Carolina Soul


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!



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!


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.


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.


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!




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!


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.



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.



Poetics-Yusef Komunyakaa

I did not learn of the brilliant Yusef Komunyakaa until I was almost finished my Bachelor’s degree. He was featured in the text for the course and I was a goner from the first piece I read. Since then, I’ve become and ardent admirer. So this poem seemed perfect to celebrate National Poetry Month. In it, Komunyakaa layers images and literary devices that I see with the technical eye of a trained poet. However, none of that outweighs the beauty of his writing. This poem reminds me of why I write and why I fell in love with poetry in the first place.

Uncovering new poems and exploring the work of new poets is the primary reason that I love celebrating National Poetry Month.





Beauty, I’ve seen you

pressed hard against the windowpane.

But the ugliness was unsolved

in the heart & mouth.

I’ve seen the quick-draw artist

crouch among the chrysanthemums.

Do I need to say more?


Everything isn’t ha-ha

in this valley. The striptease

on stage at the Blue Movie

is your sweet little Sara Lee.

An argument of eyes

cut through the metaphor,

& I hear someone crying

among crystal trees & confetti.


The sack of bones in the magnolia,

What’s more true than that?

Before you can see

her long pretty legs,

look into her unlit eyes.

A song of B-flat breath

staggers on death row. Real

men, voices that limp

behind the one-way glass wall.

I’ve seen the legless beggar

chopped down to his four wheels.



“I have been a stranger in a strange land”- Rita Dove


Happy National Poetry Month! I am getting a late start so I will be posting tomorrow and possibly Saturday in an effort to make it up. But I’m super excited about this month. Poetry is everything! This Rita Dove poem is something that my class will be analyzing this month. There is something so exquisite about the way that she has layered emotion and truth throughout the piece.  It is so honest and I think that is the appeal of it for me. Well, that and the fact that she begins it with a Dickinson quote.  I hope you all enjoy!



Life’s spell is so exquisite, everything conspires to break it.
-Emily Dickinson


It wasn’t bliss. What was bliss

but the ordinary life? She’d spend hours

in patter, moving through whole days

touching, sniffing, tasting . . . exquisite

housekeeping in a charmed world.

And yet there was always


more of the same, all that happiness,

the aimless Being There.

So she wandered for a while, bush to arbor,

lingered to look through a pond’s restive mirror.

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,

pretending he could organize

what was clearly someone else’s chaos.


That’s when she found the tree,

the dark, crabbed branches

bearing up such speechless bounty,

she knew without being told

this was forbidden. It wasn’t

a question of ownership—

who could lay claim to

such maddening perfection?


And there was no voice in her head,

no whispered intelligence lurking

in the leaves—just an ache that grew

until she knew she’d already lost everything

except desire, the red heft of it

warming her outstretched palm.