Monthly Archives: October 2013

NIGGER

This poem is going to be updated. It was a slam piece I wrote years ago, and I’m tired of it the way it is. So, before I move stuff around, I want to document what was before I come out with the remix…

Btw, it’s one of my favorite poems to recite during Black History Month. Especially around uppity Black folks who act like they are so repulsed by the N-word. You can’t take away the sting when you’re still acting like you’re afraid of it.

And here, we go.

I AM

the atomic bomb of all insults

my name symbolizes intense hate and immense pride

i can cast an entire generation of men into hell

their memory keeps me alive

and no, you don’t have to speak to me

or even say my name, cause baby–

i can read your mind

no one has seen more people take their last breath

or caused more living men to withhold it

my stare signifies a history of

stolen lies

stolen wives

stolen cries

made proud men hang their heads in shame

made some wallow in it

some rise from my ashes

and revel in it

others religiously invoke my name

most of them too stupid to use anything else

i am studied like a college major

or left to collect dust on some forgotten shelf

from the biggest and strongest men

to the richest and most powerful

i can’t be touched, while

i’ll allow 12-year old ghetto boys

to call on me all day long

those who created me now fear me

like an eternal wrong

some try to avoid me

others embrace what i stand for

some wish they could strangle me

captured like the enemy’s flag

or cure me like an infected sore

a prisoner of war

a volatile situation

an explosive core

a powerful weapon

a beautiful song

a death sentence

a nuclear bomb

i am an identity

i am a religion

i am a history

i am a mission

i am a people

i am a sword

i am immaculate

i am a whore

from the most educated of men

to the drunk in the gutter

i am a nation left in the water

i am the devil

some call me “god”

cast out from Eden into Nod

an indication of guilt

a reason to kill

a convenient scapegoat

an excuse for “free will”

can’t translate me, cause i have no equal

i am as ambiguous as the words “bad” and “sick”

the embodiment of evil

i am timeless, formless, and profoundly patriotic

i am a window into a people

i can be your mother or your father

one drop

keep me, i am yours

allow the absence of color to get near me

and even your president will know his place

the greatest leaders on earth

wouldn’t dare touch my face

deny them my use

you will forever own the fire i wield

cause you hold the fuse

while they created me

you liberated me

found like the lost treasure

the measure of acceptance some men

will never obtain

it’s internationally known

NOT to call my name

i am a sign

that the greatest nation on earth

created the most disgusting

reviled

filthiest

nastiest

and most unacceptable word ever heard

nothing can describe me

or the damage i’ve caused

i be the original Holocaust

can’t erase my past

or clean me up

or whitewash my sons

if the mouth was a gun

then i be the trigger

i am the first American institution

the father of all mankind

the original civilization

but then they named me

NIGGER

“Nigger”

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The Little Match Girl (Hans Christian Andersen)

Poets do themselves a grave injustice if they never read the work of other poets. Thing about creativity–we all talk about being original, but nothing in the creative world is actually original. I am saying that to say that we all inspire each other, and every idea anyone ever came up with was inspired by somebody else’s idea. If you are so wrapped up in your own work, you will never be inspired to create new work.

That said, this morning when I woke up I grabbed a random book off my bookshelf to have something to read while out and about with the children. I didn’t even look at what I had until I was in the car, and my daughter read the cover:  It was a 40-something year old copy of a copy of a collection of poems by Hans Christian Andersen. He holds a special place in my heart for several reasons:

  1. He authored one of my favorite short stories, “The Little Match Girl”, which I read as a boy around 11 or 12 years old. When I was an English major at the University of DC, I wrote a criticism of this story. Although I was barely a teen when I read the story for the first time, I was forever changed by it (more to come)
  2. He wrote another short story that my daughter, and perhaps your daughter (or YOU) hold dear:  “The Little Mermaid”. I sure hope you didn’t think Disney created this story? I also read it while in school, and years later when the movie came out (I didn’t actually see the movie until I had a daughter of my own) my baby cousin who loved the movie so much charmed me into wanting a little girl–I wanted no parts of a daughter in those days. But my cousin was so cute I needed someone to spoil… and a conversation about Ariel started it.
  3. He was a contemporary of two other favorites of mine: Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There… aka “Alice in Wonderland”) and the great Charles Dickens. His writings paralleled Dickens, who wrote works that entranced me and influenced my feelings about the poor and the battle of the classes.
  4. Others, such as a poem I will post at the end of this article. More on this later.
My Only Princess... the rival to every woman I know since she was born

My Only Princess… the rival to every woman I know since she was born

So The Little Match Girl.

She was a poor little girl selling matches on the street to help take care of her father. She is treated poorly by everyone but her grandmother. It is New Year’s Eve, and she is having a difficult time selling the matches, but does not want to go home empty handed. She takes shelter in an enclosure, and lights matches to stay warm.

Each time she strikes a match, she hallucinates and sees visions:  A holiday feast, a warm, comfortable home with a stove, a Christmas tree. She looks up in the sky and sees a shooting star–and is reminded that her grandmother once told her, that when you see a shooting star, someone has died and gone to heaven.

Freezing, but entertained, the little girl continues lighting matches, alternating between warmth and cold. Then she sees her grandmother, “the only person who had loved her, but is no more”.

She lights the whole pack to keep her grandmother present, but she is just a vision. Her grandmother is dead.

And now out of matches, the little girl freezes to death.

A passerby finds her the next morning, unaware that of the visions the little girl saw the night before, sad for the little girl who died such a happy and comforted child… unaware that her grandmother carried her to heaven the night before. Surely, the stranger felt an intense pity for this child–who was as rich as anyone else with the presence of her grandmother’s image.

The end.

And you see how Andersen’s work could engage the reader and penetrate your soul… No more needs to be said.

In case you were wondering what my favorite Andersen poem might be, it is a piece entitled–never mind. Just read it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

.

.

mother, i am tired. I’ll drowse away

by your heart, I’ll find my deepest place

promise me you’ll weep no more today

for your salt tears burn my face

here, it is cold, the outside wind is wild

but in dreams the wildest wonders fly

and I see a smiling angel-child

when tonight, I close my weary eye

.

do you see the angel all in light?

hear his music flowing from above?

look–he has two wings, so fair and white

which our Lord has given him in love

green and gold and red the angel brings

they are flowers gliding past my eye

will I–while I live–be given wings?

or fly with them, Mother, when I die?

.

Mother, why do you press my hand?

and why do you press your cheek to mine?

it is wet, but burns me like a brand

i will always be yours, true and good

but no longer, Mother, shall you sigh such sighs

if you cry, I’ll cry

Oh, I am so tired! Come, shut my eyes!

Mother–look!

The angel is kissing me…

.

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“Dying Child”

Hans Christian Andersen

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