been through something

What does your hallelujah hold
Baby, are you weary
Are you waiting
Are you wailing
Are you praising somewhere in that hallelujah
Are you ready
Ready for conversations
Ready for results
Ready for blessings to pour down like flood
Ready for a fight
Ready for dreams to come true
For tears to stop flowing
Are you ready for the living to be easy

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah anyhow
For your hallelujah
And mine

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 146 - In praise

Praise God for blessings
new and old. Glory be to
Spirit for this day.

My students working on their poem!

Chas Jackson and I taught summer school together and the students were great! I love each one of these young people. And I loved teaching with Chas. The time went by too fast.

Life. Lessons. Still livin'. (Miss Bettye) - from Women in The Village

We never want it to end right? Isn't that the whole point of getting together in the first place? That dream, that fantasy, that white dress or whatever. Well, I didn't get mine. That's why I'm here. I told myself a different story back then, but really I moved away so that I could get a new start somewhere else, without him. That's what brought me here.

Trouble was, I just couldn't shake him. Could, couldn't. Why do we say that? Could, couldn't? When we know full well that we can do what we want. We always do. I couldn't shake him 'casue I didn't. But I just didn't shake him don't sound right.

When we're really feeling sorry for ourselves we choose our words careful enough to make ourselves the victim, don't we I guess that's one of the reasons the good spirit brought me to be in the midst of y'all. To tell y'all what it took me way to learn to learn.

I brought him every I went. Yeah, he stayed back in Louisiana and probably wasn't even thinking about me but I sure was thinking about him. Every time the phone rang I ran to it, hoping it was him. It wasn't. How could it be? I never even gave him the new number.

Every time the doorbell went off or the floor creaked, even the wind rustle through the leaves, please let it be him. Please. Every time no.

I guess you wanna know why if I wanted it to be him so much then why didn't we just stay together I bet you think it's because he dumped me huh Maybe for a new woman or maybe he went back to his wife or something like that. That's what you think? Well if I was you, I would be thinkin' the same thing.

Maybe you think that it ain't nobody else but it's something wrong with me. It don't matter what you think because it really ain't never nobody really. We want it to be though. Don't we? 'Cause moving on is always easier when it's somebody or something we can put our fingers on and say 'that right there, it's because of that.' That ain't real life though. Now, don't you look at me funny for tellin' you, but it ain't.

I thought from the day I met him that he was what they call, the one. My mama always said that I love too hard. That's what he said too. I love too hard. But I feel like when you love somebody you gotta with all of who you are. When you don't then you cheatin' them and you cheatin' you too.

Now before you go tryin' that for yourself you should know that it's some kinda big job, loving somebody real big like I useta love. 'Cause you know, maybe he won't like all that love you have to give. Men don't, you know. They don't like it all at once. They like it safe. I ain't so big on safe. Not me. See, with safe you only get safe. You ain't riskin' nothin'. You don't lose big you don't win big. What kinda love is that to have with a person? Not big not small. And they wonder why the divorce rate is so big.

As for me, each new time I set out to love bigger than I know love to be. Now, that's some real big love time after time. This time when it ended I didn't cut my hair. Women do that a lot you know. we cut our hair or start jogging or take up speaking another language or cooking or something like that. I used to tell myself it was because we need to find something to keep ourselves busy. But that's a lie. Really, we feel like there is something wrong with us as we was.

We keep thinking over and over that if we had just been doing whatever it is that we start doing when the relationship is over then it wouldn't be over. That they would still like us. They might even love us again.

No, this time I didn't cut my hair. That's what I usually do. I cut my hair and start working out a lot. Now maybe later I will and maybe later I won't. But I know I won't do nothin' till I'm clear in my head and in my heart that I'm already good enough right now.

Till then I won't do nothin' and won't blame nobody neither. Not even myself. That's what's wrong with the world. It's just too much blame. Women is all the time blaming a man for what her life look like and men do the very same thing. Oh they say they don't, but it's all the same ole pitiful song. You just gotta know what you lookin' and listenin' for.

I hear the women in the laudrymat yappin' all the time. Sometimes I say somethin' and sometimes I don't. Mostly they just sayin' how they whole life is somebody else fault. I wonder do they ever recognize that maybe they could stop lettin' somebody take control of they life and move on?

But we don't do that because we scared. I understand that. You think I ain't been scared I sure have. The women keep tellin' me that it ain't easy as just that. To just pick up and leave a situation, even when the situation ain't noways good for 'em.

I always tell 'em right back, did I say it was easy? No I did not. But it take bein' committed to a who new life and makin' that commitment bigger than you fear about it. That's what it all come down to. Don't just sit in mess and keep letting somebody mess in it. Change it.

But that's the work we don't wanna do. Yeah, we say we do, but you look around and see the world with you own two eyes don't you?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Jungle musings - from Women in The Village

Today I heard a gunshot in the alley under my window
I am not wise to the makes and sizes of guns

I am a poet
An artist
A mother

Not just me
Somebody else hadta heard it too
It is three in the afternoon
A sunny day
June

These are the things that riot my headspace
When I endeavor to write about
Grandmothers
Garvey
Drums

My poems are little now
Perhaps someone's life has ended
But not one has missed a beat

At the liquor store
Crazy Melvin is begging for change
Rolanda the crackhead is selling pussy
In unit B, Demarco is smoking weed

The couple downstairs is making love
And I am listening because it is beautiful

I imagine she lies face downward
And grips the headboard tightfisted
While he is stroking inside of her
Long
Thick

The cushion of her backside is
Christmas
Merlot
Rent paid

The fucking is good

I am never short of stories on Buckingham Road
An elegant name for a street with such drama
Even more ironic that it intersects King
Yesterday someone pissed in the hallway
The ice cream truck comes by after dark

Last October the brothas set off fireworks
For two and a half hours
Starting at one in the am

I would like to blame this on the white man

It is eleven pm and I am up writing
Because that is what I do

I am in search of the who of who I am
On this Saturday night in The Jungle
Where someone is being asked to dance
Bishop Collins is preparing his message
And Good Times don't come on local networks no more

Maybe Michael was too black too strong for TV
Thelma too gorgeous to be nappy and brown skinned
I surmise they killed off James because
White America couldn't handle a black man
Sticking with his family through bad times

I am writing

The musings and prophecies just come
Like Wednesday before last
The children were out front playing
Two boys and a girl on one side
Three boys to the other
A volleyball type game
Except there was one child in the middle

In my day
I am old enough to have a day
We called it keep away
Now, Monkey in the middle
This I believe I can blame on the white man

But life in the hood ain't always bad
Like on Fridays Hank the dealer buys
Books and balloons and toys and food
For the children who don't have very much

The grandmamas and granddaddies are addressed as
Ma'am and sir
The peace and sage sistas are queens and miss ladies
Little Andre carries the groceries for Mama Jerome
When her boy ain't around

But the splendor of moments like these and more
Are shadowed by my neighbor Claire
Getting the fuck beat out of her
By her boyfriend
I don't know his name

I am sorry that I cannot make her have a better life

Still, my mind wanders
I imagine The Jungle recalled Little Africa
Where all the business are black owned
The young sistas in training eagerly receive council
From the she elders on
Hoochie coochie
Fryin' chicken and
Bein' grown

While the he soldiers are
Braided, dashikied

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sugar's baby - from Women in The Village

I been waitin' forever and a day to tell my story. Guess you say this better be a good one huh? Well it ain't nothin', that's what it is. It's a story about my nothin'.

