Sunday, December 12, 2010
drag out the beginnings of a stutter
wail the last syllable
picture me no less than half then
more than a piece for trade
do you know the cost of a buck
and twenty-cent change lover
i wish i wasn't the bitch
you make me out but
come to me reeling
from empty-bellied women
and i'll massage the stale
away / make melody in your
ear so you can have song
like how i bring you life
then call my god-given name
this time / like a horse whip
cracking across the pitch
black of my salty back
The other day in class my instructor asked what I studied in college. I told him Religion and Creative Writing. He asked what religion if any specific one did I study and I told him I learned about quite a few. I began rattling off some and the tone of my voice instantly changed, I was excited to tell someone about them. I missed it. I missed learning about people, their idiosyncrasies, what made them no less different from me.
Then later that day I telephone my best friend and she wants to know what I've been learning, and so I start telling her about media exploitation and pulling information from a hard drive and how it's done and I could sense an excitement in my voice similar to when I was explaining about my religion courses. The thing about what I'm learning now though is I'm not that good at it, I sense it from my instructors and it trickles down to me.
Although my grades are fairly good and I want to do well and I believe I'm doing my best, something about this work eludes me; and I feel it's the human element. I am a person who is looking to make an impact, however small or large, in the lives of people. I want to know that everything I'm doing can be related to man's struggle for better understanding and life more abundant. What is the use of technology that cannot do that? I don't want to seem like an idealist but perhaps at heart that's what I am. I wonder about the path I've chosen and the ever-pertinent yet hackneyed poem by Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken." The poem is essentially an existential quandary for the speaker, "Yet knowing how way leads on to way / I doubted if I should ever come back." The speaker brooding over which path to take tries to rationalize that since the path is not going anywhere he is more than able to come back and travel down the other some other time but he admits to himself that no; perhaps, he would not ever come back to this particular junction again. How does way lead to other ways? How does choosing this path, forever exclude the other? I've tried to tell myself that yes, I can do it all. I can be in the military and I can go back to graduate school and have both experiences be mine, after all, so many others have done it. But I feel in myself a conflict of these two experiences, why, I'm not sure. I wonder everyday if I made the wrong decision, if my reason for doing one isn't being muddled in the experiences of the other.
What I do know is I have faith in my abilities, no, my gifts. I believe the joy that I get from writing and studying other people is a gift, one that I owe it to myself to pursue. I have faith in my capability to learn new things, whatever they are, despite my particular interest in them. I will not be overcome by some primeval thought that fate has fixed me and set me on its own path. Years from now, I will not recollect this story with a sigh, but will recall how I traveled two conflicting paths and that has made all the difference in the woman I was to become.
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
like water colors bringing up the page
cold heavy iron pinging the / because
pronouns only confuse who we are
tell me where the softness goes, if i'll
be inspired enough to know it again
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Since being in the Army, the attitudes I've come across regarding other races and now other religions is baffling to say the least. Ignorance after all is something that is so easy to fight, right? Wrong. As of late I've been coming to a new conclusion, that ignorance may be deeply embedded in the cultural and personal experiences of an individual. Undoing a thread of ignorance is a delicate process, one that may in fact tear gravely into the seams of someone's foundations. When I was in college learning of injustice, whatever its adjective, I thought that was the objective, strip an individual down, are their fundamentals strong enough to pass a label of bigotry and warrant them flagrantly defiant for the sake of honor, morale, truth?
In the August 30, 2010 issue of Time magazine entitled, "Is America Islamophobic?" by Bobby Ghosh there is a photograph of protesters near Ground Zero in which one of the signs is being held up stating, "Building a Mosque at Ground Zero is Like Building a memorial to Hitler at Auschwitz." Another one of my classmates made a similar comment in which he said how would it look to erect a monument to Hitler in Israel. The first thing I have to say to this is that you have to be mindful of comparisons, or what seems like an accurate comparison. The situation is different for the simple fact that a monument to Hitler would be glorifying Hitler and a mosque is a religious temple which glorifies no one but Allah. It is itself a sacred space. The fact there are Americans who unknowingly and sometimes knowingly attack Islam because of its extremists is cruel, ignorant, and in the end only detrimental to the U.S. relations with the rest of the Middle East. The fact of the Ku Klux Klan being a Christian extremist group could reflect badly on the rest of Americans who do not hold their views, however, no one attacks Christianity. We clearly differentiate between the group and the fact of their faith being two different things. Why can't we do the same for Islam?
