Femminist Reflections on My Spritual Sabbatical pt 3

Headed Towards the Light: An Itinerant Cartographers Unfinished Guide to the Poetics of the Movement for Black Lives.

My thoughts coalesce in long walks.

I take long, slow and steady strolls throughout the city examining the network of disparate thoughts that float through my mind. Each step makes a critical connection. Each street corner reminds me of another data point. My mind elongates in tandem with my strides, expanding to compute a thousand daily concerns and musing.

Over the past month I have walked through several valleys of understanding. I’ve taken a really long and hard look at how I’ve been operating over the past year. At first, it was difficult even to focus on it all. Every action, speech, rally and interaction with police was blurred together in one side splitting mental imprint of stress, anxiety, hope, rage and fear.

As I strolled through city blocks in DC and Brooklyn, I unpacked these dense imprints to examine the impact this year had on me. As I unpacked them, I could feel myself decompress and a weight slowly begin to lift off my shoulders. Unencumbered by these chains of constant anxiety I saw a bit of my former self start to return.

I began to remember how much I enjoy playing the dozens with friends and family. I remembered how calm I used to feel before the hurricane of constant organizing. I began to be able to appreciate, for the first time in a long time, how truly wonderful, amazing and beyond my wildest dreams this past year had been.

Despite the pain and agony of constantly reacting to another death, another sign that we are not meant to survive this system, I realized that I have been blessed with a wonderful, radical and radically supportive community. I have been blessed with an increased faith in my abilities and decreased need to prove my worth. I have been blessed with a spiritual awareness of the world and my place in it. I have become more acquainted with my internal power and more comfortable standing in it.

With each step, I was able to gain more and more of this perspective and more and more weight fell off my shoulders. Yet something has been missing. There has been an almost indiscernible feeling of internal lacking, of waiting from something to enter my life and complete my sabbatical.

I realize that I’ve been waiting, somewhat foolishly, for my old self to return. Yet the more I reflect, the more I realize that he no longer exists. Part of him grew up over the past two years and part of him was buried in Baltimore. In his place is n older, more patient, more jaded and more self-aware blend of echoes of my father and the person I was as a kid.

______________________________________________________

Walking is one of the few things that can slow the torrent of coupled thoughts that often race through my mind. It is one of the few forms of meditation that brings me to the particular sort of calm in which I feel the most myself. It is a reflective, active calm like the mind of an athlete ready to jump. Even though the blood begins to rush into my hands in anticipation, unlike an athlete, my movements are entirely metaphoric.

It is perhaps ironic then that after my walks I could not describe to you much of what I saw nor could I give you directions to where I went. I have no mind for mundane details. I remember only the slight details a painter might use to accent a work or the descending notes a composer uses to let you know the piece was ending. I tend to only remember the details useful for storytelling.

It might then be even more ironic that I have come to think of myself as a verbal cartographer. I cannot, for the life of me, tell you how to get from point A to B but I could describe, illustratively and in exquisite detail what the journey will feel like. I could point out to you, if you were interested, the history of significant ruins you might encounter along the way. I would end each map with a key explaining why the journey is so viscerally important. Yet I’m very bad at directing folks to where I feel they should go because it assumes a specific singular destination.

I think this is why I prefer poetry to prose.
It’s easier.
A rarity of words,
Increases impact.

Like a lover,
leaving the ring on the counter,
in lieu papers;
communicating more in questions begged,
than answers given.

But I digress.

I have, over the past year, developed more interest in complicating journeys than prescribing destinations. Perhaps it’s fatigue. Perhaps it’s uncertainty. Perhaps it’s a begrudging humility. Likely it’s all three. Either way, I’m more interested in poetry than prose.

“I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean–in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight.”
Lorde, Audre. “Poetry Is Not a Luxury.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.

In another life I would have been a cartographer.

I can see myself devouring the latest missives from the “new world.” Immediately incorporating them in my maps. The outlines of coasts getting more and more accurate as times goes on. The descriptions of the people and culture getting more vivid and useful.

But the edges of the map, of the known world, would always be illustrated with the myths I felt to be true. The gryphons of the cold wintery north, dragons of the distance east, the giants that laid waste to the northern desserts. Over time we will discover the eagles, the alligators, the massive blue whales and giant squids that looked like krakens and myth will turn into science and we will pretend that we understand the world.

These are the many tensions in my soul. The observed and the felt. The diagram and the dreamscape. Different understandings fueled by a desire to know and explore, driven by the most ardent curiosity. A deep sense of the world in its totality but lack of understanding.
Of it’s beauty.
Its wonder.
It’s terror.
It’s Poetics.
Dialectical, symmetrically assembled choreography of masses, forces and networks of consciousness that I feel a deep, ethereal connection to.

