Tag Archives: womanhood

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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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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My Mom: Drama Queen… With the Concrete Memory

I know probably half the people reading this post have a Drama Queen in their family. And half of those “Queens” are you own mothers. We love them dearly, but they get on our nerves, and for those whose mothers travel across the globe once a year to pester us and invade our new lives… We oftentimes can’t wait to put them back on a plane. Our kids hate to see them go, but they just don’t understand, do they? Don’t know them like we know them, huh?

Girl if you only knew. Those kids perhaps know your mothers better than you do, and I surely hope you don’t poison your children’s minds by talking about how nosey and needy Grandma is, or how dramatic she is, or how demanding she can be. Thing is, children appreciate our mothers, sometimes more than we do. My kids? They absolutely *adore* my mother. They start counting down the months before her visits and they terribly lament her departure once she’s gone.

But not as badly as you will; once she’s really gone.

Kids appreciate your mother more than you do because they don’t know the drama. And it’s a good thing. Mothers go through so much, and sometimes they don’t tell us how much they’d endured for you–while other times they browbeat you with it so that you never forget (or is it, so you’ll understand?) We are the Kings and Queens of our households–the bosses, the Dictators, even–for so long, we forget what it’s like to have a mother around, giving us a piece of her mind, telling us what to do, and chastising us the way we chastise our own children. She’s there to remind you of all the things you’d wish she’d forget, to tell you about things you don’t want to hear about for the millionth time. It’s in this Western culture that once we are grown, we almost forget the past, and start new lives. Our forefathers did it when coming here for the first generation. You left “home” behind and became an American. You forget that old Italian culture you left behind, you allow your children to call each other by name instead of titles like “Kuya/Ate”, you cook pot roast and steam your vegetables instead of making those Keftedakia and Greek salads your grandmother taught you. You wear your shoes in the house. You stop buying Kosher food. Your children carry your husband’s bland, American last name. You pronounce your English perfectly. Your kids speak only one language. You waste your food when you’re no longer hungry, instead of using last night’s leftovers to make Ulam or Fried Noodles. Yeah, you forgot–but Mom didn’t, and it drives you nuts.

Something unique about life in the West:  Each generation generally lives better than the last. Especially for those of us born elsewhere on the planet. Our parents sacrifice heavily for us to have a “better” life. They barely got us to adulthood having the essentials, unlike many others who inherit what was left behind by a previous generation. When we had problems doing homework–we turned to another kid because some of our mothers barely spoke English. Mom doesn’t understand this culture and she surely doesn’t understand profession–why is she trying to give me advice? Mom, marriage isn’t like it was when you were younger. I know what I’m doing…

There will come a day that you will sound like your mother. You won’t understand the next generation. But you will know life a little more than your then-grown children will. Like you, they won’t listen either. I hope you won’t ever have this experience:  You stop, you reflect, and you realize that Mom was right. This is what she meant. But unlike right now, you will not be able to pick up the phone and call her to say, “Mom, you’re right. I love you.”

Instead, you will have to wait until the kids are sleep, then close your eyes, and visit her in your dreams to say it.

I have some advice for you. ALL of our mothers are Drama Queens. They ALL went through some great sacrifice to get us where we are today. They were not guaranteed to have done the best job, they may have made a shitload of mistakes. They still might be making mistakes. But she is your mother, and she has cross Hell and highwater to provide for you, to teach you, and everything she has ever done–from missing meals so the kids have enough to eat, to working extra shifts to afford to buy you presents, to marrying another man while she still loved your father just so you’d have a complete, nuclear home to return to from school, to badgering you about why you aren’t married or why she doesn’t think you’re treating your husband or wife well enough–it was ALL done because she wanted the best for you.

Don’t piss that away, just because you are too damned stubborn to shut the hell up and take a little advice and listen to wisdom. If you really appreciated the woman she’s become–like your kids do–you’d honor and hang on to every word she spoke. There will be a day, when she won’t be able to say anything else to you, and all you will have are memories, and regret.