My Mercy sure was one pretty one, wasn't she? this is a picture I drew of her. It ain't all the way right on because I'm not a professional artist or nothin' like that, but you can still tell how pretty she was. She was only three days when she went on and left. I had her right here in this house. Right here. My sister helped me deliver her. We were in my own room on my very own bed. Buford was fightin' overseas and couldn't be here. But he was here. In his own quiet way. All my brothers and sisters came and waited in the living room for the baby to come. All of them, and me of course, and Mama. Daddy wasn't here because it was Sunday and he had to preach night service. It wasn't nothin' that was ever gon keep him from night service. He didn't even miss it the Sunday after he passed. He said the Lord told him He was gon take him away and to get the service together. So he wrote it down on a piece of paper and had my oldest living brother, Theodore read it to the crowd while his body was layin' right there.

I laid down on the bed after my water broke and Happy came in and took over. I just did everything she said. She said push and I pushed. She said breathe and that's what I did too. I guess it took about ten hours. But after it was over I didn't even remember the time. What time? I just held her in my arms. Rockin' back and forth singin' to her. I knew she was gon be a girl because Happy been dreamin' 'bout me havin' a girl. Happy even knew what she was gon look like and what she come here to do. New babies always come to see Happy. They always do. Happy even told me what to name her. Mercy. I pretty much do whatever Happy tell me and it so happen I like that name too. Mercy.

After Mercy came through, everybody came into the room with us and took turns holdin' her and kissin' all over her. Everybody except Rufus. Rufus didn't touch babies. Every since his own boy, Booty passed on in his arms. He stayed away from babies. It wasn't his fault or nothin' like that. The angels got ready for Booty to come home that's all. He came in the room though. Sat over in the corner wantin' to smile. Rufus never did smile much either. He wanted to though and that's what count. So, there was Marvin, JuniorBoy, Theodore, Rufus, Happy BabyGirl, Sister, Ruth, Amos, Paul, Simon, Ezra, Joseph and David, Esther, Nehemiah and Leviticus had passed on my then. I was the baby.

That was the happiest day of my whole life. Holdin' Mercy in my arms all night. I didn't even want to go to sleep. Happy told me to sleep when the baby was sleep so I could be well rested for her feedin'. I loved feedin' my baby. Seem like she knew better than I did. Mercy would wrap her little bitty lips around my nipple and go at it. All the way till she was full. Seem like she would drink all the milk from one breast and move herself over to the next.

Happy told me to go out Tuesday even to get some fresh air. I didn't want to fresh air. I just wanted to stay inside and kiss over Mercy. I did what she told me to do though. I went inth eback yard and sat on the tire swing Amos built. That was my dream place. I could stay out there all day and never know what time it was. I would swing on that swing and dream up some good ole dreams. That day I dreamed that Buford could be here with us and see Mercy. He wasnt' gon be able to come until the end of the week. Seem like that was takin' forever. I stopped daydreamin' long enough to hear Mama and Daddy in my room singin'. The didn't never sing together. The were barely in the same room together. Daddy was always in the back room workin' on his sermon for the next Sunday. That's what babies do though. The bring folks together. I was tired of swingin' and dreamin'. I wanted to feed my baby.

I went in the house and Daddy walked out as I was comin' in. He didn't say nothin'. But then he barely did say somethin'. I picked up mercy and there she was, just as beautiful as ever. It wasn't no baby born in this world as beautiful as mine. Mama heard me say that one time and she told me don't never say that again 'cause it was a disrespect to Baby Jesus. I guess so.

Happy told me to gon and lay down and take a nap. I told her I didn't feel like takin' no nap. I wanted to hold Mercy. Even if Mercy was sleepin' I just wanted to hold her and look at her while she slept. I could tell that Happy didn't want me to hold my own baby but she really couldn't say nothin'. She was my baby, not hers. She and Mama left the room no sayin' nothin' and I did what I wanted to do. I kinda started thinkin' that Happy was a little bit jealous of me for havin' my very own baby 'cause now she was the only one of us that didn't never have one yet.

I held Mercy for a real long time and she never did cry or fidget or nothin'. She just laid there. After a while Rufus walk in and took Mercy right out of my arms. Didn't say nothin'. Just took her and held her. I didn't say nothin' 'cause it ain't like Rufus to even hold a baby. I started to think about all the miracles Mercy was bringin' to the family already. Mama and Daddy singin' together. Bein' in the same room. Rufus pickin' up and holdin' a baby. He put his lips to her cheeks and started to cry. I did too. I guess he was rememberin' Booty.

It looked like Happy was right after all about me layin' down 'cause I shol did get real sleepy after that. I went on and took that nap. Guess I was even more tired than I thought because it was early the next morning when I woke up. I didn't see Mercy so I went to see who was huggin' and kissin' all over her. Seemed like I couldn't find nobody. Then I heard that ole piano playin' in the living room. I couldn't race in there fast enough! Didn't nobody play that piano and make it sound like that except for Buford! I stood there watchin' and listenin' to him. There he really was. So handsome. he looked at me and told me to come over and sit on the bench with him while he play.

"Where everybody at?" I don't know why I asked him like he should know.

"They out back gettin' ready. You gotto go get ready too."

"Get ready for what? I ain't goin' nowhere. Come on, baby. I got to show you yo very ver own baby girl. She the most beautiful baby ever been born in the world except for Baby Jesus. Where she at?" Then I went in Mama and Daddy's room and there she was. Sleepin' like an angel. Somebody had got her all dressed up for me. She had on all white with a little bonnet. I picked her up like I always do. She felt...heavy. The kinda heavy that just a few days cain't do to nobody. But what did I really know about babies? I kissed her and her skin felt like a doll skin. "She so soft, Buford. Ain't she just so pretty?"

Buford looked at her but he didn't want to hold her. Then Rufus came in and took her from and again. "Mercy gon on, Sugar. Get dressed and come on out back with us."

"Gon on? What you talkin' gon on?" I knew. But I didn't wanna know. Then I heard Mama and Daddy and all my livin' brothers and sisters at the far end of the yard singin' and I knew I couldn't not know no more. Mercy had her white dress on so I put my white dress on too. Buford had on his uniform and we walked out together. My Mercy didn't have no shoes on so I didn't put none on either.

They were there finishing up the song. Daddy was holdin' her over the hole about to pray. I didn't wanna pray. I didn't close my eyes or nothin' neither. I just looked at my Mercy one more time.

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 145 - Melt away

Fires burning in
my life today. I pray this
rain will put them out.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 144 - for Sandra Bland

1. Your life mattered
Your black body matters
Your words matter
Your mission will live

2. They might remind you that I was vocal about being bipolar and having issues with depression
I have never tried to kill myself
They will tell you that I was in a psych ward but
They will not mention that my depression was not because I wanted die
Just live
Differently

3. It is a shame that black men and women are writing "If I die in custody letters" to the world
This is what we have been reduced to

4. I did not kill myself

5. What do they know about black lives anyway?
What do they know about waiting for sons and daughters to come home anyway?
What do they know about a knee pressed between shoulder blades anyway?

