Pariah

Pariah

As an artist, he spins artistry – I wholeheartedly admire
But lustful seed; malicious need, delicious greed fueling his fire
Misdeeds come to light and overnight, his blights birth a pariah

Setting his art apart in heart makes me Descartes to his pariah
His harmful slips trumps craftsmanship, ripping all I admire
Provoked folks were broken on his yoke, and where there’s smoke there’s fire

Using muses won’t excuse abuse; can’t recuse flair from our fire
Through introspection, we selectively reject the learned pariah
Yet we learned the life-affirmed abuse of the abuser I admired

This known pariah grown from man’s own fire of cruelty, I admire
***

Written for imaginary garden with real toads Fussy Little Forms: Tritina. This is my second attempt at this tritina form.

Also shared on Poetry Pantry #424.

Background: There is a gifted poet who I admired and wanted to emulate a great deal. I won’t mention his name here, but some of you may be familiar with his work. He basically came from nowhere, grew up in squalor, as his people were oppressed and all-but-erased by the US government. He was physically abused as a child. But he eventually fell in love with language, pulled himself up, and rose to prominence as one of America’s dynamic new literary voices.

But tragically, he then used his newfound influence to sexually harass aspiring writers looking to him for mentorship. Obviously, my heart goes out to the women he victimized. Also, I feel like a fool for admiring him in the first place, and in some small measure, for still admiring him today.

I’ve been grappling with this for several months now. His actions were abhorrent and unacceptable. But I also cannot ignore the abhorrent conditions that birthed and probably informed his actions. Hurt people hurt people. Should this man be erased for happening to others? And what of the others who happened to him when he was a young innocent child?

I don’t have the answers, but I just feel sick about the whole damn thing.

Mid-Fall Brunch

Mid-Fall Brunch

October breeze brings arctic bite to air
Leaves leave their moorings upon knotted crust
Shadows stretch further north with greater depth

Autumn sound-tracks in jazz with folksy depth
I steep our tea; honey-kissed, clears the air
She preps the pastry; flaky, buttered crust

Her hand brushes mine, piercing well-worn crust
We speak-easily; a bottomless depth
She smiles, I forfeit breath, gulping our air

We fall for our mid-fall, air, crust, and depth.
***

Written for imaginary garden with real toads Fussy Little Forms: Tritina, Imagined By Marian. This is a tricky little form, but it was also fun. I may try a few more like this.

He who Was Beloved

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Photo by Antonio Molinari on Unsplash

He who Was Beloved

According to namesake,
I am the fair-haired
spearheaded
male child of he
who was beloved
by Jehovah.

At first blush,
my birth name feels
amusingly ironic to this

nappy-headed,
soft-hearted,
middle-aged agnostic
who avoids most religions,

especially the catholic one
that informed his childhood.

I am the fourth to carry
the rather singular mantle
of this rather common English name

partially derived from
Irish and Hebrew origin,

two lineages whose people have known
countless historical hardships
beyond their control
and sometimes comprehension.

I’ve no known earthly history
on how the first of my name
received his – no
our name,

no scrapbook,
no word-of-mouth lineage,

no photographs, save for
the second to carry our line
as he spearheaded
the Korean campaign before
succumbing to frostbite.

The man staring back
across monochrome grasslands
from three score ago
looks nothing like dad and me;

it’s possible that
all he ever gifted us
was his given name,

as there are no shifting sands to dig through,
excavating our eternally lost lineage.

Between the second,
his son the third, and
the grandson he never met,

there was never
a single fair-hair
among us.

Perhaps the first of our name
was a fair-haired, spear-wielding
son of he who Yah favored.

Perhaps the first was
the son of a slave – no, or
even slave-master

who really was God’s darling favorite,
spearheading the farming of
broken brown bodies through
fertile red Mississippi delta mud.

But I often wonder
what our names would have been
had our legacies not been so muddled;

had our culture’s course not been dominated
by forces beyond our control
and even comprehension.

My namesake felt
amusingly ironic
at first.

But now
I guess it’s as apt
as any other moniker

bestowed lovingly
one by one

by he who reached across decades,

lighting the wick of each nameless brown infant
reminding each new keeper of the flame
how fortunate he is
to be so beloved.
***

Written for dVerse Poetics: What’s in a Name?, hosted by Amaya, and shared at Real Toads The Tuesday Platform. Others contributed to this prompt here.

My name is Barry Dawson Jr. IV. Barry either means fair-headed, or sharp and spear-like, depending on which Gaelic historian you ask. Dawson means “son of Dawe”, which is shortened from David, which is Hebrew for “beloved of Jehovah”.

Each Day with Your Acquired Taste

Each Day with Your Acquired Taste

Expected you to execrate
and say “Yuck!”
repulsed by my
weak-willed brokenness.

Instead you dig in
for seconds and thirds,
gripping my hand,
entrenched.

Heroes
may not always save the day,
but often they
inspire others
to save themselves.

Your grit compels
broader palettes.
***

Written for dVerse Quadrille #66 – Yuck it Up, hosted by De Jackson (Whimsy Gizmo). Others contributed to this prompt here.

Last Gasp

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Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Last Gasp

A Traveler searching the cosmos for entities worthy of elevation to Their plain of existence, upon trillions upon trillions of millennia, countless dust-specs orbiting one insignificant glowing orb after another, upon becoming disillusioned after the last red dwarf about 7.9 light years ago yielded no intelligent life, no rocky shores, no gas giants, not even the hint of an orbital debris-disk, had reached Their lowest point when suddenly, They encountered an unremarkable main-sequence star with thriving bedazzled bodies including eight stout jewels, with the third-from-center dazzling; an aqua-marine lively thing with atmosphere, liquid, and life, including intelligent life that was taking baby-steps in exploring itself and understanding the nature of things.

The Traveler was overjoyed. But then They looked deeper, seeing that this intelligent, relatively new life was rotting from within; at war with itself, exploiting and treating those perceived as lesser with contempt, fear, and hatred, hording food, healing, and education in exchange for trinkets of no intrinsic cosmic value – all at the calamitous global expense of poisoning the very environment they needed to survive, justifying all of this with superstition, dogma, and the disingenuous type of religion that closes minds from fully grasping the nature of things.

The Traveler sighed the resigned sigh of One who has seen this particular scene far too many times in Their travels. But there was no time to contemplate this decaying world’s all-too-brief impending fate; perhaps there will be better luck at the next star over, which is actually a binary system, so perhaps not. Still, the search must go on if the Traveler is to prove that They’re not roaming Infinity alone, searching for meaning within the nature of things.

the leaf never knew
what she was when she reddened
falling from the tree

no one else saw her twirling
only I mourned her last gasp
***

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: Murmuration, hosted by guest blogger qbit/Randall. Others contributed to this prompt here.

But, God Still Loves Me

Tre is my friend, occasional writing partner, and my most trusted editor. She is making some changes, and I’m boosting her signal in hopes that my friends become her friends and show her some love.

A Cornered Gurl

My Tears Tell Me So

IMG_20170402_102759A caterpillar isn’t told when it’s time to free itself from its cocoon and fly, it simply knows. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

I have been carrying a weight so heavy, it is hard to bring forth its reveal without losing some parts of me in the process. I am the adult child of a Preacher. Not just a Preacher, but a Southern Black Episcopalian Preacher/Elder/Minister who came from a devout Southern Black Baptist family. I was taught who to be, how to be, and what to be while in the walls of my parents’ home until our home fell apart. I wanted to lose myself in the world because my world was no more.

Divorce to a twelve-year-old who had an intense bond with her father is crippling. I searched in many areas for bits of my fatherOur apartment did not smell…

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Rubble-Pile

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Image source: Google

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.

Warning: The language used in this poetic narrative and opinions conveyed by some of the story’s characters may be offensive to sensitive readers. Bad things are frequently said and sometimes done. Reader discretion advised.

