A woman on the train asks for money, says, “I know I am invisible.” A young man in an expensive suit walks up and quietly introduces himself, shakes her soiled hand, looks her in the eye. When he walks away I hear her whisper, again, thank you.
In honor of the brave, vulnerable and hyper-present members of the G.R.I.O.T. poetry club at SUNY Purchase, I’ll share my rough 10/30 poem, which I wrote along side them in workshop tonight.
The prompt is rough, unedited, raw - calling out yo’ many selves as a way of accessing authentic voice in words and performance. Thanks for inspiring me, young writers. You set my heart ablaze!
Calling Out My Many Selves
Back then I was prissy good,
showing off my painting to
the milkman, pulling a gold star
from my skirt
mama clapped at my diamond
teeth every time I opened my mouth
to sing and blocked the sun.
Before that mom was a giant
huffing moon, quietly planting
a kiss under soil
and when an orange tree grew,
she plucked my round body
and let the light fall through my
Later my silver fin appeared.
A hammered thimble cutting
through the threat of water.
Let’s be honest, it made me shy.
I threw out the old gossip of
my body like an anchor,
slipped off my tired skin
and swam and swam.
When I cry I become a
confessional with it’s door
My latest art piece: a priest
sobbing while jerking his meat.
I have been suppressing
a desire to shock like a
nasty case of the hiccups.
It is also why I keep taking
off my breasts to shine them
What I really am: the tiny
clink of the light bulb’s
hanging limp, absorbing
the dirt of the world.
The red light hangs like a warning, if we go too deep, it may be mud we are stuck in. There is always the water dividing us from the next dry land. Always some barrier to break down, or find a way to cross.
But it is our year. We strip off our clothes and rub the dirt on like a mask. We know the only way is through the mote. We roll up our pants and wade in deep.
My husband has a vision while I am sleeping in the safety of his embrace. What does it mean when I say he makes me feel safe? What can his mortal being keep from the embers. What if our building went down like East Harlem? A pipe of gas blown up like war. Before we’d wake with the knowledge of death, our lives would be flattened by plaster and the bodies of our neighbors. Then what would have been worth it. Not the songs we’ve written, nor the poems. Not the money stacked in the bank or even our wayward dreams kept around us like a blanket. There would be our family, pouring their body’s weight in water to tissue, burying their faces into soft cotton, running their last lines like an actor practicing on the subway - except the train runs forever on the same track. I love you, I am angry with you, I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care.
We get distracted by the promise of fame, of leaving a legacy. We forget who holds our memories close. Who we held the door open for us to strut through or crawl through or dance. What passage ways we walked to bring our bodies closer to the fire. How we shed our skin to feel the burn of life and the times we held each other crying or the ways our bodies shook in laughter.
Here, in front of me is the only song I care to sing, my cousin born three months after me, the friend I was ushered into the world with, our ears grown in the wombs of mothers who share the same blood. Here is a reflection so true I am stunned in recognition. If this is the face I wear than I am proud to be a human being alive in this broken world. If this is my family, then I have been cultivated from the right seed. If this is life, it is worth living.
Tomorrow I will wake up knowing the earth is not doomed as I worry it might have been. I will put my heart to work and trust in the way the path unfolds. I will be alive with the knowing that things may not be okay, but they will spark with feeling. We are not numb. We wake in the night shook by fear. We dream colorful stories that peel back the armor and reveal hot blood. We put one foot in front of the other, follow the tracks, trust we are not alone. And we are not alone.
We are so many.
Okay. I’m real excited for this one.
On Saturday, from 12:30-3pm, I’ll be hanging out at the Bowery Poetry Club for the US Department of Arts & Culture Cafe. I’ll be encouraging folks to drop-in write a two line folk poem called a landay to share in solidarity with Afghan women poets (who risk their lives to write & express) - AND THEN…
@ 2pm two of my Digging Deep, Facing Self alumni will be presenting a poem & song on the open mic, Raq Mayoral + Nora Ritchie.
If you’re out and about, drop by. We’ll also be surrounded by folks who engage the arts & social justice!
Read more about landays & women in Afghanistan by clicking here.
"Let’s take a circuitous stroll, shall we? We’ll start in Philadelphia’s militant activist scene, meander through long sentences in New York state prisons, and then exit through Turkey in the early twentieth century. You game?"
Much love to The Operating System for this awesome 30 poets on 30 poets that happens every year. Homage is the word! Word is the word. I love words. So do they.