6. I did not kill myself

7. This is the day when they don't bother to make excuses
This is the day of rebel flags waving
This is the day a white man walks into a church and kills nine, lives and gets fed Burger King
And a black woman gets killed in her cell after a traffic stop

8. It wasn't suicide
We didn't believe it with Ron Settles in Signal Hill, California in 1981
We don't believe it with Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas in 2015

9. They will criminalize my black body
And yours too
They will call out your depression and run ins with the law
As if that justifies your breathless body
They will kill us with our hands cuffed behind our backs
And say our wounds were self inflicted

10. Many will believe them
This is that day
This is that now
Stay woke
Be aware
Our lives matter
Our deaths matter
Our stories matter
Blogging is like therapy in that I release words and thoughts that will bottle and explode if I don't let them out. This is where I let them out. Some of them. Sometimes I am more transparent than others but the point is that words are coming out at all. That worries are being released. That poems are pouring. That I am praying. At all. And I am. These are the words for today. Just words and thoughts that need to come out before I explode, implode, cry myself to sickness. There is joy in my life to be remembered and given thanks for. I remember those blessings when I write and pray. Blessings of my health, my son and his health, waking up this day, food and shelter. There are more blessings. More things to be thankful for. See, I have to write or I will focus on what I think I don't have. I have it, it's in the atmosphere somewhere finding its way to me. Still I worry sometimes. I let it get in the way of work, of art, of my life. My wonderful life that is designed to be lived and not taken up by stress and worry. So in this moment I give praise instead. Maybe you don't understand any of this. Maybe you aren't supposed to. Perhaps you get every word.

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 143 - Perfect

God is working on
my behalf. God's timing is
right. My worry fails.

Tale of a black woman going through the change of life - from Women in The Village

There are things a woman thinks about
When she is dying
Don't ask me how I know
She think about water mostly
How it tickle your face
As it rise above your neck

She think about music
Long slow deep southern gospel
Aretha
Religion

She remember the sweet Jesus
Her grandmother knew
Whether she can hold a tune or no
She sing from bottom belly

She find her tribe with those sounds
Groaning moaning feel good don't feel good
Make you better healing sounds
Long and drawn out

A dying woman think about
The times she stood still
She remember the moss and vines
Growing between her toes
In that moment she is moved to move
She is compelled to love and break free
Of her chains she tied around her own neck
She know better now

She know now that safe ain't so safe
Roses ain't always so sweet like she thought

A young woman being still and safe
Might start to think a chokehold is a soft caress
And it ain't

A shackle is a shackle
And a kiss is a kiss
But what do young safe living women know

This dying I'm doing is good for me
Letting be dead my yesterday
And walking big footed into tomorrow

I don't know what's out there for me
I just trust God to know the world She created
I believe the clouds can hold me like they promise

There are things a woman thinks about
When she know tomorrow is coming

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Village (Sunny Waters) - from Women in The Village

Trees
Plenty of trees
All of them speaking to me
Not just me
To you too if you listen

Brothas and sistas selling incense and bean pies
African fabrics and flowing skirts
Toe rings and books for a dollar
Worth millions

Malcom X and Eldridge Cleaver
James Baldwin and Alice Walker

Music
Always Billie and Donny
Chaka and Anita

Always music in The Village
Women dance for men playing drums
Always drums and jazz

Boys and girls fight and make up
Kiss and tell
On bathroom walls and
Smoking weed
Drinking wine
Old women
Young women
Flowers and tea

Music and
Chattering of teeth
Talking
Saying something
Thank You Mother/Father God for waking me up this morning
For waking up my son and the blessing of sharing a meal
Thank You for love and a new day with new opportunities
For growth and witnessing Your miracles
Thank You for peace and understanding
Thank You for patience with what I don't understand
Thank You for good health and strength and safety
Thank You for freedom and joy
For a good home and peace
For functioning limbs and work
For love
Thank You for love

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The story of being (Ms. Emma) - from Women in The Village

When I am old
I will sit on my porch with young women at my feet
We will explore and declare new possibilities of loving
Of living

We will tear down and break through chains
Of how great great grandmamas said it was supposed to be

We will not remember granddaddy's dos and do nots of womanhood
We will not give our vaginas away in the night
Because that's what he wants to hear

We will touch, feel and embrace every part of our being
Every part of our remembering

We will breathe
Slowly
Exhale
Freely
We will not know right and wrong
We will only know love

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sweet home (Ms. Arlene) - from Women in The Village

God holds the heats of women
In a special place
I feel
The benevolent eye that watches the sparrow
Watches us
I know
Still the conversations of victim, defeat and not enough show up
Harmoniously, in whispers, often
Today

We understand
As if understanding were cure
Through long work shifts, sore feet and bills due
Through birthdays and school plays
We are hopeful inside closets where we cry
On lawn chairs where we laugh
About the nothing
About everything

We know we are enough
But always it seems we are in school
Everyday the lessons to be learned
Still we are big girls longing jump rope and recess
Tether ball and gossip

We are strong
We are mothers and grandmothers
We are words and rainbows
Rivers and results

I stand in front of my mirror
Full breast
Hips that carried my son
A belly that rested his head
Still the not enough shows up

Sometimes I listen
Sometimes I don't

Monday, July 13, 2015

Morning clear 2 - from Women in The Village

I told Jermaine not to go to that party in The Jungle. The brothas in The Jungle and the brothas in The Village have been feudin' over two years now. About what? About nothin'. They don't have nothin' else to do I guess. It's all so silly to me. The clothes, the guns, the colors. Jermaine said nothin' was gon happen but the way I had been scratchin' on my elbows three days in a row, I knew what I was talkin' about. Jermaine always told me to stop with all that nonsense. But I know what I know. Had it been just two days itchin' or went well into four or some other even number, then maybe not, but three? I know what I know.

Here everything is goin' on so good and Jermaine is goin' off to play football in college and then some professional team and make us a whole lotta money...then this. He was drivin' home from the party and Cedric and Bishop and MarcusRufus were all in the car with him. A car pulled up beside them and shot at Jermaine's car then somebody from Jermaine's car shot back. They say it was Jermaine but it wasn't Jermaine at all. Jermaine doesn't even have a gun and he wouldn't do anything like that if he did. Ask me, it was MarcusRufus but he's too scared to say anything and so are the other ones that were in the car. The boy in the other car died right there even before he amalamce got to him.

So now Maine's in jail. After all the good he's been doin' all these years. You can't find one person that will say one bad thing about Jermaine and now they're talkin' about not letting him out of that jail. He didn't do it though. He didn't. The tops of my toes started itchin' just three and a half hours after I went down to see him in that place. I looked at him right between his eyes. That's where you hafta look when you wanna know if the real whole truth is comin' out or not. I looked at him and that little spot didn't twitch or nothin'. I didn't blink. I just looked. It didn't! Not one single time! Even if I was blind I would have known he wasn't lyin to me because I just know Jermaine. But now this. His trial is due two weeks from now so we just gotta wait. Wait and see how long my toes gon itch.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

More family business - from Women in The Village

Well sure I think it's a cryin' shame what happened. What child of God that's been through the fire and baptized in holy water don't think that. But 'cause I think it's a shame don't mean that justice ain't been served. Of course true indeed justice ain't never gon be served. Not really. How could it ever be? He was my baby. He was a grown man but they don't never stop bein' yo babies do they? Can't no smelly gas never pay for that.

I just have one son left and I don't even know if I have him left. He always have thought he was too good for us. Now after everything, he don't have nothin' to do with me. Not nothin'. Maybe he blame me. Grown kids do that you know. When some things in they life don't go right they quick to blame guess who? The mama. The very one who did everything she could to make sure they have a good life to grow up and enjoy.

