Category Archives: Poetry

The Sinner

Poetry time…

And it’s time to experiment.

So, I’m talking to a friend of mine who is telling me about her depression. I am listening, waiting for the opportunity to give her my  “You Have To Give Yourself More Time” speech. Somebody, please remind me to post it here. That speech is more of a motivational speech, it’s great for providing encouragement, and I’d welcome any of you to steal it once I post it and make it yours. It works; I’ve been using it for years. Anyway, it reminds me of this ambiguous poem I wrote… Inspired by Rumi, I wrote it to give my readers many interpretations. I named it simply “The Sinner”. Why? Because sin, like depression, like love (sometimes), like many things — including life itself–is temporary. It depends on the criminal as well as the victim. The cheater as well as the jilted lover. The depressed as well as happiness. The light as well as darkness. The sinner as well as God Himself. Take away what you will.

And by the way, this is my first post by phone. Just love this new age technology!! (Yes, I know; I’m a little slow…)

 

Thanks for visiting my blog.

 

“The Sinner”

Gloomy, dark days since
God’s gift had run its course
Tired, listless
Somber
Hopeless
Can’t seem to get out of bed these days
Through my trance-like gaze
I see a light that burns
Eternally
Illuminating my path to bliss in dreams
Of a past life
And Utopian futures
My dejected days await relief
Long, mentally-planned flights
Fantasy abound round these
Sleepless nights
It’s the only time I get to see you
Tell you how I feel
Answer the question: Why?
If I could turn back the hands of time
I’d find myself back in the days
When you were mine
It would remove this cloudy ceiling
That dampens my world revealing that which
Brings back the warmth and promise
That use to light my way…

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Where We Messed Up… (I, Too by Langston Hughes)

This may be considered blasphemy by some of you, but I have to say it.

I believe that during the Civil Rights Movement, Black folks made a grave mistake which cost us the lives of many of our leaders–as well as severely hampered the success potential of the movement. When the conscience of the nation began to chip away at the national value called “White supremacy”–the media launched an attack on the Civil Rights Movement by characterizing Black people as impatient, ungrateful and everything else they’ve traditionally called us. The repulsive actions of American leaders, law enforcement, and citizens turned many against the existing system and support for the movement grew so America had no choice but to support the movement. This is where the nation’s leaders learned to use the media as propaganda to influence the masses.

There were two approaches to the Civil Rights Movement. One philosophy assumed that most of White America were good people, or deep inside them was a good person who just needed to hear the demands of Black people in order to make the right decision. This side of the movement sought to appeal to the conscience of the nation. It sat in, it gave speeches appealing to the “Christian values” that White folks held dear, it talked of fairness and doing what was right. On the other side, we called it like it was:  An evil, violent (or apathetic) people who cared less about the plight of the Black man in America or our suffering. This group understood that America would never do right by the Black man until he was forced to do so by law or gunpoint. It didn’t ask of anything of White America; it demanded equality and gave consequences if those demands were not met. It did not pander to the arrogant notion racists Whites projected that they were good people who were trying to do right; it pointed out the hypocrisy of a nation that claimed to be God-fearing but did nothing that God instructed them to do within their own religions–as well as its own Constitution. The Black Church stood on one side, with its “nonviolent” policy. The Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, and Black Nationalists stood on the other with a policy of self-defense-if-needed. Guess who received the media coverage? Guess who was painted with a “terrorist” brush?

