Still, I Let You In (A Soliloquy)

I’ve seen the back of heads and asses switch to a goodbye beat too many times to count.

Said farewell in every language except happiness and left tears smudged on so many doorknobs I’ve lost count in the aftermath and still, I let you in.

Let you stop on the stoop, drag your feet across the plain old mat to keep from dragging grass across the carpet, and eventually, I’ll see those same feet dashing in the other direction, and it’s so depressing.

Still, I let you in. Still, I offer you a cool drink of water, or something stronger, but you’re never up for it. I sip alone.

Maybe these spirits won’t haunt your footsteps in the morning or the evening or the yesteryear I’ve come to live with…

#black-stories, #divorce, #gender-norms, #grief, #hard-conversations, #heartbreak, #love-poems, #soliloquy, #spoken-words

An Awkward Pause (excerpt from “Hard Conversations: Love Poems”)

The parts of self we smother

To keep silent

So that we are not falsely accused

Of over-reaction

So that we are not falsely accused

Of being

“Soft”

So that we are not falsely accused

Of (un)professionalism

Of protest

So that we are not falsely accused

Of inserting an “I” where “I” does not belong

As if I, as if we, don’t belong in front of feelings

As if I, as if we, don’t feel

The phantom knee on my, on our, necks

The parts of self that hold tight to our chest

That clench almost painfully behind closed lips

The parts that resent us for pressing the pillow exactly where other parts asked the pillow to be pressed

The parts that never run out of breath, that don’t submit to the attempt to suppress, even when breath falters

The parts that care nothing of status quo and take sustenance from passive resistance

The parts that cry out, that raise up, that stand proud, that hold firm

The parts that find air to breathe despite the knee

Those parts understand

They understand that sytemic silence is not survival

But acceptance

~Rahk.

#america, #art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #black-lives-matter, #black-stories, #equality, #gender-norms, #hard-conversations, #human-rights, #masculinity, #poem, #politics, #raw

English 301 in Retrospect

They taught me that poems shakespeare into sonnets.
Piercing the present so William keeps living on
’cause we study his writing as if no other
art has been written. Shakespeare is dead but they still
won’t kill him. Or let him die. Worshipping his words,
they grant him eternal life. The skin of his voice,
a representation of White. He lives so free
on American soil. Immigrants in our art.
No wall was ever proposed for dead citizens
smuggled into the nation by the well-to-do.
I’m reforming the sonnet. Shakespeare needs rest, too.
He speaks no more. Writes even less ’bout much ado.
Silencing dead voices- my “taming of the shrew”.
Silencing dead voices- my “taming of the shrew”.

#black-lives-matter, #poem, #poetry, #sonnet

Rest

Go to Baptism Lake

Sit on the water, take a seat

Dip your feet

That hand on your scarred back

Is an inquisitive wind

That coolness is the sin of your obedience washing away

That warmth is praise for your skin

That sunlight is not a whip

That bird song is not an alarm

That splash might be a tear

But that’s okay, it’s okay

Rest does not require strong arms

~Rahk.

#art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #black-stories, #faith, #history, #poem, #poetry, #rest, #water

Maaan

1. Maaan, you must be crazy

To think that I’m going to hold it all in

To reflect your blurry image of masculinity

You ain’t no mirror of mine

Light does not bounce between us

When I stand naked

Before a modest vanity

2. It makes no sense for rock to float

It makes no sense for water to dig graves

It makes no sense to know you are vast yet refuse to acknowledge your sky

Don’t hold it in, not when ocean water presses its skin against sunrise

I won’t hold it in, not when rushing water wears solid rock like old garments

3. Why should I hold it in?

Bruh, for whom would I be saving face?

I know who I am

I know Jesus wept

Why can’t you? Why can’t I?

Are we not vast? Are we not sky?

Maaan, gone and cry

~Rahk

#black-men, #black-stories, #fathers, #grief, #hard-conversations, #hope, #letter, #lgbtqa, #love-poems, #manhood, #masculinity, #mothers, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #relationships, #rock, #sons, #toxic-masculinity

Some don’t belong on public domains

Some thoughts thrive on discretion

Some thoughts slip by undetected

Some thoughts don’t care to know their own strength

While others struggle to breathe past the knee

And still certain knees apply more pressure

For their thoughts never drift to consequence

For their privilege undermines certain life

For their privilege denies a certain right

For their privilege relies on the presumed purity of white

Some thoughts claim to not see color, preferring selective sight

~Rahk

#black-art-matters, #black-lives-matter, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #stop-killing-us, #thoughts

You Tried It (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations: Love Poems”)

You are less empty than you pretend

You are no cup air drying on the counter
You are no tablet, factory reset successful
You are not the first page in the sketchbook of an undiscovered artist

You are far less empty than you pretend

You are:
A crescent moon peaking from your whole self,
The beginning of a hidden forest,
The living scripture spoken by God
punctuated by revelations.