Ryan didn't have nothin' to do with what happened to Tweet. Sure, it was a horrible, horrible, awful thing, but it wasn't by my baby's hands. He knew that no one would believe him so he left. What else was he gon do? Stay here and go to jail for a awful crime that he didn't commit? he got better sense than that. It just ain't nothin' left to say about it. Not now. Maybe not never.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dear Jaha

Pray
Give thanks
Work
Water
Rest
Then take the next small step
Repeat

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 142 - Running

We are running on fumes
Looks like faith
Looks like fire
Looks like feet
Looks like funerals
Double Dutching
Tap tap
Tap tap
Taptap taptap

We are living on fumes
We need water
And rest
And healthy babies
And food

We thank You, Lord
We clap hand and sing Your name
Look at this air
This new breath
These hands these legs marching so much
These fists to fight with and pray

We so full of thank You
We so full of questions
Like when, Lord
Like how long, Lord
Like the rent
Like lights
Like when time to laugh and play
Laugh and play
Like when time to love, Lord
Love on each other
Love on ourselves
Love up on You and all You created

We running, Lord
We spend so much time running, Lord
Running and spinning
Washing and working and waving hands
And drying tears and reaching out to give and get a helping hand

We listenin', Lord
We listenin'
We tryin', Lord
We tryin'

Hear these songs of freedom we sing
About faith and joy
See us trying to hold onto hope
Smell the incense we burn
Smell the clothes we wash
See the hands we clap so fast and free
See Your people out here in these streets

We so Sunday
We so hallelujah
We so dying in these streets too, Lord
We know You see
We got so many questions
Confused almost all the time
Can't hardly pray our way through

We standing in lines, Lord
Payday loans and pawn shops and food lines
And we tithing too
With these shiny pennies we got

Show us the way, Lord
We dancing on a dime, Lord
Jump roping to the beat
Have mercy, Lord
Give us rest for these feet

Morning clear - from Women in The Village

When I was four my mother died. Everything happened so fast. Seemed like she was fine one day and the very next day she was dead. I still don't know what happened. Every time I would ask, Papa would just tell me that dead is dead. Two weeks after she passed I was sitting in the front row of her funeral.

So many people kissing and hugging and crying over me, telling me that I didn't understand but one day I would and that they would keep me and Papa in their prayers. I didn't wanna be in their prayers. I just wanted to understand what was going on. All I knew for sure was that all of a sudden I had a new home. In the house with Papa. Just me and Papa without Mama.

But my own house was fine. I didn't have to be old enough to know that it wasn't fancy. But it was fine. If it was mine to choose, ten I wanted that back. but I guess I didn't get to pick after all.

Papa had one of the oldest houses in The Village. It was big and a little bit scary, especially way up in the attic. mama would go up there when we would visit Papa and Grandma Jean. Sometimes I would hear her crying. She said that it was because she really missed her mother, my grandmother. JeanMargie Gibson. I don't remember her because she died before I was even walking.

The Sunday after my mother's funeral was Easter Sunday. I had head the story before but that day it didn't make no sense to me. On the way home Papa asked me how I enjoyed being in my class. I asked him "If God raised Jesus from the dead then how come He didn't raise my mama?"

He didn't answer me. We just listened to the radio and I looked out the window all the way home. When we pulled up in the driveway he turned the car off and looked at me.

"Your grandmother up in heaven needed your mama to take care of her and I need you to take care of me down here."

Whatever.

All I knew was that God was playin' favorites on who got to come back hand who had to leave allof a sudden, even though she promised to put long braids in my hair on my birthday coming up. Jesus didn't even have any kids. At four years old I had the perfect plan and didn't understand why God couldn't see it. Jesus could take care of Grandma Jean up in heaven and my mother could come and take care of me.

Maybe Papa could get married or get a doctor if he needed someone to take care of him so bad. It seemed like to me that made sense all the way around. But I guess not.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Friends - from Women in The Village

Me and him never was really all that close
Guess because I never was really all that cute
But Talanda
She was more
Been friends sixty years now and I won't try to
Explain her kinda special
But that what I called her
More

Because she was more than the better
What thought they was something 'round there
Only thang
She thought bein' more meant
She had to put up with bottom

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

Yeah I did everything I could to stop that wedding
Because I just knew
Hell, a monkey knew

Yeah I was one play hatin', cock blockin' jealous at the same time
Protectin' best friend

I know what you thankin'

Here another story about anotha brotha
Done done another sista wrong
Not this time
Not from me

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

I told her time over time
Talanda, a woman's got to love herself
Enough to love herself all by herself
If she got to

You gotta go
Because yous a dead woman in this house
Every time I tell her she just look at me cross
And tell me shame on me for not showin' family respect

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

Woman is thicker than blood

Always has been

Besides, Talanda was my friend
My very good friend

Now I need you to excuse me
But I had to tell you that
Before I could begin this story right

I saw her blood all over me before he even shot her

For years she put up with senseless beatins and name callins
Some stabbins and gamblins
And cheatin' was a given because it was the time we lived in
Time we livin' in now
So quite right he was a liar too
I'll never know why he bothered with that
The truth was right there in his drawers
And she was them out every night for forty and nine years
But habit is habit I guess

I was sittin' right there where you are
He was over there about ten feet from us
And Talanda was standin' above me to my left

Course the room was facin' a different way

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

Talanda was a tall woman about 5'9"
Thin too about 125
Cute little shape though
Lil ole waist and okay breasts and hips for a woman our age
Course she never did have no kids she was allowed to keep

The dress was red
Not really blood red

But I bet it used to be when it was new
In good shape though
It had small blue and yellow flowers or somethin' all over it
A long dress with red buttons goin' all the way down
'Cept the one at the waist didn't match

Not by design though
Like somebody did best they could to replace it
'Fore they passed it on

It had short sleeves
A swoop neck collar
An elastic band on the back
And it was rayon

Yes indeed, she was somebody new in that dress
Somebody I didn't even know
And I knowed her a log time

She bought the dress from a second hand store
And I like to believe that the woman who owned it first
Was some kinda kin to her
Sendin' her some kinda message through the dress

Me, I was just sittin' there drinkin' wine
I keeps me a short dog in my purse you know

Then he come in pushin' right past us like he high offa somethin'
Walk straight to the room mumblin' somethin' loud don't nobody know

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

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

I shol wish she had left him like I told her to
Like I knew she wanted to
Just scared is all
Once I even offered her five thousand dollars of my own funeral money
Because I will have me a very nice funeral
With a fine cherry wood casket
And plenty of expensive wine to go around you know

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

He come home marchin' in the room with all his man on
And goes over and slaps Talanda in the face
Real hard too

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

For a while I thought I had done something honorable like
But ain't not honor in riskin' you own life
For a woman lookin' to get on the death train anyway
Leastways ain't lookin' to stop it from comin'
And I gots kids!
Um ummmmm!

