years later, after amistead’s
arrival & the tightening of turner’s
throat… after du bois vs. douglas
debates & the blackbeat renaissance
of harlem… after robert johnson’s
blue jingles & mr. bojangles fandango…
after the afterflow of jim crow…
after the birth of cool & the death
of malcolm… in the afterglow
of garvey, marley, charlie
parker and the darker densities
of mingus & monk…
after the last poets & pfunk…
after giovanni and sanchez and
the fantasia of the fatboys & krs
consciousness / of overtures
from outkast / the onyx past
after niggas became black and
coloreds began calling themselves
in this shadow of supremacy,
soul is still stilled. but a breath
is set loose / relayering pigments
upon a stageless poet’s off-page
persona, filling his philosophy with
meditations bathed in cornbread and
mediterranean lamentations / urban
phosphorescence and the desire to
see his soulmate smile…
after perforated history, a blackbodied
boy still seeks to speak his pidgin-fire
phrases / self-reflecting a steady belief
after warriors fell or learned to
survive in fresh hell: still,
Jonathan Ashley has become a frequent patron of our bookstore.
Jon was the owner of Second Story Books in Louisville, a spot that i unfortunately never had the pleasure of visiting before its closing. Jon is an open book… pun seriously not intended …and talks a thousand words a minute and will honestly detail his past and ongoing battle with drug addiction (which was the major catalyst for the closing of his shop).
Jon’s a weird guy. he’s a dark shadow disguised as a young Bob Keeshan. imagine Captain Kangaroo channeling Jack Torrance; this is Jon. he’s currently waiting to hear back from publishers concerning the publication of a novel of crime noir that he’s completed (a very loosely autobiographical tale of 2 book store owners who get in over their heads when they get in the illegal drug business). I’m definitely having Jon read here whenever it gets the go ahead.
now, any good bookstore worth its weight in allegory is gonna gather its fair share of weirdos on a daily basis and the strip mall where The Wild Fig is located is CHOCK FULL of weird characters, shady/nerdy/and/or/sublime. it’s rare that i start off liking any of them; i’m a hard guy to get next to, and Jon was no exception. he talks too fast and cant sit still and you wonder if he’s tweakin’ and you expect him to soon start foaming at the mouth while falling to the floor in a conniption. but then you just realize that’s how he is… this is his personality. keep him away from the caffeine and any open containers of sugar.
aside: Phil is our other “narcotics specialist”, another former business owner (high-end furniture) who suffers from tremendous highs and disparaging lows - manic on both ends. and habitually worrisome… if i too had a drug problem then Phil would perennially “harsh my mellow”. and, today, Phil has to move from his apartment that sits between the liquor store and bar at the far end of our strip mall. if Phil was a cinematic character he’d be Hunter S. Thompson as a zombie on The Walking Dead. i like you Phil… good luck, but don’t feel compelled to make any special visits to see me, ok? ok. i would like you Phil if not for the all the loathing that your negative attitude inspires. Eeyore. Phil is Eeyore as a Walking Dead zombie. the love-child of Eeyore and Hunter Thompson as an undead living thing. i’m sorry, but that had to be said.
Jon might well end up being Phil’s replacement.
i hope not, because Jon seems very likable. and i’m writing this post as a reminder (in case the day comes that i cant stand his ass) that he told me some uplifting shit today and for that my spirit was and remains deliriously grateful.
everyone has ups and downs and i hope Jon is able to maintain overcoming his struggles; his saga is full of tribulations and Lexington desperately needs all of the anti-heroes it can take.
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”—Andrew Boyd (via blasphemefatale)
he read one of my newer poems (the one i plan to do tonight at an open mic) and once he was done, all he had to say was “why don’t you write poems that rhyme?”
I know poetry isn’t everyone’s thing but i was incensed that this extremely intelligent individual had no other critique of my writing other than the fact that my thoughts and emotions don’t always come out in a catchy rhyme scheme.
ah yes, the ol’ “lack of rhyme” discussion…
i dont rhyme much, but when i do they typically occur in the middle of my sentences or maybe last word in sentence 1 then first word in sentence 2. offbeat for no reason other than it feels right for the way i approach it. “ron, your words almost dont rhyme right… it feels off.”
malcolm x once said: “im not the type of person to come and give you what you like.” that’s been my aesthetic ever since i first heard it.
but usually, the complaint i get the most of (usually from the folks who dont like reading) is that i use too many ‘big words’ and/or too many obscure historical or literary references.
