Built Like A Cross (Excerpt from “Copperhead”)

She said I was conceived inside a church, that’s why my body built like a cross. I’m just straight up and down and I like it. I like it ’cause I can be free. Many of these women bound. They are bound to service a man’s desires in one way or another. Whether they want to or not. If a man asserts that a woman ought to present herself prim and priss and she acts to fill up that thought or rebels against it, she’s adhering to that man’s demand on womanhood. And if she spends her life presenting cactus when she is a delicate flower she is still servicing his desires. Giving him dominion over her present self as if Adam didn’t nibble that forbidden fruit as well.

Pastor, at the old dusty, block church down the street, preached a talltale about Eve’s body seducin’ the man to go against God. Proclaiming that’s the reason women gotta walk around in a winter coat, even when the sun feelin’ extra proud. That’s why she gotta avoid temptin’ the man, so he don’t go against God. But woman was made like that, and man was made to want her just like that. Well, most men.

Mama once told me men are selfish.  I theorize man’s so attracted to woman because she was made from his leftovers, and he wants those leftovers back. So he can’t listen to God because he’s too in love with that piece of himself the woman got. (That’s half of what I took from mama’s daily Bible lessons, whether she knows it or not depends on the day.)

That pastor must not listen to God for his word ’cause I don’t know what told him to preach that nonsense. Now, devout women can’t wiggle a toe without worryin’ whether some man is gonna be able to control himself during service. Sounds like man got a handicap to me. And God gave it to him, maybe on accident, when he tore that rib from his chest.  Like I said, man so selfish he got to feel himself again and he can’t do that without the woman. And he lusts for that missing piece of himself so bad that he’d bone a woman in the usher board room if his body mirrored his thoughts.

Adam nibbled that fruit because he wanted to. Women tell men to do things all the time that they don’t do; like be truthful and don’t outright lie about cheatin’ when our chests are bleeding from the wound the deed left. I’m a woman, I ain’t gotta catch you in the act. I love you so I feel the piece of yourself you gave away. Because I’m selfish, too. I got one part of you, and I want more. I want it all. I don’t just want to be made- I want to be created. I’ma create myself by building on that rib–give me a hand too, and enough of your heart to keep you living, but half because of me. God gave Eve that rib and that’s where man’s selfishness lies. Because the ribs protect the heart. They’re meant to protect your own vitality, not separately, but together. So to take a piece of a man’s chance for prosperity– he can’t stand it. He just gotta get it back.

And we, we women, protect his heart because we know he’s missin’ one bar from his steel safe. And we feel that we need more of him just to be strong enough to protect him. That’s only because we forgot that God spat on us, too. Doesn’t matter whether a rib was our womb, or not. God put His hands on us, too. We can protect ourselves. God gave us an extra rib because the man, on top of being selfish, is arrogant. But we know better. God made us more humble, that’s why we allow men to govern our lives. That might not have been intended though.

We ought to use that extra rib to protect our pulses from him, too. Man can’t see beyond himself, and woman can’t stop loving man more than herself, because she feels guilty about having his rib. That’s what God told me at least. If I walk in a church naked as a jay bird and a man decides to play with himself during devotion then that ain’t got nothing to do with me. That’s just how God made him. So one day I’ll tell that pastor don’t make Eve to be the problem, when God the one who took Adam’s rib.  

And many of us women are bound, like I say, because we want men to want something from us. Be it a way to feel connected to common misconceptions of man-ness, Darwin’s capitalism, or to religious perpetuations. The man don’t know how to do nothing ‘cept use a woman or control one altogether. Ain’t all that well no matter what the intent: be it modesty or lasciviousness. A woman ought to be something for a man– submissive, sexy, virtuous, a momma or a sister or a mistress; in every case the woman’s supposed to bend if she’s going to be considered loving.

But mama said I’m built like a cross because I was thought of in that church. That’s the moment I was quickened, before a self could even call a name. I don’t bend. It just ain’t in my makeup, being angles with no give. This ol’ head being polished from the last push mama mustered before she decided against being a mother also contributes to the fact that I can walk right up to a badgeman all bare up top and he won’t twitch to arrest me. He’d rather pretend his eyes have been boiled in bog water when all he can see before him is places the sun doesn’t tend to. But the badgeman don’t know that I can hear the screams such a torture would elicit, were he not pretending.