Well, since the non-violent regime was covered more in the media, it also received the most money and the most prestige. Black people forever came to support that approach (even in current times)–which encouraged patience, discouraged outrage, demanded that Black people use an unfair/ineffective “legal/justice” system to get things done. This is why today, the Black man has made very small amounts of progress and can be all but ignored by today’s leaders and even made to feel guilty about demanding justice! When White America is offended and wronged, they are allowed to express outrage and demand immediate relief. Yet when Black America is offended and wronged, even Black leaders themselves will caution Black people not to rush to judgment or action. They will tell the Black man to calm himself down and let our already corrupt police departments to police themselves, investigate themselves, and find out “what happened”. (As if everyone doesn’t know “what happened”)  If you ever wanted to know why, in 2016, Black people are still discriminated against and never get justice from our leadership and by our criminal justice systems–look no further than how we have accepted rules favorable to those who commit these wrongs. The very people who commit crimes against Black people have written the rules about how you will react to those wrongs. This alone explains the impotence of Black leadership as well as any Civil Rights actions we undertake now. It started with “I Have a Dream“–paying no attention to “Ballot or the Bullet“, and is reflected today in today’s pussified NAACP and Al Sharpton demanding Black calm in the light of children killed by police.

This was reflected in poetry as well. If you look at the poetry of a Langston Hughes versus a Sonia Sanchez, you’ll see why you can name the poetry of one and why you couldn’t name one poetry of the other. I guarantee you never read Sonia Sanchez in school if you attended a Black public school–and I guarantee you never read either if you attended a predominantly White school.

Here is Langston Hughes’ “I, Too (Sing America)”. Following is Sonia Sanchez’s “Malcolm”, which I have memorized. In a future article, I’ll explain the differences of philosophy a little further. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Never forget...

Never forget…

 

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

when company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

–Langston Hughes

do not speak to me of

martyrdom,

of men who die to be remembered

on some parish day.

I don’t believe in dying

though, I too shall die

And violets like castanets

will echo me.

yet this man,

this dreamer

thick-lipped with words

will never speak again

and in each winter

when the cold air cracks

with frost I’ll breathe

his breath and mourn

my gunfilled nights.

He was the sun that tagged

the western sky and

melted tiger-scholars

while they searched for stripes.

he said, “fuck you, white

man. we have been

curled too long. nothing

is sacred, not your

white face nor any

land that separates

until some voices

squat with spasms.”

Do not speak to me of living,

life is obscene with crowds

of white on black.

Death is my pulse.

what might have been

is not for him/or me

but could have been

floods the womb until I drown.

“Malcolm”

–by Sonia Sanchez

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Filed under Message to the Black Man, Message to the White Man, Poetry, Politics

Black Problems

Wrote this piece while watching a lady in a laundromat do her daughter’s hair. I know that struggle; I became a single Dad when my daughter was 9 months old and I didn’t know anything about taking care of Black hair. My best friend came to California to hang with me for the summer two weeks after my ex left. My sister visited pretty frequently that summer from the Bay area. Then my mother arrived three months later and stayed with me for almost a year. None of us knew a thing about braiding or cornrowing. Fortunately, my next-door-neighbors were Sudanese and both daughters taught me to braid, and I ended up dating a beautician… Well, I thought about how Black girls had to balance beauty with self-esteem in a world where it seemed no one–not even Black men–loved them and who they are, or how they looked. Here was my beautiful Black daughter, in a family of non-Black women. I swore she would never have straightened hair (although her hair is somewhat straight)–I even carefully chose mates who wouldn’t leave her feeling left out or feeling like her Dad didn’t value women who looked like her. This is the dilemma of raising a Black girl in a White, male-oriented world. Teach her not to love herself as God made her, and you run the risk of teaching her not to love herself. I get that. To some, it’s just hair. To those who know better-she is the young, female version of Sampson. You teach her so much more by the seeds you allow to sprout from her scalp. I whipped out a pen, grabbed a flyer off the wall, and wrote this piece. Hope somebody out there can feel me.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

 

BLACK PROBLEMS

with a fine-toothed comb

she sorted out kinks

curls

and imperfections:

lint, grease, and debris

remnants of four-hundred years of ugliness

hoping to straighten out her blackness as well as her naps

wants nothing but the best for her baby

painful process with the power

to pursue a pampered life

mother’s prerogative to pass on

a pretentious policy for a positive future

pressing in

beauty, success and acceptance

all contained in what she perceives:

presentable hair.

as if relaxing away her pretty locks with a perm

could also relax away the tense life of being a Black woman

“life ain’t no crystal box of crayons, honey—”

mother’s desire to elevate her daughter’s beauty and status

by eradicating her African roots

the ignorant notion

of solving and sorting out Black problems

with a damned comb.

