Carolina Soul

image

So…this happened! It wasn’t a shocker but I wasn’t expecting it to appear so quickly. This poem is a piece that I have been tinkering with for months. I didn’t think that it would be accepted for publication because it didn’t feel complete.  As you can see, it’s an ode to the great Nina Simone.

In a highly unusual move for me, this piece hasn’t appeared on the blog yet. I was a bit uncomfortable with that because this is where I share everything first. But I’m trying to take more chances in 2016. If you get a chance, take a look at it. The link is below!

http://soar.forharriet.com/2016/04/carolina-soul-poem-for-nina-simone.html#axzz475tqnPDW

Evidence of Red- LEANNE HOWE

In my neverending quest to expand my horizons, I have been researching Native American poets. This is two-fold, first of all, I want to learn more about other poets and what inspires them but I also want to expose my students to these works as well. Leanne Howe’s “Evidence of Red” and “Indians Never Say Goodbye” both spoke to me. They are examples of how culture permeate our writing and give others the chance to sip a bit from our experiences. This is the kind of piece that I wish I would have been able to share with my maternal grandfather. This poem is featured in Howe’s 2005 book,Evidence of Red.

I am off to find more poets, poems and prose in an effort to fill my brain with even more words. I hope you all enjoy this piece!

image

First, night opened out.
Bodies took root from rotting salt
and seawater into evidence of red life.
Relentless waves pumped tidal air
into a single heartbeat.

In the pulp of shadow and space,
water sucked our people from sleep.
That’s how it all began. At least
that’s all we can remember to tell.
It began with water and heartbeat.

In minutes we tunneled through
corn woman’s navel into tinges
of moist red men and women.
Yawning, we collected our chins,
knees, breasts, and sure-footed determination.

A few thousand years before
Moses parted the Red Sea, and the
God with three heads was born in the Middle East,
the Choctaw people danced
our homeland infra red.

Finally when the stranger’s arms
reached to strangle the West,
Grandmother eavesdropped
on the three-faced deity
who said that chaos was coming.

When he puckered his lips and tried to kiss her
she made it rain on him.
“Maybe you’ve forgotten
you were born of water and women,”
she said, walking away laughing.

Disrobe-Sonia Raven Montalvo

Today is really special because I am sharing a poem written by one of my former students. That would be great in itself but this piece is taken from the book, What If I Fly? by Sonia Raven Montalvo. I admire her so much for creating her own book and place on the literary lamdscape. The pieces in this collection feel carefully selected and tended; as if she’s reworked them to perfection. Disrobe spoke to me from the start and as I’ve reread it, I find another line to love.

Sales for the book have been temporarily suspended but the writing is amazing. Sonia has produced prose and poetry in a voice succinctly her own and desperately needed today. She is currently the Entertainment Editor and a columnist for HBCU BUZZ.

image

Disrobe (2010 revised in 2015)

I unbuttoned my dignity,
unzipped my pride,
and slipped off my integrity.
Undressed now, I ask if he’s happy
If Satan smiled, I imagined it would look like his.
Grinning ear to ear placing eyes on my flesh,
then fingers,
then penis,
then his insecurities,
and then his seed.
They are all equally heavy,
all just as concerning

Copyright 2016 by Sonia Montalvo

The Awakening- James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson was a Renaissance man. He was an author, a songwriter, one of the organizers of the NAACP, an editor and poet. But most of all he was gifted with words. This is probably one of my favorite Johnson poems because of its rich lyrical texture. I love the feel of it as I speak the words as much as I love reading them.

image

I dreamed that I was a rose
That grew beside a lonely way,
Close by a path none ever chose,
And there I lingered day by day.
Beneath the sunshine and the show’r
I grew and waited there apart,
Gathering perfume hour by hour,
And storing it within my heart,
        Yet, never knew,
Just why I waited there and grew.

I dreamed that you were a bee
That one day gaily flew along,
You came across the hedge to me,
And sang a soft, love-burdened song.
You brushed my petals with a kiss,
I woke to gladness with a start,
And yielded up to you in bliss
The treasured fragrance of my heart;
        And then I knew
That I had waited there for you.

Dangerous for Girls- Connie Voisine

Initially, the appeal of this piece for me was the title. I’m always searching for new poets, new poetry, new words that inspire and this hit the mark for me. I grew up learning lessons about what could be dangerous for girls but not being hindered by those fears. My mother was a tomboy, I was a pseudo tomboy(loved being wild and doing what the boys did but loved wearing dresses too) and my parents and both of my grandfathers encouraged me to be myself.  I carry those lessons with me everyday and  most of the time they outweigh the fears  of being a woman in a society where that’s viewed as weakness.  I hope that you all enjoy this poem! And are loving National Poetry Month!

haven

 

 

It was the summer of Chandra Levy, disappearing

from Washington D.C., her lover a Congressman, evasive

and blow-dried from Modesto, the TV wondering

 

in every room in America to an image of her tight jeans and piles

of curls frozen in a studio pose. It was the summer the only

woman known as a serial killer, a ten-dollar whore trolling

 

the plains of central Florida, said she knew she would

kill again, murder filled her dreams

and if she walked in the world, it would crack

 

her open with its awful wings. It was the summer that in Texas, another

young woman killed her five children, left with too many

little boys, always pregnant. One Thanksgiving, she tried

 

to slash her own throat. That summer the Congressman

lied again about the nature of his relations, or,

as he said, he couldn’t remember if they had sex that last

 

night he saw her, but there were many anonymous girls that summer,

there always are, who lower their necks to the stone

and pray, not to God but to the Virgin, herself once

 

a young girl, chosen in her room by an archangel.

