Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Check It Out!

I’m encouraging everyone to stop by Torch Magazine: poetry, prose and short stories by African-American women ( http://www.torchpoetry.org/). Not just because I have three poems in it, but because there is some spectacular work in not only this, but previous issues, as well.

If you are interested in the prose, poetry and arts of contemporary African-American women, then you’ll most likely be bookmarking this site for future reference.

For those of you who have been with my musings for awhile - you will surely remember the rough drafts of these poems from previous blogs!

Happy reading! And feedback welcome!

the new puppy

is fluffy
like stubborn

belligerent hope.
I can train

this one and trust
him to stay

that way until he dies -
only bigger, still cuddly,

and softly begging
to fulfil my commands

for praise!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hiya!

life has been.

and I am.

so, i'm looking forward


to tomorrow which will be.

blessed is what some might name

full and fruitful


or shit ass fucked up crazy.

depends.

mirrors are


tricky.

place with care.

Beast’s Beauty

(a continuation of the poem Exile Propriety published in Gathering Ground: A Cave Canem Reader)

.

Pretty Johnny Sinclair married L.G. Whitely;
got an M.B.A.; and settled down quietly.

Bought the cottage next door to L.G.’s Mama.
Lives life’s edges behind the wheel of a Hummer.

When some niggers egged his house,
Taser armed police eager to Negro roust,

dug out long-memoried ‘Burgh old school
and repeated the words his father spewed.

Any race with a checkbook in hand
can help police completely understand

that Boys will be boys.

..

this is my exciting 75
minutes of personal time
I am alive!

white mini van whips
through icy Pittsburgh streets
to 1 hour dry cleaning hoping

to transform a wrinkled black rubbish bag
of muted cashmere rainbows
button down kaleidoscopes

sexy dress pants

into pristine casual business my heart races
towards a pernickety crone who claws each sweater;
counts each button; examines every stain

of my moth-eaten poor housekeeping,
and failure
to marry fastidious

perfect meticulousness.
in line ahead of me
rewinds my personal footage

C.U.: mulatta with butt-long dreads too lazy to spend
the mandatory 5 toning and shaping hours at the gym
begs wizened old bitty to clean her husband’s sweaters
with lips that used to birth and blow the Luna Moth’s moon ascent.


PAN OUT: dreads swinging knee low, Tragic Yellow creeps
towards filthy, mud-splashed grey mini-van. ticket in hand
loudly squawking, “SWEATER, HOLES / 4 BUTTONS BROKEN”

CGI animated bars clink into place.
CUE taunting music.
ANIME SOUND FX: Slam! Chink!! Clink!!

Each note and slamming metal bar sound
composed to highlight
the subtext. housewife. bad

bad housewife drives home
Subtitles: @#&^ ** F^^%
I am a housewife I think I am

really truly
a housewife

CUE: Christian music celebrating helpmeets
C.U. Tragic Mulatta’s hand punching in WAMO
SOUND FX: disjointed cacophony.

C.U. smile
C.U. creepy, silent tear.
LONG SHOT: mini-van tearing up the parkway.

...

my brother believes
he is behind bars

a criminal
outlaw

fugitive from family
stuck in Philly and thrilled to have been

a protector of rock stars
in the same smokey clubs

where I used to pretend to speak
WORD taller than this man

whose spirit envelopes

a holy place
where just being

alive
makes happy.


....

three months since i went to the 25th high school reunion
recall the invitation reminding us

she’d moved into the cottage
next door to her parent’s house

so much better
i thought

so together
this one night only

an exhibit of literary journal and school
newspapers immaculately archived

all twelve of our yearbooks;
her varsity letters - every pin and patch,

graduation bouquet preserved
by a pressed yellow rose .

driving past L.G.’s house

flag pole. manicured lawn. symmetrical topiary
the 8 bedroom cottage with 3 car garage

is orderly. her husband
does not stain his blazers or trousers

no feasting moths reside with them.
she is a happy housewife,

with children in school and
lots of time.....

like me
and so not. i think

in my voluntary estate sale,
thrift store, second hand

bargain basement
comfortable

simplicity

.....

smelling garbage makes happy
wiping shitty children’s assses makes happy
being alive makes happy;
breathing makes happy;

eating the food you cook for yourself
makes
happy. is where you are
in proximity to things which bring you joy.

nothing is happy
very very happy!
this is my brother’s wisdom
he is no one important.

he has always just been
simple.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Welcome, Glamorous Ives




The milestones come at you sideways and from behind. For some reason, they always smack me in the back of my head. This business of witnessing a child’s work is better suited for those trained in detective work.

