Recognition

Who am I
If you are the Lord of Lords in disguise
Among the jester-loving fools?
I can only try
to comprehend your self-sufficient rules.

My shallow heart longs to bring you jewels,
But I can’t comprehend your self-sufficient rules
If you are the Lord of Lords in disguise.
This is m selfless-self who can not die,
And I wonder, who am I?

 

(found this old gem. It was published in 1999)

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The Thing in the Sky (1)

Sand stuck to skin from sweat. I kicked up grains of sand onto the backs of my legs and arms during 100- and 200-meter sprints. I exercised along the beach then repeated it, walking—a personal workout routine to build my endurance. My breaths became heavy and I stood facing the ocean between my workout sets.

Moonlight shone on the ocean water like a strobelight of diamonds. They moved like magic in the palm, dancing with such rhythm. Such flow!

“Do you remember me?”

I was startled like a cardinal, moved with a quick shake and heart drop. I turned. A man slightly shorter and thinner than me stood before me. The darkness covered his face and he wore a dark colored hoodie, protecting him from the ocean breeze.

“Do you remember me?” he repeated in the same monotone. I attempted to stare into his face but the darkness made him unrecognizable, except with dreams forgotten. I didn’t remember him and it was too dark to see his features. I was unaware how he could see my features. I was unaware how he knew I was on the beach and if he really knew me.

“I know it’s you,” he started. “We saw the light in the sky together. Here. Last year. You saw it, remember? There was a white rectangle light with blue and green smaller lights around it…”

I remembered.

“Please,” he said. “Tell me you remember. . .It disappeared so fast and went east within seconds. My friends don’t believe me. No one else was here when we saw it, except you. I know I’m not crazy.”

“I remember,” I finally responded. “That’s why I’m here. I was just talking about it yesterday. . .” It was the truth. And, my friends didn’t believe me either. Momentarily, there was silence. Earth stopped rotating and I could hear his breaths match mine and we were calm. We breathed validation.

“So you remember?”

“Yeah, I can’t forget it. How could I?” I laughed nervously. I wanted to tell him of the experiences I had after we saw it and why I felt it was a UFO. I wanted to tell him how I’ve attempted to communicate and summon it to appear again with meditation, and how it worked. I wanted to tell him how I’m close to understanding the secrets of mankind and God and how the truth came to me the moment I saw the light in the sky. I wanted to tell him how I no longer hang in crowds because I somehow obtained qualities and absorb and understand too many feelings of others. I wanted to know if he had been given gifts. But I didn’t ask, because I knew the answer–he didn’t think it was a UFO.

“I don’t think it was a UFO. I think it was something else. . .Maybe military, I don’t know.”
The more he spoke, the more I understood that something else happened to him too. But he was trying to convince himself otherwise. Then suddenly his voice lowered, almost inaudible with the ocean waves, almost inaudible from the sound of the coqui, almost inaudible from my own thoughts attempting to read his thoughts (but I couldn’t) and he started to speak again. “We weren’t suppose to see it!” At that moment I could finally see his eyes, wide and wild like the ocean. “I need to go.” His voice drifted as he walked away fast.

His words and reactions chilled me.

I needed to go, too.

 

 

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Grown Past You. . .

Life is about change. 

Years ago, I left a company that gave me security and started to work for myself again. Again. I forgot I’m aging. I forgot how daring I used to be and the older I get, I like security. Yet my artistic side needs the freedom. I forgot how vulnerable we become when we go balls-to-the-wall and rely on either connections or our drive to simply progress. I used a combination of both and easily landed a handful of clients that would make my newly found marketing company profitable.

This transition also gave me a chance to reflect on my life and my purpose. I lost track of things. Of me. I forgot I enjoyed creating magic. I lost myself and forgot my purpose as I drove to an office every day and worked 60+ hours a week. Again, I forgot my goals and the essence of my existence. I forgot my identity.

When I moved from New York I lost something special–my ability to network with artists who believed in themselves and wanted to create art and collaborate, simply for the sake of creating art and respecting each other’s art while expecting merely recognition and gratitude in the fact that you are with someone of like-minds and created something magical and unique. I was determined to get back in touch with my artistry. Not only that, but I told myself that I wanted to collaborate with other artists.

I considered a few of my dedicated artist friends who are well-versed in their particular industry and decided that there were really two individuals that always inspired me in all of the items they created–Marlon Saunders and O’Neal Wyche.

Both come from different industries than I, yet they equally inspire me with their drive and unique approach. Above all, we have history. Not working together, but rather as Black men, living in NYC, creating our art while understanding and appreciating all artistic genres. I was the writer, the author, the spoken word artist with a marketing background–my talent (I’ve always felt) was being able to pull people together, understand everyone’s talents and create something remarkable while showcasing everyone. That’s the benefit of having a marketing background. You understand everyone’s skillsets and egos and you  learn how to marry them together.