One final word of caution: some of you might need this to wade through some of the thicker urban vernacular.

Rubble-Pile

frigid air burns lungs
breath, crystalized diamond-dust
we release our jewels

On our third time circling the block, I swallowed my nerves, looking at the rubble-pile we’d lingered at twice before. Suddenly, it became clear to me that the rubble-pile was where the old neighborhood corner store once stood. I must have been really preoccupied with my predicament to not have noticed before.

Shit was not looking good, fam. Still, I allowed my mind to wander. It helped to pass the time and relieve some stress.

“Yo Tony, what happened to the Arab store?” I asked.

“Nigga, you serious?!?” baby bro snorted from the driver’s seat. “9-11 happened, my nigga!”

Uncle John, cousin J-Rock, and Unc’s frat bro laughed.

John added, “Fools knocked down our buildings and they shit went up in flames that night, son!”

J-Rock co-signed; “These hood niggas ain’t gone let that shit slide!”

“That’s fucking stupid!” I said, incredulous. “They probably had nothing to do with 9-11!”

Probably,” said John, mocking my earnest tone. “What, you an FBI nigga and an army nigga too?”

“I’m not army, I’m navy,” I shot back. “And that’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.”

“Spare us your morals, mayne,” said the nameless frat bro. I mean, he probably had a name, but fuck that guy. “Those Arabs didn’t wanna be in our hood after that. Sheeet, mayne, they prolly collected that insurance money and fucked right on off back to Saudi Arabia or Agrabah, or… or… wherever the fuck the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe come from.”

“Narnia, you illiterate fuck,” said John with a chuckle.

“Fuck you, nigga! You know I loved college! I just wasn’t tryin’ to hear all that white-washed knowledge.”

“This muthaphucka,” I scoffed. “Oh, so you came back home to help with all the senseless riots, right?” I found it hard to believe that two hours ago, I admired that frat boy for his knowledge, confidence, and charisma. I even wanted to swag like him. But now all I wanted was to finish with their ill-advised mission so I never had to see the arrogant prick again.

Fuck. That’s right. The mission.

Even with the heater cranked up, I felt the arctic night chill in my bones.

“All that time at sea and they ain’t teach yo ass shit,” said the frat bro, shaking his head. “You must think niggas invented rioting or some shit. White folks been wilin’ out since forever, mayne. The Boston Tea-Party is a pretty cute way to describe white boys getting drunk and destroying government property cause them hillbillies don’t like the taxes, ain’t it?”

The frat bro took a leisurely drag from his half-finished square. He blew out a halo of smoke before continuing. “Fuck outta here with that mayne. Even King said that riots is the language of the unheard, and that was one turnin-the-other-cheek muthaphucka. White folks who have all the money and power call rioting unnecessary because for those elite muthaphuckas who have fuckin’ everything, rioting is literally fuckin’ unnecessary, knaamean?”

“Yeah, but those Arabs ain’t at the top of America’s power demographic!” I countered. “Y’all went too far!”

Everyone in the car laughed. “Y’all,” mocked frat boy. “Nigga, I was in school. I don’t even live around here anyway. I’m from Evanston, real-talk.”

Y’all,” mocked baby bro. “Nigga, I was at work. Nobody fuckin up my money no matter how mad I get!”

“Yo, what’s yo alibi, Unc?” J-Rock asked.

“Unc don’t need no alibi,” John said. “I’m a grown-ass man. Just know that I didn’t burn down that particular store that particular night.”

“Word,” J-Rock co-signed. “They ain’t have no high-end electronics or jewelry in that bitch. What we look like, looting for a gallon of milk and some fuckin Cheerios?!?”

The car filled with laughter as my keyed-up fam talked over one another. I stared out the window at blackness interrupted by amber-jeweled streetlights and the random light flurry that hinted at snow.

I can’t believe we’re about to do this. Please, God, let this be a dream.

