Tuesday, December 09, 2008

birthday poem

for oj

juiced black dress
was all the rage

at the nightclub,
where my loved

ones drank
and danced

and not a single
one of us

to brandish

but teeth.

kara walker

my super awesome someone copped me this kara walker book for my birthday, and its fantastic. she uses civil war era inspired parody drawings and paintings to give a critical reading of race, sexuality, violence and representation. and she is quite attractive. a little understated. fresh. looks a lil like erykah. just saying.

Monday, December 08, 2008

the essence of it

this past weekend i went to a conference in bethesda, md that brought folks from all fields together to engage with one another about how to get behind the cycle (of incarceration) and other wonderfully progressive things. on the first night, susan taylor spoke, mainly about the mentoring program she founded to address the crisis of de block yoot. (there was no way to write that phrase without using jamaican patois). its an awesome program and its even more awesome that susan taylor is still so actively engaged in important work post essence.

but! dwarfing that awesomeness is this awesome fact:

susan taylor is 62 and looks like she's maybe 45.

its important for you to feel me on this one. what susan taylor's existence ultimately does is reinforce the "amazing black woman" truism. this is distinct from the myth of the "black superwoman," so scratch that one.

but its true: smart, beautiful, generous, straight up visionary black women abound! they're fresh and alive and enduring!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

love love love!!!

love harder? yes!! that's the only way to stop haters. they get confused by it. give hugs. give kisses.

here's a piece by awesome poet ross gay. and the audio.

Two Bikers Embrace on Broad Street

Maybe, since you're something like me,

you, too, would've nearly driven into oncoming traffic
for gawking at the clutch between the two men
on Broad Street, in front of the hospital,
which would not stop, each man's face
so deeply buried in the other's neck--these men
not, my guess, to be fucked with--squeezing through
that first, porous layer of the body into the heat beneath;
maybe you, too, would've nearly driven over three pedestrians as your head
swiveled to lock on their lock,
their burly fingers squeezing the air from the angels
on the backs of their denim jackets
which reminds you the million and one secrets exchanged
in nearly the last clasp between your father
and his brother, during which the hospital's chatter and rattle
somehow fell silent in deference to the untranslatable
song between them, and just as that clasp endured through
what felt like the gradual lengthening of shadows and the emergence
of once cocooned things, and continues to this day, so, too,
did I float unaware of the 3000 lb machine
in my hands drifting through a stop light while I gawked
at their ceaseless cleave going deeper,
and deeper still, so that Broad Street from Fairmount
to the Parkway reeked of the honey-scented wind
pushed from the hummingbirds now hovering above these two men,
sweetening, somehow, the air until nectar,
yes, nectar gathered at the corners of my mouth like sun-colored spittle,
the steel vehicle now a lost memory
as I joined the fire-breasted birds in listening
to air exchanged between these two men, who are, themselves,
listening, forever, to the muscled contours of the other's neck, all of us
still, and listening, as if we had nothing
to blow up, as if we had nothing to kill.

hate hate hate!!!

surprisingly, there are some number of white people upset about obama's election. but not just regular angry.

they're so angry (how angry are they??!)
they're SO angry, they've been taking out their aggression on black people.

okay, so maybe it's not surprising at all.
some white people (mainly in the south, AP would have us believe) have been feeling like they lost something with this election. like something's been taken away from them. like they suddenly lost all of their magic white privilege powers. i'd argue however, that the only thing taken away from them was the privilege of being able to see a president with the same color skin. thats a big one, as it affects all types of esteem and confidence levels, but it amounts to less when you consider the fact that the country's institutionalized racist structures remain intact.

so white people, easy on the hate crimes.
think about how differently we all might be feeling if jesse jackson was our president-elect.
imagine here some type of reverse slavery...

black people, maybe a return to arms?


give peace a chance.

peace peace peace

still though, i'll offer you this, in honor of haters everywhere.

Friday, November 14, 2008

another take on progress

or, how to make it happen. let's say it's a call for direct action. by my main damie, nikki giovanni, an OG. published in 1970.