🙂

©2004

The Queen and the Princess...

The Queen and the Princess…

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The New Colossus (The Power of a Poem)

Poetry has power.

The Bible is a long collection of poems. Even though much of it appears to be written somewhat in a prosaic form–it is broken down into verses, much like the seemingly endless epics of the ancient world. And Proverbs? Pure poetry. Psalms? Poetry. Exodus 15, the Song of Miriam and Moses? Song of Solomon? Bitch, please. This isn’t just some idle pastime. Then ask any Muslim; the Quran is one long, rhythmic, rhyme of God-recited poem. And between the Bible, the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (the Gospels), and the Quran–you have a collection of poems that darn near fueled every movement of modern, recorded history of mankind.

Here in America, the inspiration of this nation is carried on the back of a little known poem entitled “The Defence of Fort McHenry“. (By the way, that wasn’t misspelled)  You may not know the poem, but every red-blooded American knows the first stanza. Go ahead, take a look

Then there are the two most beautiful, most defining sentences ever written about and for Americans–the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble–which guides and states what this nation is all about (or supposed to be), as wonderfully worded as they are, as poweful as their meaning, as enduring as their purpose, as memorable as they are, and as easily as they flow from the tongue… I would strongly argue that they read like a poem:

The Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident

That all men are created equal

That they are endowed by their Creator

Certain inalieable rights

That among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

–Thomas Jefferson

The Preamble

We the People of the United States

In order to form a more perfect union

Establish justice

Insure domestic tranquility

Provide for common defense

Promote the general warfare

and secure the blessings of liberty

To ourselves and our posterity

Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America

–Senator Gouveneur Morris

Poets may not seem to be in a very lucrative field of work. As an English major at my alma mater, I once mentioned to my mother that I might try and become a poet–she laughed. but some of the most influential writers we read and quote today were poets. Monarchs and Generals alike of yesteryear valued poets. Most wealthy families of ancient times employed or commissioned poets. Even in America, each U.S. President appoints a Poet Laureate–the offical Poet of the nation–a highly prestigious post for any academic, and many state governors appoint their state’s Poet Laureate. Sure, you don’t make much money–but long after some random millionaire is dead and gone, people will remember and live by the words of a poet.

Statue-of-Liberty-Chains31Which brings me to the purpose of today’s entry. The Statue of Liberty (interesting bio, by the way–make sure to watch it) was brought to America to symbolize the Republic and as a symbol of America’s independence. However, an art fund that took part in raising money to construct the foundation of the statue–which was a gift to America from France–a Jewish poet named Emma Lazarus, born to Portuguese immigrants, donated a poem to be read at a fundraiser. It was well-loved but soon forgotten about until a decade after her death, when the poem was engraved and placed at the pedastal of the statue until 1986 when it was removed. The poem, entitled “The New Colossus”, was named for one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Greek Colossus of Rhodes. Lazarus’s poem was an ode to the Statue, which stood taller than the original Colossus, but welcomed ships at the harbor to the “twin cities” (New York and Brooklyn were known at the time, since they were originally two separate cities)–as well as the poor immigrants aboard those ships.

statue-liberty

Our nation’s leaders argued and fought over what would be on the Statue of Liberty. She was originally to bear a broken chain, symbolizing the end of slavery–but no one wanted a national symbol to be abolitionist. She was to wear a hat given to emancipated Roman slaves, but they didn’t want that either and chose to give her a halo/crown symbolizing the seven seas. Then there was the tablet she holds in her left hand–and they chose to simply inscribe the date “July IV MDCCLXXVI”, the date of our independence. The artist, a supporter of Abolition, decided to keep the chain, but half-hid it under her robe and placed it at her feet where it could not be seen from afar. Despite what our Congress intended the Statue to represent, the inscription on the plaque and the fact that the Statue was the first piece of America new immigrants would see, the Statue of Liberty for over a century has represented immigration and America’s willingness to receive them. This is a nation of poor, lowly and downtrodden immigrants. Together we make a rich and powerful nation stronger than the original Colossus ever was. And we are held together by the lyrics of a poet’s work.