Cage Dress by O'Neal Wyche
Cage Dress sketch by O’Neal Wyche

And as a singer, songwriter and vocal coach, Marlon understands the preciseness of music and its development and the simplicity of words. He also understands what appeals to an audience. O’Neal, on the other hand, a costume designer, understands precision as well yet the ability to manipulate reality in such a way that it becomes something wearable.

My initial idea was to create a storyline filled with race, class, and gender symbolism. But that evolved into something so much greater and something I wasn’t truly expecting. After I wrote the spoken word poem “Grown Past You”, I read it to and passed a written copy to Marlon–this is how we wanted it to work. I would write something, Marlon would become inspired and create music and secure vocals; then we would give the completed track to O’Neal,

Cage Dress final by O'Neal Wyche
Cage Dress final by O’Neal Wyche

who too, would be inspired and create costumes. As such, based on his costumes and the track, I would oversee the creative direction of the video.

It was a chain reaction of inspiration! It was fluid. Art is suppose to be that way. If it’s not fluid, then it comes across as contrived and people can sense that from afar.

I’ve never wanted to work with others on projects until recently. But you have to be strategic with whom you decide to work–a great idea can easily become a distraction. And not everyone should be privileged to go on artistic journeys with you. Life is like that–some people get left behind who don’t share the same idea or passion.

We ended up creating an experimental fashion/music video “Grown Past You” (below) that, in my opinion, shows the vulnerability of a female when attempting to escape an abusive (mental or physical) relationship. The written piece wasn’t necessarily about me. But after its completion, that ounce of vulnerability shined through and reflected the experiences I went through during my work transition. We have to open ourselves up for new opportunities, new chances. We have to escape, what we feel are bad situations; or situations that hold us back from what we truly want to achieve. What was once loved, probably was never loved–simply tolerated. We humans must understand that in order to flourish.

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El Yunque Hike (revised)

I anticipated chimpanzees
rhythmically swinging from trees,
belching intimidating grunts;
I anticipated multicolored parrots
swooping over the canopy of trees
as vigorous and refreshing rain massaged our bodies,
keeping us composed
and soon run for shelter
under oversized palm leaves. 

El Yunque was still,
and the sun mocked us
as we hiked.
“No one can know,” he demanded.
“Know what?” I asked.
“You know why you are here.”
His Levis 511 unzipped.
He leaned against a moss-covered tree
with teeny snails climbing the moist bark.
          “You know what to do or you won’t make it back down the mountain.”

We made it back down the mountain.
We stopped for dinner in Luquillo
and ate it on the beach, 
watching kite surfers
until night fall. 
I waited for the food to digest
and for words to come.
I anticipated going home.

Instead, the ocean air continued to disturb. 

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Derek

I wanted to write a poem about Derek, but it would probably be a waste of time.
Derek was my first boss when I was 15 years old working at a university
pharmacology lab. I wanted to write about how he explained science better
than my school teachers and had more patience than them.
He was always gentle when he spoke to me and explained process. He taught
me about accurate measurements; How to dissect albino rats (16 every week)
and remove their pancreas, spleen, and liver. He taught me how to take
their blood and urine samples and measure them daily. He taught me
the importance of cleanliness–
after all, everything must be sterile in a lab.

Hilariously, I recall the time we accidently dropped a gallon jar of ethyl acetate
and as the jar broke into hundreds of pieces the toxic liquid poured down the hallway,
burning our eyes and lungs. The OSHA representative came to the lab
to see what the problem was and we pretended nothing was wrong,
as if we didn’t smell a thing though our eyes were
bloodshot and our throats were on fire.

Derek never touched me
and I’m not sure why.

But he used to touch a few friends of mine who attended rival schools
but I knew through cross-country and track. The three guys he used to molest
were faster than me. They were probably the fastest three in the county.
I was probably the fourth–No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch them.
They had this extra something about them I just didn’t have making them special.
Winners.

Derek was deported a few days after he was on WSAZ, Channel 3 news.
I continued to work in the lab with a pre-med student, but things weren’t the same.

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Plato’s Cave

After I requested permissions,
and permissions were granted,
I set foot into the cave.

The darkness was swallowed
by heat and honey, aloe and chants
in indistinguishable,
unwritten (yet familiar) languages–
We spoke in tongues
with soft, brittle edges
burned with embers
from the fire
we circled.
There were four languages
we understood
and we communicated with four.

HE asked, Why are you here?

Darkness shielded our identities.
We were merely voices
in the nothingness.
The heat exhausted our shame.

She said, I grieve over an abortion from years ago.
He said, I grieve for a divorce and loss of child. 
He said, I grieve over a loss of a job and I can’t support my family.
She said, I heard about you and thought it would be cool.

