Strange Fruit (You Will Know Them)

1.

You say you love me

(For the Bible tells you so)

You say you love me

(For you are a child of God)

You insist you love me

But your love hits like hurled stones

But your love stabs sole of foot

It’s hard to walk

It hurts to walk

When your love vehemently rejects my shared need to breathe

2.

Such a peculiar love to offer sour fruit to starving children

Then stand repulsed, willfully withholding aid, when their bodies inevitably protest

How have you not choked on all the dust your love collects?

~Rahk.

#2020-election, #equality, #faith, #god, #hard-conversations, #history, #hope, #human-rights, #love, #poem, #poetry, #police-brutality, #relationships, #spoken-words, #stop-killing-us, #voter-suppression

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

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

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

A Reminder

Don’t give up when it’s right,
When your soul becomes sky at the notion of success.
Don’t give up when it’s right,
Even if your body quakes at the hint of failure.
You have withstood Tsunami
You have withstood Hurricane
You have withstood Pharaoh in his many forms

Don’t give up when it’s true
If, when you speak it, you are humbled
As if that truth is a mountain you must climb barefoot
As if that truth is a bullet you must catch by hand
Don’t give up
When it is water after generations of thirst
Don’t give up
When it is a sun rising on a new day
And it will rise
Because you waged war to see it

#art-therapy, #black-lives-matter, #faith, #life, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #stop-killing-us

Without Hands (A Poem for Loved Ones)

And thou art
pen and blank page
No mic upon wooden stage
And silence
Is a poem that
Holds a finger to the eye
That weeps
From the movement within
And thou art the answer
To the prayers
Of a warless soldier

And silence is a kiss on the eyelid
From lips that touch like the truth

And truth is the revelation
That love is a touch
Softer than tears
Therefore it can be touched
Even without hands

And thou art the words
That strike seeds with will
That they might grow
From their natural casings
That they might unearth sunlight
No matter how deeply buried
Their intended birth
And thou art the words
That spring forth from fatherless pines
Who took after their mothers
Both promising shelter and tempting lightning
To live is to burn
Kindling sunlight
In every unbidden tear

-Rahk

#faith, #hope, #love, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry, #relationships

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

Numbers (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations”)

i sat between your feet counting
the hairs on your legs
(two hundred thousand twenty-four)
rather than the number of times you frowned
when looking to me for answers

(once…)

one time.

i never asked, that one time,
why your head shifted in rhythm to revolution
why doubt tilted your axis
why you couldn’t trust your world in my hands
i couldn’t God for you
i couldn’t God for you

~Rahk.

#faith, #fathers, #gender-norms, #hard-conversations, #love, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry, #raw

You Were Not Old (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations: Love Poems by Rakeem OneVoice Person”)

Lil bruh, I thought
maybe you’d rise
on the third day
after a releasing of purple and gold balloons
confirmed you had
in fact
died at 28

But you did not rise
You did not rise
from your sick bed
in the certainty of youth

When did you grow old in body?

I did not know.

I could ask why
but what are petty reasons
when you, Lil Bruh, simply did not
have strength to rise
three days after
laughter and normalcy
outhummed the motor
of your oxygen tank

I thought you’d breathe again
on your own
considering
how much we laughed.
I thought:
What is hospice to your little brother soul?

You were not old
We were not old
and even if we were
would hardearned wrinkles
have remedied suspended time?

I do not know
what more solace a silvered crown
would have bestowed.
I am not old
and I remember you clearly.

Sometimes my laugh echoes yours
as if my body is a canyon.
Other times, tears carve fresh streams
toward healing.

I wonder:
What is death to kinship?

You were not old, and your little brother spirit
still blesses the laughter
between my tears

I am not old
Though I fear I have aged
without you

Where do I start?

#art-therapy, #cancer, #death, #faith, #grief, #hard-conversations, #hope, #life, #loss, #love, #love-poems, #mourning, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #relationships

Confession 1: Poem Against Terror (Excerpt from “The Pulse in the Pews”)

Originally published in print August 2018, “The Pulse in the Pews” is a knee jerk reaction to the terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub and a particular church’s response to it. It expounds upon a pivotol period in my spiritual journey. One that sought to mediate religious doctrine with personal revelation and tragedy. One that sought to distinguish God’s voice in a sea of loquacious voices. The following is the first entry in “The Pulse in the Pews”, originally entitled “For Gay Christians Who Consider God When the Church is Not Enough” as an homage to Ntozake Shange. Comments are welcome. You can also message me through my Contact page. Enjoy.