I will forever be in debt to writers like Audre Lorde and Octavia Butler and Adrienne Maree Brown and Alexis Pauline Gumbs  for giving me language to explore and illustrate the edges of the map. I will be in debt to thinkers and spiritualists like Erika Totten and Omolara Williams McCallister for reminding me that there are many levels and kinds of understanding and multiple dimensions on which to know a thing. It is debt shared by all the Black Queer Feminist in my life whose power and energy inspire me, especially my sisters who taught me how to dream.

This is all to say, after a month long spiritual sabbatical, I wish to share with you a map of the edge of my understanding. I wish to illustrate, in the best medium I have available to me [poetics], the uncharted territory that my movement family and I have been exploring in the past year in the Movement for Black Lives.

A Unfinished Map Towards Liberation:

The topography is vigorous,
A land of dynamic forces.
Energies that are both waves and particles:
ideas,
impulses,
neurons firing in our brains
and chemical reactions to historical, economic, existential and social stimulants.
There are forces of beauty and wonder,
forces of oppression and human limitation.
There is bondage and emancipation.
Growth and decay.
Blossoming and withering.

These forces etch themselves unto the landscape of human experience, craving systems of opposition, obstacles to forward paths and valleys of understanding.

The west side of the map is our past: clouded in the fog of war, myth and dogma.

In the middle lies our present: dense, humid and warming.

Towards the east is our unknowable future: shrouded in mystery and wrapped in anticipation.

To the north is the observable world of facts and figures and

in the south lies the equally true world of dreams, feelings, imaginations, the science of living and other knowings.

 

Liberation lies to the SE of our present location.

“The man who knows something knows that he knows nothing at all.” Erykah Badu – On and On

 

As we travel towards liberation, we must ensure we are equipped for the journey. It is a rough road for the ill-prepared. We could not climb the mountains of true understanding without collecting the theory and analysis of the north and weaving them into the dreams and internal knowings of the south. Unfortunately, our species is not yet equipped to walk a straight path towards liberation. It will be meandering journey of starts and stutters.

On the frayed edges of the map are the metaphysical oceans where the forces of the land coalesce and pool. The rocky bays that connect these rivers of forces to the oceans of power filter out the impurities of domination, hierarchy, and inequity. Still, the depths of these oceans are dangerous to the unpracticed swimmer. The call of God is a siren to the unlearned ear, pulling you into these jagged rocks and in these oceans lay a terrifyingly transformative power.

Notes on the oceans of power:

From my travels in the south, I learned to bottle my dreams so that I can access this power. I see my sisters access it at protests. I drink from it nightly and feel it overwhelm me when I speak truth to the world. I sense is flow through me as my mind flows unto the page.
I intuit that this emotional energy, this transformative power, has the capacity to shatter this land.

I can access it at any time.

Sometimes, when I allow myself to access this power, shutting down highways, testifying in the Wilson building as knowledge coalesces effortlessly in my mind and flows freely from my lips; I think that the power is right when it suggests that I should break the world.

 

I am terrified, infatuated and addicted to this embodied power.

  • My movement family and I access this power together.
  • Collectively we both heighten it and hold it accountable.
  • I believe that this power is our salvation.
  • I have recognized this power as my birthright.
  • I have invited you, before I was even aware of what it was, to drink from my dreams and stand in this power with me.

 

 

“I see protest as a genuine means of encouraging someone to feel the inconsistencies, the horror of the lives we are living. Social protest is saying that we do not have to live this way. If we feel deeply, and we encourage ourselves and others to feel deeply, we will find the germ of our answers to bring about change. Because once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy. And when they do not, we will ask, “Why don’t they?” And it is the asking that will lead us inevitably toward change.

So the question of social protest and art is inseparable for me. I can’t say it is an either-or proposition. Art for art’s sake doesn’t really exist for me. What I saw was wrong, and I had to speak up. I loved poetry, and I loved words. But what was beautiful had to serve the purpose of changing my life, or I would have died. If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.”

“Audre Lorde.” Black Women Writers at Work. Ed. Claudia Tate. NY: Continuum, 1983. 100-16.

The Movement for Black Lives is not asking for special treatment for Black people. Nor are we only asking for our needs to finally be meet after centuries of erasure or myths of pathology.

Rather, activists are returning from the edges of the known world, pointing out the holes in the dominate logics and inviting the world to stand with us in the light that shines through. We are shouting to you that this light is proof that this world is under ground, buried beneath a capitalist system of dominance maintained by patriarchy and white supremacy.