Sunday, July 25, 2010
"February 14th" is also a byproduct of this excercise. In their sample sentence, Addonizio and Laux wrote, "I wanted to return to that place, the tiny village in Mexico." In my poem, I wrote about wanting to return to an ex-boyfriend's shithole apartment. You can see that from Addonizio and Laux to my own sentences that anything can be expounded on well beyond a generic phrase or sentence. Once you add the personal into a sentence or poem it makes for a unique piece. As for the following piece, it took on a life of it's own after I got the first sentence down. Although it is a bad example of a villanelle despite the amount of times I've tried to revise it to be so, I will admit that I am truly fond of it. Poems, of course, are what they are; the poet is merely their polisher, not their craftsman.
All that I love tonight -- your whole body lowered before me, like a mendicant in need of want -- may be lost tomorrow.
I fall in love with the dim light riding your furled back, your head in my lap, I find this love like knowing peace.
I hang on your soiled shirt, smooth your wet hair, press up against you; give the work of body suffering to see you go.
(it's muscle memory i suppose the way my fingers know the count of the bony ridge of your back)
I grip and thrash at those things I can have forever, the memories like marred or faded photographs. How do I know
that your love lasts? Your underwear strewn on the floor, the unmade bed, the chatter of television seeming to cease?
All that I love tonight -- your own body lowered before me, like a mendicant in need of want --may be lost tomorrow.
So I waste no time stealing away the smallness of your eyes, the flatness of your nose, the birthmark in the shadow
of the upper neck. But most of all I want to pocket your lips, charming the pores of my chest as if they were a feast.
I hang on your soiled shirt, smooth your wet hair, press up against you: give the work of body suffering to see you go.
I often mistake love for fly-by-night trysts but keeping you on me, piece-by-piece, is lovelier than remaining hollow.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
At the time I was in this Fiction course I had a night job, no -- not the red-light special sort of night job, but the boring receptionist/Resident Assistant of the dormitories sort of night job. So this particular night (or almost every night really), I was bored out of my mind and on the verge of falling alseep so I gave up trying to do the writing excercise and decided to do my Bilingualism homework instead. (I bet people can tell tons about me by the courses I take.) Anyway, for Bilingualism homework that night, I had to read an article about Swahili and some other African language codeswitching, which was particularly interesting. After the reading I decided to look on Youtube for any videos where Swahili and this other language, let's say Bantu for filler's sake, codeswitched just to see if I could detect the difference between the two languages. I went through so many videos that I got sidetracked looking at African music videos in many different languages Tigrinya, Twi, Bambara, you name it, which is where I ultimately came upon Somi's video for "Ingele." I'll include my writing excercise here since I think it was pretty good though I didn't get full points for it, though as a consellation the instructor did choose it to display to the class as an exemplar for what she expected to see developing via the excercise. I was very proud.
The first time I heard "Ingele" by Somi was two something in the morning. The only company I had were the few residents trickling in from outside. The cold air whipped across my face, stirring me away from my linguistics reading. It was a weekday so perhaps they had been studying too? No unlikely, freshmen don’t study and then some had no books or bags. The door bludgeoned against the steel frame five seconds after they’d left.
In all the defining languages the speakers regard H as superior to L in a number of respects. The office computer gasps for air. I don’t rely on it for anything. They often restarted at their own leisure, didn’t save work, and all the good sites were blocked. Besides they were covered in a layer of gray dust, after typing on them, the whirls of my fingertips would color with soot.
My coke is flat. Rummage through my bag for lotion. I twist the small white mound into and over my palms, polishing the skin there. When was the last time I did rounds? The log tells me it’s not time, so my legs jitter lightly instead. My shoulders and sides depress with the heat from the fleece-lining of my jacket. The cushion hardens. My laptop screen blackens...In all the defining languages the speakers regard H as superior to L in a number of respects.
One, two, three, four, five. Pages before the end of the chapter. Swahili bobbed up from the mass of texts. I awoke my computer and searched Swahili music. LEARN TO SING IN SWAHILI. LEARN SWAHILI WITH ROSETTA STONE. INDIANA UNIVERSITY AFRICAN LANGUAGES PROGRAM – SWAHILI. Most of the search results are like these. On the fifth page, there was a music video by a Rwandan jazz singer, Somi posted on Youtube. Thin black tendrils drape about her sides and back, as she stretches her arms out beyond her and draws them smoothly back into her, mostly though she rocks melodic to her sounds. IN–ghel-AY resonates all about the office space, drawn out, laborious, barbaric, sad -- as a mother wailing for her absent young.
Did you like that amatuer non-fiction writing? Ehh. I did say it was amatuer, a good amatuer attempt though. When I heard "Prayer to the Saints of the Brokenhearted," I immediately thought how poetic the lyrics were, which Somi's lyrics are notable for and normally are. My favorite lines are:
I was lost and fire within
I've slipped with my heart and hand wide open
...tastes just like yesterday
come down and sweep over my bed
sweet saint of the brokenhearted
so i might be still
Feet on the ground
beautiful and burned
my heart seems fast
fatigue seems faster
With that, I hope you enjoy the video and Somi, if this is your first meeting with her, perhaps this blog and Somi may find their way into some undergrad's writing excercise. Full circle. That's what writing's all about, right? That was a stretch, but I think you get the picture.