Recently, Winston has been using the moniker “Glamorous Ives” for his “performances. (These occur anytime two or more adults are gathered together and can watch whatever show he has devised for us.) Glamorous Ives is quite a character. He can sing, dance, do magic...including disappear!

Last night, Winston had me call his grandfather on the phone. He wanted to cut his hair. So, this morning, my Dad set up the appointment and met us at the shop.

It was a wonderful experience. The barber actually had envelopes on hand for me to catch his baby locks to “seal and put in the family bible.” (insert teardrop.) He listened to Winston’s ideas. And he cut just a tiny bit....then a tiny bit more...then a tiny bit more. Each time, Winston kept saying, “More. I want to see. I want to see my ears. I like the fancy design on the side of my face.”

Everyone was amazed at how well behaved he was. “How articulate this little man is!” “He sure knows his mind!” “This is my easiest first cut ever! He’s so co-operative!” On the way home, I explained to my father that this is Winston’s way. He thinks and evaluates and ponders something. Then he takes quick decisive action. He potty-trained himself the same way. One day he didn’t want a diaper. That was the day he was completely and fully potty trained. (Who could have known but a detective...and a psychic detective at that. I’m just the witness.)

So today I say, Good-bye sweet, androgynous baby! Good-bye curls! Hello boy! Welcome, “Glamorous Ives!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Beyond Rice Sake | Celebrating Pre-school Expletives

I left my coffee at home yesterday. The realisation of this tragedy made me fumble for appropriate expletives. We were only a block away from home, but, turning back; getting in and out of the car seat and reloading was not worth a wee bit more caffeine.

As I grumbled and harumphed, Winston thought it would be an excellent time to chime in. He is such a helpful boy. So, we discussed the concept of expletives. In Winston’s case, it seems to be utterances which are used when Mama is vexed. It helps her "blow the angries away."

To be useful, he carefully ran through my entire repertoire for me. (They observe and learn everything - including it would seem vocabulary.) I was amazed that he remembered the whole list. I’d never realised that all of these must be prefaced by an “oh” for full effect.

You could say:

Oh, for goodness sakes!

Oh, flibberty jibbet!

Oh, for rice sake!”

Oh, slam it on a shell!

Oh, shim sham!

Oh, Jiminy Cricket!


“But, “ he says - looking very sly, “you could say:

Oh travesty packet!”

I burst out laughing. I chuckled and giggled. He wasn’t sure what was so funny. So, I explained what travesty meant. And he seemed well-pleased with himself.

So - my new expletive is “Oh, travesty packet!” And I’m so thankful I didn’t have that extra cup of coffee. I didn’t need it. I had him.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Positive Discipline: Dealing With Cheerful Non-Compliance

I could have it a lot worse. I don't even know why I'm complaining. Raging, screaming, kicking tantrums or destruction of property are not for my pacifist son. (Which he has been since he was in-utero - another story.)

Maybe our choice to lift a bit from "positive discipline" and nick a few things from "mindful parenting" combined with our best effort to home educate based upon directed autonomy have helped fostered this attitude...but...now, I'm at a loss.

I'm full to the gills with what I have begun to term "cheerful non-compliance." What do I mean? Here's an example: he doesn't want to be at violin class. So, he cheerfully, co-operatively and with great enthusiasm does every single thing his teacher asks him....wrong. Or he doesn't want to play mancala, but, while setting up the mancala board, his helpful, happy, sweet, gentle hands mix up all the beans until I close the board and put it away. (To his great relief.) There is nothing to discuss. There is nothing to point at and correct. He is four. And he may have forgotten...NOT! (This is a child who can tell you in great detail about an event which happened when he was 2.)

And, like I said, I could have it a lot worse. But, all of this slams the "colour blinds" down around my psyche. Suddenly, I'm hyper-vigiliant about our history and the methods by which Men Of African Descent have ensured our survival. This same "cheerful non-compliance" has served People Of African descent well. His behaviour has historical validity. It's one of the reasons I am so passionate about capoeira being a critical curriculum component. And who am I to correct his ancestors?