anyway, most rhyming poetry doesnt ‘work’ because we’re mentally jumping ahead in our reading to the expected rhyming word: if the first line ends with ‘breath’ we generally scan ahead to the end word of the second line anyway… yep, ‘death’… we expect ‘death’ to be that word while simultaneously hoping for an entirely different word that will blow our mind - which rarely ever happens. rhyming is a craft… we shouldnt even know we’re reading a rhyming poem until we get a few stanzas in because the ‘story’ of the poem actually has presence.
besides, after 30 years of hiphop, the casual, older audiences have nearly heard every which way our general words can be rhymed - so if the several words leading up to the rhyme aint saying much anyway, then you’ve just wasted everyone’s time to begin with.
never wanted to be “a poet”.
my older sister was a poet,
i didnt like her… used to whoop
my ass when she babysat me.
so, years later, “fuck her and
the poet she rode in on.”
sibling rivalry is a motherfucker.
i started writing @ ‘85… was
working in a black bookstore
located in a room at New Creation
African Lutheran Church. Claude
couldnt always pay me in cash so
i’d grab a handful of books as
payment. nonfiction - beautiful
junk about history & religion.
horrendous memory is hereditary
so i kept pocket-sized journals
to keep notes in. made me write
in truncated phrases and short
sentences (like now - this is not
a poem, it’s how i write even
the papers are large).
anyway, a nosey friend had peeped
over my shoulder and mistook
my short passages as stanzas…
“ooooo, i didnt know you wrote poetry!”
i really didnt.
it just looked like it.
but then message-rap took off
and many rappers were talking
about the same things i had just
read about - so i started deleting
words from my notes to create
“the air” of something poetic.
"it takes a nation of millions to
hold us back” could have been
lifted straight from my journals!
i secretly accused Chuck D of
somehow biting my notes despite
being 900 miles apart… ( i still
dont know how he did it )
i still didnt consider my stuff
as “poetry”. i really had no clue;
i was reading Dr. Ben not Baraka.
the turn came in ‘88 on my 21st
birthday when “the sister i loved
to hate” gave me an autographed
copy of Earthquakes & Sunrise
Missions by Haki Madhubuti.
his love poems to his wife were
saying things very seldom seen
or heard about black folks in
writing. that book became my bible
and led me to other important poets
from the Black Arts Movement:
Gwen Brooks, Lucille Clifton,
Ishmael Reed…. i wrote poems
for them living in my head as my
audience / my peers. i patterned
myself in their shadow as i imagined
it to be - angry & in love.
from 1991 until 2006 i averaged
about 5 “poems” a day… less poems,
more like “placeholders” for my ideas,
usually 1 really good stanza
smothered within a dozen bad ones.
i’ve written about 20,000 poems
in that time… or i should say that
ive written 10 really great poems
and 19,990 really shitty variations
but i knew from the beginning that
i wanted to write poems that straddled
the line between ‘literary’ and ‘popular’.
pieces that were cryptic & technically
difficult without being too boring and
academic. poems that appealed both
to educators and those seeking
education. it’s just not in me to
write lyrically beautiful joints that
touch folks in the heart or the gut.
i want my work to do both, but i kinda
want my readers to work for it.
poets (and all writers) shouldnt just
drop easily absorbed material into
our laps - that’s more akin to
propaganda, catering to the
expectations of those needing
to be patronizing. - nothing wrong
with that - how else are you to get
your work spread about by word
of mouth? cater to a category
and do it well, then youve won
i want to write jaunty little ditties
for ___________________ types,
but that feels like cheating, to me.
plus, there are many talented
poets already doing so.
its not (entirely) my intention to be
confusing with my words, but id
rather be indecipherable more
than insulting to intelligence.
works for me. or else why bother?
but i still dont consider myself
“a poet” - im just a historian
who writes in superfluous shorthand.
“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.”—Allen Ginsberg (via just10r)
"…and to my surprise the water tower blew up; who shot? what? who? the bazooka was who?”
everybody wanted to blame Heru when the riot broke out, but everyone knows Heru is a man of Peace. even named a city after him. sure, he might tag his name in hieroglyphs and other modern forms of graffiti, and he loves his beer, the original recipe with hops and oats as thick as a pharaoh’s asp; and sometimes he hangs out late cold lampin’ with The Sphinx, pitchin’ pennies and pinchin’ ass, but lead a riot? no, sir. not Heru. not like that two-bit knock-off, Hercules… now, sure, disturbing The Peace is in Heru’s dna, but that’s more his daddy’s racket
(but if a man cut my dick off too and tossed my casket into the sea then i might up and rebel as well. no. no ‘might’. uh-unh. that’s one of them so-called "grievous injuries" ambulance-chasers advertise late at night.)