The movement for Black Lives is reminding all of us that we need to head SE towards liberation.

Years of being underground, submerged in this system, has dimmed many of our faculties while studying our surroundings [even in dimness] has brightened others. Yet all told, we have lived only in the north for far too long. We have become stagnant in our civilizations, forgotten our migratory nature and carved out pieces of the earth.

As if we could own it.

As if it didn’t own us.

We have lost much of the accumulated wisdom of the south. We have forgotten about how to be, to live in harmony with our selves, to seek to learn from the world without destroying it.

The M4BL is asserting that the particular position of Black people [especially Working Class Black Queer Women] in the system and the history invasions that forced us to flee periodically to the south gives us the second sight to help guide humanity out of the darkness and into the light.

We are giving you fair warning before we drag this whole system, amid its suffocating totality, into the above ground world we have been forced out of and almost forgotten.

We do not believe that when we return to the light we will return to a previous way of life. We are futurist not primitivists. We have chosen to be Diasporic Cosmonauts not earthly refugees. What is past is prologue, it needn’t be destiny nor our chosen destination. We believe that once in the light we must still journey east towards liberation, onwards to a new world that is better than we have ever experienced or can currently imagine.

The Movement for Black Lives believes in the fundamental ability of our imaginations and dreams to store and share transformative power. The power that we need to overcome the totality of capitalism and logics of dominance. The same power we will need to climb the mountains of true understanding.

 

We, beautifully flawed humans that can neither tolerate a world order that, in thinking we are worthy of its oppression, is beneath us nor wait idly by as it consumes itself, are headed towards the lands filled with the glorious black light of the power contained in the ocean of human imagination. We will not merely content ourselves to observe the effects of its absence.

Ours is a long march of trials, falters, tribulations, celebrations and lessons.

We are unlearning that all struggle must be painful and that all pain is wasteful. We are relearning the elation of change, the euphoria of spiritual endorphins that comes from exercising new muscles of self-determination.

Our wanderings in the south have taught us to embody old stories in new ways. We have become updaters and remixers not needless iconoclasts. We are Christ like in our imperfect divinity and utilizing of love, Mohammedan in our submission to the divine and commitment to study and like Moses we lead the captive, sometimes too content to settle near the lands of the pharaoh, on the long march to emancipation.

We are workers building class consciousness and harnessing the science of revolution in a new economy. Mothers who are also teachers and nurses smashing the patriarchy and midwives birthing a gender fluid world. We are the Ebony skinned neo-abolitionists delivering the supersedants to zion. We are anarchist fighting against the alienation of our transformative power. All while being queer as fuck and refusing to let these histories, texts or identities define us.

If this way of being destroys your idols it is collateral damages of a fluid world in motion.

Notes on the Underground Landscape:

“Alienation is the gap between desire and what is socially valued, between our potential to transform the world and the theft and parasitic use of that power by capital and the state.” Anonymous

 

 

Capitalism became total, and blotted out the sun, when it began selling us deficits instead of just commodities. We now have a culture of deficits and inflated spiritual debts. We are too ugly. Too Black. Too poor. Too femme. Too foreign. Or too queer to fit in. We must work, buy, sell and scrape to get closer to an unattainable able-bodied, symmetric, fit, white, wealthy, male ideal citizen.

What we have is a global system of perverted forces that create false scarcities and deficits before providing draining resources we are told will solve them. It is as if we are desert people living in a glorious oasis but being sold salt water and taught that to live is to hydrate.

The long buried truth is that the vocation of all humans is to live fully and in communion with their needs and shared desires. We are the intellectually nomadic bards of our own histories and songs, living well in order to share our stories with each other. The fullness to which we aspire is a facet of our species’ current and progressing social and economic development which in turn shapes our desires.

Yet we are told that in order to live we must work and observe and buy.

 

We are told what we must do in order to be.

The options given to us in the cold calculating north, these shadow life vocations, constantly place us under the control of others but out of relationship with ourselves and each other. Most revolutionary ethos in the west merely seek to change the ruling class without changeling the idea of ruling. Others merely put forth hollow and solitary images of individual self-determination.

Our journeys southland, to our dreams, have taught us that instead we must reframe our whole realm of living. We must stop wasting our spiritual energy tweaking the details of our alienation from our true vocation–cultivating a land we were never meant to settle in–so that we no longer have any opinions on its totality.