Many people scream in the back of their minds rather than out of their mouths so, by the time the words get out, they don’t resemble words at all; they look more like avoiding eye contact, disingenuous smiles, a stiffness in the jaw– and they don’t sound like words either. No, they sound more like gavels striking polished blocks of wood when you, yourself, have been found guilty by a jury that never recognized you as a peer.

The screams people orchestrated about me tend along the lines of me being a ‘shim’, so they all but boil their eyes in bog water to avoid the PC Nazis and courtrooms. To appear tolerant and progressive. But they can never rid themselves of the incessant gnat that draws their attention away from self-righteousness: truth.

The rest of the screams translate to “That’s just a pretty boy that survived some kind of malignance in his life” to “She just sick, that’s all. Them treatments take your hair and your dignity as an adult; as a child it must take your sense, too.” But, to a learned eye (and ear), the screams people try to muffle with etiquette look and sound just like what they are: lies.

I ain’t ever been one to focus on screaming, no matter the disguise. That’s a big part of that freedom I talked about: knowing things not because a man told you, but because you know yourself. They’re so conflicted about me because they don’t know what to do about themselves. I got them casting question marks at their surest laws. I make them ask the Lord to help them be more like Him. Just because I am who I am, they can find comfort in who they are not. That ain’t what the mistranslated screams will gossip, but that’s the sun shining right on you at midday, merely the sun’s reflection at midnight. Laying out bare in the noon daylight is the fatherly kind of sun, because it’s direct.

Excerpt from Copperhead Manuscript

#copperhead, #excerpt, #faith, #gender-norms, #prose, #short-story

You Do It Different From Me (Excerpt from “Mannah”)

Banjo tasted skin. Not his own skin. Soft, though. Warm. Urgent.

“What in Gabriel’s Moon…” thought Banjo, hazily. He inhaled. The wind forced into his chest roused him gently. Drearily, Mannah filled his vision. He jolted upright. Dust clinging, obsessively, to the back of his old T-shirt. “What happened?”

“You blacked out. You stopped breathing…” Mannah stared like he could meet the sun’s gaze.

“Blacked out…?” Banjo, now aware of his surroundings, searched for his guitar.

“It’s in the spirit world.” Mannah stated knowingly.

“Mannah, what the hell are you babblin’ about now? Where’s the guitar?” impatience strengthening his limbs.

“I just toldja.”

“You’re makin’ about as much sense as a Christian revival. Speak plain just this once.” No longer grounded, Banjo stared down at Mannah. Still half-clothed. No shoes. No dust, except on his fingers from drawing in the dirt as Banjo revived.

“The guitar. It ain’t here no more.” Mannah kept a steady gaze on Banjo. As if he were conversing with a water moccasin during mating season. “How’d you do it, Banjh? I saw it but I didn’t see how you did it. You do it different from me.”

“You sure I blacked out? I think maybe you hit your head and I’m trapped in your hallucinations. I don’t have the cleanliest idea what you’re talkin’ about. I just need that guitar. I gotta return it. Ain’t nothin’ supernatural ’bout getting cussed out.”


#christianity, #excerpt, #gender-norms, #prose, #scenes, #short-story

Scattered (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations”)

like sunflower seeds and cigar ashes and Bic lighters in college apartments

like a new mother’s worries, single or not

like

like my father’s children

sunflower seeds and cigar ashes

Bic lighters in college apartments

dust in the suburbs dust in the hood dust in the pews of full churches

new mother’s worries new father’s misconcerns

good cops good politicians honor among priests

the right to due process

privilege among thieves

sunflower seeds and cigar ashes

Bic lighters between bishops

Walmarts and cockroaches when the switch is flipped

dandelion seeds in Franklin county fields

Wafflehouses and hip hop clubs in the city

cigarette butts and futile scratch offs

like

like our Father’s children

like my Father’s children

~Rahk.

