Day 2: Mixed-Use

Photo by Janine Robinson on Unsplash

Mixed-Use

I’ve been told that way back in the 40’s
our Rosenwald complex was a black pearl
on Chicago’s South Side during the
blues, jazz, and soul renaissance.

It sheltered greats like
Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat “King” Cole, Quincy Jones
 – girl, I said Quincy Jones!

I think even Miles Davis
and Sammy Davis Jr,
but no relation, I believe.

I’ve been told that black folks in Chi
strutted down gaslit 47th street,
danced on smokey Michigan Boulevard,
sang on King Drive, and even Wabash
like they owned the night;

with a sense of pride
and musicality befitting us,
inseparable from the music

spilling from every throbbing tavern,
and even “hole-in-the-wall” was
just a teasing nickname thrown
at friendly endearing faces.

If I squint, I can see gilded hallways
of way back when,
which reek of pungent piss now.

I observe the sheen of polish
on some of the tiles not defiled
by dual-pitchforked, Star-of-David
Gangster-Disciple gang-sign graffiti.

Or is it Gangsta? I try to discern  
the artist’s penmanship from
the ones in our high school instead of

meeting your desperate gaze
as you kneel before me,
taking my hands in yours
in a shameful proposal.

Just yesterday, I’d given up on you.
I’d no tears left to cry over a girl
who don’t want me no more.

Now you return, on your knees,
perfumed in Bacardi rum and weed
you never thought to share with me.

What am I to make of this?

You didn’t even respect me enough
to break up with me;
you ignored my pleas
until I got the message.

Now you want to rewind the clock?

Any boy with a good upbringing
and a residue of self-respect

would’ve slammed that heavy
security door in your face for good,
chaining, deadbolting, and security-pole
in place for all eternity.

Sadly, this building
has seen better days,
better than I can imagine.  

He spurned you as you betrayed me,
you humbled yourself after falling,
and try as I might, I just couldn’t
kick you while down on that musty-ass floor.  

I lifted you from your knees,
welcoming you back into my
self-loathing and desperation,
knowing that I could expect no better.

I walked you home around the corner,
across the dusty courtyard
that once held fresh, manicured grass
when we first moved in.

I held your hand in mine,
thinking that to love you
went hand-in-hand with my
needing you somehow;

that without your water,
my life was empty, dead,
dusty-brown, a rusted, rotten
swing-set without swings;

only tetanus would remain,
waiting for antitoxin or
inevitable condemnation

and abandonment, twenty years from now,
long after our ill-advised marriage cracked,
eroded and ended; long after you

kneeled before me once again,
begging me to hold up my end
of our sham, a plea met with
silence and emptiness, like

the decayed ruins we once called home some
thirty years and two-thousand sixty-four
miles ago, before its renovation
into an elderly citizen’s home,

which is fitting, for all things age, slow,
decay, and are eventually consumed

by silence; even music
 – the most beautiful, the most vibrant;  
 – the most soulful, the most mournful
is fleeting, and always ends,

making way for the next,
as star becoming nebula
becomes proto stars.

I hope whoever walks
that hallway now
smells only lavender.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 2: “…write a poem about a specific place —  a particular house or store or school or office. Try to incorporate concrete details, like street names, distances (“three and a half blocks from the post office”), the types of trees or flowers, the color of the shirts on the people you remember there.”

I tried to be descriptive, but I was eventually sucked into the narrative. I may try this one again after this month’s challenge ends.

Orphaned Chick Requiem

Photo by Udayan Patil on Unsplash

Orphaned Chick Requiem

Who will sooth her nerves, earning fleeting trust,
as ruffled feathers make for flavor-spoil?

Who will preen her feathers through broken wings,
mending her tender meat before the broil?

Who will have steady, firm, gentle, calm hands
that know their way around a butcher’s block?

Who will feed her rich seeds sowed in kindness
hiding his axe as it strikes without shock?

Who will weep for the guileless young birdie,
who, through no fault of her own grew alone?

Who now wanders our woods, an unmoored ghost
haunted by a love she has never known?

Who will weep for this girl, led far astray
who strays from divine feminine to prey?
***

Consider this my NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo tune-up.

greeting card

dawid-zawila-zb2vBaHYB2I-unsplash

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

greeting card

“thinking of you”
written neatly, carefully
in black ink followed by ellipsis…

enclosed in insert
on sensible stock
of reasonable price

the card cover
gilded, framed, centered

a woman in repose
lounging in secret garden
drunk from moon beams
arm draped dramatically
over forehead,

informing of intimacy
concealed within her fold
open to my eyes

arriving, postmarked for
a random Tuesday, observing
of no one’s birthday

nor season’s greetings
not even candied-red hearts
with “be mine” carved
in sugar and bone meal

only an internal reveal
on a random day
after a weekend filled
with intimate truths

homemade mac-n-cheese
unremarkable, but meticulously
made to impress her

and gentle breath
on porcelain skin

contrasting in moonlight
with the rise and fall
of my mahogany drawn taut

gripping the night with her
with vigorous release

our spiritual surface long pierced,
our raw matter, now entwined
arriving at urgent merge

followed by teardrops

falling, pouring, mingling with grins
our brim overflowing with
graceless embraces

knowing how long we waited
pleading with fated winds

to stir currents leading
to this moment no longer obscured
by shadow of what should be

for one fleeting cherry bloom
we breathed our flesh into dream

birthing a brief reality
every bit as pure as gold
our priceless loot

the gilded frame, folded paper
and measured ink of sensible fee,

a remnant of a time
when we unfolded ourselves
opening to new gilded treasures

remembered, commemorated by her
in a postage-stamped envelope
addressed to this lonely man, piercing
my blue veneer yet again, knowing,

intuitively, without a doubt
I was thinking of her too…
***

Raising no Girl

john-noonan-QM_LE41VJJ4-unsplash

Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Raising no Girl

I saw it, plainly;

Just after his ill-advised drunken roughening
of his eldest child; a traditional, time-tested
tempering of adolescent ebony male steel
for a blackened, heartless, aggressive, manly world,
as was the loving intent lovingly lent to me
from him, a scruff-grabbing, face-slapping heirloom
passed down through generations of blunted mentorship.