Instead of praying, that summer I watched television, reruns of

a UFO series featuring a melancholic woman detective

 

who had gotten cancer and was made sterile by aliens. I watched

infomercials: exercise machines, pasta makers,

and a product called Nails Again With Henna,

 

ladies, make your nails steely strong, naturally,

and then the photograph of Chandra Levy

would appear again, below a bright red number,

 

such as 81, to indicate the days she was missing.

Her mother said, please understand how we’re feeling

when told that the police don’t believe she will be found alive,

 

though they searched the parks and forests

of the Capitol for the remains and I remembered

being caught in Tennessee, my tent filled with wind

 

lifting around me, tornado honey, said the operator when I called

in fear. The highway barren, I drove to a truck stop where

maybe a hundred trucks hummed in pale, even rows

 

like eggs in a carton. Truckers paced in the dining room,

fatigue in their beards, in their bottomless

cups of coffee. The store sold handcuffs, dirty

 

magazines, t-shirts that read, Ass, gas or grass.

       Nobody rides for free, and a bulletin board bore a

public notice: Jane Doe, found in a refrigerator box

 

outside Johnson, TN, her slight measurements and weight.

The photographs were of her face, not peaceful in death,

and of her tattoos Born to Run, and J.T. caught in

 

scrollworks of roses. One winter in Harvard Square, I wandered

drunk, my arms full of still warm, stolen laundry, and

a man said come to my studio and of course I went—

 

for some girls, our bodies are not immortal so much as

expendable, we have punished them or wearied

from dragging them around for so long and so we go

 

wearing the brilliant plumage of the possibly freed

by death. Quick on the icy sidewalks, I felt thin and

fleet, and the night made me feel unique in the eyes

 

of the stranger. He told me he made sculptures

of figure skaters, not of the women’s bodies,

but of the air that whipped around them,

 

a study of negative space,

which he said was the where-we-were-not

that made us. Dizzy from beer,

 

I thought why not step into

       that space? He locked the door behind me.

I Measure Every Grief I Meet- Emily Dickinson

Grief is the kind of emotion that feeds on itself. It’s a drain on the spirit and the body, it’s unbeatable and defiant. You just have to wait it out, waiting for the  moment that it exhausts itself. Here, in more eloquent words, the great Emily Dickinson ponders grief. I planned these posts last month but coincidentally they are providing me with all of the introspection that I need during this wonderful month.
As I have said before, Dickinson is among the first poets to lure me into the beauty of poetry. This poem reminds me of the beauty of poetry. How you can see something a few times and never peel back the layers to examine it. I hope that you all enjoy I Measure Every Grief I Meet!

image

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –

I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile – 
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –

I wonder if when Years have piled – 
Some Thousands – on the Harm – 
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm – 

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain – 
In Contrast with the Love – 

The Grieved – are many – I am told – 
There is the various Cause – 
Death – is but one – and comes but once – 
And only nails the eyes – 

There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold – 
A sort they call “Despair” – 
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air – 

And though I may not guess the kind – 
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary – 

To note the fashions – of the Cross – 
And how they’re mostly worn – 
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own –

I am Trying to Break Your Heart- Kevin Young

Poetry, poetry, poetry! This poem is the goal of all of my writing! The ultimate goal, for me, is to infuse my work with emotion and to evoke it in my readers. This Kevin Young poem is so amazing. In this piece, Young writes “Loneliness is a science.” Loneliness is a science, people! That line in itself is enough to warrant reading this poem but Young pours on the rich literary devices that gives this poem life. One of the things that allows me to enjoy National Poetry Month so much is that it allows me to explore and share the work of so many poets. This is quickly becoming the joy of my poetic world.

1349215820735

 

I am hoping

to hang your head

 

on my wall

in shame—

 

the slightest taxidermy

thrills me. Fish

 

forever leaping

on the living-room wall—

 

paperweights made

from skulls

 

of small animals.

I want to wear

 

your smile on my sleeve

& break

 

your heart like a horse

or its leg. Weeks of being

 

bucked off, then

all at once, you’re mine—

 

Put me down.

 

I want to call you thine

 

to tattoo mercy

along my knuckles. I assassin

down the avenue

I hope

 

to have you forgotten

by noon. To know you

 

by your knees

palsied by prayer.

 

Loneliness is a science—

 

consider the taxidermist’s

tender hands

 

trying to keep from losing

skin, the bobcat grin

 

of the living.