but all that was ages ago. at least what? 8?… 9?… 10 thousand years? now, i know for a stone cold fact Heru did pitch a fit the day he lost his lottery ticket. it was him, King Nikonos and one of them Hapshetsut boys doing belly flops in the Nile, naked as a sacrificial calf. that’s the day they found that little Ahmose kid drifting downstream from Nubia the escapades that day turned the whole reverent world upside down! it’s been one long Benny Hill theme song ever since. you see, Ahmose’s greatgreat grandson, “Akhenaten”, inherited his penchant for chasing after parables, glass houses and monotheism -
(why Ra anem let the whole thing unfold the way it did is beyond me. vanity i guess.)
them 1300’s B.C. was a bad scene for holy rollers. after that came plagues and pandemics then eventually the Roman’s and everybody’s name got washed off the stones. nothing of that ‘old-timey ‘ligion’ was held sacred. someone even broke into Tutankhamun’s tomb and filled his coptic jar with microchips. Hyksos and heathens, no doubt. and to this day, conspiracy theorists still blame it on the cult of Bill Gates, but mama says we should all keep our eyes on them Nazarenes; troublemakers, the whole lot. stealing Heru’s legacy anshit; they probably the ones who pilfered his powerball, i wouldnt put it past them.
and if you wanna talk a riot, then them Romans.
from Carthage to Thebes them thieves were known to paint a town red. you couldnt turn over a fig without coming across some drunken god sprawled out, tunic torn, morals shorn, goats and virgins worn out… there were 12 wonders of the world before they moved in. and dont let me start on Zeus! the worse one! Olympus was just a parking lot behind The Memphis Market - The Monopoly Man was a prototypical son way before Mercury; and look at that pantheon now! talk about ‘retrograde’!
shameful! always in the news; you should see the smiles on they face. some by-the-book criminals, hard grimaced with a pumice tongue; slight-of-hand demagogues who never apologize on papyrus, burn their visage on pieces of toast as calling card… a ponzi scheme that ‘Shroud of Turin’. they give gnosticism a bad name. shameful, just shameful.
im not a witch nor the son of one but i want to be
so instead, i write to shore up the lack, every written word
thrown head first into the ohio river more than once
to sink or to float whichever fits the thick lipped
phonetics / foundation for this self-anointed poet building his towers
atop the waters
audre lorde is my lady of the lake; ghost hands parting this southern mouth housing a kentucky pond / each word a frond, every stem a magic wand / the tongue a baton wagging in yemoja’s general direction, all of her reflection upon this body of water i call myself
anyway, the coffee kept on ancestral altars has crumbled into dirt; prayers dehydrated into dust, fertilizing the eggs of this diaspora. i can await the answers to prayer / im patient and i meditate. besides, all of my ancestors are out on loan:
tho shorn from kentucky i’m instilled with kinship to dahomey & brazil, to cuba & to haiti; some of my not-so-distant cousins needing more angels than i because love is an immediate action in the aftermath of earthquakes & hurricanes.
and speaking of punching pat robertson dead in the mouth, he and rush limbaugh can call my ancestors retarded or niggers and me a retarded nigger for crafting faith from where the hate of blacks was created. pyre respects pyre and i am sunflower-supreme. i do not shrink shrieking into shadows reeking with shame or fear or of the fear-of-flame… there is switchblade in my sepals. and just like all of my gods, i too speak from my mouth. dont require prophet-mongers to translate what god’s written on my cheek, so let’s not escalate this renunciation to your ignorance. push me too hard and i shall no longer pray for you
not that praying for vaude villains is ever a first venture
every amen must begin and end somewhere
and the brackets of my body and my soul do not embrace everyone.
but if i was a witch or the son of one, how wonderful…
from such a blessing would come the understanding of beauty and the undertaking to use it.