 

“In a caricature of antagonisms, power urges everyone to be for or against Brigitte Bardot, the nouveau roman, the 4-horse Citroën, spaghetti, mescal, miniskirts, the UN, the classics, nationalization, thermonuclear war and hitchhiking. Everyone is asked their opinion about every detail in order to prevent them from having one about the totality.” Basic Banalities — Raoul Vaneigem

 

Yet our goal cannot be as narrow as ending capitalism. This map leads to liberation, not merely away from our past. While this global society serves our bosses more than us and they exhibit more control over it, the system does not really serve them either. The same way that proximity to power is not power, having the system geared towards you does not mean it fulfills you. It does not allow the wealthy to fulfill their full vocation. Their true vocation is not power. Yet their options are limited by their determined gaze at their feet on our backs.

They are merely favored captives chained by their fathers and forced to stare at shadows of the forms on the walls of the cave; convinced that it’s not prison because they have box seats. The same gaslights they use to tell us that America is not a prison because we have cable in here.

The same can be said of emotionally stunted men and emotionally fragile whites too chained to their positions above those they oppress to run freely and gaily southeasterly towards their true vocations.

This does not absolve them [or us] of their [or our] complicity, it merely goes to show us that switching positions with them or raising everyone to their standard [as if this would even be possible without destroying the very system that enshrines and maintains that standard] is not a solution.

Reform is not revolution.

Equity is not liberation.

Notes on the Roads to Liberation[s]:

There is no one path to Liberation. The straight course from our current position to liberation is perilous and we are not equipped to take it.

We must use the analysis of the north to identify the systems of oppression that alienate us from our true vocation. We must use the dream materials of the south to dismantle them and create space for our evolving work that approaches authentic fulfilling human vocation. We must synthesis the techniques of the north and south to heal ourselves and our communities in order to clear our collective imaginations of the miasma of oppression and fog of trauma that clouds our vision. We must work together to build a new world aligned with our new vision in the shell of the old world we are dismantling. All of this must happen at once.

Yet this work does not happen in a vacuum. In order to work collectively we must address the systems of oppression; white supremacy, patriarchy and xenophobia, which has thwarted journeys in the past. This path is hard and healing will consistently be needed. The way forward is dark and we will need our theory to guide the way, our historical experience and the wisdom of our ancestries will guide us through forks in the road. We must develop spiritual practices and spiritual farms [beloved communities] that will feed us as we crawl through the darkness headed towards the light.

This is the unfinished map of the Movement for Black Lives. It is for this vision we are dragging our society kicking and screaming through the darkness and into the light. We may stumble, we may falter, we may get lost but we are committed to our task.

We fight even for those you would not fight for us. We fight even for those who would stand against us. While powerful, we are not large enough to hold this society on our backs without dropping or fragmenting parts. We cannot hold enough of it in our consciousness to ensure that precious parts of it are not forgotten. So those of you who share these visions, dreams and analyses must carry your load of the world with us.

  • Only collective liberation is strong enough to carry all of society into the light without tearing it asunder.
  • Only collective liberation can provide enough guidance to show us the way to the light, without it we can only fight against the darkness unsure if we are headed up or down.
  • Only collective liberation can plant the spiritual fruits complex enough to feed the army of sojourners needed to bring this society into the light. And only in the light and we build the true world.
  • Only in the light can we see and be our true selves.

So I invite you to drink from this cup of dreams, to stand in this power with me.

Together we shall create a revolutionary communal praxis able to wield our new analytical dreamscapes through story and song, organizing and building, through destruction and creation and ultimately: rebirth.

Illogic

Illogic

:

This poem is called:
mixed metaphors

or

the physics of nonsense and non-compliance:
radical action in the forefront

or
meager meandering of an eager and creative soul child
or
streams of neon-neurotic non-neo-liberal consciousness
or
things mother forgot to remind me
or
things I think of in between the oppressions
or
the science of living
or

If, as they say, E=MC2
then would ODB and Jay-Z squared off
freestyling in the market place of ideas
make matter reverberate off the window you forgot to put down in the rain storm?
Would your room be flooded with the 2 cents of disaffected black youth?
Could you handle all that realness?
Would the curvature of time-space triangulate slowly if Lauryn sung the hook?
If it got loud enough would it scare the birds in the bush worth the gander with the one Black swan?
Would your investment in bird watching books be squandered?
If, as the world turned faster the days our lives got longer
until a year became the infinity between the end of your first kiss and your eyes opening
would time still equal money?
What if we all woke tomorrow and decided that it would be Sunday
every day,
would we ever get our mail?
Would the mail-man,
mail-people,
persons,
zers be forced to work on sunday?
Would the injustices of the world perpetuate themselves in our own lackadaisical heaven?
Does liberation come with Paid Sick Days?
Does the revolution take water breaks?
Will the water be our grandmother’s lead lined tap water?
What if “Alf” was just an anachronistic prophesy of Clintonian democracy?
How much wood would a wood chuck need to chuck for Chuck and Heavey D to stop the violence?
If our best educated, best prepared, best equipped refuse to fight then when does the battle start?

