He conned us for years,
making us laugh,
making us feel good
about who we thought we were,
about who we hoped we’d become.
He united us, in a sense,
inside his televised charm,
all the while having his way
with people in his charge,
under his care.
Shame on us
for not seeing it,
for not sensing it,
for ignoring it and
sticking our heads in the sand.
Shame on us.
When will we learn?
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.
Granddaddy raised tobacco in red clay
his whole life long – row by row –
until he got too old to continue –
life must have been tough –
year end, year out, hoping
for good weather and fair prices.
Grandma cleaned the white folks house,
did their laundry, raised their children.
That couldn’t have been much fun either –
she had her own children at home
to care for. Pop had long red hair
as a child, he told me, and thought
it was a celebration when the house
burned down one cold winter morning.
Return to Africa (12/21/2015)
my wife brought me here for healing –
“the African sun will do you good.”
And here I am, bathed in family
and tribal love. My village
surrounds me. The ladies bring
fresh fruit and warm bread
and no part of it
is genetically modified.
Flesh still a bit tender from the surgery,
but the stitches are beginning to dissolve.
I boil some bottled water for tea –
then watch the housekeeper top it off
with water from the tap – they say
once you have tasted from the waters
of Pindjiguiti – waters made sweet
by the blood of the martyrs,
their bitter sweat, their salty tears –
you will always remember Bissau.
The old man in Caliquisse
told me returning was part
of the spiritual deal I struck.
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.
It was just a line to a poem,
but it was a closing line,
after the end,
a final line that didn’t quite fit
and didn’t have an antecedent.
Sprung up out of know where,
you know what I mean?
Just rose up from the page,
put her hands on her hips,
waved her right hand,
cocked her head to one side,
and said in one breath,
“I’m staying right here,
I ain’t going no where.
And I don’t give a good goddamn
about your silly poetic conventions.
And furthermore, f— the form!”
And the word became flesh.
Things have to be bizarre
to capture the imagination
of the average reader these days
Normality doesn’t sell movies
or popcorn, or peanuts –
like boring baseball
and watching paint dry
I knew the author
when she was a poet and
a precision swimmer –
playing chess with hobos
in Dupont Circle
There was a summer
compulsion, or sorts,
a need to exploit
a temporary freedom
Our paths crossed
like two ships in the night,
then diverged because
only opposites attract
our meeting never went
beyond the superficial
at its inception.
I can’t find me
in the composite
of the principal characters.
No plot role for me, unless
it’s in the self deception
Happy to see our poetry
survived the flood, woven
intricately into the mystery plot
Understanding the author
and the world of her imagination
is important, maybe paramount
The location influences
on the periphery only. Human
is the strongest determinant.