#art-therapy, #christianity, #hard-conversations, #history, #relationships, #spoken-words, #talking-to-myself

Celebrating One Year of Rahk’s Water

Re-presenting “The Art Inside”, a 2016 mashup of multiple poems that expressed a series of truths for your favorite bald poet. It’s 5 minutes long, but I think it’s worth it.

#hope, #journal, #life, #love, #memories, #poetry, #raw, #scenes, #spoken-words

Overthinking, For Lack of a Better Word

I have the tendency to become caught up in the intricacies of things, titles, for instance. Commas are another. I get caught up in a buffet of thoughts and how to decide which thoughts should darken a page. I get caught up in things like pages, and how this glowy white backdrop is actually not a page. I get caught up in the names of things, how inaccurate words can be. How a name can summon more than identification. How a name, or more accurately, a label, can conjure expectations as well as visual references.

Clearly, I do not find it overwhelming to filter through all of these thoughts, and both their implications and their representations in a judgmental culture. Perhaps all cultures are plagued with a bit of judgment.

Perhaps the title should be…I almost had it. Then I thought that maybe you wouldn’t find the title attractive. Then I thought, perhaps I’m too tired from adulting to wield creativity as I did in my college-aged youth.

Overthinking…it’s a bit generic, maybe, but it fits. Although, I do find the term a bit oxymoronic. How does one measure the appropriate amount of inner-dialogue, self-reflection, or simple ponderings that run free in our minds? Overthinking…there has to be a more accurate word, but the thought hasn’t come to me yet. There are so many other thoughts crowding the way.

What Did Jesus Teach About Prayer, I Wondered.

I could take time to offer a cute little anecdote about how in a conscious effort to get even closer to my mom, I had us start this thing called Word Up Wednesday. I know the title isn’t very original, but the action of it is.

On Wednesdays, my mom and I simply send a scripture to each other and put #WordUp in front of it. Sometimes, it’s race to see which one of us sends the first #WordUp. After several weeks, I’ve noticed that this mom-son thing does three things: 1) it makes sure that, no matter what, on Wednesday my mom and I are going to be in touch, 2) it ensures that I continue to practice self-discipline by sticking with it, and 3) it also enriches my understanding of the bible in real time.

See, there’s no need to share that little anecdote because today is Monday and I had some down time. I ended up in Matthew 5 because I had a question about prayer and that question was: What did Jesus teach about prayer?

After a quick google search, I came across Matthew 5:23-24. To get a better understanding of the context, I went ahead and started at verse 1. Before we get to Matthew 5:23, Jesus begins teaching his disciples what we know as The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). Next, he uses the metaphors of salt and light to describe his disciples (Matthew 5:13-16). Then Jesus expounds upon the Law, that which the pharisees and other religious leaders all but claimed to practice to the letter (Matthew 5:17-20).

Now, in Matthew 5:21 (NIV), Jesus refers to what the Law said about murderers: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.

Jesus’ mentioning of judgment resonated with me because my best friend and I had been discussing the oft quoted Matthew 7:1 (KJV), ” Judge not, that ye be not judged. We also discussed the less often quoted verse 2, which reads: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The King James Version can be a little confusing so the New International Version translates both verses to:  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

So, back to Matthew 5:21. Jesus compares someone being judged (presumably by God) for murder to one who simply carries anger against a loved one (“brother or sister”). By extending judgment beyond the murderer, Jesus leveled the playing field, so to speak. Judgment doesn’t just belong to the murderer, judgement also belongs to anyone who holds anger in their heart towards another, notably a brother or sister. Does anger not ofttimes lead to murder? Hmmm…I’ll explore that thought another time.

Additionally, in Matthew 5:22 (NIV), Jesus goes on to say: Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Now, I am honestly unfamiliar with the term ‘Raca’, as I’m sure most people are as it is not a phrase native to our time period or culture. But I am familiar with ‘You fool!’ and even those who utter this phrase will “be in danger of the fire of hell”, according to Jesus. Again, Jesus levels the playing field in my opinion. Meaning none of us should be quick to exalt our ‘righteousness’ over another’s. Likewise, none of us should be quick to put another’s sins over ours. But that’s human nature isn’t it? Perhaps that’s why Jesus said: “Judge not, lest ye be judged”?