( god damn the prevention of this american polyglot spoiling a black man’s asymmetrical patois )
“Janice Jackson, another team member who is also working on a Ph.D. in communication disorders, conducted an experiment using pictures of Sesame Street characters to test children’s comprehension of the ‘habitual be’ construction. She showed the kids a picture in which Cookie Monster is sick in bed with no cookies while Elmo stands nearby eating cookies. When she asked, ‘Who be eating cookies?’ white kids tended to point to Elmo while black kids chose Cookie Monster. ‘But,’ Jackson relates, ‘when I asked, “Who is eating cookies?” the black kids understood that it was Elmo and that it was not the same. That was an important piece of information.’ Because those children had grown up with a language whose verb forms differentiate habitual action from currently occurring action (Gaelic also features such a distinction, in addition to a number of West African languages), they were able even at the age of five or six to distinguish between the two.”—
a boulder is the sun, nesting upon
my shoulders in the kitchen and the
morning breeze surrounds me in its
blanket of trust. i make a pot of coffee
and i cut a piece of cake, pondering
our plight for breakfast where this
question poses itself:
why just be a black butterfly if we haven’t
learned to be a better caterpillar? shouldn’t
prophecy follow process?
- this is carrots vs. carts.
mustn’t a man master Ma’at before any
metamorphism / the ugly crawl before any
hajj into a more suitable cocoon / some taj
mahal of his or her very own making?
can the hue of true beauty really bloom
from bullshit if it doesn’t appreciate its basic
beginnings? gawk in wonder at your genesis,
pay homage to the humus of your awkward
nature before you inch, worm, into some
ethereal’d exodus where dreams shun
the ground / defying gravity… get good, first,
in this science of shallow earth before your
thirst for sky consumes your hallowed belief.
the celestial sea laps at your sub-terrestrial
shore (if you have a soul) where the nexus
is much more than mud; that mixture is
the life blood to all you shall ever be…
bathe in the flood of your inner
existentialisms expanding into essence and
ego. absorb all the auras of Mother Africa
made hidden beneath the bleached breathing.
beneath you / freedom is a bottle tree and
even the beetle is a beautiful thing - protector
of ants and slugs and ladybugs…
know thyself, nightcrawler, before you morph into
the myth. and remember this: that a butterfly is
just a centipede with wings & is unable to make
his way to sunrise during rainy days (or other
inclement weather). hardships will always follow;
aches and pains have wings as well. and tho
butterflies might flutter by, dining on daylight,
it’s the caterpillar that’s the most conscious; he
is a cosmic crystal, this caterpillar / the mighty
conqueroo; the prism between your average
everyday daydream and immortal chrysalisism.
our heroes are being used
to sell us hamburgers…
and only cattle
is this docile - spilling
its milk and selling its spoils
to supply chainsaws
to the slaughterhouses…
(of our indemnitable durability
im having my doubts… )
there are stress fractures
beneath our stretch marks and
our masons are strung out on
insanity / building temples of vanity
in the noosemakers parlor room…
(his hospitality is the rope
in which to hang ourselves)
and still we hustle, shuffling
shouldertoshoulder to the scaffolding,
fighting for our piece of the platform.
(is this shit normal?)
hamburgers are for clowns
and cartooned kings… not
for revolutionists or dignitaries
worth the weight of a nobel prize…
we gave peace a chance
and it sold us out (the motherfucker!)
where else in the world
do they celebrate the birthday
and the being of life-defenders &
human rights champions with
extra cheese and a disney toy?
yes, child, the ploys
of the puppetmaster
are cunningly cloy…
old ‘protest’ poem written after watching a mcdonald’s ad try to sell me my history in a commercial during black history month. folks complain about the lack of true representation in disney princesses but i’m waiting to see einstein or jfk reduced to the same commercialized element as shrek or toy story - just as mlk and harriet tubman are
we / pre
existed in semicircles,
in this circumference of a seed
that some call “the sun” - that
shit was just “home” to us… but
THAT was a thousand sable sum-
mers ago… we live on earth now.
e-gypsies online and underground
thinking that this suffering flesh
is for real… it has appeal / but / still
it is not natural.
by essence, we are ethereal. we
are sunlight & sugar shafts of starshit
screaming celestial songs in the micro
cosmic sub-consciousness / the hum
of this solar system… that is / was / until
planet earth interrupted us.
therefore, we are THE SPORES OF RA…
2 trains of Thoth, terra-ized… where our
sunrays struck the surface, civilizations
grew… (shine blocking)
"LIFE" is just the sunlight stalled,
trying to get back to its aboriginal light-
speed… this evolution just a real slow
process as we stretch out from the soil
searching for skies to reconquer / return-
ing to our most natural state; fundamentally
fluid, but moistless.
why else do you think it is that plantlife
always turns to the sun when sprung
free from clay prisons? sunlight was
not meant to be static / stuck
in insignificant places… “terra normal”.