Today’s religious lesson, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other:  God tells us to honor our mother and father. He did not put conditions on which mother and father to honor. He didn’t say “honor parents if they were good parents”. Your parents could have been deadbeats, drug addicts, ex-cons, depressed, poor, too busy working to notice, whatever–But we are to honor them the way you’d honor a celebrity who came to your home. Imagine if Oprah came to your house, how would you prepare for that visit? What if a U.S. President gave you advice you didn’t think you needed? Or your favorite actor or singer? Would you argue with them? Some of us would treat a celebrity we have never met with more fanfare than we treat our own parents. That isn’t “honor” at all.

I would name names, because the loved ones I wrote this for read this blog and they probably recommend this to their friends. But you know who you are. Don’t do anything you will one day regret. Don’t wait till your mother is gone before you cherish her.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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I Want You Back… #regret

I learned to use these #hashtags thingies on Facebook. Cool stuff, huh?

Anyway, periodically–and it never actually stops–one of my exes will call/email/text/send a message through mutual friend(s)… something to the effect of:

I’ve been going thru somethings (sic). I want you back

By the way ^^^ that was a real text. Don’t worry, this particular ex doesn’t read this blog. In fact, she never did; and that was one of the problems in our relationship. Her friends and family read it–but she didn’t have enough interest in me and the things that were important to me to ever read it. And let me tell you something. Through this blog, I have had groupies, fans, crushes, fall in love with me through this blog. My last blog totally endeared my ex to me, she is now a blogger who also takes public speaking engagements–and it began with her reading my work. I had given this ex a copy of my CD (a spoken word CD, if you want it, send $12.00 through Paypal using the “Donate” button on the main page sidebar) and she NEVER listened to it. Imagine that. You’re in love with someone and want to be with them apparently, but you don’t listen to or read their work. And keep in mind, this relationship lasted 18 months. Ain’t nobody that damned busy.

All kinds of signs, and boy can we be stupid. Oh boy can I be stupid. We do see them, don’t we? Just don’t heed them.

But enough about her. This article is about this very real lesson, that many just never learn from. It goes like this:  “The grass is, in fact,  greener on the other side. But only because that guy waters his grass.”

We could have the best thing we ever had; they could be beautiful, a great cook, intelligent, attentive, affectionate, caring, selfless, considerate, sensual, good for the ego, and most of all… They love us. They love our dirty draws, and nothing we do bothers them enough to discard the marriage or relationship. Yet for some strange reason, all we seem to notice is that their gut is getting a little big, her tits aren’t as nice as those the girl at the job has, their feet are crusty, his hair is thinning, her finances are thin… So we long for something–someONE else. Somebody we think is better, somebody more fun, a chick with a fatter booty, a guy with a bigger dick, somebody with a great credit rating. Our loved one is no longer a “loved” one, she now gets on our nerves. He spends too much time at your house, you wish the fool would go home, my favorite show is on. There’s all them cuties on Facebook and Tagged, and they require my attention…

Then one day, the one we love is gone. Yeah, now I’m free to smash. Smash the next door neighbor’s sister who’s been up on it since I moved in. Smash that security guard from the job who keeps buying you lunch. Smash that ex who swears the sex will be a marathon like “that one time”…. Life is good, isn’t it?  😉

It isn’t. At 1 a.m., when that new, exciting fling has gone home–or never spent the night because the newness of YOU wore off (just like the newness of your own ex)–you start to thinking about how badly she loved you. You feel bad about how you guys broke up, how she didn’t deserve it, or how happy he really made you. You think about how the quality of life has actually gone down the pipes because you no longer have someone who would sleep in the rain for you, give you their last dime, or how you were their Superman or Wonder Woman. You realize, like many, many exes:  “I fucked up.”

Yes, you did. You had a good thing and you ruined it. And don’t you dare say “I didn’t know what I had”, asshole. You knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it. You thought you could toss it aside, mistreat it, take it for granted, put it on ice–and then go back when you were ready. I’m sorry, life doesn’t work that way. One broken heart turns another. I’ve had my share of breaking hearts, and I’ve paid for it every single time. I’ve had mine broken more than anything, and I have foolishly dismissed playing with others because “After all I’ve been through, I deserve the right to play the heart-breaker this time.” Pure bullshit. That is the lover’s version of Israel’s foreign policy, I get to hurt others because others have hurt me. But like I said, life doesn’t work that way. Get it right the first time, because true love rarely affords you a do-over. Just learn from it, and get it right the next time.