Then Unc John’s face turned as somber as the moonless frigid night outside. “Yo Tony, pull over for a sec.” The hooptie moaned to a stop. Unc reached over and turned down Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones” before turning to look at me as I shivered in the back seat.

“Desmond,” said John softly, “I know you just visiting on leave, and shit, man. You ain’t gotta be caught up in this shit. Unc understands if you wanna bail. We can get even another night.”

“Helluva time to ask,” I spat back. “Look, just do the shit and get it over with. I’m staying in the car, tho.”

The fuck am I saying? Fuck I’m weak. What a bitch I am.

“See?” baby bro Tony shouted, beaming at me. “My big bro ain’t no bitch! Let’s do this shit!”

Unc John nodded approvingly. “Aight then, fuck it. You stay in the car. We don’t want you getting your hands dirty anyway. You be getting all intellectual and up in your feelings and shit over a wack-ass nigga that deserves his reckoning.”

“Shhh! There he go!” J-Rock shout-whispered. “He getting out the black Escalade right now!”

“Wait,” said Unc, watching the man bundle his coat and hurry to the sidewalk. “Wait… wait… wait… Yeah, that’s him!” Unc paused to let the man step back inside the nightclub. “Let’s go!”
***

frosty, ashen still
night falls in jagged spaces
our joints fill with hurt

Fifteen minutes earlier, we were all in that club getting turnt! I was making googly-eyes at a cute girl across the bar. She made eyes back, but she was growing tired of waiting on me to summon the nerve to go spit game at her, even growing bold enough to make the “hurry-up” beckoning motion at me with her hand, wrist, and forearm.

I downed my shot, took a breath, and hopped off the stool, thinking of what to say to her as I slowly bridged the gap, wading through humanity writhing to the pulsating 808-beats when I heard shouting. Unc has a distinctive, booming voice, so I knew he was involved in the dustup.

I saw a well-dressed man flash his concealed piece at Unc, which I’m sure is a major breach of clubbing etiquette, as it insinuates that you’re just one sideways glance away from reaching for your Roscoe and putting two slugs between a man’s eyes for having the audacity to annoy you. Unsurprisingly, this breach of etiquette immediately enraged Unc. I don’t know what Unc studied in college, but it clearly wasn’t diplomacy. I think Unc secretly thinks he’s the Joe Pesci characters from those mob films.

“Oh, you wanna show me you strapped?” Unc boomed in peak-bravado. “I’m strapped too, nigga! My cousin and nephews strapped too! My whole crew is strapped! The fuck you wanna do, nigga?”

Technically, I was part of Unc’s crew that night.

I was not strapped.

Shit, the last time I touched a weapon was during my M-14 sentry training. I’m pretty sure the Navy don’t let twenty-four-year-olds take firearms home with them on Christmas break.

I should point out that we were only in the club on Boxing Day because I came home for Christmas, and Unc wanted to show me a good time.

I’m just saying it felt like he might’ve taken his eye off the ball for a moment.

Bouncers, security, and the owner quickly deescalated the situation, but Unc, and our whole crew – myself included – we were all 86’ed for being 80-percent strapped. Unc was still trying to flex though. “Flash! Flash! You throwing Me, out, Flash?!? I gave you seed-money, Flash! I helped you build this shitty-ass club, Flash, and this is how you treat me? Aight then, nigga! I see how you are!”

Unc was pulling that performative masculinity bullshit I’ve grown to hate, but I knew him from when we were both shorties. He’s my uncle by blood, but he’s only two years older than me, so I know when that fool is vulnerable and all up in his own feelings. If you’re around a muthaphucka your whole life, there’s just some shit you can’t hide. You can’t lie about who you are over that many Captain Crunch breakfasts and Saturday morning cartoons, fam!

Hurt people hurt people, and Unc’s eyes had a lot of hurt in them, so I knew he would try his damnedest to make Flash pay.