What if we all got into a room and talked it out?
What if only the respectable folks could hold the mic?
What if I told her I loved her?
What if we all got along, all the time, all the time and love was everywhere?
Would we have room for our beds?
Would we have to sleep,
huddled in our happiness,
peaceful in our orgies because
fucking is the opposite of war?
Maybe the world is just too much.
Maybe we just can’t handle it all?
Maybe the revolution will just turn off the lights
Maybe we will spend our lives on our backs,
staring at the stars at night,
holding hands and signing hyms
praising how simple,
how beautiful,
how lovely it all is when take the time to look at it?
Maybe heaven is a world only perceived through our eyes and ears.
Maybe it just beauty without context.
Maybe this hell is being beaten with false histories.
Maybe death is the daily monotony of work and existing with our blinders force feeding us information and life is everything else…

Black boy, White Spaces: An Unfinished Poem

 

 

Aaron, Dad, Alexis

We did not create our Blackness. It was imposed upon us . But we accepted it, and made it beautiful and now we love it.

Why is it so hard for them to do the same?

 

There is a part of me,
underneath the indignation and the pride,
beneath the bluster and the argument,
under the fight and the grit and the rhetoric,
that worries that this is just
lunacy.

That I am standing in the darkness
A lonesome, solitary figure,
howling half baked conspiracies
to world of disinterested strangers
Like a hermit listing his litany indignation at the moon.
I stand in this depressed darkness,
Worrying that the illness I battled back for years,
The madness that used to bounce off the cavernous walls of my skull
The ineffable, nervous insanity,
is growing inside me,
constantly pushing back against the brick walls of apathy–
barriers built of traumatic tuned gut reactions —
constructed over the years to keep the recklessness at bay.

Any moment I feel that I might slip,
Unknowingly,
Uncontrollably,
Sweetly…
Into the succulent abyss of psychosis.

I dread the moment when dementia is inseparable from reality
while simultaneously yearning for its sweet ecstasy.
Yearning for the warm, nearly maternal comfort of diagnosis
because I have much other fears too.

Deeper,
Dimmer,
defused fears that grow in the unexamined emptiness of my subconscious
terrors that haunt the primordial recess at the core of my being:
the depths where emotions are felt in the body.

Fears that I’m afraid might shatter me if I examined them in the light.

There,
unfathomably submerged,
unarticulated, and unsated,
I am paralyzed by the fear that I’m not crazy.
That it’s the world that is psychotic.
That it’s the world that is nearly nonsensical,
fueled by a cruel and only occasionally perceptible illogic
composed of massive structural mysteries beyond my comprehension.

I fear that my traumatic recoil is the safest reaction.

I fear that truly engaging in or with the world would burn away my soul
Leaving me the hallow shell of another Black boy torn asunder,
Burned by the unbearable Whiteness of it all.

There is a part of me that hopes,
beyond my hopes for peace and revolution,
beyond my dreams for family and love,
beyond needs for water and food-
a primal screaming visceral, ineffable, unsatisfied part of me-
wishes that I’m overreacting.

That the Whiteness is non malignant.
That these stares, and statements and statues are isolated coincidences
brought together by the misanthropic meanderings of an overly defensive mind.
That I’m overly sensitive to it all.
That 36 million Black bodies do not riel in this torture chamber called America
where Micro aggressions drip daily,
without rhythm or consistently discernible logic
onto our blood soaked foreheads

slowly

drip by drip

driving all of us,
collectively
stark raving mad.
I pray to every god I’ve ever known, every night that everyone of us is not shucking and jiving on the razor thin edge of white racial sensibilities hoping that enough of our culture drips from their lips as they consume us to be able to feed our children.

What God could have created a scale capable of weighing this much injustice?
What Divine metals could withstand the sheer tonnage of my oppression?

It is impossible.
I must be crazy.
I must have overacted.
I must apologize.

I must make amends
dance on the tip of their fragility
pretending that I like the music;
that the room is not built of bones of former slaves
thrown,
in chains,
into the ocean for insurrection.

Pretend that what I’m hearing is really music
not a cacophony of beigeness
whispering
nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger
so melodically that I think its my name…

#TBT 2007’s Fermentation of Truth

In honor of Throw Back Thursday, which is now I thing I guess, I present to you a poem that celebrates the beauty of language and revels in the ways words form in our mouths and in our minds.