If you continue to read Matthew 5, Jesus continues teaching his disciples the fullness of the law similarly to how he taught them about murders and those who harbor anger. He dropped further divine knowledge about adultery, oath breakers, justice, and more. He also advised them on matters they would encounter going forward as his disciples.

Coming across this passage reassured me somehow. Perhaps I understand how Jesus was teaching his disciples that appearances don’t matter to God, that simply adhering to the dos and don’ts of the law does not guarantee righteousness. That though one may not be a murderer in the literal sense, hating your sister is not righteous either. Jesus taught them to be wary of deeming others fools, because by doing so we subject ourselves to judgment. In other words, we are all imperfect. We all have our faults, if we’re being honest. We’re all equal.

And to think, my initial question that led to all this was: “What did Jesus teach about prayer?”

With A Note (written 2012)

It’s not that I presumed…

It’s not that I presumed greatness before its time, demanding accolades for works yet unwritten.
There’s a reason, I must believe according to faith, that rejection has stood stone-faced behind opportunity’s many doors.
As I must believe, according to that same faith, that more often, and when it counts, acceptance will greet me at those doors with open arms.

I must believe that purpose cannot be ignored forever.
That hard work pays off.
That little boys can grow up to be the heroes they wished they’d encountered.

Where Do I Begin (Midnight Ramblings)

How do I start? How do I determine if the seed came before the flower or the flower before the seed? Perhaps the question is how do I begin. Perhaps the question is why should I begin. Perhaps the question is an expansive universe full of strange suns. Perhaps questions are both seed and flower.

“Did I start in the valley?” wonders the seed. “Or are my origins more rock than soil?”

How do we start? How do we determine if our pain came before the love, or the love before the pain? Perhaps the question is: how do we begin? Perhaps the question is: why should we begin? As it stands, beginnings transition into endings, as is the natural order.

But can words, convenient as they are, truly pronounce the beginning in its purest form? But can words, generous as they are, grant us reprieve from the frustration of inaccuracy? How useful is a metaphor with a shoddy bridge connecting the comparisons? The seed or the flower, the beginning or the end, the pain or the love, the answer or the question?

Is a man a flower? Are flowers black? Can petals remain fragrantly appealing when pigmented brown?
Is a man a seed? Are seeds mere flowers? Can men remain fragrantly appealing when pigmented brown?

Perhaps the question is when will I begin to focus my thoughts.
Perhaps the question is a matter of faith.
But in whom?

Chapters 10-11 (Excerpts from “Master of Silence”)

Chapter 10-Bible Study

and the esteemed master teacher

bent the pulpit to his will
in the name of the spirit, saying:

“Woman must be clay
to leave room for a husband

Woman must be clay
to leave room for a career

Woman must be clay
to leave room for her children

Woman must be clay
to leave room for God”


Chapter 11-Sunday School

“Master teacher?”

“Yes, little Rahk?”

“Why must woman be clay?”

“To leave room…”

“But what about her womb?”

“What about it, son?”

“–It expands as life grows.
But the room woman leaves
seem to keep doors closed…”

“Well, I’ll tell you this, I’ll tell you no more than twice.
Woman must certainly leave enough room
to open the door for Wife.”

“That’s not what The Spirit says,” insisted Rahk.

“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this!”

“The Spirit says she is water
and man must make room for her mist.”

Possible Opening Scene For “Water: The Play”

Setting the Scene: Curtains open. Three women of varying ages and three men of varying ages face each other; a pair of women, a pair of men, and a pair with both. The lighting shifts from ample light to low light, mimicking the performers’ voices.

Males: We are told that we are flowers–

Females: That should bloom a certain color–

In Unison: So that we might

Male Facing Female: So that we might

Female Facing Female: So that we might

In Unison: …Be picked. We were told that we are flowers that should bloom a certain color, so that we might be picked.

Females: But why must we die for someone else’s sorry?

Males: But why must we be cut to sprout another’s smile?

In Unison: But why must we grow to bloom a certain color if we cannot die as ourselves?

Female Facing Male: I’ve lain I love you at your feet one too many times…

Female Facing Female: My I love you is not a bouquet to lay in the dirt!

