mama, when did we stop talking
slave’s talk? i ask, separating the welch’s
jelly from where it touches the scrambled
eggs on my breakfast plate…
mama has always been
a human-mason-jar type of woman,
a walking database with knowledge of
the universe stashed within her hips…
her mouth, at first stiff, surrenders and
the hinges break / her jaw drops and
for the first time in my life mama’s mouth
issues no sound; bumblebees in the form
of spittle dance out and sting me in my eye,
but mama’s fingertips licked have always
been a salve until now.
mama, you know… like when’d we stop
saying likes and whens and i’s is… you
know, mama… like slaves. when did our
mouths invert and stop reinventing unenglished
words? mama… mama… wasn’t everybody’s
mama a slave-type-mammy-mama when
you was small? mama, wasn’t your mama
a mammy? didnt she too talk ‘that talk’?
and right on cue, from the kitchen tv, Bugs
Bunny in blackface jumps up offering
clarity, his feet slurring the celluloid earth,
his bottom lip drawn into distention like
the exclamation point of mod type font
extending off the screen, poking me in
the eye. i point, “exhibit A”… see, mama!
mama’s gums expand, becoming
floatation devices for choked up phrases,
hard felt sentences full of hurt languages
and lost experiences… i feel the residual
ache in her retinas scanning the lump mass
of my being for an opening… her words are
red and blue and unrepeatable; her
colorful etymology slathers itself across
“oh,” i say… knowing i should feel ashamed.
she says that i sound just like her daddy…
what? mama, that aint making no kinda sense.
i get gold stars in my english class… and my
friend Ricky says you sound like the white
woman who calls sometimes before she cuts
off our lights. mama, you know me and you
we be sounding soooo good… i don’t get it.
mama, how did you learn to talk so good,
weren’t you born in grandmama’s backyard?
what’s a drawl, mama, what’s ebonics, what’s
a funkadelic, why is old english art and the old
black mouth a relic, why do white boys ‘scribe’
and black boys ‘scribble’ and ‘scrawl’, why must
the tongue trawl the ass of Zeus to be
a connotative classic finding commercial
success / why are my words just like the rest
unless awards are involved? are we not involved,
mama? mama, didnt we too evolve? we sent
men to the moon… why can’t we solve society?
why is it up to McDonalds to teach us all this
stuff about slaves and blackness? mama,
are we kin to coons? mama what’s a coon?
if the tv is plugged into a socket then by
definition isn’t it meant to electrocute our culture?
Elmer Fudd leans in, “i’ll field this one.
you see, any marketing major will tell you
that extreme exaggeration is the
cornerstone for systemic collusions. our nation
runs on the redundancy of ruses… otherwise,
we’d all just be confused, holding hands and
making love. we all must abide by the signals
and the signs. it’s either duck season or wabbits.”
mama’s hands caress my face then holds
if firm / squirm prevention. there’s a loose thread
at the inseam of my forehead, she pulls and
i think i am supposed to unravel. spiritually
i become unspooled.
the Mrs. Butterworth bottle waddles over and
asks me if i know the difference between
a hajib and a doo-rag; i dont.
Mrs. Butterworth bottle whispers, “black
genesis begins in the eyes and ears.” says
she will show me how our culture began
in true cubism and not in caricature,
“existentialism begins in the tongue”
Elmer again interjects, “if i may,
it’s just the way we manipulate
perception; a tool that allows
diversifications to the levels of
pleasantry and dehumanized
appeal… the standardized
applications for social standing,
acceptance, aesthetics, etc…. “
Fudd pokes his rifle into a dark hole
in one dimension; pulled out
the barrel is tied into a ribbon / Bugs
puckers up and plants him one
dead in the kisser. and right on cue,
as stereotypes are often made to do,
a corpulently drawn pig stutters
the final farewell. a curtain draws,
an aperture collapses… two hands
in white gloves jut out catching the
television’s frame - the whole cartooned
cast in bootblack masks mumbling,
muttering… lips distended… “mmmmm
mmmmmMMa—- •••” mama
has pulled the plug. “not ‘coon’ but cocoon.”
she wraps me in her arms until we both
are enshrined in silk. it is dark… there is
no light and there is no Mrs. Buttersworth.
we lay there lingering in the absence of
manmade lights… mama says, “it will get
bright soon and soon you will see. it may not
at first be the place you want… but one day
it will. we should’ve done this ages ago. but
here, the language will not anguish you.”
—— upfromsumdirt 2014
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:
ancestors build up in the lungs
becoming daylight in the body
we stir softly from a deeper sleep
aroused by life and love and innate neters;
we stretch / we yawn.
the breath pushes itself up from the throat feeling
like a huron’s egg with the head of the sphinx inside.
breath rolls from the mouth pushed
by khephra’s tiny feet / guarding a quiet
that keeps no secrets.
this is the miscegenation of our spells;
poems in the blood with a birth weight of 400 years.
we awake with new words cut from the caul
of the creation within us. the breath as umbilical cord
connecting old umbras to soul’s raw umber.
sankofa twists and bends and touches its toes
in the syllables of us supple, soul-sensitive sunpeople.
we live for this. it’s who we are.
voices that are ritual scars on the cheeks of the sun;
the healing song for a 4 centuries-long laceration.