I spied it briefly,

but it was there behind the noxious bravado,
deeper than dreaded defiance compelling him
to press his preteen into a flinty real man,
despite whimpering protests from soft, weak women;
yielding aunts, sisters, mothers wielding empathy
like mewling wussified consolation prizes
world-weary women who ironically knew well-
enough real pain to know better without having
to see it; who could blame them; they’re only women.

They don’t know what it’s like for a modern black man
to be crushed by callous strangers in a hard world;
only the intimacy of a bone-rattling
thump in the chest by a trusted father-figure
can prepare a young black boy for a crapsack world;
accept this gift in stoic silence, pay if forward,
and you best not shed a fuckin’ tear, young-blood, ya hear?

Yeah, I heard the words, and my chest burned, and
my face stung with blood flowing to the cheek-
capillaries of the light palm-strike, and the
lump in my throat sought exit in a sob
I denied, but in bracing to breathe, see,

there; I caught a glimpse.

“See? He ain’t hurt!” crowed dad, like a boss.
“That’s my boy! I know my fuckin’ son!
He ain’t no bitch! Ain’t that right, lil’ nigga?”

But when he asked for my co-sign, that’s when I saw it.
I saw it for the first time firsthand; buried within
the recesses of his whiskey-soaked eyes were hints
of its depths; similar scenes like this played, replayed
countless times over generations, his mentors
daring him not to cry after betraying him
with brutality-as-brotherly-love, calloused
hands hardening him for a world of hatred and
intolerance, his mentors’ elder brothers, uncles
delivering the same painful, loving lesson,
perhaps extending back to the days of shackles,
whips, toiling under another man’s burden
who saw us as less than three-fifths of a person.

Within that instant, that fraction of a second,
I saw in father’s eyes, a gaping, festering
generational wound not soothed by gulping whiskey;
my father’s pain leered at me across decades,
bloodshot and vile, that tough-love message twisted and
mangled, much like our very ancestry.

“Don’t cry.
Do not cry.
Not here, not now,
not ever.”

“If you cry,
I’ll give you something
to really cry about.”

“Don’t you dare fuckin’ cry, boy.”

“A real man don’t cry.”

“Bury your pain like a man.”

“You better not cry, boy.
The women are watching.”

Please don’t cry, boy.
If you do, shit,
I might cry too.”

“If you cry right now,
I’ll cry because you’re in pain,
because I caused it.”

“If I cry because I’m the cause of your pain,
then the cause of what I’ve done to you
will amount to absolutely nothing.”

“If you cry and then I cry,
then that can only mean
the way we’ve been told to live our lives
is just a bunch of bullshit.”

“If we cry right here, right now, together,
then that would mean compassion should’ve been
our strength, that yielding was the key the whole time,
that the words ‘behaving like a woman’
should never had been wielded as an insult,
and every man I know and respect
completely missed the fucking mark.”

“Please don’t cry now, son;
don’t give the world the satisfaction.
Let’s save face together.”

I blinked back tears, willing them not to fall,
and painted a defiant smirk on my face.

“Naw I ain’t hurt, dad!
You know you ain’t raising no girl!”

Father playfully tussled my hair,
knowing our secret shame was safe,
brittle spirits hidden in plain sight,
now hardened for an unyielding world.

But yeah, I saw it.
***

Storm of Cherry Blossoms

sora-sagano-8sOZJ8JF0S8-unsplash

Photo by Sora Sagano on Unsplash

Storm of Cherry Blossoms

You want to tell her
everything
all the stuff
bubbling within
the stuff that mattered
that pitter-pattered
at the root
that once nourished
the bloom

but you can’t
because you’re gone;
an empty room
filled with unsaid words
unspent ideas
unexplored thoughts.

Just like that,
you’re all magma,
ash, ozone, and
deenergized particles,
now decelerated to
null;

your essence
returned
to the cosmic slop.

Her whispering thoughts
will return to you
with each storm
of cherry blossoms.
***

A Wondrous Harmony

ahmad-odeh-JhqhGfX_Wd8-unsplash

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

A Wondrous Harmony

You are my favorite song
prolonged by our lifelong sing-along;

the seemingly ringing
random sequence of beaconing
notes bringing me in ungainly,
unacquainted, yet infectiously
groovy set melody
that soothes and threatens to
relentlessly bring me
blissful expressions;

you are this to me
as well as destiny
of warm contemplation;

the un-played keys
that say everything,

returning it;
the indeterminate rests
among joyful-singing notes,

reaffirming its depths,
gasping for breath between
belly-laughs by the lungful;

your barely half-measured
triumphal treasure
fills impassioned sensations
with blasphemous pleasures;

ears favor your treble,
bones savor your bass,
and touch yearns for your encore.
***

Steal Away

Steal Away

Clutching
her words
to my vest;

dropping
her dreams
into cloth bundle,
cinched tightly,
secured;

stuffing
my pockets
with her selfless acts
of kindness;

smuggling
her tenderness
to safety
undetected, strapped
to inner thigh;

like a bandit,
I steal away
with memories
of her.
***