Sunday, July 30, 2006

job poems

i felt these were appropriate for a sunday evening.

Job Poem #1

knowing is so perverse that
I’d rather be worth
less, true, but happy.
it’s ring toss game, really.
maybe horseshoe, but always
spun round round
again and emptied.

but at least there are windows.

Job Poem #2

the rich woman gave
the mill where I grind
down my knuckles
to skin and bone dust.

it sounded so rewarding on the idea list.

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kiddie pool

today, i have discovered that someone has put up a kiddie pool in the yard behind my building. in fact, the pool is right under my bedroom window. i feel like somebody may have been reading my throwback post.

or maybe somebody just had a bunch of kids who were hot and driving them crazy in the house.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006


for the all the current/former ghetto kids out there: remember on hot summer days asking your parent/guardian/supervision-provider for permission to go down the street and get wet in so-and-so's front yard? or backyard, for that matter? and getting wet sometimes meant running through the yard sprinkler, or sometimes it meant so-and-so's parent/guardian/supervision- provider just sprayed you all with the water hose while you just ran around the yard in a bathing suit? remember how this is what cooled you off on summer days cuz you were not allowed to go to the swimming/wading pool in martin luther king park because it was, as your parent/guardian/supervision-provider said it was too dirty?

today, on the bus coming home, i saw a flyer advertising first friday at ovations, playing only the best hip hop, reggae, r&b, etc...first friday at ovations, friday, july 5th, 2002.

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wordplay, wordfight, wordwork: my dictionary

i am in love with words. words themselves, their sounds, and their meanings.

but this is a post about a couple of words i hate.

ethnic-along came polly was on tv recently, and i watched it, and although it had its funny moments, i found it excruciating every time ben stiller's character said that polly had him eating ethnic food. ethnic food??? as in food that comes from an ethnicity? i find i hate the word ethnic for implying that there is such a thing as non-ethnic, and i hate this society for encouraging the idea that ethnic applies to non-white, or to some extent non-middle american. ethnic is two-syllable symbol of rather unfortunate exoticism, which leads me to...

exotic-mostly i hate this word when people use it to apply to themselves. how is it that you are exotic? is your skin green? do you come from another planet? because otherwise, as a human being, you are one of a family of billions, from a species that is nearly as old as time itself
(and certainly as old as our concept of time)--in other words, you are nothing new (though that is definitely not to say nothing special)

illegitmate-see previous post

african american-i suppose there is nothing inherently wrong in the term african american, other than it contains way too many syllables and that it its use can be divisive. i call myself black, because black is a color, and i love color, and color transcends nationality, and because the human animal is mostly a visiually oriented thing (as opposed to historically oriented).

politics-i hate the word politics because of what it stands for. i define politics as the process that inhibits justice and, well, common sense.

that's all i got for right now. there are more words, in life, that i dislike, but these are the ones at the forefront of my mind.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

End-of-life Situation

i was on a bus from nc to nyc, and while passing through newark, i happened to look out the window and see a man sprawled in the middle of street beside a stopped car. there was a police officer there with a flashlight. i couldn't tell if perhaps the person had been hit by the car, or if the person was alive or dead, but i wondered really hard what would be going through the mind of a person somewhere between life and death. and then i wrote this poem.

An angel (I guess) stands
over my shoulder
training his flashlight on my face.
Does he mean to wake me, to blind me?

Did my pupils dilate? I have lots of small
guilts pumping through my valves:

I neglected to take out the trash
this morning. I argued with
mother and cursed her in my mind.
I drank from the juice carton upon
waking today, lips and morning breath
direct on the spout; stole
envelopes and postage from

Shall I walk on into the light?
They say the true devil is an angel of light.
They say the true God is a God of light.
This angel, posing, training over my shoulder

Who sent him to me?

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Monday, July 24, 2006


ugly child why does
your mother love you rich
man why are you arms so
short beautiful man why
do you overlook me beautiful
woman why do you paint
yourself happy happy
why do you smile
mistaken why do you erase
yourself secure why
don’t you pause when

I could kill you with one poem?

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

footnotes to the life of an illegitimate child

one of the terms that i despise the most in the english language: illegitimate child. i take issue with defining a human life as illegitimate simply because one's parents are not married when that one is born. and what amazes me is how often that term is still used, in this world where marriage isn't exactly viewed as a prerequisite for parenthood.

i find it personally offensive.

i have also been experimenting a lot with writing poems in the forms of other things--dictionary and encyclopedia entries, shopping lists, emails. so i wrote this one, kinda fragmentary, about the things i think of when someone uses the term "illegitimate child." i feel like this poem is unfinished, that i can continue to add to it at any time.