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

I keeps my word like I keeps my money

I kept right on laughin' too

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

Come to think of it
I kinda got mad at her for lookin' at me that way
I started to get up and get in both they faces but I didn't

I sat right down there and didn't say a word

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

Laugh again and I'll kill yo friend

And dancing with it too
Like it's some kind of jump rope song
I just didn't know which to do

Until I looked at Talanda in that dress

I thought about the woman who was her great grandmother
Who maybe usta own the dress
Holding her real strong and proud
And I thought
One day he is gonna die

And it shol will be nice if he meets her in that other world
While she is wearing that dress
So she could whip his natural ass good

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

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

Like I have already told you
Talanda was my good friend

So I laughed and laughed
Laughed right through the gunshot
Laughed while she fell slow in my lap
I didn't stop laughin'
I laughed when he dropped the gun
I laughed when he walked out the house

I carried her bloody body to my car
Drove her to my house
And buried her in my own backyard

And every year on September the 23rd
I sits on his porch with a candle all lits up

And every year when his new wife asks what I'm doin'
I looks up at the sky and says sadly and happy at the same time

I'm laughin'

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 141 - Hallelujah

For every hallelujah
A fist is raised in the air
Like give me some freedom
Keep this dog off my back
Let me breathe

Hallelujah
Prayers are tied in the balled up fingers like
Lord, I can't hold this no more
Lord, carry this burden
There are tears tired of the struggle
Struggle of being colored
And poor
And woman
And underpaid
And profiled
Struggle of not fitting in or out of the margins

Every hallelujah holds
The hot still breath of mamas and papas
Waiting for boys and girls
To come home
Come home
Come home
Be alive and well
Jesus be a fence around our babies

Every hallelujah holds
A praise for how we got over
How our souls look back and wonder

Hallelujahs say thank You, praise You, bless Your name
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah holds a promise to hang on a little longer
Hallelujah holds hope
Holds questions
So many questions
To a God big enough for our questions
For now questions
For later questions
Oh Lord questions

A hallelujah wonders
A hallelujah knows
A hallelujah has been through something
What does your hallelujah hold
Are you weary
Are you waiting
Are you wailing
Are you praising
Are you ready
Ready for conversations
Ready for results
Ready for blessings to rain
Ready for a fight
Ready for dreams to come true
For tears to stop flowing
For the living to be easy

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah anyhow
For your hallelujah
And mine
"When a woman writes you a poem, she spends time with the gods on your behalf." Aja Monet

When a woman whispers a prayer for you
When she folds the thought of you
Into her clasped knuckles
When a woman closes her eyes
And sets your face next to her list
Of loves and blessings and questions
Know that this is the best poem
She will create

Family matters - from Women in The Village

Rico ask me how I feel. I tell him I don't feel nothin' so much to talk about and why he wanna know anyway? What do it matter? It don't that's what. The way I figure a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do and feeling good about it don't really play a part in it.

Rico too much a square to even understand. He stay over there in The Jungle on the other side of The Village. He see me comin' in and out of Country's place and he know I ain't got no money so he know how I get my stuff. What I care if he know? I don't that's what. What me and Rico had was a whole life ago. He went one way and I went the other. That's how life is sometimes. You can't change it, you just go on with it that's all. I guess I gotta say I care a little bit how Rico feel. Not so much about him, but I think about how life coulda been if I went on and did stuff different.

On any normal day I don't think about coulda and yesterday and things like that 'cause it only bring me down. What I need yesterday to bring me down for? I got enough today to do that. No. I don't like to go down yesterday road 'cause when I start I just can't stop less I get high and I told myself that I would not on that day.

A part of me wish I woulda listen to myself and a pat of me know I did what's right. It was Tweet's birthday. We all called her Tweet 'cause she looked like Tweety Bird with them big ole eyes and she had kinda cartoon yellow skin. Real pretty though. Ryan kinda had cartoon skin too He didn't have big ole eyes though. No. He had them beady eyes. And it's true what they say about folks with them kinda eyes. Don't you never trust 'em. Do, you end up in a world a mess and heartache.

I say I wasn't gon get high but I went on ahead and did anyway. Tomorrow I ain't though. I tell myself that alla time. Tomorrow I ain't gon get high no more. But that day anybody would understand. Guess sittin' up in that house with Mama got me to knowin' I better get high or do somethin' cause I would just go crazy listenin' to her and Melvin fussin' and fightin' every five minutes. I never did see how she do it. Listenin' to him all the time on her case and mines too.
I tried not to pay it too much a never mind but I know it get to her. Why he fuss so much I don't know 'cause she wasn't never usin' till she hook up with him. Now that he clean he got everything to say about it.

Me and Mama usta say we was gon get our own place one day. Gon be two bedrooms. One for me and one for her. We gon play Stevie alla time and 2Pac, and Mama gotta have her blues and both us ain't gon get high no more. We just gon be happy and watch The Color Purple over and over.

We stayed there with Melvin and he was stingy as all get out. Didn't give up no money. Not even money to eat with. Me and Mama know how to hustle though. Neither one of us wasn't never dependin' on no man to take all the care of us. Mama was sick though. She say she wasn't but she was. I didn't never wanna think about what it could be and she didn't either I guess so we didn't talk about it. I knew what she needed and I knew she couldn't go get it herself. What was I supposed to do? Just let her be sick and not feel some kinda good If I did that I ain't no better than Melvin.

I went over to Country's and who gotta be there but Ryan. What he doin' 'round there I never did know. He left ten years ago after everything went down. What he come back here for? When somebody skip town after doin' something' they say they ain't do and don't never get picked up for, they oughta just stay gon and leave folks to they sadness and misery. He probably didn't even remember that that was Tweet birthday. I wonder did Rico know he was there? I bet he didn't.

He come smilin' at me talkin' 'bout "Hey stranger, how you doin'?" He had no business speaking to me like me and him was friends. Like me and him ain't had no history I ain't had good cause to kill him over. I didn't say nothin' to him. I just look at Country and told him he knw what I need. I told him Mama was sick. Real sick.

Mama almost was like Country mama too. Not so much at that time, but when we was kids comin' up, you couldn't keep Country outa Mama kitchen. He act like he don't remember good times through. 'Specially when it come to me. Guess he don't like goin' down yesterday road either.

I shoulda never mentioned Mama to Country. He got all hard faced when I did. He told me to come on in. He never told me to come on in before. Any business we had we always took care of in the back. I guess he felt sorry for Mama after all. Felt sorry for me too I guess.

Country know I wouldn't be like this if it wasn't for him startin' me off on this stuff. Tellin' me it a help ease my pain. Much pain as I was in, course I'mma try anything. Maybe me and Rico coulda went on and kept up a survivin' kinda life. Maybe we couldn't be happy after all that . But we coulda survived. Together. I don't know.

Country said he didn't have what I wanted but maybe Ryad did. I just knew he ain't meanin' what I thought he was meanin'. I looked at him in his eyes for one whole minute and I knew that he did too mean it.

Ryan was the only one who always did have a way over Country. I never did know what that was all about. Everybody 'round there was scared of Country but nobody was scared of Ryan. But Country was scared of Ryan. I don't know, maybe Ryan had somethin' on him worth somethin'. I just don't know.

"Why? Why it's like this, Country? What you let him in hour house for anyway? Country, you must be crazy sendin' me to him." He didn't even look at me. He just sat there playin' his video game real loud.

Ryan lookin' at me though. Lookin' and laughin'. I wasn't nothin' but a shakin' mess with all that goin' on. My mind just kept runnin' old yesterday pictures. Same pictures I kept gettin' high for so I don't see 'em. They just kept comin'. Good times, bad times, all the times. Back when me and Rico and Tweet was all together.

Maybe we didn't have a whole lot but we was happy. I was workin' at the bank and Rico was teachin' chemistry at the college. Tweet was in school down the street and doin' real good. The pictures just kept comin' in my mind so much I didn't even remember walkin' back to the room with Ryan. I musta fainted and somebody carried me back there 'cause I just wouldn'ta walked back there with my own two feet. Needin' to get high real bad or not. Mama sick or not I just can't see me doin' it.

I was sittin' at the edge of the bed and Ryan standin' over me tellin' me to hurry up. I looked up at him like hurry up and what? Then the pictures came again. Seem like real fast and all at once. I needed to get high real bad then. Badder than I ever did. Then somethin' just took over me I guess and start talkin' to me.

"You don't want me to do this, Ryan, you don't." He lookin' down and tellin' me I'm holdin' onto somethin' that's a lie. That I oughta just let bygones be bygone. I told him don't go down that road 'cause I just can't go there with him.