For Saundra

i wanted to write
a poem
that rhymes
but revolution doesn't lend
itself to be-bopping

then my neighbor
who thinks i hate
asked – do you ever write
tree poems – i like trees
so i thought
i'll write a beautiful green tree poem
peeked from my window
to check the image
noticed that the school yard was covered
with asphalt
no green – no trees grow
in manhattan

then, well, i thought the sky
i'll do a big blue sky poem
but all the clouds have winged
low since no-Dick was elected

so i thought again
and it occurred to me
maybe i shouldn't write
at all
but clean my gun
and check my kerosene supply

perhaps these are not poetic
at all

on progress

since i'm still not ready to vomit out all of the obama analysis i'm holding inside in any coherent or useful way, here's a little note on progress.

i was reading an opinion piece in the times today that attempted to capture some of the responses to the upsetting anti-lgbtq ballot initiatives that passed on election night in four states.

of course, many people in the lgbtq community are outraged that their civil rights (the right to marry, and in some cases, to adopt while in a civil union/domestic partnership) are still being so explicitly denied, especially in the wake of this huge progressive victory with obeezy.

but the piece exposed some dangerous analysis and comparisons:

"It wasn’t that she [Jeanne Rizzo, a married white lesbian] begrudged Obama his victory. It was just that his historic triumph made the insult to her community all the more painful. An awful thought came to her that night: Now we’re the designated cultural outcasts. “It’s almost like we’re the last group you can be openly bigoted about,” she told me."

it's important to understand the analysis that informs this point of view. this idea that with the election of a black president, racism is no longer a formidable obstacle. or that somehow, the term "cultural outcasts" suddenly applies to a single group.

it's absolutely unproductive in every way to attempt to compare oppressions. people who belong to the lgbtq community experience structural oppression in a way that is distinct from the way that people of color experience it. it is not more or less, but different. the other important thing to take away from this is the obsolete nature of single-identity analysis. no one is merely gay, or simply black, just a woman, or only middle class. people have complex identities that leave them privileged and oppressed in different ways. take for instance the wealthy black gay male, who is at once privileged by his maleness and class status but oppressed by a racist and heterosexist culture...

just saying.

perhaps progress isn't so simple a thing to quantify, what with all the two steps forward, one step back rhythm we have going these days.

maybe that old adage is spot-on, and a loss for any segment of humanity means a loss for all.

"no one is free when others are oppressed."
-author unknown


Thursday, November 13, 2008

found poetry, #1

poets.org defines found poetry this way:

Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

so here's a lil something for ya:

while romantics
claimed paul died

of a broken heart,
the death

certificate listed


"found" in Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore by Eleanor Alexander.

this book is bananas, by the way.

historical perspective

due to all the recent excitement surrounding a certain black man, i've been particularly introspective, spending lots of time pondering the meaning of such a historical trajectory. i anticipate some prolific writing taking place around this general idea, so stay tuned.

for now, the new york times has provided me with a mo' fun take on history. or at least, more easily digested. three takes, actually:

1. on November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court struck down laws calling for racial segregation on public buses.

think about how unimportant it feels today whether or not you sit in the front or the back of the bus. usually i find myself heading straight for the back, since there tends to be more breathing room and less hassle, and i don't want to crowd up the front in case any senior citizens or physically struggling people board. see how over time, the significance of a space can transform completely?

2. on November 13, 1955, Whoopi Goldberg was born.

just saying. i wonder what her childhood was like. can you imagine baby whoopi making civil rights jokes??

3 .
on November 13, 1997, the Disney musical "The Lion King" opened on Broadway.

hands down the best broadway show ever. have i seen enough broadway shows for that to be a factually accurate statement, despite its subjective nature? absolutely not. still though, the animals were so real!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

the "p" word

i'm a poet after all. what? here's a piece of sweet potato pie from allen ginsberg that i recommend reading out loud:
America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back
it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I'm a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they're
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don't really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers'
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I'm nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Berkeley, January 17, 1956

popped bubbles and such

today, in a fairly long conversation with my super awesome boss, i discussed (this is new for me) politics. specifically, politics in relation to the work we do (drug policy reform in communities of color). even more specifically, we had a lengthy back and forth about the current political climate and how we could use it to advance our own (ingenious!) agenda. we agreed that we were wallowing in peculiar waters given the unprecedented national air of optimism occurring simultaneously with some of the most depressing statistics in history. and i mean that across the board: incarceration rates, unemployment rates, infant mortality rates, etcetera.

surely though, optimism can't be the worst of our troubles, can it? of course not. the trouble is the real shit. feeling good about the way things are going when everything is bad is like using cocaine (of course, coke can be replaced in this context with any other drug that offers a high) to escape the pressures of life. you feel good, sure, but your circumstances remain the same, and bc you've opted to not proactively address them, they will likely even worsen.

thats right, hope plus no change in action = cracked out.

so the task at hand here in the strange political place in which we've found ourselves, is to galvanize all those bright eyes and bushy tails into action and remind them that feeling good simply isn't enough when things are so very bad.

also, nothing wrong with a little mary jane.