Footnotes on Illegitimate Children

1. The illegitimate son’s favorite
story is Pinocchio.
Like the puppet, he, too,
wishes he were a real boy.

2. The illegitimate daughter prefers
unicorns to princesses.
Like the unicorn, she
does not exist.

3. Both stand to inherit
only dust.

4. Perhaps illegitimate children
tell mama jokes because
they don’t know their fathers.

5. Why did I assume the illegitimate
does not know a father?

6. Sow your seed.
Do not watch it grow.
Do not reap a harvest.

7. I do not cast shadows.
Illegitimate child I
do not reflect in mirrors.

8. What law can govern
an illegitimate child?

9. What writer? She
is an unauthorized life reproduction.

10. The other hand:
The illegitimate child cannot
legitimately be punished
for the sins of the father.

11. Can I have legitimate income?
Perhaps I shall no longer pay taxes.

12. All grown up, she lives in Atlantis.
Vacations in Shangri-la.

currently reading

the namesake - jhumpa lahiri

Friday, July 21, 2006

getting my mfa

in more or less a month, i will be entering brooklyn college to begin working on my mfa in poetry. i'm nervous about that. not because i think i can't handle it, but because i'm not sure how i can pay for it.

an mfa in poetry is not exactly a degree which pays for itself in a couple of years.

still, i want to get a masters in poetry because i think that, as a writer, i will benefit tremendously from the opportunity to read and workshop poetry intensively. i think it will be good for my writing career. and brooklyn college's program seems like it offers both a good grounding in both poetics and the writing craft.

so now i got to get ready: start buying books, etc. its gonna be tough to balance a fulltime job with a fulltime grad program. i guess my leisure reading time will be going out the window once again.

there are those who feel that training in creative writing bleeds the originality out of a writer. i don't believe that. there are those who believe that an mfa is a waste of money and time. lord, i hope not.

but mostly, i'm doing this because i want to.

so...anybody know of any good places to apply for scholarships? cuz a young black woman poet sure is broke...

saying graces

the prayers of people who pray a lot are
like threadbare seat cushions. they used to be

floral, now faded, depressed by
many rock bottoms, thinning sponges soaked

in sighs, pains, whispers and
dried out again under the refracted

sun through those windows – remember
in school they said glass is a slowmoving

liquid? that oldfashioned glass windows
get thicker at the bottom as they

age, like the ghetto girls grandmother
prays for while looking up through those

windows. and the sunlight flies faster
when you sit praying in the morning, slower

at night, perhaps, it still comforts you and
if you close your eyes, do you believe it is still there?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

sonia sanchez gets arrested?

who would ever find that to be a good idea--to arrest sonia sanchez? sonia was one of my poetry teachers during my senior year. she's a macrobiotic vegetarian. she's also critically acclaimed and prolific and discplined and principled and open minded. she has her views--and they represent a singular collection views based on a varied collection of ideologies, from buddhism to the nation of islam--and she expects the absolute best of everyone. in life.

anyway, i received the following email today:

I need your support. 11 mothers/grandmothers (including myself) were arrested last week after
staging a sit-in at a local recruitment office. We went to enlist--thinking if they sent us, we
could talk to
Iranian mothers/grandmothers about ending this war we're in.

We were released that same night but were informed that we would go to trial on December 1,
2006 at 8:30am. The trial is to be held at the Community Courthouse in Philadelphia.

I'm asking that you all come out to support us on that day.
>In love/struggle,

>Sonia Sanchez

apparently, when the women went to the recruitment office, they brought an apple pie with them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

2 of today's moments

(1a) went to macy's after work today. i was wandering around the juniors department, debating whether i would feel comfortable supporting jennifer lopez by buying a dress from her j.lo line (i actually, very much to my surprise, liked it) when...a fuzzy gray MOUSE scurried out of nowhere right in front of my path. it ran around the racks for a while, and nearly over a woman's foot. i shrieked. another woman shrieked as well, then calmly went about her shopping.

(1b) i know nyc is disgusting with the vermin, but that was one bold's not like macy's is empty of human beings early on a weekday evening....

(2a) i was standing on the platform in the subway, reading my book*, waiting for the train home. then someone tapped me on the shoulder. it was a man i did not know. he wordlessly handed me a small note and walked away. i expected it to be a random phone number that i had no interest in calling. i read the note as the train approached. it said:

"I have to tell you without interrupting your day that I love your style (great shoes)! God Bless!"

(2b) that was not what i was expecting to find on the note.

