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

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

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

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

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

TO MR. DUNBAR

The mask I wear envies
the dark side of the moon
and eclipses the sun

So I leave it in a box
beneath some ill-fitting clothes
I’ve been meaning to throw out

-Rahk.

#black-lives-matter, #fathers, #gender-norms, #history, #paul-laurence-dunbar, #sons