this pathos-by-proxy still twitches at the mere mention
of paterollers storming the gate / neanderthals with knuckles dragging
swarming the stanza; dupes in white robes, haute-couture dunces capped
in trivial pursuits; they’ve come for the gardenias, the organza. and
the penumbra spills over every edge, haunted / daunted by a post-slavery
stress disorder that’s anything but paint-by-the-numbers.
voices told me to buckle up; that work was to be done.
but who knew i’d be the one to grow up mapping the spinal cortex
of yoruba-oblongata / talking the dead down from the ledges of ivory towers,
stalking spirit-guides on chalkboards, in chatrooms and in chapbooks always
in a state of rough-draft outlining and underlaying the pedagogy of a sun-people
told for years that melanin undermines accomplishment, merit, our seats
at the table. money changed hands, the bets placed on the crowd pleasers and
social favorites. who thought it would come down to this: me taking the witness
stand as public defender for stolen property.
the story goes i was born the son of an egun-runner and fell shadow-first
from several wombs all at once; assembled on a single line / stitched
into sorcery by the gnarled hands of an unseen seamstress, but i digress.
this poem is my mess-of-pieces and in haste i assumed you already knew
the elemental weight of sankofa. the dna of most nursery rhymes are made
of angst and atoms, but mine are composed of poro masks, the wail of tears,
robert johnson’s cigarette ash, etc. and the banana in the pocket of this poem
is a poltergeist. but i’m not a ghostbuster whispering the echos of the dead…
i’m the doorman for the dearly dormant.
it’s a tough trade. not as in demand as you would think…
i was born to translate tarbaby’s morse code into a canonical course (jes grew 101),
my dissertation was on head-lump reading. baron saturday was my first instructor,
paid me to re-edit the wiki-entry for the pot-liquor sciences. he taught me to be
everywhere you want to be. that’s why i’m known as prometheus backwash on
facebook and, by luck of the drawl, i’m jujuchagalia on twitter… i’ve been told
that “upfromsumdirt” is kiswahili for “renaissance” and my signature looks like
basquiat’s long lost rorschach, my john-hancock the sonogram for a lost culture
- you should just see my cat-scan! no shit, my medulla is a fun-house mirror.
i see saint octavia’s image on toast and tree-bark or when connecting the moles
on the back of my lover’s knee. i was hit by a marching band as a baby and that’s
why i see everything so clearly. just didnt know i’d be the one to grow up
re-inventing a wonderland, replacing rwanda for kentucky as uncle tom’s
backdrop where cabins are shingled in soapstone and cowries.
does anyone know the trajectory for a black poet profiling himself? then again,
it’s not like i was born for recognition, my mug adorning the t-shirts on liberal
college campuses… in me is not the tradition for upholding a metered dialog;
i was born an act of reclamation… what need i for progress if the thought-process
is afraid of flames?
continue taming your lions, chasing gazelles;
i was fed the breastmilk of hyenas.
it’s my nature to alert you to aneurysm; when
i curl up at your feet, a conniption is coming.
no matter the stance or the subject, we all are claiming victim and hero status in the same statement; every individual stands out in the rain and gets wet, in many various degrees. some drenched, some barely damp, but each experience its own unique truth - - sometimes under-exaggerated, often times over-, and yet still almost never heard by those we want to hear us the most….
1. we no longer understand the science of weaving our own individual narratives into the greater collective.
2. however, we all want the greater collective to center around our own unique narrative. this is the art of it which can only grow in cause after we understand the first part.
for black america, this is the ugly reality that came with intergrating into a society that knew not how to fully accept us, let alone hear our pleas for patience, impatient cries, our need for understanding/respect/power: we struggled as one for equality, but were individually folded into the mainstream - our elders with each generation blending into the mix, each at a varying pace. we have great-grandparents with high school educations, grandparents with college degrees, parents who dropped out of high school and generations that are currently in limbo concerning higher education altogether; we now have families with nothing else seemingly in common from one generation to the next except the fact that we all individually struggle. but we all want to be heard. each story is important. however, we’ve lost the ability of framing our individual tales into “a whole us” that society must sit with in faith and honest negotiation in order to properly address our concerns. america is picking us apart, as it does with every immigrant that comes to its shores (by freedom of choice or as prisoners of war) - many non-black and black-non-prisoners-of-war immigrants accept the blending in and look forward to it, dreaming of escaping whatever conditions haunted them elsewhere. others come through the gates using their previously established cultures as a fulcrum to pry or push them forward, maintaining their sense of identity as tightly and as proudly as possible while forming societies-within-society to help maintain who they are, passing these identities down to whoever will inherit them through blood, rite, and ritual.
but when you descend from captives mostly imprisoned for 4 centuries with piece-mealed social structures based on broken memories and partial citizenship, then you either melt in, you resist, or you perish and not always at your own choice. for many african americans, we have all three living under one roof. many times a single african american may resemble all three of those conditions.