You are full and splashing over the hard edges of the Hoover Dam
unable to be contained
by concrete, steel, and man’s intentions

~Rahk

#art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #egos, #faith, #hope, #life, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry

The Text Read: “I need u to write me a poem…”

When the text came in, I was overjoyed. As an avid advocator of self-expression, I insisted that she was perfectly capable of writing it herself–she, of course, begged to differ but sent her thoughts anyway. She would not let me convince her that her thoughts, as they stood, qualified as a poem. She laughed me off and insisted that I take the wheel. Using her original poem/thoughts as a guide, I composed a new poem. It was as exhilarating as always! Here is her original:

Happy,
I don’t want your so-called happiness
I don’t want to be so happy
that I strain my physical astigmatism
To adjust my minds eye to the blindness
of my deceitful figurative heart
I don’t want to be happy anymore,
knowing that when I turn the corner
I’ll be blindsided by a breathtaking blow
I don’t want to be happy anymore
ignoring the push of your pain
and the pain of your push
I don’t want to be happy anymore
when u ask for I do
but show me you don’t
until you do again
I don’t want to be happy anymore
if it means extreme highs and bottomed out lows
I don’t want to be happy anymore w/ you…

~Anonymous

Poetry, for me, has always been conversation. A conversation between the heart and the mind, or between the writer and the subject, or with no one in particular. The next poem is my side of the conversation, my response, which I see as a sort of translation.

Your so-called happy
don’t spell itself out for me
for us
for this we I faithed
into existence
This happy you preached
to my congregational heart
This happy you requested offering for
only to frown at my 2 cents

You are not familiar with kneeling
You do not understand altars
Your happy knows nothing of repentance

I don’t want no happy
that requires a sermon
before I can eat
I can’t rejoice over no happy
that disturbs my astigmatism,
changing how I see myself
I can’t use no happy
that hurts to smile through
for us
for this we
I feared into existence

You can no longer sway me
with charismatic words
and open arms
I’m keeping my last 2 cents
You’d misplace ’em anyway

~Rahk

Ahh. The joys of collaborative expression. Who’s next?

#art-therapy, #gender-norms, #hard-conversations, #heart-break, #life, #love, #love-poems, #poetry, #raw, #relationships

Badu’s Son

A Badu song

Mothered my manhood

Told me

Boys can cry like yeyo

Told me

Boys, too, miss planes when dragging too many bags

Told me

God’s image is mine to claim as I am

Told me

Buildings crumble so why should one bear my name

Told me my name is a Black mother’s prayer

Answered in faith, with sound mind

Told me man’s strength is not greater than womb,

but born of it

in God’s time.

~Rahk

#black-art-matters, #black-stories, #erykah-badu, #faith, #love-poems, #manhood, #masculinity, #memories, #mothers, #poem, #poetry, #toxic-masculinity

Ask America if She Prays

Ask America if she prays
If she turns to Mecca or Medina
Or a dilapidated temple
Ask her if she bows her head
in silence while drinking Merlot
And munching Merita
Ask America if she battles jihad
If she moans like great grandmas
Or weeps like the son of gods
Or the scar of David

Ask her if she prays.
Then ask her 
If she lays prostrate on bloody ground
Or reclines on rickety pews—
They pierce your side if you don’t sit still
What is faith if not splintered?

Ask her if she wails at the Western Wall
If her knees have been bruised by absolution of sins
If her back bends to the will of her forefathers
Or hugs trees that smell like Trayvon Martin,
James Craig Anderson, Emmett Till,
Burmingham’s Four, Corporal John C. Jones,
Roger and Millie Kate Malcolm,
George and Mae Dorsey,
pregnant Mary Turner
and all other Persons Unknown

Ask America if she prays
For herself or for her enemies
For her future or for her past
Or does America trust in good deeds?

America must pray serenity
To change the things she dared not
And accept the things she had the audacity to do
And to never learn the difference

Ask her if she prays skyward
Or to a torrid tormented South,
to an idol or to a god
To a beautiful or a brave
We all just want to be free
Ask her. Ask America if she prays
And I bet she’ll tell you that prayer,
Just like hope, ain’t for everybody 

~Rahk.

