Monday, April 21, 2008

Transition | Toni Brown

(November 2, 1962 - April 19, 2008)


I met Toni Brown at Cave Canem. She was a very sweet woman. The bite of her poems was never evident in her person. I just learned that she made her transition on Saturday, April 19th from respiratory complications. I will miss this voice.

Whenever I encountered one of her poems, I always thought, “I want to see more of these.” Like this poem of hers:

Dreadlocks
by Toni Brown

See
these ropes of hair
This is how
it would have grown
on my head
in the bowels of a ship
long ago

Understand
we dark still living
who crawled or
were dragged
hair matted flat
into this New World
would have been
dreadful

And this fabulous poem here. The page has an audio recording.

THE WITCH
by Toni Brown

One Day I came home from school
to find my mother
had cleaned my room
She said it was a hell hole

She took down my beloved Huey Newton poster
My California sliding into the sea poster
My magic words and fortune cookie fortunes
She removed the mural I had swirled

green-black and red on a sheet
of plastic and tacked to the wall
She took my stereo and all of my records
She made my bed She hung up my clothes

For two weeks I slept
on top of the bed naked
I disturbed nothing on my bureau
nothing on my bookshelf or bedside table
I wore my uniform to school
at home I wore the same jeans
and tie-dye tee shirt every day

II

One day I came home from school
my posters were returned
rolled into cylinders neat
rubber banded all in a row on the floor

my sheet of plastic watercolor lay
flat on my still made bed
my records were stacked beside
my returned record player

for two weeks I left everything
exactly where it lay
except the mural I moved it
to the floor at night
I put it back each day

III

One Day I came home from school
closed my bedroom door
though it was forbidden
I put the posters back on the wall with hammer
and nails I put my mural back on the wall
with epoxy I took off my uniform
balled it up and threw it in a corner
I put on my jeans and tie-dye tee shirt one last time
played Jimi Hendrix' Electric Lady Land LOUD

I burned a stick of sandalwood incense and three candles
As the music played I danced a wild cool jerk, boogaloo
pulled open the junk drawer in my bureau
I spun in the smoke and Jimi's song spewing
the contents of the drawer around like
chicken blood

Another poem here in a publication of Leeway Foundation grantees.

1 comment:

Karen James said...

Thanks for sharing this. Her voice stirs a part of my being that lies waiting for someone to talk to it--recognize it is there. I am sorry for her passing.