#NaPoWriMo17 April 3 – Elegy for my maternal grandfather, Nelson Hairston, Sr.

I decided to go with the prompt today. Can’t be a renegade all the time!

Elegy for my grandfather, Nelson Hairston, Sr.

I never knew my Papa couldn’t read
or write – I grew up sending him poems
in letters I’d write. Daddy said I got
that from his father, who wrote songs for church.
Daddy wrote confessions and apologies,
over and over again, but he wrote.
Writing was next to godliness, he’d say.
But Papa couldn’t read or write. I found
out years later when Loretta told me
she wrote all his letters by dictation.
I don’t think less of him – I want that clear –
in fact, I think more. His name is on the door
of the house he built with his own hands.
For all my poems, I’ve never built a house.

From the archives – Still Life

my ideal still life painting would contain
a non-microwave-safe cup and saucer,
a piece of ripened fruit, a wind up watch
with a leather band, and a book, hardbound,

with several bookmarks and tabs. On a desk.
And maybe reading glasses, depending
on the reader’s (and the painter’s) needs.
I’d stare at that canvas, and wonder

if my subject drank tea or coffee, hot
or lukewarm like I like it. I’d wonder
does the book have poetry inside it,
the bookmarks and tabs for his (her) favorite

passages. I’d hang it beside my wife’s
painting of the river ferry crossing.

#BlaPoWriMo – Some thoughts about my country after seeing the James Baldwin movie “I am not your Negro.”

“The end we think
we seek is not near,
& it’s not the end,
& it’s not what we seek.”
— “Amtrak NE Regional”
        April 19, 2013

Your dystopian moment could be the dark ages
before the renaissance – your zombie apocalypse
a golden opportunity for the dispossessed,
a resurrection for the marginalized whose hopes
died on the cross.

The night of doom you recommend could be
a shining star heralding a dawn on a new horizon –
a long awaited dream finally being realized.
The end of all you think you know could be
a new beginning that does not include your past.

Before we nail the coffin shut, let’s listen closely
for a pulse – the quiet beating of a tale-tell heart.
It may not be too late for even you
to turn around.

 

Interview with James Baldwin from WGBH’s 1963 special program The Negro and the American Promise

#BlaPoWriMo – Survival of the Fit

We brought much with us inside those ships
when we emigrated to this new world
of golden promise and opportunity.
Okra & chillies & black-eyed pea seeds
we stowed away in little hiding places –
along with knowledge – how to grow rice,
how to make bread from dried corn, how to deep
fry meats to tenderize them, make them last –  
physical things, to nourish, sustain us.
But our name, our faith, our spirituality
also survived the Middle Passage,
along with our mathematics, our psychology,
& our cosmology. It all survived.
Underestimate us. Fine. We will be.

#BlaPoWriMo – Fridays

Friday mornings always take me back in time
to foreign language classes & my turn coming
to say what I’m doing for the weekend –

I used to regret not learning an African language
while living overseas – but no more.
More Portuguese is spoken in Africa
than in Portugal. More Arabic than in Arabia.
Numbers speak. What are the Ghanaians saying
on Twitter today? Is it in English or Twi?

See what I mean? So I’m feeling fulfilled
this Friday morning, recalling phrases
& words in Arabic & Portuguese,
& writing in Haiku. My list of weekend
activities is ready for recitation.

 

 

#BlaPoWriMo – The Roots of Our Love

#BlaPoWriMo – The roots of our love

“We’ll meet again and then we must decide upon the hour
When we’ll allow our destinies to intertwine and flower.”
                                                              From Sonnet #8

with a nod to Deleuze and Guattari –

Over the passing years our love has grown: 
a mass of tangled roots beneath the soil.

Only an expert gardener would appreciate
this rhizome, how interconnected at every point –

each node drawing nourishment from the soil
surrounding it – every connecting root as essential

as the adjoining nodes. No prior unity defines us –
there is no original order to regulate or codify –

we name this love. Errant roots sometimes rupture,
break or fail, and remake their connections

in multitudinous combinations, always seeking
progression, insuring survival, feeding

this intertwining flowering, a map and tracing
of a secret underground geography.

#BlaPoWriMo – A Valentines Day sonnet from the archives

Sonnet #42

Words in poetry and notes in music
Are sounds, simple wavelengths colliding off
Our eardrums and the membranes of our souls.  
Oft times we transmit sound waves, words or notes,
Through positive values, like happiness
And tenderness, timbres soft and bright.
Sometimes negative: sadness, fear – dull and
Sharp, like aches and pains we frequently endure.
At times, we just receive: parameters
Are the same. But when we meet, ah, when we 
Meet, our words and notes connect! Our wavelengths
Intersect, and intertwine, and synthesize! 
And we make love – sweet love. External tones
And errant thoughts die softly in the deep.