 

Fermentation of Truth

Muse
Let me roll down like water
Cascading on barren minds
Deserts of post-modern apathy
Let my words wind
Hugging the rolling tapestry
Of the thirsty rustic hills filled with sterile farms
Bread basket villages devoid of life
Salt sowed lands lapping my eloquence
Being cleansed by my mind traveling in liquid form
Like a triumphed wine
celebrating a shadowed victory 93 million miles from the light

Let us toast,
The truth, its vines tumbling, turning, twisting
Has returned to us at last
Traveling through man’s uncertainty
From the Eden of man’s disillusioned past

There Satan allowed society to strip it of its fruit
and Society let it be pressed under the numb
Melancholy masses of milling feet
Shuffling to work–
But at last it is allowed to trickle down through consciousness to this
Meager meandering of creative misgivings
The spoken word

So drink up
Take your fill of this sweet knowledge
This eternal truth that gets better with age
Fear not
Your contempt has not distilled its
Poetry or its Potency
It will still get you dunk

You’ll be hanging on my every word
Tripping over my mental obstacles
While your head spins
Trying in vain to chase this trail of contemplation
I’ll leave you in a drunk stupor
Too trashed to comb your thoughts
With your grandmother’s fine-toothed ivory
Preconceptions and imperfect paradigms

In the morning after you’ve vomited up your ignorance
And passed out, sprawled ungracefully
Over a rough, barely tangible
Concept of reality,
You’ll have a slight hangover–
And yes by slight I mean
You’ll head will feel like
Philosophy was beating inside of it
A caged metaphor for your inebriated reincarnation
But hopefully by then you’ll have forgotten last night

You’ll have forgotten your
False fears and fallacious philosophy
And only remember your empty stomach
And be hungry for knowledge

And maybe then you’ll stand up and walk to the night stand
Heads still spinning from last night
And you’ll pick up a pen and begin to write
Searching through the catacombs of your connotations
For truth
All the while planting a perfect seed
In the courtyard of your ever growing mind
A vine yard that will stretch
From your heart to your mind
And begin to slowly wrap itself around your soul

So open your eyes
Let lose your spirit
Unchain your shackled mind,
And drink up–
Take this little shot of truth
Wine of the fruit of knowledge
100 proof.

Strip

This latest poem is less a poem and more a audio art experience? The Poem is called strip or remover of difficulties or the things they ask you to strip away. It’s new, its different, it complex. Listen to it twice and let me know what you think!

Strip away the paint and the decorations and a house is a just a shelter.
A physical space for us to be protected from the elements.
Pieces of wood and steel and brick that allow us to live our lives.
That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.
You remember the first time they asked you to strip. They didn’t know what they were asking but your mother had taught you when to know. Your slave like hands slowly began to undo the braids on your head. You undid your history with each row you took out; rows of fertile hair where your identity grew unraveled. You reached your ash black hands towards your mouth and stripped away the taste of mother’s cooking. You used your degree to strip the pigment from your skin and hoped that it bruised white. The act of bleaching stung at first but you would get used to the feeling, you would tell your son that it’s what it feels like to successful. You knew what purpose you needed to serve and you had learned to serve it well.

Strip away the paint and ornaments and a car is just a vehicle.
An instrument to carry us from one place to another.
Pieces of steel and leather and rubber that allow us to live our lives.
That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.

You remember the first time you asked her to strip for you. Neither of you knew what you were asking but she did it anyway. She stripped herself of her ideas first, letting them fall seductively to the floor. She removed her desires slowly, concealing enough of her wants to be mysterious. Her delicate and child-like fingers unlaced the rope that held her self-esteem together just like her mother taught her. Her movements were easy and provocative but unnatural. She stood in front of you, naked, left with only her tentative will to clothe her, ready to shrug it off if you asked. You wouldn’t learn to ask until college though. On the surface it felt right and you repressed the part of you that knew it was wrong. The act of repression stung at first like shaving the skin off your soul so that it could harden when it heals. Soon you would get used to that feeling; you would tell your son that it’s what it feels like to be a man. Her eyes ask you if she served her purpose well and you are unsure how to answer.

Strip away the flavor and the spices and food is just energy.
An organic fuel to give us sustenance.
Pieces of the vegetables and animals and minerals that allow us to live our lives.
That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.

