The volunteer activities I cram into my weekends
Bring me great joy and fulfillment, satisfaction.
Even with the requirement to juggle things
From one Saturday to the next, I thrive on it.
But today, in the midst, we hope, of the lockdown,
The chores that once occupied my mind are absent.
So I am doing a binge on Amazon Prime selections
Since we terminated our subscription to Netflix
To avoid the social programming therein.
What’s in store for today? A friend recommends
Counterpart, Cold War spy thriller, supposedly,
Though we know what that deal was. And then
There is Star Trek – Discovery, not quite my cup of tea,
Although I was an early saint to outer space’s devotion.
That was many poems ago, rivers crossed.
At least that’s when it was written, expressed,
Verbalized, spoken in words and recorded.
I had the best English teachers in school.
I loved languages and all their expression.
But there didn’t seem to be money in teaching,
And plenty of good opportunities
In science and math. So that’s where I made
My home. Later it came as no surprise to me
That Gertrude Stein cut her writing teeth
On stories about Negro women recently freed.
There was money writing Negro stories –
From millions newly taught to read and write –
After ages being denied those skills by law.
The newest birth defect to emerge from the depths
of our collective DNA has long and intricate roots –
passed down from father to son – from mother
to daughter – like some unique, sacred inheritance,
the beast whose marks we bear. The conquistadors
had their way with the natives they “discovered” –
no slave was safe from the raging hormones
of the master and his sons – the ladies of the house
turned their heads and hoped it would be contained –
now it’s an epidemic. A syphilis. Killing us slowly.
I was a runner in my hapless youth:
two times, four times, eight times around the track;
running to things, running from things, always
in a haste, never taking time to smell
the fragrance of the roses, know the truth.
In time, life slowed me down. I changed my tack.
I learned to walk, to circumspect, unfazed
by every shiny thing my eyes beheld.
But then the boundless sea became my Muse:
Her hidden wonders and her ways seduced
my every thought. Yet she was just a phase,
a short poetic phrase and a malaise.
This sonnet owns no ending, just a star,
to capture our attention from afar.
If I were a sculptor
I’d carve in stone
The face of my beloved –
I’d sand the surface
Of the stone
To smooth perfection:
Because art should represent life
As it is, and as
It ought to be.
But I digress
At a moment when discipline
And precision are most required . . .
I’d chisel her perfectly
Centered nose, on her perfectly
Symmetrical face –
With care and concentration
I’d reproduce the mystic
Contours of her forehead –
I’d round out her chin
And save her lips
Then I’d compare
Her sculptured features
To my own:
A grotesque genetic mixture
Of master and slave
Of Native and Negro –
My weathered face
Burned to a deep dark hue.
Then I’d ask her:
Is black still beautiful
My African queen?
My Goddess of the Nile?
Or has that fashion changed,
That style gone out of style?
But I digress again –
And I am not a sculptor
I am a poet:
And these words are
All I have to preserve
In time, for time,
The beauty of my beloved.
is on the mend
but the arrhythmia
that brought about the fall –
we now know –
is a different story
i’m black –
ain’t i got rhythm?
background blog post
October 10, 2014
I remember the music and the old men:
drinking cheap scotch and soda water,
huddled around the record player,
heads bobbing softly to the rhythms.
Second-hand smoke filled the living room,
smoke layers lined up with the sound waves
burned my own anxious lungs.
I remember first meditations, and
giant steps, and blue train, and love supreme.
Sometimes the old men would argue
about what the sounds, the music really meant,
about where it all came from, deep inside.
I never fully understood their talk –
but the music, the music I remember.