Originally Published in the 2013 volume of the Coraddi

The Tale of Kaajah, The Puma

    You never hear her jump. You never hear her land either. You never hear her. You never hear her coming, a shadow of twilight with no voice. Men traveling near her lair feel intruded upon, like a spiders web in your belly instead of butterflies. That’s because they could sense her though she did not roar, or scream gutturally, or hiss. No. The men could feel her presence, though her eyes glinted in their lamp lights, they did not see her shine. She’s a fair predator, always giving warning. You can see your final destination in her eyes, if you let yourself meet her gaze. Be bold enough to stare a puma in the eyes. But they rarely do. They rarely stare her in the eyes but they knew she was there. Men, ever fond of legends, offered her a name: Kaajah.

    “Why don’t they ever look me in my eyes, mother? Why don’t they look me in my eyes?” asks Kaajah of this old tree that died long before it lived. Always stuck in one place, taking what the wind and rain decided to give it. The tree died but when woman dies she is still fertility to the land. Kaajah named the tree, Mother. Mother, the great tree who bears no more leaves yet nurtures a wild beast. Tames a puma.  Mother tamed a puma. She loved her. Kaajah knew it. Only Mother would carve a hole in herself big enough for Siberian tiger, but a mansion for a cub. Kaajah felt the rain, Mother’s crown whittled away long ago. She stood open to the sky. Kaajah, miserable at first, began to hear the rain’s language. She could interpret it’s tongue, though it came from the sky, the rain was native to earth, like Kahjah. She felt the rain.

    Mother allowed her to learn the language, ensured she learned the language. Though she could not roar, she could communicate. She could leap. She could jump high, almost 20 ft as an afterthought. Double that when excited. The only thing is, the higher she jumped, the lighter she became until she’d almost merge with the sky. And though she could relate to the rain, she knew she was native to earth. What kind of life would a puma have in the sky? No. She had to stay with Mother and listen to the rain tell it’s life story and leap whenever she felt like talking.

    Then a man thing spoke to her. Kaajah could not understand. She peered behind Mother’s root. Tail serpentine yet earnest. The man thing seemed different than the others, softer. More like a doe than a buck. Kaajah turned and sprinted away from the “Hey there…”. The soft man thing, the woman, stepped back in shock as the black puma, already remarkable, bunched hind muscles and was almost instantly transported to a sickly, yet sturdy branch in a tree with no crown; only a large cavern teeming with tiny life. Mother decided Kaajah should face her fear and the branch holding her began to protest and as Kaajah tried to defy her mother’s lesson, she only assured it by shifting her weight. The woman ran away a few yards as Kaajah recovered almost as soon as she crashed by the same root she’d fled from. It began to rain. Kaajah accepted the comforting words offered by the downpour and leapt as high as she could to say thank you. She catapulted past the living tree tops, she could see down into a valley she’d never know before, and still she ascended. The rain met her ascension and welcomed her and this time Kaajah did not fear her mass lessening. She did not regret her nation, she was still of Earth, but the sky now claimed its relation. The young woman witnessing this knew she must have lost her mind. The puma, the cat, just jumped as high as a flea could were it much larger. She had to tell someone all she saw though she knew they’d think she was playing them for fools…or high.

    “And then…the most erroneous, yet magnificent thing happened, mama! The cat, the puma, she was black and she jumped in the sky. I know, I know I said this. But she jumped and suddenly the rain and the puma—Mama, something extraordinary happened!” breathed the young woman rapidly.

    “What happened?  Baby, get it out. You done scared me half to death already talking ‘bout such a dangerous creature being around us anyway,” said the young woman’s mother as she stirred her favorite stew.    

    “Well, ma…all hell,” the young woman sputtered.

    “Alright, now!” cautioned her mother.

    “I know, I know. I’m sorry for cussin’, mama. You’re not going to believe me, but I’m just going to read you what I saw when that black puma and the rain met way up there in the sky. It- it was like…like the puma became ink in the sky,” she paused remembering, then gathered herself at her mother’s impatient noises. Sighing, she prepared to read her account to her mother. “Okay, okay, ma. Here goes:

            I’ve never been able to speak
                but I understood language.
                Conversations with the rain taught me I am native to earth
                     but I can fly
                  I can jump         I can leap so high
                     I can’t speak but I
                    can sky.
                    I can ant if I dream.
                 Catepillar into wings.
                 I can sunrise at twilight
                     Ball-gas that I am
                           Black and lonely and silenced.
                 Soul bright like midnight
         was meant to be before humanity   decided to be God and create more light.
                  We had enough light,                                 we had enough light
            I was born black because we need more night
                 I was born black, giving life to midnight
                and I can jump so high
                     Hurl my black self ‘cross the sky
                and finally tell the rain
                         in a crack of black lightning
             how it feels to understand, but not speak.
             God is here.                 God is here.
                   That’s the name Mother did speak.
                    Thank you rain for your wisdom.
              Saith rain: The sky is composed of the language you seek.

And that’s what I saw mama. I swear that’s what I saw in the sky when that black puma jumped so high she met the rain.”

