I forgot how
the day gives solace,
but the moon vows
to haul us
to that unspoken place–
You crumbled blue
to the base
where weeds grew.
I forgot how
the day gives solace,
but the moon vows
to haul us
to that unspoken place–
You crumbled blue
to the base
where weeds grew.
Panzer man infiltrates and his Budeswehr follows–
Lemmings, in formation and arms at 45° angles.
This mustn’t be Aryan soil tomorrow
With hopes, dreams, and green cards strangled.
This is not the land you knew
Howbeit your ancestors left word it’d be true.
Sieg Heil, Freedom
and Greatness that will exceed him.
(“When the Snow Reflects the Sun”; 8×10; acrylic; by Stephen Earley Jordan II)
When the snow reflects the sun,
I follow your silhouette home.
As we sit together around the hearth,
You hand me a tattered quilt.
It smells of lavender and cinnamon and childhood.
You pour me a Louis XIII Cognac and
the sips are as sweet as you
and your touches.
And for that one moment, I am full.
(“Coal Mining”; Acrylic on canvas; 8×10; Stephen Earley Jordan II)
Mechanical black lung fails–
Save the industry!
(Artwork 8×10, “I saw fire and ice”; acrylic; Stephen Earley Jordan II)
I saw fire in your icy eyes;
My black-outs blinked bats
behind unmedicated styes
warranted unsolicited lies
made of a disguise of gold.
Justice never prevails
when a receptacle molds
you to feign the enjoyment of Hell.
As my 40th year approaches, I look into the mirror and see how I’ve aged. I’m balding. But to cover that up I keep my head shaved. I have three new gray hairs on my chin. But I wear these with pride like a Boy’s Scout badge of honor. At times I forget my age.
I forget that I’m old enough to have a child that can vote. I forget that I’m old enough to be a grandparent. I forget all these things and more until I see my former classmates from high school posting pictures of their children and grandchildren on social media.
Where has my life gone?
I’m single. I’m a black male. I wasn’t designed to be married. It wasn’t in the cards to have children. Singlehood is in my cards–this is something I used to fight, but now I’m quite comfortable with it. I can’t imagine now, at 40, opening myself up to not being selfish and not thinking of myself first. Knowing that makes me a better person I feel. I’m constantly thinking of my previous struggles and can’t imagine if they were to pop up again in my life and if I had to feed another mouth or support a spouse. I don’t know how people do it. To me, it would cause an ounce more of stress at the end of the day knowing others depended on me.
I came into this world on January 20, 1977, the same day Jimmy Carter was inaugurated; and 40 years later, I’m given Donald Trump as a wonderful gift. I’ve been asking myself is this gift symbolic for what’s to come for the next 40 years in my life? I surely hope not as the previous 40 didn’t come easy, though I’ve been amazing at covering up the hurdles and making things look flawless.
I’m beginning to question the ultimate definition of success. And, to me, it’s coming up with individual goals and fulfilling them. Last year, I wanted to come up with a list of 40 items to complete before I turned 40. Quickly my friends and some family became skeptical. They told me that the list was something people wanted to accomplish in a lifetime–not one year before their 40th. I agreed. I put the list away and never looked at it again. But one thing stuck on my mind–I wanted to buy property. And I wanted to purchase it before my 40th.
One thing I learned during this timeframe was to keep individuals out of my personal business–where and how I wanted to spend my money was my decision. I didn’t need to seek approval. If I wanted to purchase property, the the property type or the location, too, was no one else’s decision nor should I seek approval from folks when they aren’t contributing financially to my goal or emotionally to my well being.
I accomplished that. I purchased. December 2016, one month before my 40th, I closed on a 3 bedroom condo–and the best thing about it is I purchased it in cash–zero debt. It feels good to have something like this and have zero debt toward it. This is what makes me feel accomplished–having zero debt, for starters; and working hard to save up the money to be able to do this.
But again, I ask where has my life gone? I don’t feel old and many say I look young for my age.
There are days when I think of when I initially moved from West Virginia to New York, summer of 2000–where I planned to stay with a friend, not knowing her house was a 24/7 drug delivery hub. I think about how my mother became extremely ill during this time period and I felt like I had nothing left to live for; and what made it worse was when I experienced the events of 9/11 and the aftermath of it—finding someone to confide in, to bond with, to discuss experiences of how I had to also walk through rubble of Ground Zero for 6 months after the fall of the towers, simply to get to work. I was young. I was in my early 20s and at times, I didn’t know if I would live until the next day.
I’m also reminded of the $30,000 of credit card fraud that happened against me–which ultimately framed my 20’s and 30’s. And, I’m also constantly reminded, and many times, bitter like a blackberry for a few minutes of how when my mother was sick, I felt like my confidant, the person who would have believed and helped me–could not; and all of the others I would have sought advice from never helped and believed I committed the $30k of debt myself. And, for that, I grew up. I had no safe haven.
When your safe haven is no longer safe, you must create a new one. Even if it’s a new family.
I was in my 20’s, living in New York, working from 9am-5pm at one job; and 7pm-3am at my second job, and barely making $35k a year. Luxuries didn’t exist. Life was simply complex. Life was lonely. Life was a struggle and I was forced to grow up and depend on myself to prove I was successful and I could do it. I sacrificed my happiness for many years just to prove I could be successful. But I was working to live–that’s not what life is about. Struggles are necessary; struggles are real and individual; but one should not have to struggle just to live.