Poetry enables us to speak the truths we may not readily communicate in common, everyday language. Because of it’s nature, poetry empowers the individual who harnesses it to discover insights ordinarily hidden in everyday language. As a spoken word artist and published poet, I had performed poetry on numerous occasions in bars and nightclubs, schools, parks, etc.. But one particular venue used to terrify me because I felt as though that place would not receive who I am as I am.

Poem Against Terror

And I’m afraid to perform in church.
In my truth. In my As I Am.
In my burdened and heavy laden
Which weighs more like angel dust and
defeating Satan-
As I Am
I’m AFRAID to perform in CHURCH
Because I am with Pulse
Because I am without my rib and
C R E A T E D
Because my faith has challenged mountains
Because my faith has challenged me
Because my love is created by God
I am with PULSE
And sometimes I CAN’T BREATHE
And sometimes I BELIEVE
that God is so GOD that even ME
Even me
He doth LOVE as I AM
As we are created
As we are hated by the love of god
As we are berated for the will of God
As we are related to the children of GOD
As we are
As we are
As we are
I am no longer afraid to perform in church
I speak those things that be not
as if they be
I am NO LONGER afraid
to perform in church
As I am
I am beloved by God
I am with Pulse
I CAN breathe
And I must breathe whispers
Into the soul
Because whispers are seeds that grow
Because I am a seed I know
Can move mountains
And walk in the valley of the shadow of churches
Because He leads me beside still bodies
that should not be without pulse
They should not be still
We should not be still
We should not be afraid
to seek God in church AS WE ARE
We, too, are BELOVED by God.

#black-lives-matter, #death, #excerpt, #faith, #gender-norms, #grief, #history, #hope, #journal, #lgbtqa, #love, #memories, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #spoken-words

Story Time: “Bound to Freedom (2014)”

“Sit here.” Hayden, at 29, did as he was told. His mentor, Noden, looked to the horizon, waiting patiently. Hayden waited, watching. His mentor never misses a sunrise. Noden wore middle-age as if it were youth, somehow hitting the senses as both old and young. He’s exactly as his brother, Ayir, described over twenty years ago before the earth took him. Hayden met Noden’s gaze as he joined him on the warming grass, the dew having departed as the sun ascended. The mentee wondered if his mentor was intentionally teaching him patience, or if he was just that fascinated with the sunrise. 

“Look around, Hayden. What do you see?” asked Noden, his voice resembling his appearance—ambiguously adultlike and childlike, at the same time. 

Again, Hayden followed instructions. He and Noden were on a small hill in a land man forgot, but woman remembered fondly. The gentle rumblings of the ocean, somewhere in the distance, causing a steady pulse in the air. The sky was the blue of clean unpolluted skies, inviting envy in robins’ eggs. Clouds stretched, like visible whispers, across the expanse. Hayden saw beauty. He felt nature; it’s resilience, it’s strength, and it’s fragility. He mentioned this to his mentor.

“Very good. Now…what do you feel?”

Hayden hated questions like that. They always seemed like a trick of some sort to him. He closed his eyes so he could actually feel instead of see. First he felt himself, his presence. An insect buzzed past him and he felt the disturbance of air. Hayden felt his mentor watching him intently and expectantly. The warmth of the sun beamed on his bare back. It was comforting. It’s the comfort the sun offers in the height of the Spring, before it becomes a violent ball of heat exhaustion. 

“I feel..I feel…small.” Hayden opened his eyes to see Noden’s nod of approval.

“Very good.” Said Noden as he reclined on his back which was also bare. The muscles in his stomach stretching as well. It was evident that Noden stayed in shape. He wasn’t what one would call ripped but he was toned, lean. Hayden was as well. It was a requirement for those who received training such as this. 

“Hayden, do you know why the angels can fly?” Again, Hayden thought this was another trick question but he answered anyway. “Ummm…because they have wings?” He tried to harness the sarcasm in his voice, but doubted that he succeeded. Noden could sense a flea a mile away if he desired to do so.