- africadabra pt 2, upfromsumdirt © 2010
i strap on africa:
my metaphor, my phantasm.
africa is the yoke i harness
my imagination to, pulling
me up from this assimilated coma;
tan docker’s and my tattered olive
hoodie make for a poor man’s
midnight is the work-clothes
i fit my words into; i’m a pullman
car porter for old adages and new
mythicisms; i’m a houngan in hijab
and overalls, a workhorse for
disbanded rituals, i’m a witchdoctor
with a hipster’s aspirations -
half Steven Jobs, half Stephen Biko.
on this land / in these asphalt fields
i’m the onyx ox: a beast AND a burden.
all city / nothing urban; my insights
hold out from the late, great Luba;
so yes, my ebonics are quite bionic.
you see, Rome was too built in a day,
back in 1475 or so - when Europa
began dismantling her rivals, securing
trade routes, salvage rights and such.
you know the saying:
to the victims go the spoiled.
but alas, you’ve already lost interest
in my language, so i’ll just leave it to
a Kathryn Stockett-type to tell you
my story of genocide. gentrified.
i’m an urban water buffalo plowing
burnt soils so seeds will shoot forth
feathers and jute harvest, my spells
sprouting outer-space on the sidewalks.
from this sorry cinema i carve fertility
dolls into collage - from a white shadow
black creatives softly creak with anger,
having not enough of an edge, a ledge,
or mantel space for legacy (in a land
where legacies, either proven or pilfered,
are extremely lucrative).
we sculpt a citizenship from empty popcorn
boxes, soda pop cans and the discarded candy
bar wrappers that whirl and spin in circles
on discarded corners; its not dimlit, its well
bright and we all see it.
but man-made poltergeists need
the fiction of “midnightness”
letting what passes for life bleed allusion
into our lungs because hope is the heaviest
form of precipitation.
separated from myth, america has given us
asthma / but we’re a pulmonary car porter
people lugging suitcases for shango.
we are free, but only if we forage for it.
so, before it becomes too late, before
bandwidth becomes our only
breathing apparatus, we really
should unionize our fairy tales.
pushed past the end, the breath
has bite but offers no new blueprint
for the blackstar line forensics squad
to graft parables from, no poetry
to put an end to the grand imperial
dragon’s pallbearers guild…
post-omega, these teeth have
a presidential tint, short rocks glinting
black / not obama-like (unless his daddy)
- my stories - the stimulus package
for a black-art-movement’s
this poem is a transatlantic salve,
a trade / a barter system, inscribing
spiritual security numbers on all
the jagged surfaces of america’s
stolen property / in this breath, us IS,
usblackpeople is all human
claim tickets for the ancestors.
on my tongue there are two trains
a-rollin’… you dont hafta do a thing,
but let the message board you.
and of course, you could tip, too.
- upfromsumdirt © 2010
if there can be such a thing
as a ghost writer then why not
a corporeal announcer, a corpse
reporter… or in rap terminology: an
emcee figment of your imagination
who bites the beat on my behalf?
my poems need a puppet dictator;
a zombie head of state….
from continents away this self-styled
Geppetto could pull a string and watch
his Pinocchio-pet become a poet laureate.
pull two strings and the wooden boy
would pop lock and moon walk, performing
Santeria with my written words. he could be
the Baby Doc to my Ronald Reagan.
the Kermit the Frog to my Jim Henson.
the Paisley Prince to my Jamie Starr.
the Raúl to my Fidel.
if i must do the hustle, then
watch pen and paper be the disco
where yoruba-oblongata does the dance.
my mind moves the most in-between
the strobe… the mirrored globe goes dark
and the most vibrant sparks begin.
on a lark, the lingo limbos.
and if poetry must be performance, if
every manuscript requires stage presence,
a beauty pageant, then fix your eyes on me,
the background singer with the stiff upper lip.
i belong right where you blink,
in the black. always in the black.
and even though all of my heroes have
been a grand verbaliser, i’m too verbose
to be the kind of ventriloquist you like; i’m
overdosed on sesquipedalian slight-of-hand;
my hoodoo too full of Houdini, for me
every metaphor is an amulet of protection; somewhere
obeah the rainbow.
this is exactly what you get when you ask
the shadows to cough up its introverts:
us out-of-tuners; the children of Bram Stoker
choking on daylight; us walking dead who
soak up the moon… us cryptic crooners
who swoon to death on microphones…
welcome to puppet theater presented
to you by Fela Kuti and fight club.
get your hand outta my pocket;
there is nothing up my sleeve;
slower traffic to the right;
tuesday night is midget wrestling,
100% catawampus / all day, er’ day.
- "Africadabra, motherfucker" by upfromsumdirt