But things got better for a while.
By the time I turned 30, I published my first book and I was able to quit my job and went on tour, speaking at colleges and touring with my books. And, again, while I was finally happy and fulfilling my dream as an author and public speaker, life got difficult again. Close relatives, individuals who are kin, but not raised with me–chose to misinterpret my art, my writings and send horrifying emails and phone calls to the venues, colleges and universities with defamatory and slanderous information for no reason at all except to cancel my book tours. I kept all those emails (written from their government email accounts) and had to threaten each of them. I kept them, printed them as a reminder to trust few. What they did was unacceptable and unforgivable. After all, how many young black men can say they were able to support themselves with their art? My dreams were being destroyed. And again, I had no one close to me to assist with these hurdles.
That was okay. I learned.
I learned that people try to destroy when they can not build. When this occurs, people are eager to attack you, rather than discuss. I also learned that family is not family; and family is not always a safe haven.
I never liked New York. But I was meant to be there. I was meant to experience life to ensure I would not be a naive adult.
It was meant for me to experience 9/11; it was meant for me to be robbed a few times; held at knife point; jobless; friendless; and a victim of fraud. It was meant for me to have roommates when I couldn’t afford my rent; it was meant for me to have my electricity turned off a few times. It was also meant for me to never tell anyone when I was hurting and struggling. All of these were in the cards for me and allowed me to be me. And it allowed me to learn.
In 1992, a young Raptavist (Rapper / Activist) rose to stardom. She was unique. She was bold. She was daring. She was Sister Souljah. The uniqueness behind her approach was that she wasn’t just a rapper. She immediately got booked as a public speaker and was on every major talk show speaking about the state of affairs in the United States. She was purposefully abrasive when she told Blacks they need to stop being “compromising” or live in fear, while promoting positive messages about starting your own Black businesses; and she was equally as intolerant to the White counterparts who she insisted came from a privileged world in which she will never have access or able to reap the benefits of it and will always suppress people of color.
Though I was young. She inspired me.
The demise of her music career came too soon when ironically, Bill Clinton (out of all people) publicly waged a war on her and demanded that the music video channels (ie, MTV) stop playing her videos since she was so anti-white and allegedly called for Blacks to kill their White counterparts instead of each other.
Soon she faded from the public eye and spoke primarily at Universities regarding her fiction book series. She has always remained relevant in the Black community. She never truly went away.
I’ve always liked to refer to her as Prophetess Sister Souljah. She predicted this would happen–this presidential election, the hate and confusion pre-election brought to us. She predicted how if individuals in the United States didn’t get their shit together, then slavery would be back in effect. Though her lyrics were sort of a stretch, there was (and still) truth behind them. I don’t foresee slavery coming back into play, but the messages that were brought to the forefront during the past few months were messages of hate and intolerance; messages of despair. The messages we heard, the racial and sexist slurs uttered during the past few months were inappropriate. The fact that a sect in the White community truly, outspokenly saw zero qualms with uttering racial slurs on tv, post on social media, with their faces or names known is incomprehensible. The idea that these individuals came out of nowhere, but had their racial anxieties emerge and vocalized without a sense of fear or reprimand due to Trump’s blatant intolerant rhetoric exemplifies this particular privilege the media has been discussing for months. I mean, hell, I was reprimanded years ago for talking about “Black Santa” on facebook by my previous employer because it was “racially insensitive”, but someone can keep their job without reprimand for threatening particular ethnic groups. This is privilege. It’s also privilege to be Trump’s wife who can take nude lesbian photos, but not for Michelle Obama to wear a short sleeve dress. We remember how people responded to these equally and oppositely. And we know that, too is privilege.
But what most Americans truly did not realize was that the messages brought to surface by the Republican Party were truly un-American; and what folks didn’t realize was that this third-party candidate votes took away from America’s future.
America is not the strongest. America is not the bravest. America is not the smartest or most advanced. We lack common sense. We lack unity. Importantly, it has become a country that gives medals to all participants in a marathon instead of simply the winners. We’ve told our youth that it’s okay to be substandard and not qualified because “you can be the President of the United States”–this has proven truth–the best, brightest, most creative will never go as far as the wealthiest or perhaps, the whitest. Even with journalism, we are taught to write on a 3rd grade level so everyone can understand it. We live in a society where we are dumb. We are ignorant. And we want someone dumb and ignorant of the world to lead us. We want that because they are speaking on our level. Though Obama had 2 terms, he and his wife were too intelligent for the United States.
We are a country that shames other countries for cutting off hands if you steal; but we give a 3-month jail sentence to a rapist. We are a country that considers religious headwraps as suppression of women, yet we praised a man’s behavior toward his gestures toward woman as “locker room talk”. We are a country that feels that terrorism is exclusive to those that live outside of the United States and of color, yet we don’t (as Sister Souljah said) acknowledge the fact that the United States has attempted to go to war with, set up military bases in every country where there are people with brown skin. I can’t fathom another country setting up a base in the United States without reprimand; but we think it’s okay if we do it. What we have done in our own country and to others is pure terrorism with privilege.
Now we are stuck with this mess when it could have been easily avoided. People didn’t vote; many voted for the wrong candidate; many were confused because they are simply ignorant to the world around them. Regardless, we are stuck with this mess and we must sit back and watch how the hate that hate produced unfolds.