and organizing our concerns in formats and forums not designed for such a magnitude is proving to be a greater challenge itself than the forces we believe opposing us. we all have something to give to and to learn from one another… but “the information super highway” will derail your “underground railroad” at every bandwidth: the online-paterollers know where you will board and where you will get off before you do. it seems like the internet is less a playground for our strong personalized definitions of self and more an open plea for avatar-acceptance or an open rejection of anything demanding its own sense of worth beyond our willingness to comply. a common and prefered battlefield for social activism.
this isnt to say we wont find success with black and non-black allies online, because most level headed people will always consider honest debate and positive information, but the best social progress has historically occured where people hone their issues in places where mass progress remains the primary focus over individual prosperity - and the internet has yet to physically represent that. we’ve settled for passwords when secret handshakes are still the most important. if someone says otherwise then chances are it’s because they want digital access to your perspectives, claiming ownership of it (even if they credit you) at the offline tables at which they sit, socially or academically.
for many, this tiny post will seem superfluous/outdated/without merit. and i’m cool with that. devil’s advocates will always be needed and i enjoy my position as old fart peering into this “contemporary void” - brothadirt: the crazy uncle stumbling into the party with tattered jumpsuit and rusty golden ankh clashing with your retro jumpsuit and shiny silver ankh… someone just like me lives next door to where you grew up - stop reading my bullshit and go ask them directly what race and gender politics means to them (if such issues truly matter). maybe you’ll be surprised. or maybe you’ll really be surprised.
or maybe you just hate surprises.
3. individual wants tend to be more fluid than our communal needs and a working, tangible society is the goal of every civilization before it crumbles and gives way to the next…
4. there may be exceptions.
5. but there wont be many.
6. dot dot dit dit dot dot dash.
7. yeah… it’s a painful thought thinking of not just putting someone else’s needs first, but of putting your own wants last. (pfft! why would anyone want to do that?!?! that’s crazy talk!) that’s just not the kind of society modern people work toward anymore.
8. you dont need CAPTCHA.
9. you need A PINKY PROMISE.
Sundiata hung himself
with christmas lights
and tinsel on his toes.
(it was an accident)
his brown skin
then peeled away
and the egungun
came and got him;
felt him at the edges
of his human foil then
they opened him up:
inner stars spilling out.
this is the gift he gave
of himself to all the gods
in waiting; Auset herself
was the most smitten. she
sang for him some Ella, a
little bit of Mahalia, hummed
for him some Abbey…
his ghost, this
came and kissed her.
they loved. fucked around.
made a baby. became, just
they, an egungun enclave.
to honor the birth, they
buried a thousand cowries
at the corner of Cote De Noir
and Robert Johnson.
by pathology they named
their child a hybrid: Octavian
Bapoto* Damascus Jones.
holding him to the sun
in unison they said:
behold, he, our alley
of dry bones baby!
as an adult, Octavian
became a doctor of
Miriam he married,
an assistant pharm-tech
they wrote several
books, plays, poems,
and essays and died
together happy. they
did live forever after.
Sundiata couldn’t help
but to smile out loud,
everyday they were
for each other:
bluejays spun down
from outer space
to build nests atop
the stele bearing
this story; laughter
hatches face first
from every egg and
funeral pyres burning
become freestyle poems.
they beat the band:
Black Pete on drums,
Miles Davis on horn,
Brer Rabbit on thumb
piano; their teeth all
covered in kohl; our
once, a very hard
rain cancelled this
but Sundiata never
that’s what we love
about him the most;
from his shed skin he
gift wraps his ghost.
via blog post or carrier
pigeon - Sundiata plays
the grateful host for our
sorrows and our joys.
Our black sparrow.
he always has our back
even if we never Aché him
after we say Amen… but
that’s our cross to bear;
the happy heathens
that we are.
you were falling asleep
as i said this:
that its a shame we’re not
physicists, how i could figure
out god’s secret sciences
when your hands are to me,
your lips housing
a silkworm’s heaven
heaving me as you breathe
when we kiss / calculus (i think
it was calculus… i create collages;
it couldabeen gym. or biology.
but, i’m sure it was an intricate math)
explodes from the top of my skull
and reboots genesis; the pearly black
hand of baby jesus ascends from
the manger etching cave drawings
on our walls: stick figured maasai
chasing down gazelle, the blueprints
for the universe hidden in their bellies;
dark hued elders hewn from the bowels
of creation pass down this knowledge
gained, the beginning of egungunomics
- the miscegenation of math and language:
the origins for love….
but you’re asleep and cant hear how heavy
i sing of you in after-words afterwards…
and you missed seeing me naked
before my keyboard explaining
the square roots of origami and orgasm
to Tehuti through the status updates
of our twitter pages…
but how beautifully obese we are;
my nose ensconced to shoulder-blades
smelling every pore where god passes
between us / how this is as cocaine,
our collective chemicals in every crevice
- an addiction unafraid of death / unaware
to any perception of danger.
in lesser hands
this would almost be lethal,
this love. and i do love you
(hard enough to beat the band!)
deeply, so foolishly / and seeing
the wisdom in it.