Ain't no reasonin' with somebody like that though. Somebody that a do that to they own niece and then take off leavin' me to find her like that. Even if he too sick a sould not to care about my feelings, you would at least think he a care about Rico. His won brother gotta wake up andknow his baby is dead by his very own brother.

Rico never did get high though. That's the road I took. Sometimes I think I got it better than Rico. I know that don't sound right when you look at me and then you look at him. But Rico everyday gotta
live with knowin' and feelin' that kinda pain. It don't just go away.

I don't gotta feel it no more. Not no more. All them in here keep tellin' me how sorry they are about what's gon happen. Not me. I'm not sorry. Ryan Killed Tweet with his very own hands and that's how I killed him. With these hands.

I been sittin' here in this cell for six whole months and tomorrow the state will get they justice and I hope they happy. I'm shol satisfied. I will finally be with Mama and my Tweet.
  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 140 - Hair

Black and white
Easy as cotton
Short
Ready to be cut
Shorter

Atlanta McBride - from Women in The Village

Call me what you wanna call me but all I knew was I wasn't gon look my baby girl in the face and not know where we was gon stay the night. Not me. Not never. I had friends who made a game of twenty-four diners, laundry mats and spending the daytime at parks and beaches. No way. No how. What's a kiss anyway? What's a hug when you really break it down? A place to stay that's what. And so we moved in. Me and Tanisha.

She had her very own room and was warm and safe and happy and both of us ate every night. And what's the use of stories like these and why do folks care anyway and mine ain't nothin' special. All people wanna do is make some kinda case where ain't no case really to be made. It happens every day, why look at me But if you wanna know I'll tell you. What I care if you know or if you don't? So ok, here it go.

Me and Tanisha was livin' over by the Park and things was goin' ok. Ok like not too bad not too exciting, nothin' to complain about or nothin' like that you know. I was rentin' a room from Janie for four hundred dollars a month and I could afford that well enough on my hustle. I sold stuff. Whatever stuff. Clothes, purses, art, some earrings I usta make. I should go back to makin' earrings. I was real good at it. They useta call me the earring lady you know. I didn't make that up. Somebody else did. I woulda come up with somethin' way more clever than that, but somebody called me that and it stuck.

Anyway, Tanisha was only three years old. And it's true what they say. Time sure does fly by real fast. You gotta cherish those moments when they real little like that 'cause you don't get 'em back you know.

I met him at a coffee shop not far from the apartment and he bought me some peppermint tea and I sad on down and drank it real slow. Tanisha was with her daddy that night. Or my mama. I don't remember which one that night but I was walkin' around by myself tryina figure things out 'cause I knew I couldn't just keep goin' on sellin' earrings and stuff no matter how good I was at it. I had bigger plans than that. Bigger plans than to be rentin' a room from Janie and everything like that. Mr. Walker bought me some tea and some more tea. The next week he did too. After a few weeks it got to be that's what we did on Friday nights. Meet at the coffee shop and drink tea. I take Tanisha down to my mama's and she always happy to see her when the week end and I gon over to the coffee shop. To drink tea.

I found out the hard way that Janie had been sellin' dope out of the apartment and I just couldn't have my baby around that kinda mess. If her daddy found out, he would try to take her from me for sure and never let me see her again and I just couldn't have that. I came home from tea one night and Janie was sittin' on the couch lookin' like she had been cryin'. I'm thinkin' it was one of her boyfriends dumped her again and wondered why she wasn't use to it it happen so much. But she tell me that BigBaby come by and wanted more than what she could pay for and call herself just gon take it. Well, she did take it. BigBaby a pretty big girl and it didn't take much to push her way into the apartment. She took all the stuff, my purses I was sellin', Janie's grandmama's silver chains and my money I was savin' up to get me and Tanisha our own place, plus the rent for next month. Seventeen hundred dollars of my cash money.

Mama didn't really have no room and plus I didn't want her to know all of what was goin' on. I didn't really want her to think she was gon have to help me out all the time. My whole life helping me, helping me, helping me like I ain't got no kinda way to help myself. No. Anyway, Mr. Walker said we could just move in with him 'till I get on my own two feet and so that's what we did.

We moved out to Carson with Mr. Walker. He was renting a two bedroom house that he told me he owned. I didn't find out that he was renting until one day I got home before he did and found a three day pay or quit notice taped to the door. But I guess that's another story. Anyway, we lived walking distance from the mall and the bus lines. That worked for me because my Ford Escort was dying a slow death fast. He was a sweet enough guy I guess. was real good to Tanisha. He had six grown daughters of his own who was all back east so I guess that's why he knew how to treat Tanisha so good. As for me, he treated me all right too. I guess. Things don't never come without a price though. Especially things like gettin' a place for you and your three about to turn four year old daughter to stay for free. Things like that don't never come cheap at all.

I knew that I had to hustle harder than I had ever before because no way was I gonna be some old man's prisoner. Nice guy or not. Free rent or not. I knew I needed my very own money and sooner that later, my very own place to stay. My very own place with Tanisha. Just like I thought, things sure did pick up with my sales. I would go out to a little thrift store in Corona on the weekends and buy fancy purses for only a dollar or two, sometimes three or four, and I would sell them for twenty, maybe even thirty. I thought Mr. walker would be proud of me makin' my own money. Thought he'd be glad to know that I wasn't just tryina take advantage of him and everything like that. Seem like he got madder and madder the more money I made. He didn't like it at all when he found out I was makin' more in two weeks than he did on his social security check for a whole two months. The more I made, the more I had to pay. Mr. Walker never would take no money rent though. That's ok. I said to myself all the time. That's ok. Just two more months maybe three and I would have enough for a place of my own with Tanisha. Just me and her.

After my car broke all the way down I knew I had to come up with a hustly on top of my hustle. I couldn't keep going down to Corona no more 'cause Mr. Walker wouldn't let me use his car to get down there unless he went too and that was out of the question. It seemed like everything I did he wanted to do too. which would worked fine if we made any kinda team. But he was always competing with me. Tellin' me I didn't know what I was doin', down talkin' me in front of my customers, tellin' me I should just give him my bags and he would sell them for me 'cause he knew he could get a better deal and he would give my twenty percent. No thank you. I would borrow my cousin's car once a month and get down there and sell them on my own, that's what.

Paying rent. Paying rent. Paying rent. Every night after I put Tanisha to bed. Paying rent. Free rent. I was tired. Real tired of free rent. On top of free rent he started talkin' down to me all the time. even when nobody was around. Out of the blue. It would seem like things was goin' ok then he would just come in the room and tell me that wasn't nobody gon ever love me like him or treat me like him. That I should be glad that somebody would put up with a dark, fat girl like me with nappy hair and had a baby with nappy hair too. I never said anything. Just looked at him and felt sorry for him. I wasn't no fat girl. Thick. In all the right places thick. But wasn't no fat girl in no kinda way. there was plenty of men lookin' at me who wanted me real bad. I wasn't lookin' for no man though in the situation I was in. No way. No how. When I got me a man again it was gon be when I was in my own place with Tanisha. When I had my own car. when I had my own money. I felt real sorry for him 'cause I could see through all them insults and everything like that. He was old and couldn't hide from me no more. I wasn't some young girl he had been buyin' tea for on Friday nights no more. I was in his house and I knew that he wasn't some rich retired play writer. He was an old man living on the little bit that social security paid. He had some government gob a long time ago and had retired. He didn't have an Italian mother or a South African father. He had a fair skinned mother with two black parents and a black American father born and raised in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile. Alabama.

