Freestyle #1, 2018

January 2, 2018

Freestyle #1, 2018

Stymied by the weather
words coalesce and collect
like dust, like soil.

I am an archaeologist
unearthing her hidden story.
A grain of sand, a paragraph
is all that history provides.

To the victor belongs the spoils

I guess…

 

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.

20160627_122507_E 6th St

 

Here, I eat the chips
of childhood;
salt in the air
and salt and vinegar
in my mouth.

Salivating stillness
after the turtle-like triumph
of treading to the top
we put a period
on the promenade.

Proudly private people
we prostrate ourselves
in lounge chairs
designed for that express
purpose.

This is one of the views
that reduces reaction
to irrelevancy.

 

© 2016 Tichaona Munhamo Chinyelu (photo and text)

I’ve got a feeling
everyone knows I had a hard year
but they don’t know
I missed the train
yet still managed
to see my son shine.

I’ve got a feeling
that keeps me
on my toes and in throe
but I still missed the train.

I am not alone.

Everybody had a wet dream.
Everybody had a good time.
Everybody had a hard year.
Everybody saw my son shine.

Everyone had a hard year.
Everyone laid our Prince down
and pulled their purple out
but not everyone put Drumpf down.

Every year when April approaches, I find myself getting all skittery about it because since I found out about it, I have never been able to write a poem for every single day of the month. But I keep trying. The poet in me demands it. So here I am again, April 1st starting the game all over again.

This is my first piece of the month:

An Architect’s Tale

A dream
held since childhood
to see a building form
from flat paper
to a structure
that houses workers
and the engine
that pushes them.

I set to out wonder the Sphinx.
Cloaked in meekness
low-heeled shoes
and glasses
(clara, not clark, kent)
I battered battalion-like rungs
to get a building
that was mine
all mine.

But the wind and its cohorts
levelled the dream, the building
in a matter of minutes
and sent me, (clara, not clark kent)
scurrying to an ancient cave
where the only thing to build
was a fire.

I built that fire
until it consumed everything
including me.

On my book blog, I have written about how absolutely fascinated I am by the Great Dismal Swamp. I have started but not yet finished Daniel A. Sayers’ A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archaeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp; started but not yet finished Charles Royster’s The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington’s Time; started and finished Sylviane A. Diouf’s Slavery’s Exiles. All that starting and not [yet] finishing led to a bout of writing that turned out to be a series of centos that basically described the founding of Virginia, one of the two states which formed around the Great Dismal Swamp.

Even though I have not yet finished two of the books mentioned above, research detours led me to The Westover Manuscripts written by William Byrd, colonial founder of Richmond, Virginia. The source material for the cento part of the series is drawn from that document.

I have been playing around with how to present these pieces since, at this point in time, they won’t be in my next book. I thought of just putting all the pieces in one post and  letting them be read that way. But that idea didn’t sit too easy, visually speaking. So I decided to kind of serialize them.

Click here to read the first in the series.

 

 

January 14, 2016

I have never read any if her work [yet] but this quote makes me want to do so.

 

“Nobody reads poetry, we are told at every inopportune moment. I read poetry. I am somebody. I am the people, too. It can be allowed that an industrious quantity of contemporary American poetry is consciously written for a hermetic constituency; the bulk is written for the bourgeoisie, leaving a lean cut for labor. Only the hermetically aimed has a snowball’s chance in hell of reaching its intended ears. One proceeds from this realization. A staggering figure of vibrant, intelligent people can and do live without poetry, especially without the poetry of their time. This figure includes the unemployed, the rank and file, the union brass, banker, scientist, lawyer, doctor, architect, pilot, and priest. It also includes most academics, most of the faculty of the humanities, most allegedly literary editors and most allegedly literary critics. They do so–go forward in their lives, toward their great reward, in an engulfing absence of poetry–without being perceived or perceiving themselves as hobbled or deficient in any significant way. It is nearly true, though I am often reminded of a Transtromer broadside I saw in a crummy office building in San Francisco:

We got dressed and showed the house

You live well the visitor said

The slum must be inside you.

