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 the delicate flower she is still servicing his desires. Giving him dominion over her present self as if Adam didn’t nibble the 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. Proclaimung that’s the reason why she’s 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 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. (That’s half of what I took from mama’s daily Bible lessons.) 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 mama’s daily Bible Studies taught me, whether she intended this particular lesson is unlikely.  

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 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 lie about cheatin’ when my chest 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 personal rhythm, not separately,  but together. So to take a piece of that man’s chance for prosperity– he can’t stand it. He just gotta get it back.

And we, we women, gotta get more so we can protect him, protect his heart because we know he missin’ one bar from his steel safe. And we feel like we need more of him 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 have 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. Don’t make Eve to be the problem, when God the one who took man’s rib.  

And many of these women are bound, like I say, because they want men to want something from them. Be it a way to feel related to common speculations of manness, of Darwin’s capitalism, or religious perpetuations, or some asexual conception born to oneself nurtured by the environment. 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. The fact that I can walk right in front of a badgeman all bare up top and he doesn’t twitch. Pretend his eyes been boiled in bog water, and all he can see is places the sun doesn’t tend to.

Some people scream in the back of their minds so by the time the words get out they’re full of migrains–just want quiet and darkness. The screams they orchestrated about me tends along the lines of me being a shim so they boil their eyes in that bog water to avoid the PC Nazis and courtrooms, not to mention that gnat whirring around their second thoughts drawing attention away from righteousness. The rest of the screams mention things like “That’s just a pretty boy that survived 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.”

I ain’t ever been one to focus on screaming, no matter how muffled by the dark. That’s s big part of that freedom I talked about: they don’t know what to do about me because they don’t know what to do about themselves. I got them throwing question marks at their surest laws. I make them ask the Lord to help them be more like Him. Just because I am like I am, they can’t be who they are. That ain’t what the 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 motherly 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