This video can also be found at Essence.com
Sunday, June 27, 2010
you like the eye of the dawn (young and full and as open as a flower)
you like wax puddling from my flame
you like saffron lingering on my tongue
you like dry heat cloaking me
you like sleep I desperately need
you like air im gasping to catch
i don’t know why love opens and closes its hand
but I know I love the way its upturned palm
its long fingers spread apart, as if offering a gift
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Fabian Thomas heads the SANKOFA Arts and Faciliation and lectures part-time at the Montego Bay Community College. There isn't much information on Mr. Thomas out there on the worldwide web, however from my research I gather that he works in performing arts and that he was a graduate from Fordham University and the University of the West Indies. His poem "Healing" I feel in love with for its simplicity, and its easy way with words. But don't take my word for it, read and see for yourself.
HEALING by Fabian Thomas
to the water
and I will
your embattled body
wash your bludgeoned spirit
splash healing droplets
on your face
its beauty marred
by curse word venom
take my tongue
to these wounds
drain the hateful pus
to the water
with garroted truths
you fear to tell
and i will kiss you
my saliva will serve as
to cancerous cankers
loosen your tongue
give you voice
to affirm your life
set you to singing
to the water
my raw body
an exposed nerve
massage my insides
from my veins
phobias and hate
made by derision
friends and family
to the water
emetics to vent the spleen
to replenish the pool
eyes put out
to the water
to bathe in love
and be healed.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
The found poem below, I took from Barack Obama's speech on the U.S. question of race during his campaign, "A More Perfect Union." The myriad of negative media gleamed from his former pastor, Reverend Wright, and the question of whether America was ready for a black president precipitated the speech. Furthermore (another issue in itself) but one of the reasons I thought to use an Obama speech was because of his eloquence. Aristotle would surely be pleased with his oratical and rhetorical skills. In addition when read, "A More Perfect Union," is an impeccable essay. It's arguably one of Obama's best speeches, in my opinion, though definitely one of his more memorable. With that, here is draft one of "I Am the Son."
I AM THE SON
of a black man from Kenya
and a white woman from Kansas
raised with the help of a white grandfather
who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II
and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line
at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas
[M]y white grandmother -
woman who helped raise me,
woman who sacrificed again and again for me,
woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world,
but a woman who once confessed her fear
of black men who passed by her on the street, who
on more than one occasion
has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
"We the people, in order to create a more perfect union."
the answer to the slavery question was already
embedded within our Constitution -
a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice,
and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment
would not be enough
to deliver slaves from bondage,
or provide women of every color and creed
their full rights and obligations as citizens
of the United States.
Most working- and middle-class white Americans
don't feel privileged by their race.
Their experience is the immigrant experience -
"No one's handed [me] anything, [I've] built it from scratch.
[I've] worked hard all [my] life, only to see jobs shipped overseas
or [my] pension dumped after a lifetime of labor."
They are anxious about their futures,
their dreams slipping away;
in an era of stagnant wages and global competition,
opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game,
in which your dreams come at my expense.
This is where we are right now.
It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years.
We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism.
We can tackle race as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial -
or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina -
or as fodder for the nightly news.
We can play
Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day
and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question
in this campaign whether or not the American people think that
I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.
We can pounce
on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as
evidence that she's playing the race card,
we can speculate
on whether white men will all flock to John
McCain in the general election regardless
of his policies.
We can do
that. Or at
in this election
we can come together and say, "Not this time."
we want to talk about the crumbling schools stealing the future
of black children white children Asian children
Hispanic children Native American children
we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn;
that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem.
The children of America
are not those kids'
they are our kids
Not this time. This time we
want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room
are filled with whites blacks Hispanics who do not have health care;
who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests
in Washingston. This time we
want to talk about the shuttered mills
that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race
the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans
from every religion every region every walk of life. This time we
want to talk about the fact that the real
problem is not someone who doesn't look
like you might take your job; it's that
the corporation you work for will ship it overseas
for nothing more than a profit. This time we
want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed
who serve together fight together bleed together
under the same proud flag. We want to talk
about how to bring them home from a war that never
should've been authorized and never should've been waged,
and we want to talk
about how we'll show our patriotism by caring
for them, and their families,
and giving them the benefits they have earned.
In the end what is called for is that common stake we all have in one another,
and politics reflect[ing] that spirit.
For we have a choice in this country.