There was momentary silence. Silence resurrected shame.

She said, I’m just not happy in this lifetime or this lifeform. 
She said, I’m looking for insight. 
I said, Plato invited me. He said I should come.

HE said, Struggles are not unique. Struggles are recycled. You are not alone.

We were not alone.
Shadows took form–
Forms of babies with umbilical cords
attached to burning embers
emerging from the fire
growing to full adulthood
before us.

Shadows took form–
Forms of poor decisions
and addictions
in human form
we individually created
attempting to devour
us face first.

We fought. We raged.
We apologized
to the ancestors and earth;
We apologized for
losing connection
with the connected.

The Shadows left.

Light entered the cave
like a beam of sin
trying to sneak in
and the embers dissipated.

HE said, “If you need to stay longer, stay. But once you leave, do not look back.”

 

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An Island Haiku

softly coquis cry
electricity is gone
estamos bien

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Accepting Love

Love can never be unlearned
when it’s always unreturned;
And the only thing you yearn,
(reciprocal and well earned),
is to never feel heart burned.
We, fools, truly can’t discern
if it’s the heart or book-learned.

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Upon Realizing My Uncle is a Pedophile

After my best friend left,
and we were in the clear,
my uncle asked,
“Is she good?”

My friend was 15. I was 16.

“Yeah, she’s good. She’s nice. . . Why?” I responded.

“No,” he responded. “I mean, in bed. Y’all fucked right?”

The disregarded moments
of before made sense:
While she and I discussed
weekend plans in the kitchen,
he continued to enter and leave,
nervously, as if supervising, without a word;
getting a glass of water
and drinking it,
getting another glass of water
and drinking it,
standing there,
staring in our direction,
until
the glass
was empty.
Then got another glass of water
and drank it,
staring into her doe eyes,
her cornsilk hair and pale skin,
thoughtfully tapping at his dick
through his sweatpants,
trying to calm and tuck it.

I. Saw. All. Of. This.
She did not.
And he was so enthralled
with her
he didn’t see me seeing him,
seeing her.

We hadn’t fucked.
That wasn’t a thing on our minds.

Never would she visit again.
Never could I trust him.

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Ceremonies

She borrowed my only copy of Essex Hemphill’s “Ceremonies,” a poetry collection, selling for $250, out of print. The cover, with two shirtless black men, had a slight white slanted crease from left to right. Otherwise, the pages were intact.

Six months later, I asked for my book to be returned and she claimed I never lent it. I didn’t debate. I simply said, “Okay”. But inside I was burning with rage and I wanted her to die. I clearly recall saying to myself:  she needs to die. I imagined breaking into her house, and searching her bookshelves for it, finding it, waiting for her to return home as I sat on her couch reading “Ceremonies” and eating her leftovers from her refrigerator while watching Days of Our Lives on her TV; and, as she opened her door and saw me sitting there with all of my audacity I would clearly say, “You know damn well you were lying. Here’s the book!” And throw it at her.

But I didn’t say that. I didn’t do that. I said nothing.

I was angry at her and angrier at myself . I should have never trusted a fellow writer, a lover of words, and wisdom–they steal books, we steal books.

I found “Ceremonies”, along with a few other gems, at a free book giveaway in my hometown around 1994. Because of its perceived provocative language and topics, I kept it hidden under the floor mats of my car’s backseat where no where would even think of finding it.

“Ceremonies” graduated high school with me; traveled to college with me; then went to graduate school with me. It moved from West Virginia to Jersey City, New Jersey; Jamaica, Queens; Back to Jersey City, New Jersey; and then the Bronx, in 2008–where she stole it. That book had been through some shit. That book had seen some shit along our travels together.

“You never lent it to me. . .”   I kept track of my books–I knew she was lying. Hell, my mother was a librarian–I was raised to know the importance of books and keep track of them.

I prayed for seven nights, before bed, she’d be punished for stealing and lying about it. I prayed that she’d be punished for gas-lighting me, making me think I was hallucinating and never lent it to her, when I knew damn well she asked for it, I traveled from the Bronx into Manhattan, handed it to her over coffee–coffee I paid for and I wasn’t even a coffee drinker.

I stopped searching and re-searching my apartment, knowing she had it; knowing she had lied to me for no reason; knowing I was wasting my time searching for something that wasn’t in my possession.

Less than one year later, her hair began to fall out; her body shrunk tremendously and rejected food. She phoned me and said she was sick, and I regrettably feigned sympathy because I wanted my book back. She continued to go for testing and diagnosis after diagnosis but doctors had no clue what was wrong, except it was some type of autoimmune disease they couldn’t pinpoint. She quit going to doctors and tried a holistic approach.

One morning, the sun came through her bedroom window while she read a book, an aged book, out of print, and stole her breath.

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