But I didn’t know the exact cost until about fifteen minutes later.
***

knotted, barren, ice
embracing leafless branches
they bend till broken

Flash had hopped out of his sleek, black Escalade, tightened his leather coat against the light flurries, and scuttled back into the club. I heard much later that poor Flash had left the club right after we did, hoping to smooth things over with Unc, but in a Shakespearean twist, Unc’s crew had already sped off, circling the block, plotting payback.

And I was among them, just wanting the night to be over.

Tony gunned the engine, and in an instant, we were parallel to Flash’s gleaming Escalade. Unc, J-Rock, and frat-boy jumped out at once, swarming like hornets. I could hear and feel the concussions as glass shattered and metal was punctured and bruised. Within seconds, that Escalade went from being pristine to a modern art masterpiece. Its wailing alarm went unanswered as the drive-by bricking continued unabated.

“Shit! Y’all hear that? Jake’s coming!” Tony shouted as police sirens wailed in the distance. “Let’s go!”

Everyone piled back into the hooptie except for frat-boy, who lingered, glaring at the twisted, dented, Jackson Pollock-forsaken monstrosity he helped create.

“Nigga, is you deaf?!?” Unc shouted as the sirens got louder. “Jake’s almost here! I ain’t gettin’ arrested again! Get yo ass back in the car! We out!”

Frat-boy swaggered away from our getaway vehicle, lifted the biggest boulder he could find, and sent it hurling through the wounded windshield with a terrible, calamitous sound. Then the jackass took a bow before no one before proudly hopping back in the back seat with J-Rock and me.

“Nigga, you stupid!” Unc admonished his old friend, in a glorious little “pot-meet-kettle” moment.

Tony gunned the engine and tore down Roosevelt Road at approximately Mach 2.5. Unc had to coax him into slowing to the speed-limit so as to not draw too much attention. I shook my head and glared out the window. The snow was heavier now, and it was sticking.
***

slushy asphalt plains
molded by glaciers’ past lives
stories left unheard

That’s it. That’s the story.

No moral lesson, no plot-twist, or comeuppance. To the best of my knowledge, we all got away with that shit. Nobody learned a goddamned thing that night.

No one came out the other side of the drive-by-bricking a changed man or any heavy-handed symbolic shit like that.

From beginning to end, this was just a bunch of nigga-synthesis; just a bunch of young, spiteful men getting together to commit young, spiteful vandalism because some young, spiteful jackass in a club full of beautiful people looking to have a good time didn’t like how another young, spiteful jackass was looking at him.

That’s just how quickly shit escalates in the hood.

Right after we vandalized that car – and I say we because even though I didn’t touch that Escalade, I had the chance to stop it before it happened, but I didn’t so that makes me complicit – we went out for burritos. That may not be “Goodfellas”-level mafia shit, but that was still a pretty cold piece of work.

I went back to the Navy a week later. I got my wish and never laid eyes on that Evanston fuckhead again, but I also never again saw that lovely woman who impatiently made the googly-eyes at me.

I still give Unc grief over killing my chance with a potential soul-mate, but he was all like, “Nigga, I saw y’all! It would’ve taken yo bitch-ass fore-score and seventy-five fucking years to shuffle over to her with somethin’ sensible to say! It’s the twenty-first century, my nigga! Bitches ain’t got time like that no more! And wait; wasn’t yo dumb ass married at the time? Just how many soul-mates you tryin’ ta collect at one time? Greedy ass!”

All fair points, but still.

Unc got arrested a lot – but never for wrecking Flash’s whip – and he eventually cooled off, married, had five girls, and basically became Mr. Mom, if you can believe that shit. He’s virtually unrecognizable from his wilin’ youth. He and Flash even mended their friendship, but obviously not immediately. Dude called Unc while we were waiting on our burritos, yelling threats and unfounded accusations, besmirching our good names and shit. Unc’s words, not mine.