Male Facing Male: My I love you is not a spider to be smashed in fear!

Female Facing Female: I’ve lain I love you at your feet one too many times…

Male Facing Female: My I love you is not a bouquet to leave unwatered.

Female Facing Male: My I love you is not a roach scurrying in the shadows!

In Unison: My I love you does not belong at your feet, but here it is again…

Female Facing Male: I expect more of you
because I see you as
a reason to believe
that love can transform
boys into men
who do not run
from hard conversations

Female Facing Female: My expectations
are not laws to imprison u
for living. U commit no crime
against me. Though,
sometimes your silence
is an ache in my stomach.
U are not my child. I cannot
carry you. Look how u shine.
I am no god to raise the sun,
though I grow from the light…

In Unison: We grow from the light.

Male Facing Male: Talk to me.
It’s the silence that
fathers this Distance.

You are not my father.

Talk to me.
Your constant silence
fathers this Doubt.

Female Facing Female: I need you to talk to me.
Your silence fathers this Distance.

What are we now?

Talk to me.
Your constant silence
fathers this Doubt.

And I am with child…

Female Facing Male: You told me
that you were my first
underneath the white light
of a blue door
on a dark night
with poems between us
knowing I had no trophy
to give you.

Male Facing Female: With years between us,
you allowed the silence
to stand. While I boasted,
certain of my place
on the empty stage
of your auditorium.

Male Facing Male: What didn’t you say
the night I caught you
considering me, smiling,
hand on cheek?

Female Facing Famale: What didn’t you say the night you clung to me,
saving your tears
to pour in my glass?

In Unison (louder): What didn’t you say the night you clung to me,
saving your tears
to pour in my glass?

Females and Male Facing Male: The same glass
we shattered on a whim,
with poems between us…

Alternate Females and Alternate Male: I did not duck
when your tears
splattered like acid
along my cheek.

Male Facing Female (with revelation): This is not the scar of friendship–

Male Facing Male (with revelation): This is not the scar of friendship–

Female Facing Female (with uncertainty): This is not the scar of friendship…

In Unison (with conviction): These are not the scars of friendship!


(Scene description and roles added to original post on February 23, 2019)

#brainstorming, #relationships, #scenes, #spoken-words, #water

Introducing “Mannah”, inspired by “Copperhead”.

Mannah never seems to notice the uneasy stares as he saunters barefoot across the street from the In & Out Mart off 56. The gas pumpers and the mail-checking neighbors never got used to seeing the young man walking with nothin’ but a pair of jeans cut off mid-thigh. He showed too much knee for a man of color. It didn’t help that he ran a lot in his earlier youth. Chasing dragonflies around the Miller pond gave him legs like an insect. His grandpa called him Grasshopper because of it. Told him, “If we judged by ‘pearances, we’d sing tale of you jumpin’ over Gabriel’s Moon.”

“Gabriel’s Moon” is a fable generations spread like butter on cornbread. The angel Gabriel had a bet with his brother, Jeffrey. Jeffrey swore that he could do a backflip over the moon if Gabriel’d just give him a hand-boost. Gabriel laughed at his lie but agreed to boost him anyway. The time came when the moon was low and hung like a witch’s smile. Lo! And Behold! Jeffrey careened up into the night sky and cleared the moon with a clumsy backflip! Gabriel boosted him but Jeffrey never quite got his footing. His left foot caught up on the last corner of the moon and that off-kilter backflip landed him square on his back. Crushed his wings all to canyon dust. He won the bet but his wings didn’t take him to heaven after that. He could only get as high as the moon when its just above the tree tops and the family always calls it Gabriel’s Moon.

Mannah, or Grasshopper when grandpa calls him, was built to clear that moon without a boost from Gabriel. All from trying to catch dragonflies on the edge of Miller’s pond. The people looked on as Mannah’s shoulder blades reflected the sun like a new penny. His skin always looked like a pre-winter leaf with the sun smiling behind it. June always called him “Pond Water” because he was just brown enough to require a bit of sunlight to see the sparse hair keen on his legs and arms and chest. Not to mention the patch, like down on a baby duck, just below the back of his neck. Save for that hair and his proud eyebrows, Mannah was bald.