nevermind that nonsense…
you said you knew me from a prior life…
that us previous-life-people always run
in packs, criss crossing on current paths…
i was just saying we are only reminiscing
our original residence 93 million miles away,
remembering how we lived and loved
deepdeep inside the sun…
i think that’s where you remember me from.
we’re just mangled metaphysics in the flesh;
space & time terra-firmed… our minds angled
toward a collective memory we can only
confirm by the use of biological terminology
but we were all astrology. once. that’s why
we “wish upon a star” / have auras around
us, searching for companionship when
the night leaves us naked…
we’re just waiting to “see the light.”
even roosters remind us to raise for rays,
…why is that? …just think on it. but like
i was saying, that’s really neither here nor
there… that was then. and now?
now: im only wanting to know your name.
wanting to explore this chemistry / this
invisibility between us. you smiled and
brought summer to a stop / my spirit
to a standstill… you are beautiful & bright;
a solar flare in this eclipsed environment…
i want to sample you & be supreme about it.
to find out what gods you’re composed of,
what comprises the way your true nature
rises up out of your being; what private
universe do you have trapped beneath
that body? - for real, what mythic aurora
authorized you and gave you the right
to replace my full-of-shit with butterflies?
which horizon houses you when you
return home & (more importantly) do you
sleep alone? that’s nosey, i know but so
if i’m forward or fast / forgive me…
honestly / i’m not hurried; i’m in no rush.
we were lovers / once, a thousand supple
springtimes ago… and we will be again.
either in this middle or on the tale end,
living in the “afterlife” of alter-essences,
our spirits free to sing & shine in rhythm
or rhyme as rainbows reborn…
that’s our fate and i’m strong enough
in faith to wait that long. or we could
resume our break-of-dawn right now,
and be consumed in the flash of our flesh;
spontaneously serendipitous, combusting
unquietly / undercover of darkness… until
our love opens its lips, to “let there be light!”
ubiquitous bodies in synchronized shudder;
utterences in ultraviolet; remembering a time
when only love mattered & the farside
of the universe was easily in reach & ours
for the taking; our soul-shine unbreakable…
i be coal growin into onyx; with ankles fastened
firm to asphalt, gravel and faith… “can i fly?”
gahdammit, i can try… but why ask why? my
nappyhead an obsidian-egg, a happily dreaded
chrysalis of dust, vapor, magic in consistant
transmogrified communication with grafitti-gods…
we crushgroove / we stay bein on the move…
my spirit sings from the back of my dreams; song
grows into crow’s wings from the back of my head:
this is where my mind finds the most flight…
i cant break free from ground / too earthbound…
but wings flap and i fly anyway fareal thru sheer
force of will, i jus gotta drag the whole world with
me as i do - a ball and chain of 7 billion people:
the planet earth (and sometimes its moon) danglin’
like a tin can behind me as i get-up-thru (so sometimes
it goes un-noticed). labcoats call it “science”… but that’s
just fiction. it’s simply “seance”… the friction caused
when juju bypasses the laws of physics and pyramids
breakdance around the sun; a coaled-fusion begun
in t-minus 5… 4… 3…
to my Cult of Thutmose:
where black bodies split
and become of single breath;
ancient lovers with postmodern
analog in auras; we become
brass-age with glaciers of black skin.
in extrasensory science i orbit
you, a sensual satellite; stalagmites
in my voice; panther and mouse
in the chase until i catch you and
become as Anubis. i fetch you falling
a million miles from inner-space
my brown face a red giant
on the horizon, my oath to you a moist
we are Thebes In The Night.
my inclusions crash at your feet;
my hubris a hybrid with debris licking
at your heels, digging into black digital
earth, cruising into the beautiful burn
bracing for impact - my brain-cells
shattering / anti-gray-matters embrace
the hyena-god’s head; a transmogrified
sound shifting shape. mind blown. mouth
i’m such the lascivious man. been so
since Olodumare told monkeys to
walk up straight. language congeals
around skin, accepts gravity, becomes
ink and glyphs with ligatures sinking…
is this alkebulan? or kaleidoscope?
upon impact; reprising
rainbows / leaking new
gods from the umbra. from
stellar bedrooms a budget plan
and after the backstage pass,
dehydrated acts sparkle on thighs
rate gyro assemblies remain functional
as we face frustum and saturn returns.
this is sigh-fi in the flesh;
a billion stars are probed,
a trillion planets explored, many
comets mapped, dark matter disrobed,
blackholes / our space stations built
atop perturbation theories, Octavia’s
ashes replace Orion’s belt, and yet
there is still much debris
to sift through / Keplerian ellipses
for us to drift into and all the while: