I Represent

July 21, 2016

I Represent

I represent the oppressed black womb
penetrated too early in its development.
No one takes the time to explain abortion
before I am strapped in the clinic gurney
to have the baby he planted scraped out.
One day, I was watching Dora and the next day
my teacher said I was a statistic. I don’t know.
I just know I’m not a little girl any more.

I represent the oppressed black vagina
smothered under an endless stream of men
who push and push but never take the time
to differentiate me from girl 6, 5, 4, 3, 2,
or even the one they call the bottom.
You only see me to call me names:
whore, trick, bitch.
One day I’ll be free of this stroll
and will only respond
to the name my mother gave me.

I represent the oppressed black woman
former stripper, former whore, former convict
who came through hell and back
yet still exudes sulfur.
Five children but crack obliterated
the memories and names of their fathers.
They look at me when I come home
smelling of a hundred billion sold
and say they’re hungry.
My response, before I close the bedroom door is
so am I, babies, so am I.

I represent the oppressed conscious black woman
who has all of her eyes open to see the world
but yet only inhabits 6 square blocks of the concrete jungle.
She sits at night with her seeds reworking homework lessons
of Christmas, Columbus and colonization.
She transforms the three R’s into righteous revolutionary rebellion.

Sometimes, I am allowed to sit in and participate in all of their lives.
Sometimes, the door is shut either angrily or in the silence of defeat.
Either way, I am still a poet and my pen represents the oppressed.

Today is my son’s 12th birthday. 12 years! Time flies and flies! Motherhood has, of course, changed me…for the better. Over the years since I’ve become a Mother, I have seen a lot of things that assault what it means, for me, an African woman who is consciously single, to be a Mother. Be clear, when I say consciously single, I mean that. I ended my marriage but not my interaction with his dad (my was-band). It was after our divorce that I got pregnant. His dad and I discussed remarrying and my answer was a resounding no!

Don’t get me wrong. I still have love for his dad. We went through a lot together…and apart…and there is no other man in the world, if it was possible to go back and re-choose, that I would have chosen to be my child’s father. I recognized, even at that stage when my child (aka fetus) wasn’t formed enough to move inside me, that two different things were at play. There was the relationship of a man and a woman. And there was the relationship between father and child. I believed then and still believe now that it’s wasn’t necessary for his dad and I to be together in order for his dad to have a relationship with our child.

Still, I was a womanist and when I found out I was carrying a boy, I sat in the ultrasound room and cried my heart out. Of course, now I look back and say “that was hormones”. But still, I had spent a lot of time and emotional energy deciding on a name for a girl. I was convinced, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to give birth to a girl. Still bound by a patriarchal understanding that women can’t raise boys to manhood, I wasn’t at all happy about the fact that my child was going to have a penis!  So I cried, something I do only when I am extremely upset!

But then the day came. When I felt the first contraction, I immediately gave up any idea of giving birth naturally and said “give me the epidural”. I look back now and say “you punk, you were so scared of the pain, you allowed the nurses to give you a shot in your spine” and said shot numbed me so much I was unable to feel my legs, let alone “push”. And the white female doctor, who was so unfamiliar with black women’s health issues, that she had to look up, in my presence, what it meant that I carried the sickle cell trait, decided, eventually, that she would have to bring my child into the world through a Caesarian. And she also gave me a scar I haven’t been able to eradicate to this day; presumably because black people heal unlike white people…

Still, I love that scar and I love the boy I gave birth to. I realized, pretty quickly, that my womanist bent meant I was more qualified, emotionally and culturally speaking, to be a mother of a boy than I was of a girl. In other words, I wasn’t a “girly girl”. I don’t wear makeup. Whenever I wear a dress or a skirt, people in my circle feel it necessary to exclaim and exalt me for doing so as if a dress or a skirt suddenly demonstrates to them that I possess a vagina; even though I do so whenever the weather is conducive. I don’t torture my feet by wearing what I call “hooker heels”.

I used to agonize about the above like it meant that I was, inherently, deficient in feminine qualities (aka “ain’t I a woman?”). And then I had a conversation with a now-former Sister-friend and said conversation resulted in me saying “I’m okay and have been for quite a while”. I realized that it wasn’t me that was deficient. The motherhood model was what was deficient.

Once I realized, and embraced that I was and continue to be, able to raise a boy to manhood. I realized that all the patriarchal/hotep folks who were very vocally against women raising boys weren’t against it because they doubted a woman’s ability. They were against it because they disagreed with the kind of man women such as I were raising. We weren’t (and are not) raising our boys (they don’t consider the girls) to be the Barack Obama version of Kaitlyn Jenner. (Ponder that for a moment)

As I routinely state on my private (friends only) Facebook page, I am raising a man, not a slave. And as my child (and I) celebrate his twelfth year of existence in a country where black children can’t play in a park without being murdered by those who are alleged to “protect and serve”, I give thanks to all I am that enables me to do so (raise a man, not a slave).

So…happy, happy bornday (he was born, I gave birth) to my very, very beloved yng blk star. May you continue to thrive and grow…and define for yourself what it means to be you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freestyle #1

November 21, 2013

The funkiness of fun
absolution from writing
what seems to be
yesteryear.

thoughts and memories,
the heart and science
mingling, interbreeding

casting aspersions
on the culture somehow
still deemed sacrosanct

ii

echoes of theory
resonating in the inner ear
and the third eye

three hundred and sixty degrees
of consciousness includes
ascension to humanity

still, interrelatedly, i say
huey and john brown are reflections
of the gun culture i admire

iii

my thirteen self intrudes
full of the awareness
of dec. 9, 1980

tape deck, white irish
teacher crying.
what is going on?

imagine
my thrown-for-a-loop self
confronting this grief

not quite a decade
before a teacher slipped me
the autobiography of malcolm x

on the sly.
see when i give thanks
it isn’t to smash

it’s an articulation
of how truly, honestly
my life was saved

but maybe your life
doesn’t need saving.
maybe you’re free

because you either
made your piece
or your concession

iv

i don’t know
but i just spent a half hour
hugging my child

who told me
a few hours earlier
that he was too old

for my kisses
but when he hugs me
i’ll be damned if i let go

first

four am thunder
and thoughts:
fear.
strong glass/soft water.
electronic impasse.
no memorializing
mother nature’s fury
while early morning media
tows the line.

five am thoughts
of thunder
and the battle that has come.
scrimmages between
mohawk boy and me
about the mohawk

dropping seeds:
isn’t it interesting?
everyday i direct you
to comb your mohawk
but it isn’t until
impending visit
of masculine parent
that you get upset
with my threat
to cut it off
if you don’t take care
of it

When I became pregnant, I made the conscious decision to a full-time stay-at-home mother. Eight years later, I have come to the conclusion that what I thought was a personal decision is more than that. It is political. It has been made abundantly clear to me that such a decision is supposed to be only the purview of married women whose husbands work at jobs where they earn a wage that makes the lack of two incomes a non-issue.  It is not a decision that society permits low income, not-completely college-educated women-such as myself. My status as a mother is, apparently, qualified by the pejorative “single” as if the way I mother my son is somehow qualitatively different than the way I would mother him if  his father and I hadn’t divorced before he was conceived…and also by the fact that I turned down his father’s remarriage request after our son was conceived.

The links below provided today discuss this “situation” in terms that define the saying “the personal is political”.

http://socialistworker.org/2012/07/23/single-mother-myth:

As long as our society is organized around the existence of the nuclear family, no matter how mythical that ideal has become, those who live outside it will be punished. In our society, the entire cost of raising the next generation of workers is pushed onto the private family. This represents a massive savings for those who run this society. Women’s unpaid labor in the home–in the U.S. alone–represents more than $1.4 trillion each year, according to the estimate of United Nations researchers in 1995.

http://bit.ly/MA7YMC:

Rather than opining on whether [Marissa] Mayer will be a good mommy, what we really ought to be talking about is why the workplace remains so incompatible with motherhood in the first place – and why we assume that fixing that incompatibility is women’s work.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/6/?single_page=true

EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

Motherhood, 1951 – Ai

December 18, 2011

Dear Saint Patrick, this is Peggy,
Or maybe it’s Pegeen to you,
Well, I’m really Stella Mae.
Peggy’s my nickname,
But anyway, will you please tell me
What to do about the rattlesnake
That’s in my room?
I know it’s there,
But I can’t find it anywhere I search.
I’ve ransacked the closet more than once,
Because that’s where we found the skin it shed.
I even put the cat in there and shut the door,
But he only went to sleep on my new dress
Which he had clawed from a hanger.
My grandma, Maggie, says you drove the snakes from Ireland
And they came here to Arizona.
She’s right, you know
For didn’t a rattler kill our cat, Blackie?
There he was beside the porch, stiff as a board
And baby Florence saw it.
She’s only three and doesn’t need to see death like that, not yet.
If you can, let her believe for now
That we will live forever.
Anyhow, I’m pregnant again.
I know I’ve sinned
But I am paying for it.
Don’t make my girl suffer
Because her mother used poor judgment
And got herself in trouble out of wedlock.
My mother’s disappointed in me.
My father doesn’t care
And says I don’t have to marry
Just to have a name for this one in the oven.
Father says there’s nothing wrong with our name
And will serve the babe as well as any other,
But mother is determined to give this one a legal father
Like Baby Florence has, but only on paper.
She doesn’t have a father either,
But she’s got her granddad, he says
And goes to work. He is a barber.
Mother is a cook and she works longer hours,
So I’m here with Baby Florence
And that infernal snake all day.
Outside, the new cat, dogs, chickens and hogs
Roam about the yard,
But they can’t help me, can they?
I keep praying, but you don’t answer.
I guess you’ve got no time for me,
So armed with a shovel,
I go in the closet once again
And succeed in smashing a wall.
Bits of plaster fall on my head,
But I don’t mind.
I’d rather be dead than never find the thing
That crawls about the room
Without fear of discovery.
This morning, I woke up to find a coiled imprint
At the foot of my bed.
They say I am protected from harm
Because the Virgin Mary put her heel
Upon a snake’s head and crushed it
For the sake of all pregnant women.
I am safe, I say to myself and pray for mercy
And recall the dead baby diamondback we found last fall.
It glittered like a tiny jeweled bracelet
And I almost picked it up,
Before I remembered my own warning to my daughter
To never, ever pick up anything suspicious.
I wish I’d done that with the man partly responsible
For the mess I’ve made.
The diamondback was like the lust I felt for him.
It glittered so beautifully
I had to pick it up and wear it for awhile,
Then like some Lazarus, it came to life,
By striking me with its poisonous fangs,
Leaving me to pay for my crime
Once by lying to myself
And twice for good measure.
Now I must suffer for my pleasure.
I curse, slam the wall again
And feel pain radiating from my navel
Down through my bowels
And am not able to get to the telephone
To call my mother.
I hear a splash and all of a sudden,
The snake darts from the hole I made in the wall
And crawls forward to slake its thirst.
I grit my teeth, but stand stock still
As the pain gnaws at my vitals.
I try to show no fear
As the snake takes a long drink of my water
Then slithers away,
But not fast enough to escape,
As screaming with pain and rage
with all the mother instinct I can muster,
and in the Virgin Mary’s name,
I raise the shovel and smash the snake,
Crushing its head,
As I double over and fall beside it
On the red, concrete floor.
For awhile, a ripple runs through its body,
Then it is still.
When my pain subsides, I fall asleep
And dream I’m dead
And hundreds of baby snakes are gathered at my wake.
They crawl all over my body
And I try to shake them off,
Until I realize they’re part of me.

At Saint Mary’s Hospital, the nurses and my doctor
Tell me how courageous I am
And the nuns even come to visit me.
They claim I have performed a miracle
And should be canonized.
Saint Peggy. “How does that sound?”
I ask Saint Patrick aloud
When left alone to hold my child.
I smile at her and tell her she is blessed.
The nuns have gone off to light some candles
And in the chapel.
They say they’re praying for special dispensation
But I don’t need that and neither does my girl.

Back home, after a few days, I realize

That I made a mistake in thinking I could take away my sins
When Mother tells me my new daughter is cursed
Because I killed a snake the day she was born.
“What a cruel mother you are,” I tell her
And she says, “Yes, I’m just like all the others.
I should have smothered you when you were born.
I was so torn up inside, I nearly died for you
And you repay me with not one bastard, but two.
I never thought I’d call a whore my daughter.”
When I protest, she says, “There’s the door.”
After that, I decide to ignore her
And in a state between agitation and rest,
I remember something I had forgotten.
As I lay beside the snake.
I saw a tiny bunch of eggs spill out of her
And realized she was an expectant mother too
And simply wanted a drink to soothe herself
One desert afternoon
When mothers must decide to save
Or execute their children.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMI…

Related Links:
NY Times Obituary
In Memoriam to Ai

Contraband Marriage

March 17, 2010

We make it work by inches.

Our hands extended above our heads

pushing at the concrete

understanding that

even if it’s turned into a wall

that wall will one day crack and then break

under the pressure of our hands

and we will breathe free

Contraband Marriage book cover

In prison, a place where emotions based on affection are just about non-existent, love becomes the rarest of commodities; and as such is both highly prized and legislated.

By falling in love with a man who was incarcerated, I was participating in an activity considered contrary to the status quo on a variety of levels. Black people aren’t supposed to love one another. Black women aren’t supposed to love Black men. And no one is supposed to love the prisoners. But it happens and such love becomes contraband; something to be smuggled in and experienced on the sly.

Contraband Marriage covers those oppressive times and travels along the hemline of loving after incarceration, digging deep into its affects on that love, my walk into motherhood and how simple the decision to disentangle became when a child was involved. In multi-color, it paints the pains of the personal being political, the bumpy terrain of healing and the beautiful difficulty that can be forgiveness. It is a love story written in lyric and free form, set in reality with a different ever after.

ISBN:  978-0-9789355-5-9

For previews and ordering info, please visit my storefront.

Even though I am not a gourmand à la Julia Child or Julie of Julie and Julia fame, I do lay claim to being proficient enough in the kitchen to be able to tempt my child to eat. but for what seemed endless days in a row, he has refused to eat my roasted chicken, my potatoes roasted in butter and dill, my spaghetti and meatballs. Basically anything, as I tell him imploringly, designed to have him grow into a strong man. Of course, he will eat my apple crumb pie w/vanilla ice cream as well as devouring my chocolate lava cakes, also with vanilla ice cream. He has even expressed his delight by telling me how to eat the apple crumb pie in order to get the most delight out of it. But still, I wasn’t playing around in the title of this blog. I was preparing myself…and him…for an impending strike. I was going to refuse to cook for him…or order any food. I knew there was enough leftover food in the fridge for him to eat if he got  hungry enough.

EUSFT202L

The whole exercise in tyranny of the minor was made moot when the grand idea of star shaped food to tempt him hit me. But what could I use for the star? The only molds we had in the house were of airplanes and trains. Then my desperate mind thought of his play dough star mold. We both went in search  of it; although he didn’t know why. Pay dirt behind the closet door! I snatched it up, cleaned it, dried it and then pushed it down in the small mound of seasoned raw ground turkey. Then I washed it, dried it and did the same with thawed pie crust; which then went in the oven while the burgers went into the frying pan.

15 minutes later the food was assembled and delivered to the ultimate food critic (and picky eater) who after devouring two of them (they were so tiny, I gave him four) graciously offered to sacrifice his play dough star for the sake of such culinary delight.

Dirty Words

September 19, 2009

Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. That’s all I kept telling myself. Don’t hyperventilate. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I started muttering to myself. As the rage began to constrict my vision, I told myself “leave, Tichaona…leave this auditorium, this space where they are attempting to indoctrinate my child. So I did and I went straight to the school secretary to find out what I needed to do to stop my son from participating in the pledge of allegiance. “You don’t want your son pledging allegiance to the country of his birth?” Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. Is she really saying such a thing? I could only stare at her for a minute. Then I asked her (trying to rein in my shaky voice) is it your job to ask me that or is it your job to help me find a way to solve it? Then she got down to business and gave me the information I sought.

This happened on a Friday. All weekend I thought about what to do. I vacillated between pulling him out of the Friday assembly altogether and letting him continue without saying anything. Not saying anything further about the matter left me feeling like a collaborator. Then the mother in me acknowledged he’s only five and won’t understand being separated from the rest of the class…and the rest of the class won’t understand him being separated. All the mental furor brought to mind my conundrum when I became a citizen. So I decided to have my child participate…but say his own pledge…one that’s directed inward instead of externally.

I talked to him about pledges and how they are promises to someone or some thing. I told him his pledge should be “I promise myself I will learn how to read”. I say it with him everyday. Let him get indoctrinated by that!

Situation resolved but it did remind me of a poem by Shakur Towns

Dirty Words

Kids say the damnedest things…
Like the time
one of my babies said
“shit”
at the dinner table
or
the time
my baby girl said
“booty”
in front of my mother.
Where do they get this stuff from?
I try to watch
what they
watch
and listen to
what they
listen to,
and we are all
careful
of what WE say…
but still
they come up with some doozies…

My four year old
stopped me dead
in my tracks.
She said something that I will
never
forget.
And she smiled
and said it over
and
over
again.
My heart stopped
my breathing got shallow.
She smiled
like she was PROUD
of herself.
I think
that’s what hurt
most of all.
She smiled like she was
PROUD.
I grabbed her
and all I could do
was just
hold her
tight
against me.
A tear ran down my face
as she kept reciting
like some insane mantra,

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”