We cheat, we ignore, we abuse mentally/emotionally/physically, we simply take them for granted. In the end, we dispose of a great relationship with someone who loves us deeply in favor of something where love may not even be a factor at all. We aren’t guaranteed to find this level of love again. In fact, if we betrayed our loved one, we probably don’t even deserve another true love. But what the hell do I know? I’m just a guy with 7 failed marriages.

repair a broken heartSo to answer my ex’s question (Mustafa, what do I have to do to get us back like it was before?), which she’d asked many times since we parted ways: Baby, you can’t. My heart is made of very fragile glass and once it breaks you can’t tape it back together with the excuse, the words “I’m sorry.”  Forgiveness is a strong part of relationships, but betrayal is not part of this equation. You can be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean you get to have the same benefits you had before just because you apologized. Murderers apologize, but their crime is permanent, and so is the punishment.

Good luck on your next relationship. Make sure it’s done right the first time.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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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…

.

.

“Dying Child”

Hans Christian Andersen

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Alan and Amy

An abecedarian, for those who know what that is…  Written for my best friend who decided in her late 30s that she wanted a baby (and wasn’t sure if she could actually have them)–I still claim her as my ultimate Baby Momma. Names had been changed. lol

Alan and Amy almost had another abortion or

baby, but because birth

control can cure conception with Christian conviction

Daddy decided to do

everything every

first time father who forgoes fatherhood

in order to gain a foothold in the grabbing of goods

and houses, he hated to have to heavily suffer

indefinitely, see, initially, incomes are interrupted

just by jumping in to join the generations of Joneses

or Karens and Kens having kids, he

liked

making money, making love, moving on the minute

never needing to nullify nymphatic normalities

or otherwise order takeout food out of owning

priorities… Parenthood pains pauses the

quality of life for quintessentially quaint queens and kings

or royalties for wrong reasons other than right

see, single sex spells sin since suffering stays

true to traditions of taming tainted temptations

Amy understood that it was unbearable to usurp the ulterior

veracity of vaculess valueless vanity

when will Alan and Amy wave to the wind and

accept the vex of the expected outcome of unprotected sex?

Amy yells to Ya’Allah, Yaweh, Yehova–yearning to yield a yes and gave birth

to Zion.

“Alan and Amy, for Flurrie Black”

 

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His Journey Home… Hurts

I used to hang out at the Starbux in Oak Park (now Old Soul Café), and there is a regular there–I don’t know her, but I see her all the time–whose son recently passed away. She is about my age, so I’m sure her son is pretty young. As a fellow parent, her pain engaged me and I terribly empathize with her… so much I hurt.

 

So, anyway, two nights ago, I dreamt I was in Starbux, and this lady was pregnant. She was sitting on the couch holding her stomach and crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she was saying that her stomach hurt–a lot. So I walked back to my table to call the ambulance, thinking she was in labor. 911 asks how far she was in her pregnancy, and I turned to ask her, and noticed that she was no longer pregnant. She was still holding her stomach and crying about how much it hurt.

 

I recognized what God was telling me, and I woke up right after (it was 4 a.m. btw) and wrote this poem….

 

 

Sitting in painful silence

Dark

Somber

Empty

Hopeless

Ovaries ache with undying misery

They accompanied his arrival

Now they send him home

Sailing across ripples of worlds

These momentary folds of time

With Oceanic voyages between them

Earthly vessels on loan from the Creator

She hears whispers from within—

“He is not mine, but Yours…”

—Her Lord offers comfort—

With waves of wet womanhood

She feels an echo in her womb

As if he were still here

Bound by umbilical connections

Like tin cans on a spiritual string

They met in this blissful dream:

Such a short life

Yet it forever stains her memory

His departure brings back enough labor pains

To last a lifetime

(It’s hard work giving God back

what’s rightfully His)

Her soul cries prayers

At the top of its lungs

Begs relief from this insatiable grief

As a tear evaporates back

To the clouds above

Sitting in painful silence,

But enveloped in the fragrant scent

Of the Greatest Love:

A mother’s.

 

 

 

“His Journey Home… Hurts”

© 2008

Mustafa Gatdula

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