“Hmm. That’s the obvious answer. But it’s the false one as well. Angels can fly because they are free of earth. They are not bound to the laws that bind humanity.”

“What laws, sir?” Hayden was intrigued.

“Laws such as gravity, for one. But there are other laws; theories and revelations treated as truth by those in power and accepted by those without. Mythologies, religions, scientific studies, and philosophies perpetuate these laws, these ordinances, these pseudo-truths. Parents plant them in their offspring, encouraging their seed to avoid opening Pandora’s Box. All with good reason, mind you.” Noden turned toward Hayden, the sun seemed to reflect in his eyes. “But to simplify it for you, humans are bound to each other. Incarcerated by principals, expectations, doubts, worries, fears, thoughts, needs…and other countless burdens. But angels, angels are free from such concerns.”

Noden was sitting back down by the time he finished his little dissertation. Noden’s grey-green eyes blazing in the sunlight in his brown face; his peppered hair trimmed neatly by the barbers in the court. His legs were arranged in a manner many refer to as “Indian” style, though monks sit in the same manner, as well as other nations and cultures.  

              Hayden noted a ladybug on the sole of his mentor’s barefoot. He was barefoot as well. The only thing that covered them both was the ceremonial garb of those who sought to escape. The garb was merely a pair of pants the same color as the sky when it’s at it’s purest. They were sewn from a silken material yet they never stained or tore, though they were loose-fitting. Hayden mused they were inspired by angel wings. 

“So, their wings have nothing to do with it?” Hayden inquired, doubtfully.

“Well, who said that angels truly have wings?” Noden’s tone was teasing. “But, I wouldn’t say that the wings have nothing to do with it. I’m sure they assist in the aerodynamics. But, Hayden, what I want you to understand is their freedom. They are truly free. Angels are bound to freedom. And in order to master angelflight you must be as well.”

“But how? How do I become bound to freedom? I’m no angel. And I do have human concerns. Gravity has dominion over my feet.” Hayden sounded a bit panicked but it’s only because flight was his only desire. 

“Angels aren’t held down by human concerns, but they do feel.” There was a pause and Hayden knew Noden was waiting on him, so he took his cue.

“What do they feel?”

“Joy. Immeasurable joy! They were gifted with the innate ability to swim in the sky. To see more of God’s creation than the greatest fowl. Humans can tap into this joy as well, but it’s not not organic. It’s not of our own natural volition. Like laughing. My, when you laugh in love it’s…soaring through the free sky on your own wings. 

“But gravity affects every bird, insect, or flying fish.  What makes angels truly free?” The urgency in Hayden’s voice caused Noden to smile in remembrance. He was just as earnest when he came into the knowledge owed to every seed of God, no matter the fruit. 

 “Yes, yes it does. Birds, insects, flying fish, they are all of this earth, this realm that is ours. But angels were not a part of human creation. Not according to the creation stories of major religions. Angels were the seeds of another creation. A genesis before, or existing along with, that of the inhabitants of earth.” Noden closed his eyes, his words spoken in the key of butterfly wings. Hayden was quiet enough in his spirit to hear the sound. It was a meditation practice unique to their village. They’d become masters in their pursuit of angelflight. Noden defied gravity long enough to discover, what he christened, Third Twilight. He was among the elite wingless flyers celebrated in all the nations. And he was humble enough to train others, so that we might fly even higher together. As was his Calling, his students were not only taught how to fly, but also how to teach others. Bound to his thoughts, Hayden hadn’t realized that Noden paused, aware of his student’s inclination to wonder. 

“That’s due to gravity. And in addition to scientific proclamations, gravity is the tendency to give more weight to struggles than personal triumphs. Gravity is holding on when it’d be less taxing to release.” Noden stood, though float might be more appropriate, facing away from his student. “Gravity, dear Hayden, is a soul’s distraction. All this to say, to defy gravity we have to master the art of letting go so that we can hold on to joy, to freedom. And it’s that joy that gives you the peace that enables you to partake in the ultimate freedom, which manifests as flight.” With this said, Noden stood. He stood and there was an invisible force that surrounded him. Hayden couldn’t see it but he could sense it with that part of the human brain that is more than physical. In a breath, Noden was no longer standing atop the hill with Hayden. He was in the sky.

#faith, #fathers, #flight, #flying, #hope, #love, #prose, #short-story, #stories, #storytime