Friday, April 23, 2010
One of the authors, Kim Addonizio, has become a muse for me. I find her not only talented but from her work I get the feeling that she herself is an interesting person. As Wendy Williams would say, Kim Addonizio is a friend in my head. Her work deals with relationships in unconventional language and challenges the reader to essentially not be taken-aback or offended by the language of her work. Particularly good examples of this are "Washing" and "First Kiss" from her first collection of poems, What is This Thing Called Love? I took the title and decided to make it the jump-off for the following excercise. So far the excercise has done it's part; that is, gotten me to open a pathway to something, though as of right now this is merely a first draft.
Begin a poem with a question word: Who, what, where, when, why, how. Ask a big question about life, and then try to answer it from your own experience.
"Every good poem asks a question, and every good poet asks every question. No one can call herself a poet unless she questions her ideas, ethics, and beliefs. And no one can call himself a poet unless he allows the self to enter into the world of discovery and imagination. When we don't have direct experience to guide us, we always have our imagination as a bridge to knowledge."
--Addonizio & Laux
"Good writing works from a simple premise: your experience is not yours alone, but in some sense a metaphor for everyone's."
--Addonizio & Laux
How will I know I'm ready
to love? Will the lavender of new cherry blossoms
appear more vibrant, or seem ecstatic,
bursting to white flurries when I discover
the sudden tartness of love? I know kisses -- all
sorts. I know sex, bodies displaced in a bed
of tawdry passion but love --
(but) love is another thing. an
experience as old as the grooves in the palms;
yet still so far, as foreign as where my soul
lies, its core empty and graying...
Monday, April 19, 2010
One of the reasons I became drawn to Hayes was the seeming effortlessness of his language. What poet doesn't love to hear this? It's the beautiful end result of what may have been a tumultous wring here and there of syntax and word choice. One of my favorites and also a good example of this is "The Blue Terrance," (Caveat: Hayes has a few poems by this title, the one I'm referring to I'll include below.) Probably the reason why Hayes creates such effortless language is the way in which he orders his poems often in neat stanzas, effecting the line breaks in such a way that the poems create an unpredictable but rhythmic beat.
Interesting note about Hayes is how he conceives of the blues poem. While the blues poem is a viable free form genre of poetry, Hayes uses it in a rather innovative way. Though he respects the history of the blues poem, he seeks to take them out of their historical context, which ties to their form and song-like reading as well most notably the repetition and refrains and attempts to make it contemporary by creating a blues poem in which readers consider other references for blue such as the Blue Picasso or a melancholy state. "I wanted to depart from what would be an easier or more accessible notion of what the blues are for black people, for Americans, for Southerners...Obviously there's a relation to the music, [in addition to] other sorts of ideas that come out of what the color blue means," notes Hayes at a Cornell University interview.
Definitely check out Terrance Hayes, he's a writer that is continually trying to give readers a run for their money regarding what they think they know about black writers. He is definitely fond the creative, and the unlimited extent of the literary contemporary. Hayes is currently a professor of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Blue Terrance by Terrance Hayes
If you subtract the minor losses,
you can return to your childhood too:
the blackboard chalked with crosses,
the math teacher's toe ring. You
can be the black boy not even the buck-
toothed girls took a liking to:
the match box, these bones in their funk
machine, this thumb worn smooth
as the belly of a shovel. Thump. Thump.
Thump. Everything I hold takes root.
I remember what the world was like before
I heard the tide humping the shore smooth,
and the lyrics asking: How long has your door
been closed? I remember a garter belt wrung
like a snake around a thigh in the shadows
of a wedding gown before it was flung
out into the bluest part of the night.
Suppose you were nothing but a song
in a busted speaker? Suppose you had to wipe
sweat from the brow of a righteous woman,
but all you owned was a dirty rag? That's why
the blues will never go out of fashion:
their half rotten aroma, their bloodshot octaves of
consequence; that's why when they call, Boy, you're in
trouble. Especially if you love as I love
falling to the earth. Especially if you're a little bit
high strung and a little bit gutted balloon. I love
watching the sky regret nothing but its
self, though only my lover knows it to be so,
and only after watching me sit
and stare off past Heaven. I love the word No
for its prudence, but I love the romantic
who submits finally to sex in a burning row-
house more. That's why nothing's more romantic
than working your teeth through
the muscle. Nothing's more romantic
than the way good love can take leave of you.
That's why I'm so doggone lonesome, Baby,
yes, I'm lonesome and I'm blue.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I want to return to that place
a shit hole one-bedroom apartment
where we rinsed love from our clammy
pores, feeling for the other's rhythms
in the slant light of midnight. I know you
by your colors: the black for the guerrilla,
the gold for the accents about your skin.
You were king I served with my whole
heart. I capture your voice in my memory,
it's inflections steadying my pulse to a soft halt.
Where are you now? Do you ever think of me?