You remember the first time she asked you to strip for her. She didn’t know how much it would hurt. You pulled back the emotional curtain as she sat across from you. She watched in silence as you used the knife to strip off the mask, the temporary fix that, over the years, had been permanent. You ignored the bleeding and locked eyes with her, studying her reaction. She didn’t realize it hurt until you started crying. She rushed over to tell you that you could stop but you kept carving. Once the mask was off and the tears had washed away the blood she said you were beautiful. The act of accepting her love stung at first like your pulling off the scrabs of your scarred soul. Soon you would get used to feeling, you would tell your son that this is what is should feel like to be a man. You ask her if you served your purpose well and she answers:

Strip away the clothes and the history and a person is not just an animal.
We are more than the gold and cotton and paint that covers our flesh.
Pieces of the earth we use to enhance our beauty.
Our purpose is not to serve and so we cannot be judged by how well we do.

South Side

Re-posted with the correct link now. To be honest. I’m geeking out a bit. I’ve wanted to set this poem to music since the moment I wrote it. It has taken me 7 years to have to time, energy, software and knowledge to make this and it may be the coolest thing I have ever done. Please comment! Let me know what you think!

South-Side

The days are hot and
the nights cold
and Heaven is a long way away.

I’ve seen the shackled masses.
I’ve peered into the forlorn eyes of government projects,
And through shattered glass
seen shattered dreams deferred.
Dreams can’t run syrupy sweet
if the streets are full of gunfire,
and I’ve seen churches perforated
— Riddled—
with the south side boys choir’s serenade of bullets.

Seething with the rhythms ofyouthful energy
And vying for freedom;
I’ve seen the streets pulse with
Blood red and crack fuelled indignation.
I’ve seen misdirected,
misused,
And poverty abused youth
find family in red bandanas
And Fight the Power with gunfire.

The devil finds work for idle hands and a tech nine fits easily into a backpack.
Rumble young man rumble. Ya Mama goes to work and ya daddy goes to jail. Rumble young man rumble.

Half the city,
half naked,
sweating
and laughing the rolling laughter of youth,
died of starvation
quietly in steel mill.
Mourning;
Warsaw marched north with Dublin
and Freetown was left behind,
praying for a return that will never come.
But the diamonds,
the blood stained powder diamonds,
breathed fire into its black lungs.

For a few dollars
or a few minutes in a dark alley
all your troubles would fade away.
trickling down into the hands of a neighbor’s son
selling to eat and fighting to live.

The devil finds work for idle hands and a kilo fits easily into a backpack.
Rumble young man rumble. Ya Mama goes to work and ya daddy goes to jail. Rumble young man rumble.

These hands. These hands that built a city. These hands that tended the land and beat the steel. These hands that raised and lifted a nation are wasted: lying fallow, sterile with salt sowed into their wounds. Raw and bloodied they beat in vain on the bullet proof “windows of opportunity.” Tear streaked hands—wet from comforting the invisible abrasions of oppression in the invisible children of the invisible ghetto—that are strong but too tired to lift themselves up. Dejected , they find their only solace in shaking the condemned hands of Ida B. Wells.

The Devil finds work for idle hands and a life fits easily into a backpack.
Tremble old hands tremble. Ya daughter goes to work and ya son goes to jail. Tremble old hands tremble.

The streets cry, alone at night, after the city shuts down. The trampled streets whimper to themselves: the only ears that hear them. In their silence lie volumes spoken loudly but never heard.

“Where is the voice of that so called down-trodden mass” they ask.
“It is calling, always calling to you. Stop. Listen. Hear Me! I’m dying” they answer.
then Silence

The devil finds work for the darkest hands and half a city fits easily into a backpack. Rumble south-side rumble. Ya sisters go to work and ya brothers go the jail. Rumble south-side rumble.

The days are hot and
the nights cold
and Heaven is a long way away.

Their Culture Is Capital

As my art and writing has expanded in recent months I’ve gotten really into recording my poetry and setting it music I created on acid pro.  This is my first attempt at it with original words and original music. Though, the chorus is written by Pete Singer from his song “Little Boxes” as song in this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mJSSHu3ocA .

 

They complained about the cold with a rare Chicagoan honesty. When the wind hits their faces and seeps through every orifice and pore to settle slowly into their bones they are broad shouldered and husky folk poets. So proud to be clear eyed and laughing. So proud to live where the freight-handlers daughter used to live. They walk slowly down Michigan avenue as one as if the hawk forces their crowd comfort into ubiquity. The city of big shoulders. The Big City that thinks it’s a small town as all the girls sing

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same.

They walk from Hancock to the Bean like the children of tortured writers conceived on benzodine trips whose parents told them not to do drugs after they filled their riddlen scripts. They step over the high homeless not recognizing that faraway look in their father’s eye’s because they may have been concieved in Vegas but daddy found God before they were born. They traded in riddlin for tea and found themselves unable to ask for a raise.  Being addicted to self-improvement means they have to exaggerate their flaws with cornucopias of neurosis and fat girls lose weight to come to terms with their arrogance.