He knew that I was on my way out and did everything he thought of to keep me there. Except he never seemed to think of just being good to me. I asked him one morning after free rent if I could just money rent the extra bedroom and he could just do what he wanted to do. Even have some other young girl in there payin' free rent. way I looked at it it was a win for everybody. Me and Tanisha would still have a place for a while longer and I could be payin' money rent and he would have some more in his pocket to pretend with while he took his free rent girl out for tea. But what do I know?

It turns out a girl's got a limit to free rent and when she reach the limit it just ain't no more free rent to give and whether she got a place yet or not or got some money or not just don't matter one single bit. When I pulled up in my cousin's car, he thought I was on my way out to Corona. Nope. Wasn't on my way to get no purses. Not that day. I thanked him for everything but I had to leave right then and there and I just came to get me and Tanisha's stuff. He didn't like that one bit and told me that I wasn't nothin' but a dark, fat, nappy headed girl who wasn't gon never be nothin' but somebody sellin' purses on the street teachin' her aby girl to be nothin' but the very same thing. He didn't mean for me to like that but I sure did too like the sound of that.

I didn't know where I was goin' but I was leavin' there. I tell you. When free rent run out then free rent run out and no man no woman knoweth the day not the hour. I had the car for the weekend 'cause my cousin was out in Vegas with her friends I loaded the car with Tanisha's clothes, my clothes, purses, art stuff, books, a chair or two and some more books. I put a big blanket over everything and went to Mama's house. She was used to seein' Tanisha on Fridays so I knew I wouldn't have no explaining to do that day. But still, what was I gon do? I didn't know. I stayed the night at Mama's that night and turned the TV off and prayed and prayed in the house all by myself. Tanisha and Mama had gone to the dinner and to the movies. I didn't go. I needed to pray. I never did tell Mama none of what was goin' on. I had just made up in my mind to work it out without doing that.

The next morning I woke up and called Vanessa first thing. It musta been God answered my prayer 'cause I was shol prayin' for a miracle and that's what I got. Vanessa and I hadn't spoken in over seven months. I exhaled hard when she answered on the third ring. I told her my free rent run out and she understood 'cause she had paid free rent before too. She said that she was on her way out to Atlanta to see her new man and would be gone for the who summer and I could stay at her place and just pay the rent there, only catch was that she needed a ride to the airport 'cause her ride had just flaked on her and I had to be there in an hour. I kissed Mama on the cheek and woke up Tanisha.

In a mustard seed, that's what happened.

Monday, July 6, 2015

People vs. Ms. Glory Bell Dean - from Women in The Village

I was born and brought up right her in The Village. She wasn't. But I was. Now I just moved into this house about a year ago but I came up just two blocks over. My mama schooled me on cookin' and book learnin' every day right in that kitchen.

Hand me another box. Cain't fit all these in this one or it's gon be too heavy to lift out. Be sure you wrapin' each dish with newspaper too. These the ones my mama gave me. She passed away fifteen years ago. Hard to believe it's been that long.

"So what did she say to you?"

Little Miss Ann come callin' me. I calls her Fassy Annie 'cause she got a little priss about herself. Got a lotta proper in her speakin' too and she always wearin' them suit kinda clotes with her shirt tucked in and pulled out just a little and a little cuff in her pants. Oh she thank she is the cutest thang goin' on! Always around her click, click, clickin' in her heels. Who wear heels alla time that mean any good to anybody? Nobody, that's who.

"Excuse me, Ms. Dean. I was wondering if I could meet with you tomorrow at noon so that we could discuss a few things?"

What do she thank I wanna discuss with her? Here she is tryin' to kick me and my kids out onto the street and she wanna discuss with me? I tell her she can come over at noon, two, three, fo' five six, don't make no difference to me 'cause I done said all I have to say.

"Well okay, I'll see you at noon sharp. You have a blessed day." Have a blessed day. What do she know about havin' a blessed day and how can she tell it to me when she is tryin' to put me out? I guess I don't know about peoples. And she is supposed to be a preacher. My mama always did tell me to watch for womens who was preachers. It ain't the way God meant for it to be. Don't ask me, just read yo Bible all the way through. It's shol in there.

Wrap up the China separate from the plain ones then tape that box real good, baby. Anyway, she come over the next morning clickin' up my walkway with them prissy clothes on switichin' her tail. Oh I will tell you.

"Good morning, Ms. Dean. How are you doing today?"

Yes she did ask me that.

"Well I guess I'm doin' just fine for an old lady with nine children who is about to be kicked out her house onto the cold streets by a young preacher gal who got herself a husband and only two kids and a house to live in. Yeah, just fine."

"That's what I need to discuss with you, Ms. Dean. May I sit please?"

Now I didn't say yes and I didn't say no but she don't know 'cause she shol didn't wait around for no answer. Just sat right on down where you sittin' now. Come to think of it, I think she even dusted off the chair 'fore she sit in it.

"Ms. dean, I'm not out to do you or your children any harm. I really want the best for you, but I would like fo ryou to clearly see my side of this. I rented this house to my Uncle Topper and he invited you to move in."

"Thas right, Topper, God rest his beloved righteous soul INVITED me to move in. INVITED! You and yo family ack like I forced my way in like a thief in the night." What I told her.

"Well ma'am, when he passed away six months ago, what did you expect? Did you think that you could just stay in my house rent free?"

"Would you just stop it with all that rent free? I told you that I would start payin' you some money soon as I could. I looked you right in your face and told you."

"But you never completed the application I sent you, and you never paid me any money." She said to me with a little bit of extra priss.

"Because I told you that's just too much money to be askin' from somebody that got nine kids. I don't know what kinda mother you think I am, but I gotta think about my kids, don't I? They did teach you about that at preachin' school, didn't they?"

"Let's just stay focused here, please? I certainly understand that you have children, but I'm asking you to understand that getting money from my properties that I rent out is how I take care of my children. This is just business for me."

When she said that I felt my pressure risin'. I sure did. She could tell it too 'cause she started gettin' up right then and headin' to the door. She know better. She shol ain't completely crazy.

"Ma'am, I have already filed the papers to have you officially evicted. I'm sorry that it had to be this way."

"Yeah right, you sorry about kickin' me and my nine kids out."

Sunny, you want some more pie? Boil some water and we can have some peppermint tea too. Well, goin' on, she was good and out the door by the time I told her where she could go with her papers. I don't care nothin' about no papers. I only care about what's gon happen to me and my kids and now here it is almost November and 'bout to be rainin' real good. Lady preachers, I'll tell you. Just then she stop clickin' on the walkway and turn around.

"You know, Ms. Dean, I wasn't going to say anything, but since you insist on being really nasty with me throughout this whole process I will give you some words of advice."

Words of advice? For me I know this young gal ain't talkin' to me.

"Perhaps you should be more concerned with yourself than with your children who are all grown except for you sixteen year old twins. They are all living here with you. Don't you think they should be on their own or at least working so they can help you out?"

I told her "looka here Miss Fassy Annie, you don't know what it is to be me. My son Marvin done broke his two legs in a car accident. I'm his mother and I gotta take care of him. Who else gon do it? you gon do it?"

"Well couldn't he go and get some kind of public assistance?"

"Public assistance? Them people don't be helpin' nobody. Only thing they tryin' to offer him is some funky ole two hundred fifty dollars. What he gon do with two hundred fifty dollars? Then he gotta go down there every month and get it. How he supposed to do that huh? The William and barry both been to jail and it ain't they faults folks don't hire folks that's been to jail. Alla my children got situations to be figured around. You think you got my whole life all worked out, don't you? But you don't really know nothin'. Every time I turn around seem like the good Lord just testing me. Seem like He don't want me to have nothin' and nobody. He took my mama when I wasn't nowhere near ready for her to go. Took my youngest baby Pearl when she wasn't doin' nothin' to nobody."