His mother - that's who! But, when I call him on his passive resistance, he feels just awful for trying to play me for a fool. And responds by doggedly towing the line....like a beaten puppy. (Which I accept as my due. I recently told my angry daughter how happy I was that she was furious with me because it meant I was doing my job.) And I have shared this idea with him, as well. Sometimes, he won't like what I ask him to do and that's okay. He still has to do it.

But - still - some part of me feels as if I could handle it all in a manner in which he would happily "buy into the agenda."

Is this wishful thinking? I'm open to all ideas about dealing with this.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Seeing Brightness & Spreading Good Cheer


Yesterday, we woke up to snow. I shuddered and winced. Winston was ecstatic! It’s my own fault. I want him to feel connected to nature. And it’s one of the times I’m thankful for our sojourn in London. There, I took him out walking in all kinds of weather. He is not afraid of rain or snow or ice. He loves nature. He needs to be part of it.

So after our “morning meeting” and much coffee fortification - out we went! The snow was too flakey to pack. So, our plans to build a “Snow Winston” were thwarted. But, he stood there at the edge of the driveway, happily tossing chunks of snow into a slushy puddle while he sang nonsensical songs. (There is a powerful spirit which invites joyful introspection when children are allowed to simply be in nature!) Lovely as it was - I’d have been hustling him indoors if I didn’t get moving. So, I came up with the idea of a snowy walk. And off we went.

On our walk, we tracked animal footprints and guessed which kinds they were. We observed manholes with their small wet warm circle surrounding them. And all of the usual things which occur during a snowy walk.

When we returned home, we read Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day” for the first time since we’ve returned from London (which didn’t have much snow to speak of.) He was entranced! He and Peter had done all of the very same things! How incredible! (How nice to have him completely identify and relate to a positive Black male protagonist!) Then we settled down to lunch and an afternoon of play.

His plan yesterday include a “making things” time. Late into the afternoon, he realised we hadn’t made anything. He also seemed eager to get back outside. Having noticed the many Christmas trees in the rubbish piles in front of home and inspired by our earlier nature walk, I decided that we would make winter posies for ourselves and our neighbours. Off we went.

Recently, I came across an interesting picture book, “Christmas In The Big House, Christmas In The Quarters,” by one of my favourite authors, Patricia MCKissack. And, I have to say, I was a bit let down. She isn’t as uncompromising and frank as she tends to be in this tale. But, still, I have to applaud her courage for portraying two extremely different American Christmases.

Anyway - a story within the story touched me. It stirred a vague memory of a non-European version of the same tale - but I can’t find it right now. Regardless, it is the tale of the Evergreen and why we use it to celebrate this season of harvest, (in Africa) return of the light in (Europe/America) and the miracle of light (in Judaism.) In this book, the author describes the birth of Jesus and how the whole world wanted to give him a gift - even the trees. The only tree without a gift was the Fir and it was sad, so, the stars took pity on it and gave it the gift of being ever green.

This story took on a new dimension for me as we gathered materials for our Winter posies. The holidays rush by and we enjoy them. Then all of the decorations come down. Life snaps - rubber band like - back to normal. And we press ourselves back into regular life.

During our walk, we gathered a few sticks, some evergreen branches, and some rose hips. We set about making a memory our glorious snowy day. Later, when we walked our posies to our neighbourhood friends, they were so thankful for a tiny, green memory of the holiday which had so recently passed.

And we both felt so blessed. Even in the stark, white winter landscape - there were patches of brightness. All we had to do is reach our and collect it. In giving our energy to it, we could share some bright colour and light with others.


Winter Posies

General Materials:
scissors,
floral wire,
ribbon
things collected on a nature walk such as: rose hips, dried grasses, small twigs, seed pods, etc.

We used:
rose hips
evergreen branches (5 - 6 inches long)
twigs
ribbon

Directions
1. Have your child arrange a small bunch of the items.

2. Using the wire, wrap the bundle together. (Depending on the age of your child, you may want to start it for them)

3. If you want to create certain forms with each of the branches, individually wrap each branch. Then wire together.

4. Tie a ribbon on the top.

5. The posie can hang anywhere by simply looping the wire over a nail or suction cup.