The streets grin under their footsteps. You gave them your tired, weak and huddled masses yearning to be free and the streets melted them together. Michigan is asleep at 10 and by midnight it murmurs

There’s a green one and a pink one

And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

Past the Bean the steel and glass condos ooze the stench of potential ripening into through desperation and bar crawls until you wake up, hungover in parenthood. Young college students whitewash the mandarin they don’t understand with sheer bravado as the New Negroes wait for the train to get past Garfield where their city begins. The temporal anomaly that forces the races to avoid sitting next to each other rights itself after the loud mouth Uchicago students step off onto the platform humming:

And the people in the houses

All went to the university,

Where they were put in boxes

And they came out all the same,

And there’s doctors and lawyers,

And business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

The Southsiders lounge in the box cars like coal miners coming home from work. Like those coal miners they take cold showers to wash off the soot and cool themselves down in their tenements without central air. Yet after the showers they are still brown and black as the night and so they rub their paychecks on their skin hoping they change color. They pelt their children with cell phones and nike’s hoping that they bruise white enough to go to college.

And they all play on the golf course

And drink their martinis dry

And they all have pretty children

And the children go to school

And the children go to summer camp

And then to the university

Where they are put in boxes

And they come out all the same

After the train stops the city continues for miles. Bottles of broken dreams litter every street even as the smoke from crack in Englewood becomes the exhausts from Cadillacs in Beverly. This is the New Nation that the newspapers call Chiraq but from Hyde Park to Chatham former Irishmen sell suits to formers slaves. These former slaves, blind from malnutrition, sing work songs in their food desserts infused with the new culture of capital.

And the boys go into business

And marry and raise a family

In boxes made of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same

There’s a pink one and a green one

And a blue one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same

Strip

Objectified

Strip away the paint and the decorations and a house is a just a shelter.

A physical space for us to be protected from the elements.

Pieces of wood and steel and brick that allow us to live our lives.

That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.

 

You remember the first time they asked you to strip. They didn’t know what they were asking but your mother had taught you well. Your slave like hands slowly began to undo the braids on your head. You undid your history with each row you took out; rows of fertile hair where your identity grew unraveled.  You reached your ash black hands towards your mouth and stripped away your mother tongue. You used your degree to strip the pigment from your skin and hoped that it bruised white. The act of bleaching stung at first but you would get used to the feeling; you would tell your son that it’s what it feels like to successful. You knew what purpose you needed to serve and you had learned to serve it well.

 

Strip away the paint and ornaments and a car is just a vehicle.

An instrument to carry us from one place to another.

Pieces of steel and leather and rubber that allow us to live our lives.

That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.

 

You remember the first time you asked her to strip for you. Neither of you knew what you were asking but you did it anyway. She stripped herself of her ideas first, letting them fall seductively to the floor. She removed all but her base desires slowly, concealing enough of her wants to be mysterious.  Her delicate, child-like fingers unlaced the rope that held her self-esteem together just like her mother taught her. Her movements were easy and provocative but unnatural.  She stood in front of you, naked, left with only her tentative will to clothe her, ready to shrug it off if you asked. On the surface it felt right and you repressed the part of you that knew it was wrong. The act of repression stung at first like shaving the skin off your soul so that it could harden when it heals. Soon you would get used to that feeling; you would tell your son that it’s what it feels like to be a man. Her eyes ask you if she served her purpose well and you are unsure how to answer.

 

Strip away the flavor and the spices and food is just energy.

An organic fuel to give us sustenance.

Pieces of the vegetables and animals and minerals that allow us to live our lives.

That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.

 

You remember the first time she asked you to strip for her. She didn’t know how much it would hurt. You pulled back the emotional curtain as she sat across from you. She watched in silence as you used the knife to strip off the mask, the temporary fix that, over the years, had been permanent. You ignored the bleeding and locked eyes with her, studying her reaction. She didn’t realize it hurt until you started crying. She rushed over to tell you that you could stop but you kept carving. Once the mask was off and the tears had washed away the blood she said you were beautiful. The act of accepting her love stung at first like your pulling off the scabs of your scarred soul. Soon you would get used to feeling, you would tell your son that this is what is should feel like to be a man. You ask her if you served your purpose well and she answers:

 

Strip away the clothes and the history and a person is not just an animal.

We are more than the gold and cotton and paint that covers our flesh.

More than what others force us to pretend to be.

Our purpose is to not to serve and so we cannot be judged by how well we do.