Sunday, July 27, 2008

"The Exam" - poem

Shake the tamborine
Not the one in your hands
But the one in your throat
One people indivisible under God
Cause divided we fall
And even if the sum figure is off addition is a necessity
And subtraction is vital
One suburban blue collar with black face
Plus one urban white boy with baggy blues
Plus one southern brown girl who can split green beans in her sleep and wring chicken necks while standing on one leg
Equals one nation under God
Minus stereotypical lenses
Minus the unblinking eye of exploitation minus bruised bifocal false dichotomies of lynching trees or reverse discrimination
So give me an A
And let’s subtract the BS
Not the degree but the nonsense
Cause my hands are swollen
Numb from anemia
Deficient of will or strength
My palms only possess seeing lines
But we need to connect the dots
If red plus blue makes green
But black plus white equals black from one drop blood
But blood is red
And the reds were wiped out
But are still here
Or didn’t you notice my cheek bones
But regardless the reality is no one can catch a rainbow
Or maybe we can but 9 to 5 keeps us from taking up our crosses
Which brings us back to addition
Multiplying the tasks we can fit in a tic toc
Cause Alabama is only a fraction of the square root of my roots
This soil is ancient
Pre-dating calendars or 24 hour kinkos or even kentes
This is pure breath
One spirit is God
In my lungs adding life to our tics
Before we clock out
Our blinks are beat boxes for angel’s ears
Let the wax build up to hear soul music better
There are toes in India, Africa, Australia, Europe and Asia doing the same tap dance right not
Adding to the ruler indentions that were not anticipated or accounted for
Because the global calculator was buried in the sands of hierarchy
Making wild anarchy disguise itself as altruism
But it wasn’t all true
Lies I say
And the deception must be revealed for there to be one breath which is God
And I breathe it
We are it
So shake the tamborine
Not the one in your hands
The one in your throat
The one that is you
Shake loose and join the caravan of additives in search of the ultimate preservative
Cause life is an equation written on a blackboard with limited erasers
And many races are in this class and that brings us again to addition
If the rich get richer what do the poor get
If we give free cheese who gets the meat and potatoes
If there are thousands of empty homes with for sale signs on lawns
Why are thousands of babies sleeping on streets
Or is math just not the strong suit of politicians
But even kids in the remedial class know that if there are 10 marbles
And you take all ten then we have none
And laziness is not in this equation
Only greed
So let’s subtract it
And be one breath which is God
Maybe it sounds like communism to you
But this is math not phonics
So just let the equation be equal don’t’ topple the scale
Cause when it’s broke you will feel it
And if that sounds like a threat to you
Remember this is not linguistics only math
And we’re striving for all the crap to cancel out
Envy and greed cancel each other out
Selfishness and oppression cancel each other out
Cross out the x’s and the y’s
Cross out the heads and the tails
Cross out the mayhem and the madness
Until we’re left with one breath which is God
Before we have to turn the papers over
Put the pens down
And wait to be dismissed

Lineage Poem

I am my mother’s daughter
We stand in closets
Communing with the Holy Spirit
Startling saints with our sensuality
Filling streets and sanctuaries with our Roars
Keeping mysteries and secret behind fire eyes and brilliant smiles

I am my father’s daughter
Quietly jumping off balconies onto pulpits
Leading rallies by night
Soaking is silent thought by day
Ears listening to the wind then riding it through storms
Still waters running deep
Loving people as much as the Word

I was born risk-taker
My father used to lay in the street in the 50s
Playing chicken
Not wanting to be the first to roll away from on-coming traffic
He used to ride bikes through whites only neighborhoods
Eat at whites only counters
And protest the white house with me on his shoulders

When I ask my mother how she flies through such dangerous skies
She says “I never think about the alternative - staying on the ground.”
She soars to places where clouds of religious ritual and clouds of spiritual discipline unite
Where clouds of Africa and the Diaspora unite
Where clouds of vision and reality unite
I am my mother
We speak fire
Walk drum beats
And dance with God

I am my father
We are masterful griots
Telling our stories like oak trees
We are supreme owls
Seeking to see our people’s reality especially at midnight
We are students of midwifery
Spending our lives helping others breathe and give birth

My mother’s memory is in me
Memories of NY projects and United Nations diplomacy are in me
Memories of trading perm for afro puff are in me
And memories of being equally comfortable in mini-skirts and flowing dashikis are in me
But memories of surrender – not in me
My father’s memory is in me
Memories of Baltimore Jim Crow and DC’s march on Washington are in me
Memories of redemption sermons and revolution speeches are in me
But memories of being a follower – not in me

My parents’ pen flows through me
Their prayers hold me up
Their love – the wind beneath my wings
And their human mistakes reminding of the possibility of resurrection
For the spirit in them did not begin with them
It reaches back to southern plantations
It dances across the middle passage
It pre-dates the point of no return
It resides in the rhythms, textiles, genius, soul of a Continent
It runs through empty tomb and Calvary Cross
It runs in the wilderness and the garden
It was present at the beginning of the beginning

I am daughter of John and Cecelia
I am daughter of Africa and America
I am daughter of Alpha and Omega
I am daughter of legacies that must be passed on
I stand on invisible shoulders holding tip toeing children over my head
I take my place in this chain
Having the same faith as my ancestors
That those who come after me will transcend me
Not forgetting me but carrying our legacy to altitudes beyond our reach