If I wanted to understand a culture, my own for instance, and if I thought such an understanding were the basis for a lifelong inquiry, I would turn to poetry first. For it is my confirmed bias that the poets remain the most ‘stunned by existence,’ the most determined to redeem the world in words..”
― C.D. Wright, Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil

Faces and Masks Cento

December 3, 2015

I don’t normally incorporate poetic forms in my work but having come across the form of the cento, I thought that sounds interesting. I flipped through several books to pick the words that would form the basis of the piece. The lyricism of Eduardo Galeono’s trilogy Memory of Fire fired my imagination the most for this exercise and so I went with Faces and Masks, the 2nd volume in the series. Here is my attempt at a cento:

 

Ever since dawn
the ground has been steaming
pleading for a drink
while the living seek shade
and fan themselves.

Hidalgo spent the night with his eyes
fixed on the ceiling of the cell
saying goodbye:

my father didn’t put me among the rich
or the generals or those who have money
or claim to have it.

my father put me with the poor
because i am poor.

At the edge of the village of Morón
a common grave
swallows the bones of a poet
who until yesterday
had a guitar
and a name.

His unshrouded body
ends up in the earth;
his couplets, also naked,
also plebeian,
abide in the winds.

On the street
someone plucks
lamentations
from a guitar.

Handmade Books

December 23, 2014

The other day, roaming around my internal universe, I thought to myself, why not hand make your next book? Knowing next to nothing about the art, I went straight to Google. The best tutorial I saw was on thelateafternoon.com although my book is not going to be a scrap book so the idea of using cardboard, even well-disguised cardboard, for the material wasn’t embraceable.

On to YouTube where I found the following video:

This one seems more my speed and the place for the poems that I’ve been holding onto. It’s exciting (read rejuvenating). I have several poems just sitting waiting to be part of a book whose finish date seems getting further and further away from me. I realized I may have been thinking about the whole process incorrectly. Even though I have ISBNs somewhere collecting dust, I don’t have to go that route. I can make a little book out of those orphan poems with my very own hands.

Making my own books is something I’ve always pondered even though before this recent cognition, the ponder was located in the black hole of the universe mentioned above. As such my ideas hadn’t yet traveled the distance from the source long-buried thought to today’s age of technology. When I talked about this project with my son, he took pains to inform that he had done this already in his former classroom. Well, “don’t you feel dumb now, Mom, don’t cha?”

Well, yes, I do. But my dumb self is also very excited! And so are the orphaned poems!

Nonsense Makes Sense

July 23, 2014

Nonsense Makes Sense

We tango sambo
Manifesting delicious
Delinquency to the tune
Of tito
Ditto machito & his afro-cubans
Plantation palpitations
Bandana fandango
Somber sambo
Santería celia
Cruz middle passage
Memorizing meringue
Sherbro sho bro
Talk that talk
Tantalize romanticize
Defecate delinquencies
Until p diddy’s umbrella
Is eunichized

Colonial colón
Original origami
Paper tigers like swans, geishas, gertrude
& virginia
Shakespeare’s sister
In a room of her own
But I’da b well damned
If that be my destiny.

Isis Osiris
Sister brother
Wife husband
Ashes spread across seven skies
And I, sis, come looking
Reunification rectification
Holy wholeness
Can’t flub it
Or fuck with it
Untouchable like beloved
Whole womb
Embraces total nut
And it’s on
Like donkey kong
Or king kong
Who ain’t got nuttin on me
Cept extended stomach
Moon round
Full and fecund
Digging the ground
For roots
Sooty black foots my only carriage
But divorce not marriage
That be how I do it do it
While you try to woo it
Only to end up rueing it
Behind some foolish shit

But that ain’t the end
As I extend into tomorrow
No sorrow
As I search the world round
For the proper noun
To give my seed

P.A.C vs my history
Sobukwe no way
Dahomey da homey
Africa to america
Da homey
Get it on, Gat it on
Get get gone
Only grass seen
Prison lawn

Don 3 of 4
1st sankara
2nd kono
And yeah, fauna
Has his name
Nowhere near lame

And I reclaim my fame
Signing my true name
I, Sis, You, Bro, San, Son
Isis Osiris and Horus
True trinity.

 

Excerpted from my book, Still Living on my Feet.