#black-art-matters, #black-stories, #fantasy, #fiction, #kaajah, #prose, #puma, #short-story, #story-time

Black Poet’s Sermon

I preach
Floetry’s gospel
Administering poetry
I preach
Black Voice
Kendrick flows
“We alright”
I promise
We alright
We just speak dialect differently
Cast words
like griots

We too familiar
with feelings
Language bends to our pulse
And we preach
I preach
I preach
Saul’s doctrine
How ‘She’ square roots men-
Solving problems
on pages
Calculating thoughts-
Making simple equations of
miscommunication

I’m just one successor
Not the first
Not the last
I may walk in shadowy valleys
But my words
are a Rapture
Embodying Revelations
and Maya reclaimed her wings
For us
To fly before we die
To live our “Amens” outloud
in these sermons-
Classically
defined by the kinks
In our dialect

I speak
I speak
We speak
Folk just ain’t been listening
Too busy sippin’
On centuries old wine
We spit     it out
Prefer our spirits fresh
from the vine
Somewhere between ’74 and ‘89
But you keep drinkin’ the “good stuff”
We’ll keep turning
We’ll keep turning
Parables into wine
Or something far less conservative
Yet much more pleasing to the palate  
Take this poem
This bread for your mind
Our flow is the body
Our honest words
Well, that’s newer wine

~Rahk.

#art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #black-stories, #english, #maya-angelou, #poem, #poetry, #raw

Holding On

Absentmindedly, I clenched thoughts of you in my fist– forgetting the point until I bled.

I hid the wounds, but not well. They were palm-sized riverbeds, overflowing.

I did not intend to bathe you in blood. Nor did you mean to break the skin between us.

~Rahk.

#hard-conversations, #letting-go, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry

The Blood of Babel (Revised)

If we discarded egos
as quickly as we discard people
We might be able to build that tower to God

Inaugurate this address
This petition of just cause
This foremost amendment
that predates the deadbeat dads
who hated us as much
as they lusted after our
mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s curves

Still, we rise above poverty lines
police stations and prison cells
and projects and culdesacs
and estates and dorms
and factories and sawmills
and diners and churches

We faithfully await more than a night
of living slaves, leaving severed hands
in their shackles.
You will know that a reckoning is afoot.
And there will be no hooves pounding
Wall Street warning of invasion
We are already here

We Malcolms and Kendricks
We Jasons and Patrisses
and Alicias and Opals

We Derays and Olivias and
Kamalas and Sandras and Shondas
and Baracks and W.E.B.s

We will never be moved
and our discarded egos
will staircase our tower to God.
Not our brown bullet-laden bodies
Not our blood striping the American flag
We are children of Babel.
We will no longer let deceitful tongues divide us,
Rather we unite with forehead kisses
Kisses lacking the viscous spit of betrayal
We will be redeemed as we weep in the clay
that formed us, we will construct visions
rather than undervalued dreams
Our name is America for we have been,
and will always be, the brave.

~Rahk

#america, #babel, #black-lives-matter, #egos, #grief, #history, #poem, #poetry, #spoken-words

Choose Again (Excerpt from Hard Conversations: A Collection of Love Poems)

It’s possible that I found God
on a lonely road to damnation
where my GPS guided me with
words of discouragement

If only I were David instead of Jonathan
If only my love was inherited
instead of ordained
If only my psalms were sanctioned
by chosen men and recited in times of turmoil
rather than demonized

It’s possible, that I walked by God
on that lonely road to damnation
Likely, that I didn’t even see God’s hand
My eyes weighing my feet
with each laborious step toward hell

I felt a hand on my shoulder
I heard a voice telling me to turn right
I smelled a burning bush
but I did not feel worthy
to remove my shoes
I could not stand bare
on holy ground
or so I’d been preached

I kept walking on that desolate road
I kept looking down in resignation
I kept overlooking God
so busy focusing on my steps

My feet too sore to continue
My legs quivered with the strain of the cross
nailed to my mannerisms
My eyes, forty days and nights of storm
My prayers, overtaken by thunder
or so I assumed

My God, a hand to anchor my soul
My God, an arm across my shoulder
My God, a chest on which to weep
My God, a finger lifting my countenance
My God, a rainbow of liberty
on the road to internal damnation
Urging, urging me to turn back

Turn back for once
Back toward Me
Turn back, and run.
Your steps are now redemption
Your tears are now baptism in My Name
Your eyes are watching Me
This is the path that they have given you
It’s the path they taught you to choose
Choose again
This is the path that they have given you
It’s the one they taught you to choose
Choose again

~Rahk.

#black-stories, #christianity, #church, #god, #hard-conversations, #homosexuality, #lgbtqa, #love-poems, #poetry