(this is forever a work in progress. ambitious storytelling at the best… convoluted at times, but what poetry aint? the editing has been killing me for 5 years - its been a battle of “simile vs. how i want it to sound” hadn’t worked on it for a year, but just couldnt paste it to tumblr without spending the last 2 hours working on it… the original ending was more ambiguous, which is probably how it should stay… now it almost feels like a final scene from The Thing. the one with Kurt Russell. originally, this was titled “the devil’s dulcimer” and ‘the shrink’ was a skeleton in a 3-piece suit. eh. whatever. is is.)
the moon was three days
waning, 3 quarters pale and orange
dripping me into orbit. i was a sickle
swinging like a wild west african
gunslinger, his hammer gilding gold
into southern art
this is how it always happens when
imacs and boxcars collide / a myth
miscegenated / the black breath a new
new; rhythms and words reincarnated
from asphalt and a ruin of memories.
pale and orange, i stepped up out
the flames, burnt and unscathed; hellfire
knelt and called me king of the juju jesuits.
my kofi cocked, i rocked a battered dashiki
and worn, wrinkled overalls. just like
my three magi: jimmy hendryx, eddie
hazel and junior kimbrough; my witchdoctor
mosaic. they taught me how a banjo-maker
digs for tongue and buys back souls when
all the other bluesmen only knew to beg and
barter / borrowing time from eshu elegbara’s
i was born with a mouth made to wax and
wane; dark words full of mud swaying sankofa
pulled by moon. the earth was my modem and
i spat out its dirty dissonance / the divarication
fortunately for us, your thighs are too thin to bear the weight of
this poem / my words have never been ones to believe in brevity
for the sake of themselves. all the vowels break / bleak sentences
full of bullshit, swaybacked similes, and other things of beauty.
this bent brogue might bore you to death (meaning ‘drill you’
and / or ‘not thrill you) / but it will not betray you for slivers of fame.
this old thing is a new theology; long wet baptisms in god’s
ugliest ochres / this written word smitten to no ends with the scent
of its own stench; ranch animals branch off at the end of every syllable.
so, im sorry sylvia… i’m sorry ms. dickinson… im sorry mr. frost…
but yall’s thighs are too thin to crutch my vévés from this primitive
corner to your porcelain crucible. i can not rely on yall’s hallowed
histories to rub zeus’ silver glitter against the shoulders of my slang /
will not entrust you my tongue to twitch and hang like a tassel from
where highbrows pedestal a poem in support of shakespeare, prometheus,
mephistopheles and the other heroes of jolly ol’ europe who have never
once propped my mama in prose / tho she once had such a hope before
growing up with no phone booths for mild manners to change in. no
greek myth to console her discomfort after long hours at general electric.
not that they didnt try, i’m sure / after she and her sisters surrendered to
allusion. alienation. asphyxiated daydreams. everyday a new allegorical
hero championing the dissolving of africa; the more we looked like the
happy captive in class, the closer to letter grade A we received from
our captors. but this isn’t anger or simple resistance. this is just another
direction. my mouth has its own compass. in my teeth, parables and
marbles mix. the renewal of sun in our songs; for this new myth we
forsaken mystery. our love has a history you are no longer privy to.
my penchant is for the projects over nobel prizes and pulitzer’s pull
zombies exude themselves from my birth canals / re-enact a michael
jackson passion play, speak words that have werewolves in multi-zippered,
blood-red bomber jackets excreting rainbows onto comedies of eros / cold
rhythms that pass for write. i’ll bite a basquiat backbeat before chewing
the cud of your crystallized canons… i do not throw perils before swine /
i cast cowries at the very feet of shadows / this shit is my science and i
am its highest sorcerer; no ‘griot’ - but a jr. babalawo… a ‘gawlo-ologist’
and i’m sorry… i have not enough truth theorem to come cure the both
of us. my science is a sun-ra worshipper. in this fable sonny blount flew
too close to saturn; burnt the abstract into black beauty / became
a household name (patent pending). but there is no ending to this tale,
just my pledge of allegiance to ascending asymmetrically:
all in all, a dime-store horror show to you / i’m sure.
"it happened right here" i say
pointing to inkstain’s nebulous
iridescence where they split
my throat and slit me
into a new language.
a black rite cleaving deep serration
to voice’s black vinyl - anti-opulent,
the onyx spewed like nigerian oil from
jugular veins as this sacrificial lamb
became a southern laureate / a vodoun
voiced dadaist - my corporeal surrealism
written in slang.
age-old conjurers came and bled the calf;
what else could i do but comply?
culled me, they did, from the obsidian
pooling at their feet where dust, dusk and
dung covered hands drew circles and lines
in the coagulates commanding the darkly
algebraic emblems to stand up / them,
the stick figures, they all got up and danced!
i instantaneously became a one-man museum,
a country ringshout walking; a nation with out,
not a nation within.
my throat, like a jar, preserves the tar
of black borealis, where old eclipse in all
its temerity heals every hieroglyph hidden
deep within the esophagus, awaiting
celebration / ritual / witticism.
cup your hands to sup from slashes / bring
tupperware if not calabashes / keloids occur
from where the cosmos smudges; there is
the rouge of roux in my every word;
obeahs for the lyrically absurd: