Art. Culture. Life. A World.

Musings on the journeys we take...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Day 1 of watching the rest of the story... Nov. 9, 2016

Day 1:
I woke and opened my eyes to a quiet morning, trying to feel if it was the end of an era. I didn't want to turn on my phone, or check any feeds. If I didn't know, then I couldn't react. But of course, taking my husband to work we turned on the radio, and it was real. And my face slide off, and for the rest of the day, I couldn't find it. Returning home, I couldn't dress for work, or figure out where my makeup was... I felt drugged, in the proverbial fog, full of, not disappointment but horror. But not simply horror, but something like seeing a man hanging from a tree acceptance. Shock, stunned, but even more embarrassed by my comfort and by my overconfidence in my place and identity in America, but really embarrassed by my belief in a country who has for the most part "overcome" an enslavement past, who didn't give women the right to vote until August 18, 1920, who has worked hard but not hard enough to solve our poverty issues... I had a belief in things unseen. So what has changed though really? What will or will not change are the keys rattling on destiny's chain... As Nina Simone says, "It is the Artist's role to reflect the issues of the times." Living up to her legacy will be hard, but we artists have to try. And as my day went on, I talked to my family members, and stories poured across my FB feeds, and I went to get an oil change and in the Jiffy Lube waiting room, I sat reading today's paper, and when the white woman walked in, she quickly averted her gaze and stood near the front of the room. She didn't acknowledge me. Even though we were the only two people in the room, she got coffee, got a magazine and stood at the front desk waiting for the cashier, who was also white, to come in. Maybe this was nothing. You're paranoid, Shonda. I didn't know who she voted for, but if I'm awake and aware now, I would think that today of all days, she would say, "wow, what an election," and then I would say, "yeah, can you believe it?" And then we could fold our wings and sit on opposites sides of the branch in the same tree. That's what people do on a day like this. Maybe she just wasn't a talkative person. Or maybe something else... And this thought moved slowly across the room, into the corners, and through the halls of our lives as two women in one country with a burdened past. "Your car's ready," the man smiled kindly and I thanked him, and walked out, never looking at the woman, but the space between us...followed me. That space is the space of our silence, our fear of knowing something we didn't grow up with, our fear of inviting someone who is different from us to lunch, dinner, to our house for tea... So I have decided to be awake now. In my writing, teaching and interactions with my beautiful country and beautiful strangers and my even more beautiful family and friends. Nina's legacy is alive in me, all of us. I have the words now to say it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

mercurial: a definition

the mirror of mistakes
looking back at you
kissing the kiss
you kissed into a childhood
kissing through you to the mirror
of childhood
no mistakes then

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The look of things

How do I teach a class when my mouth
Is full of dreams I cannot share.
When a girl in class says “there’s a devil influence” in
Sherman Alexie’s Reservations Blues.
She won’t read it. Doesn’t want it in her head.
I look out the window and back at the nodding class.
They love the love, but can’t take the badmouthing
About religion on the rez.
What do I tell them to read to compare? Shakespeare’s Caliban
Morrison’s Beloved, Ginsberg’s Howl, to help them get it? To see
That once there were others with dreams in their mouths
But those dreams happened on top of what was already there.
And the landscaped turned into the novel Sherman Alexie
Wrote and came to our class in my feather hands.
How does history get told anyway from the loser’s perspective.
I would think a devil, and a gun, some frybread, and maybe background music
Would be involved. And on a reservation, a night creased by winter’s blade
Where babies freeze to death and are buried on top of another sister’s grave.
Where full-grown men cry into whiskey bottles for lost love. For being lost.
Those men whoop and holler at their women; at the moon. At god.
How do I tell my students, eyes new and waiting, I remember that.

Monday, April 2, 2012

National Poetry Month (Can I still participate in NaPoWriMo if I started today?!)


Palms sticky sweetmeat in her black swan hands
hands calloused from sword’s hilt, fingers delicate as feathers, sore.
Feet naked and darkened like the boys, but not like them.

They jostled each other, young bronze lions, but kept a distance
Between her awkward body and themselves. Across the cold stone.
Wary of her sloe eyes. Her kohl wings, learning men things.
She was always hungry, her birth father said
Born with mouth open but silent, one eye on wet breast
The other towards the coming sun.

Palace walls expanded with each breath.
Flocks of blackbirds stacked like pyramids in sky.
Shadow crossing the moon. Hittite mothers weeping in their sleep

While babies smiled, ready for the kiss. A perfect Nile dawn
Not seen for one hundred years. Hathor’s temple stairs wet where no one had
Poured water. In the daylight, the girlchild only swam on her back.

At night, her father spelled leader, king, pharaoh on her chest,
Gilded her ears with charms, protection spells: whispered, it will hurt.
Leaving always hurts.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Teaching at every moment; learning in each breath

Yesterday I woke from a dream in which I was teaching a composition class in my bedroom. The students were sitting cross-legged on the bed, on my floor, on chairs. Apparently in the dream, it was the norm--class wherever I designated; the students were attentive, alert, no one was texting or looking at their cells. I was standing in front of them, but really not as an authority figure but just the conduit for their self-discovery. In reality, for the last 12 years of my university teaching, when the weather is nice, in the fall or spring, I do take my classes outside. We sit everywhere on campus that is dry and clean and well-lit. A patch of grass, a hillside, (and at Hampton University) the stairs of historic Ogden Hall, under Emancipation Tree, at Booker T's statue...We held class in Hampton's famous museum a few weeks ago, and one student's reflection said she didn't know images and pictures could speak to her like that. I'm paraphrasing her words here, but her feeling was she was included in the artist's process, but also implicated in the learning. Oh, the joy of reading her reflections. "Teaching" is an interesting word, because few parents asks their child, "what were you taught today," but rather what did you learn? I like to learn at every moment of my life from everyone around me, and though it's not always a lesson I would have asked for, I learned something. Every class, particularly for my freshmen and women, I always want them to come to class thinking "what will I, can I learn today." The location of the class is less important, I have discovered, as Socrates or any Priestess of Egyptian temples would probably concur. Our lives are the classrooms; our encourage and respect are as important as the books. For many students, we are their books. They "study" us as we lecture, move, take roll, share. I studied my favorite teachers like this since kindergarten. Every moment we assume or subsume the roll of the "teacher," what we tell them, direct them to, what we SHOW our students is what they ultimately learn. And I love every minute of it. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

books books books -

Friday, January 13, 2012

first stew of winter...

at 4am, i woke to the sound of winter arm wrestling with spring and its lingering warmth. the clouds rushed past a crisp wolf moon...this morning, so cold in hampton. wind blessed every piece of skin as i ran to meeting...later my husband and i ran errands and on the way into the house he says, "this is the weather for a good stew." i nod. i measure the contents of our fridge in my head.

i come inside and pull everything out, fill silver pot with water, seasoning salt, dried red pepper, dried rosemary, sage, tumeric, i cut i find myself thanking the potatoes and the cabbage for its white heart, i take a bit of the turnip and sweet orange of carrot, dropping them in the already seasoned and boiling water...a half of green bell pepper? never added that to my winter stews, but why not. and a can of creamed corn. can of peas. a dash of cumin. lastly, as the smells rise and their faces turn and leap in the now soup, i add a can of tomato paste...stir with wooden spoon i've had for twenty years, as long as i've had my daughter...this is what i have time for in my life. writing. cooking. praying to things and people who give back to me a goodness i couldn't have withing knowing them...this is what i have time for, a peaceful friday afternoon, sun on my fingers jealous of chilly kiss of the day, and my house smelling like i imagine my grandmother's would if she cooked a special stew for her husband without taking measure of things, but with the health of the world in mind.