Enjoy.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)

The Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes

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Invictus, Lesson in Life

I’m going to be selfish today. The Quran 29:2… “Do the people think they will say “I believe” and they will not be tried?”

God tells us that he will no put more on the soul than it can bear.

If you want to make glass stronger, you heat it up to the point that it is about to melt and then pressure it while it cools.

For my martial arts students, I make them stronger by training them until their muscles give out. The will go home night after night, exhausted and in pain. But over time, a sculptured, rock solid body is the result of all that punishment.

When you were a baby, your parents probably punished you or popped you to teach you obedience.

We could go on for days. The people of Mindanao, Philippines, have the same culture, religion and language they had for centuries. It is in spite of the many dominating cultures who invaded the Philippines and colonized it in recent years–from the Spanish in the 1800s, to America, to Japan. They also happen to have the strongest martial arts. This indomitable spirit is the result of a millennium of fighting off invaders. Toughness is rarely something we are born with. It is the result of a tempering from being attacked and standing strong. We all pray for resilience, but we often do not understand that the problems we endure gives us that resilience.

The prophet Ayyub (Job, for my Jewish and Christian readers) was known for his unshakable faith and obedience to God, even after being attacked with affliction and misfortune. When you pray for strength, pray for the strength of Ayyub–that you do not allow set backs to cause you to backslide or join the non-believers. There is always a reward at the end of struggle. If you know this, your struggle will be much easier to take. Don’t complain or whine, just pray for guidance and strength–and then get to work.

We all have our issues. Things don’t go our way. We get disappointed. We get let down. We don’t get what we want. We lose who and what we love. We bust our behinds for something, and sometimes it doesn’t work in our favor. We pray for God to give us something or to do something for us, and He answers “No” or “Wait”. It happens; just keep at it.

Muslims have a dua (supplication) we say when we encounter someone who is struggling:  May Allah make it easy for you. Pray for other people, and He will protect you as well. The more you invoke this dua, the more He will have your back. Stay positive while you endure, and may His will be done.

By the way, you all… I didn’t write this article for you–I wrote it for me. (That’s why I said I was going to be selfish today)  I am picking myself up today, I thought I would let you hear me talk to myself. Maybe someone will hear what I need to hear.

I read this poem years ago, and it had stuck with me all this time, because I could hear William Ernest Henley talking to me as I recall its lines–and it describes many people that I love and admire. It originally had no title, but was given the title “Invictus” (latin for unconquered) when it was included in an anthology. Enjoy! And thank you for visiting my blog.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

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Filed under Inspiration, Poetry

Monster

intricate roadmaps of scars

churn, swirl and twist, like

the vicious veins that torture unforgivingly

agonizing reminders of the monster I’ve become

so I hide behind prosthetic mounds of womanhood

ashamed to bare my pain

to those I hold dear

fear that it may frighten their innocent minds

or kill his desire

so I

carry these secrets to the grave

My Lord, couldn’t You save me

why have You forsaken me

refused to hear my cries:

disfigured

unbecoming

heart-swallowing

something’s missing

like Leroux’s angel of music

hideosity hides beauty

my bosom no longer blossoms

oh, what a bare-breasted beast,

half-woman i’ve become

carrying the shame of such unsightly monstrosity

wish i could tell him how much it hurt

*it won’t hurt if you touch me*

but i will hide her till the Angel comes for my soul

one day the sun will rise for me:

the pain

the shame

subsides

and–

maybe she will once again

feel

whole.

“monster”

 

beauty despite what's missing

beauty despite what’s missing

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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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