*in case you wanted to know, the book i am currently reading is barchester towers. i don't usually enjoy anything that was written before the 20th ceetury, but i had read half of it for my crticial reading, critical writing (intro. to the english major) class, and i found that it was actually highly entertaining. funny even. but i would def. welcome suggestions for something new(er) to read.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

why i don't live in harlem

harlem, because of the renaissance named after it, was the place of my childhood dreams. i used to think that i would live in harlem. when i graduated, i wanted to find an apartment in harlem, a first step to one day buying a house in harlem (that would be sometime after i won a pulitzer...)

well, in financial terms, living in brooklyn made more sense for me. they tell me affordable places do actually still exist in harlem, but they were not found by me. so i moved to bk. and it grew on me, tremendously. which, unfortunately, causes me internal conflict because i always have to remember that harlem, not brooklyn, was home to my dreams for such a long period of my life.

so i wrote a little poem, a tribute of sorts, to explain to harlem why i had to defect...

Harlem. Holy land.
Real estate crusaders
corporate raiders
swords for gentrification.
Everybody wants you.
Auctions and bids and
shady dealings for you, no
not corner sharks,
crack dealers, pimps
or jackleg preachers.
Realtors, contractors,
hungry Wall streeters.
Harlem. Holy land.
Everybody wants you.
Great Renaissance ghosts
of Langston and Garvey.
Grandma lived here all her life,
decades in this one railroad
apartment, railroaded
into cozy cabin in
Pennsylvania cuz that flat
is worth hundreds of thou and
she can't afford,
Harlem, Holy Land,
everybody wants you.
Like Jericho fell to the
Israelites who fell to the
Greeks, and the Romans,
and a people now named Palestinians
moved in, embraced Muhammad's teachings,
only to be invaded by Christians,
the Dome of the Rock,
the Apollo, Harlem,
Holy Land everybody wants you.
Millenia, and they're still fighting
for it in Palestine.
Tear down, build up,
renovate, relocate, and sweep
under the rug I only
respect grafitti artists
cuz Harlem, holy land,
if we can't have you,
someone needs to remember
we were here.

rejection thread (part 1)

so yeah, they say every writer must weather much rejection. i find this to be true. of course, the truth of this statement does not make it easy to weather said rejection.

so since i don't have any poetry publications to talk about, i thought i'd talk about some of the rejections i have received.

my poems: it's like as if my cat had a bunch of kittens. i can't keep all of them to myself, but i love them, so i want very much to find good homes for them.

apparently, these have not been good homes for my poems:

Calabash Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters
ep;phany zine
Tribes Magazine
Mosaic Literary Magazine*
Cave Canem Summer Poetry Fellowship

i've still got several pieces out there. if you know of any places that might be good homes for my poems, i'd love to know about them.

o, and this list does not reflect all of the mfa programs i have applied to...but my thoughts on the mfa is stuff for another post. by the way, this rejection thread will be a running thread.

*though they have rejected me, their rejection messages were rather gently and nicely worded.

Friday, July 07, 2006


a new poem because it seems like everytime i read the news, there is an item about disenfranchised youth rioting in the cities

for those worldwide riots

In East Timor they burn
In Sao Paulo they burn.
In Paris they burn, too.
Buildings they burn and their glass
explodes but here in these United
States the last time
the youth exploded was over
a generation ago like too hot
light bulbs spent, shattered

in the middle of the street the
tar strip, the ink line, in this
city of cities torches and cocktails
don't pop. Eyeballs, they pop, when
the nascent woman flowers in some tight jeans.
She pops bubblegum while
grown men on the corner pop their old dreams like
overinflated balloons. Basketballs reverb
off of rims, bass rumbles somewhere down
the block but fire
is for when hustle
man hustles lung cancer on the corner,
fire is for the enlightenment of the local
potheads, for the kids with the summer
firecrackers. That's when the sky
lights up. That's when even shadows blaze.

If no smoke in the sky provokes tears then
who will cry for Bed Stuy? No blinking, I won't
cry for the new pink and glass condos
the boxy townhouses, and the men on the corner
will eyeball the white bohemians who infiltrate.
The black bohemians will know well enough to blend
in, so eyeballs won't pop at them. It's been
more than a generation since we burned since
ideals, round here, were life, death, future, present
righteous, and illicit.
The youth they risked their young necks cuz
whether right or wrong, they wanted to live
as they wanted to live or not live.

Sometime between colored person
and person of color revolution
became that which we roll our eyes at.
When politics decided to stop taking prisoners,
to just snap necks instead, we forgot that apart
from politics was justice. We thought maybe
there was equality, or at least power, Instead of burning we
consume their goods, ipods, cell phones, and playstation, too,
if the next world is an electronic game, then we
are ready for anything. What, burn? We'll live
in shell houses like we are shell people and
anyway burnin leaves only ash, singe, and melted stuff
like light bulbs and their filaments, shattered in the street.