Cousin J-Rock is still J-Rock. You’re probably wondering why I rarely mentioned him, and there’s a very good reason; J-Rock is fucking mental, and he scares the shit outta me. The lesser said, the better. I often worry about him catching wind of this story and getting offended, but it’s not like someone’s going to read it to him.

My baby brother Tony flips houses and helps homeless vets get back on their feet. Before that, he started a small business detailing cars. I know! Ironic as fuck, right?

As for me? What do I do now? I do well. I’m good. I definitely stay true to myself these days, knaamean?

I guess I lied. There might have been a moral lesson or two at play. I dunno. Fuck it.

You read the shit. Do you, mayne.

snowfall dampens sound
there is only who we are
echoes are empty
***

Written for dVerse MTB – Writing narrative poetry, hosted by Bjorn. Others contributed to this prompt here. This was supposed to be a condensed poetic story, but the freaking muse slapped me around a bit and it got away from me. Sorry about that.

Spicy Teriyaki Nights

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Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Spicy Teriyaki Nights

We feasted
solely upon each other
and spicy chicken teriyaki
from the restaurant
a half-block from our
carnal harbor.

Failing to define us,
we acquiesced,
indulging until sated.

Unfortunately,
you filled yourself with me,
leaving me half-starved.

I still miss you,
but despise teriyaki.
***

Written for dVerse Quadrille Monday prompt, hosted by Lillian, where the safe word is “harbor”.

Did I type “safe word”? My bad. I meant that the word “harbor” had to be included in the 44-word poem.

(But you can use it as a safe word if you like. I won’t judge! I’m not qualified to judge anyway. *wink*)

Equanimity at Equinox

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Photo by Erico Marcelino on Unsplash

Equanimity at Equinox

Guided by an autumn chance near-exchange
They both felt compelled to crane their necks back.
Backtracking, their gaze raised swift interchange.

Faster than light flew unspoken feedback.
Wordless vibe flowed as they knew they should know.
Even so, their paths diverged from sidetrack.

Though they lacked the knack to drink in the flow
She craved his sunrise, he thirsts for her past;
Their passing repast teased as afterglow.

The smile they shared, brief, yet spirits were vast;
Lifetimes compressed to one heartbeat phase-change.
They blushed with the fall, two leaves falling fast.

Their outlier fancy the mean dubbed strange
Guided by an autumn chance near-exchange.
***

Shared to Poetry Pantry #422.

A Fragile Song

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Photo by Seth Macey on Unsplash

A Fragile Song

Echoes of my dream-defined visions declare war,
starbursts strike scores,
both friend and foe,
but what for?

The home that I called my base came unmoored;
willow that I know,
now embers in day-glow.

I know the sparrow that lived here,
I defended her,
but now her expended song
tends my fear.

With a voice too delicate to vibrate,
she lends me the will and might to migrate:

“Not everything ends badly,
that is conjecture.
Though everything ends
at least from our perspective.

“We can’t make amends
with cosmic architecture,
but we can begin
to live within.”

Echoes of my mother’s laugh
ring long after her last breath.

Father’s lectures resonate
beyond his untimely fate.

I derive no meaning
from their unbeating hearts,
eyes bleared from tears when
lingering on their departs.

Words left unsaid will remain unspoken,
except in dreams, with the visions unwoven.

I’ve chosen to fixate on the song of that bird
whose weakness conflated
a strength that reverbed:

“Not everything ends badly;
that’s a fiction.
Though everything ends;
sadly, it’s our restriction.

“We can’t make amends
with our cell’s afflictions,
but we can begin
to live within.

She and I loved
with conviction and convection.
Our fronts clashed in wind-slashed storms,
with no direction.

We blew ourselves apart,
parting with bitter sorrow.
Despite our worser parts,
there still came a tomorrow.

We now know the science of us, but too late
to rewind and find some solace in our fate,

but wait and listen to the sparrow
as her frail song pierces our marrow:

“Not everything ends badly,
though everything ends.
We can’t make amends
with past lovers and friends,

but we can extend
our hands and transcend
beginnings and endings
as we live within.”
***