"I remember when Pearl used to braid my hair in your kitchen."

"She sure did. Sure sure did. I got a picture somewhere 'round here of when she first put your hair in those plats. She went on and had herself a real good business platin' folks hair. Pour me some tea now, sweetheart. My baby Pearl was somethin' else. That's enough. Thank you, baby. What somebody wanna come run up behind her stabbin' her in the heart and killin' her for I just don't know. Every time I look up and then down He takin' one and another of my boys to jail for no good reason except they just tryin' to make it in this world. He even took away Topper. I know Topper wasn't noways mines, but he took one look at me and shol gave me and my kids some place to live and now look what happen once again, he got token from me. And now you."

Now I shol didn't mean for Miss Fassy to see me breakin' down like that but sometimes life just gets real hard and the stuff that's been building up in yo chest come out. You don't never know when it's gon happen. It just do is all. Everybody always wanna see something all worked out but it don't be sometimes. It just be what it is.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A poem a day for 2015 - for day 139 - On the blood

I release worry over all of it
Lord I believe and pray forgiven my unbelief
What I hold onto that I shouldn't
What I take back that I should leave
On the alter
On the faith
On the love

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Jungle Story - from Women in The Village

There ain't no way to make it sound pretty 'cause it ain't pretty. It ain't pretty. It ain't ugly. It ain't 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. 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. Was so caught up in savin' face, protectin' his image, protectin' mine, lookin' good. Who I gotta look good for

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 just be like that that's all. That's all it was for me anyway. I was settled right there in all my sad. Got some kind of attention 'cause of it too. Not too sad 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 Walk in The Village. His name was Bergton Walker but folks mostly just called him Walk. He wasn't from around here. He was from San Diego then moved to East Los Angeles then moved to Carson, then moved here from down there. He was playing piano at The Joint. I guess it was about eight / nine o'clock because it was dark out. The lights was off so it was 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. 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. Everybody say they like to make a long story short, but they don't. It's too much you gotta leave out. Too much.

He finished singing and someone came in and turned on the lights. It's always somebody don't see the good in something the way it already is. Always somebody don't see that somebody might be havin' a good time and gotta mess it up. Maybe I'm goin' too fast for you, but you gotta keep up with the tellin'. Well, somebody turned the lights on and I saw him. In the light. Just sittin' right there on that piano bench like he ain't just made heaven sing. I forgot I was feelin' some kinda sad right then. I was high off the moment. I've heard folks say that but don't know that I've ever experienced it. Don't matter no more anyway. I'm an old woman now and he's long gone.

I was a young girl. No I wasn't. Wasn't no young girl at all. I was thirty-one. That ain't so young. It's old enough to look at a situation and make a choice. He was old enough to be my daddy's big cousin and here he was comin' on to me like I was a woman his age. Remembering ain't 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 ain't. Life is life and folks is folks. And you you. See how ain't none of them the same thing? But there I go. Goin' on and on with it.

CHAPTER 2

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 ain't 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. Follks thinkin' that you is a fool when you know good and simple well that you ain't. My grandmamma raised me and she knew I wasn't no fool. She told me to gon and play one though 'cause I had the kinda smarts folks wouldn't understand if they really knew. So I got good at playin' not so smart. Too good I guess.

That night Walk told me that I was real real pretty. Wasn't like ain't nobody told me that before 'cause they have. Just the way he said it. Way he look at me and keep lookin' even after he say it make me really believe it in a way I ain't 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? He look at me like he know my kinda smart. Like he got eyes like only me and Grandmama. He didn't though. He didn't have eyes like us at all.

CHAPTER 3

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

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. And he really didn't like Koko.

CHAPTER 4

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 at the beginning, but they tell me. And that's nice too in a world like this. 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. 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. He say don't mess with me and don't none of them ever do. some folks got a way of messin' up a good thing though.

CHAPTER 5

I found out Walk 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 ain't 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 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 brought his shirts and pants and drums and shoes. Brought his TV and some books too. I didn't ask for none of it. Besides I already got a TV and ain't really no room for two. I told him ain't 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 ain't 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. 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 ain't have no room for two TVs neither. I guess I ain't 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 had two of. TVs is different I guess.

It was on count of the 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 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.

CHAPTER 6

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 ain't what folks say to you that let you know they love you. It's how much they let you be yourself. I didn't never have no predentin' to do around her. 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 hear myself sing. 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 a book cover. She got pink lips and purple 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. 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 after folks finish buyn' 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. Seem like everybody ought to be able to pick out where they wanna sleep in they own house. Especially since 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 I try to keep the peace. I guess the smarts I ain't got is the mean smarts that don't wanna hurt nobody's feelings. 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. 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.

CHAPTER 7

Dear 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 all night watchin' TV then go downstairs and sometimes knock on Country's door. Country don't wanna be bothered with him. Country don't like him. Country like a lotta people, but he don't like him. Walk say Country 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 for himself and a buncha kids in the neighborhood too. Maybe Country is kinda sweet on me and just was 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 n that I know. I just smile a lot. Put lip gloss on a lot. I kept it cool though 'cause I didn't want walk to know I was looking cute for Country.

CHAPTER 8

Dear Diary, yesterday was my birthday and me and him went out on a date. We haven't been out in a real long time. We went to some restaurant out far that I didn't know the name of. 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 ain' 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 big job and we gon be rich together. He just gotta be trained 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 who entire week! He need money for the trainin' class and he gon pay me back every single penny with the money from the job. I'm scared to give him the money for the trainin' 'cause it's the money for the apartment. All the money for the apartment. I always pay all the money every month. He got mad when I told him I can't give him the money and I always get scared when he get mad. On the bus home from the restaurant he didn't sit with me. He was 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.

CHAPTER 9

The police came one night. A whole lotta police. They came the night before Walk 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 rushed in the stairwell screamin' and yellin' and all that. They went into Country's place and took him out wearing just his robe and house shoes. He was in the bak seat of the police acr 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. Folks already had not been buyin' my dinners as much since Walk 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. 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 them know how good Country 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 explained to the police 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 tool. 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 Walk 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 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 ain't 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 saw 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 so busy 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 sunnden and stood frozen still. Just stopped right there in front of the 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 ain't never seen in nobody before. And then there was me always tryin' to help a situation out when it ain't 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 ain't got nothin' to do with us. Lemmie make you some food and pour you a drink, ok?" 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 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 in to him real fast to see what he was talkin' 'bout. "You heard me! What is she doin' in here?!"

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 ain't no company you stupid gal! She ain't 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 cholin' 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 truned 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 chai. 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 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 band a di bandadibandgadibangbang bop bop bop! 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 never touch my drums?!" He yellin' from the tub. "You hear me gal, I know you do!" Grandmama 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 ain't red no more. They white. Scared white. He walkin' over to her like he ain't scared but I know scared when I see it. The his feet start movin' toward her real slow like he ain't even controlin' 'em. She playin' hard and he walkin' slow. Then before I even know it he right thre 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.

The she start laughin' . Laughin'. Laughin'! He so scared he dong 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 ain't 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. The 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 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 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 get back n my chair with Koko and Grandmama 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. Grandmama 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 Walk was. All burnt completely up. Grandmama blow the ashes all in one pile together and hold 'em 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 Grandmama 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 'fore it get wet too. When Grandmama 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. Grandmama still lookin' into her own eyes and finally say "I'm goin' home."