He kept on heading down the path toward the old brick church. Dirt and rocks almost parting for his barefeet, like some country Moses. Humming a poem he read when he was a teenybopper, the whispers and puzzled faces becoming the baseline for his song. He felt it to his bones, but never acknowledged a thing. He never did lend an eye to those things people didn’t want him to see. Mannah didn’t wonder about the whispers covered by hands. Didn’t cast a thought to why Banjo tripped over a string whenever he came around the bend. Must not be important. If it was, someone would say something to him directly. Since no one ever did, it wasn’t a matter of life and death. When it’s a matter of life and death even dragonflies speak.

“Banjo, I swear. I put it on everything. The dragonfly spoke.” insisted Mannah.

“Grasshopper,” Banjo knew his friends grandpa, “that damn dragonfly didn’t say shit to you. Stop lying for once!”

“Did to. I was chasing him, a pretty one too. His wings were like black cobwebs carrying him around that pond. Flitting away as soon as I could get close enough to see how his backside was bluer than ol’ Ms. Carnegie’s eyes.” Mannah sat beside Banjo like a frog, hands on the tops of his feet. Banjo theorized that if Mannah used all the strength in his legs he’d probably leap over Pond-Lake County.

“That sounds like a dragonfly alright. But it don’t sound like a talking dragonfly. Did you see his mouth?” Banjo started tinkering with his guitar, a hand-me-down from his favorite uncle.

“Well if you shut up a minute I’ll tell you again. I was chasing him, like I said, and he went to the back part of Miller’s pond…where the bog is,” Mannah hopped on tiptoe in front of his companion, “but I was a kid then. I didn’t know any better.”

“You sound like you don’t know any better now; talkin ’bout a talking bug.” Banjo eyed Mannah as he leapt around. He wondered why the man never seemed to have dirt on the bottoms of his feet or sweat runnin’ down his back. He was swimmin’ stark naked in his own skin due to the southern sun. He couldn’t fathom setting a socked foot in that ground, nevermind his bare foot.

Mannah leaned against the brick wall and continued, “To get that dragonfly I started to run right into the bog and that’s when it happened. That dragonfly turned around and said, ‘Gwon now! Get!’ and I froze midstep. He sounded like Big Pa when he said it.” Mannah finally made eye contact with Banjo.

“Nigga, if you don’t get the fuck outta here. It probably was Mr. Washington yelling from the house.” Banjo’s borrowed guitar lay on the ground. Its keeper couldn’t focus on one cord when in Mannah’s presence. Quiet as its kept, Banjo just couldn’t think and play at the same time. Why Mannah made him think so hard remains a mystery.

“No, Big Pa was at this church. I know what I saw…and heard.” Mannah somehow slid down the old brick wall, without smearing his skin along its weathered surface, to sit wide-legged on the sparse grass and ample dirt. Banjo inexplicably noticed his companion’s cut-off jeans shifting, baring more skin.

“Man, I ain’t foolin with you today,” Banjo muttered in annoyance while wiping the dirt from his guitar. “I’m going to go practice some more. See if Ms. June wants a private show.”

“Ms. June is old enough to be both our grandmother’s.” Mannah didn’t move from his spot on the wall.

“I know. That’s what sweetens the tea, Grasshopper. That’s what sweetens the tea,” he winked and said, “See ya.” Banjo hurried away– glancing back once while shaking his head as Mannah rolled on his stomach. You’d think he was laying on a sleep number bed, Banjo remarked to himself. As he turned his head back towards his destination, Banjo observed that there was not a particle of dust dulling the soles of Mannah’s feet or his exposed back. Mannah’s skin was somehow untouched by the complimentary coating of dust that assaulted everything else, even clothes.

Puzzled, Banjo shook his head again. He spent more time than he’d admit to himself dwelling on that peculiar sight. He spent no time at all questioning why he noticed in the first place. Finally, Banjo stared at the path to Ms. June’s; his head was still shaking when the sun blew out.

—–*—–

Rahk.

#copperhead, #excerpt, #prose, #relationships, #scenes, #short-story, #spoken-words, #storytime, #water