Words Like Water

Words

gather, build up, swell, and rise

to spill from the mind,

flow through the fingers,

and spill out of  pens, pencils, and keyboards

caught up in currents

of concentration

and creativity.

Words,

free falling in a

joyous cascade of

imagination,

wild and swift as

horses thundering past.

 

Words,

smooth and silent

as owl wings

cleaving

the cold midnight air,

hunting for

just the right one,

plump with meaning,

searching with

keen bright eyes

full of

otherworldly intellect.

 

Words

channeled like water,

fleeting as an eddy,

powerful as tides,

flowing, rushed, and moving

at the

glorious sunrise,

rippling, dappled, and calm

in the

bittersweet sunset.

 

Words

for seeds of fading hope,

and fragile sprouts of love,

sown

in random rows

of longing need,

are poured down

from the poet’s well,

and for a moment

thirst no more,

and grow

a little stronger.

A Story Told in Song

From the savanna,

the deserts,

the grasslands,

the veldt,

and the jungle,

 

The music played.

 

From the empires,

the gold and diamond mines,

and the pyramids,

The music played.

 

From the ivory tusks,

the red clay,

the ebony wood,

and the skins of war drums,

 

The music played.

 

On the ship,

In the cabins,

In ‘massa’s house,

In the whipping sheds,

and the cotton and tobacco fields,

 

The music played.

 

And at sunset,

Heads lowered over

Unmarked graves of

Old men and

Innocent children,

 

The music played.

 

From the Underground Railroad

through the rise of Pullman Porters,

 

The music played.

 

Through Jim Crow,

chain gangs,

and Sunday morning services,

 

The music played.

 

Through hard times

and celebrations,

and through vibrant

ululations,

and our rising expectations,

 

The music played.

 

In the Deep South,

through the screams

and cries wrought

by night riders

and cross burnings,

 

The music played.

 

Over the sound

of barking dogs

and high pressure hoses,

 

The music played.

 

Through Malcolm and Dr. Huey Newton,

and Martin and Jesse,

and Barack Obama,

 

The music played.

 

Through the first black…(insert pioneer name here)

 

The music…(still playing)

 

We must teach the songs

that kept the voices lifted

though hearts were heavy,

 

Kept the flames of joyous spirits

and the love of hearts

lit,

though our dreams of freedom were

constantly extinguished.

 

Kept hope alive through our best

writers, artists, and orators,

Proud Black Men

and Beautiful Black Women

united in one purpose:

Us.

 

The music played, and plays still…

 

And it will play on

as long as we remember.

 

And if

we

teach it well,

long after

we’re gone.

Cupid’s Arrow

How tenderly, how tenderly

the arrow cleaves the heart.

I fall into the pit of love

and play a thankless part.

For Cupid’s arrow’s savage barb

can only go one way.

To pull it tears the heart apart

and turns it to decay.

“O pierce me not, black arrow!

Not tomorrow, nor today.

I’ll use my shield to knock aside

what arrows come my way.

And with a lethal dagger thrown

and knifing through the air,

I’ll cut your wings, cursed cherubim,

to see if you fight fair.

So go your way, and fly above me,

staying sight unseen.

I look no more for one to love me,

staying as I’ve been.”

And in the gathering darkness

winged Cupid takes his leave.

And as the raindrops dry my tears,

it’s at love’s grave I’ll grieve.

 

*Dark Cupid by hipolilo*

You’ve Made a Decision

As I approach,

I see

you

contemplating

me

with a small smile on your face,

as if

you’ve made a decision about me,

reached a conclusion about

whether

we

can work together.

I find your

concentrated gaze

thrillingly disturbing.

Maybe you’re keeping

a secret

that rends us asunder,

that makes

you and me

null and void

instead of

man and woman.

But for now,

I’ll enjoy the beauty

of your eyes,

and the love that remains

behind your small smile,

while you

are silent.

A Father’s Day Memory (2018)

My father’s love of music got to me at an early age. In his apartment he had a ‘music room’ with a reproduction of Picasso’s Three Musicians (Musicians with Masks) painting.

There was always something on the turntable, a ‘featured artist,’ and stuff I played just out of curiosity. I would get lost in the sheer variety, the crafting of the cover art, the liner notes, which I’d read while the music played. It opened the jazz and classical worlds for me, two genres that your average kid growing up in the South Bronx didn’t really have access to.

He had a particular fondness for the jazz organ of Jimmy Smith, the flute of Herbie Mann, the percussive mastery of Mongo Santamaria, and the radical balladry of Nina Simone.

What impressed me the most about my dad regarding this was his prodigious memory.

During my high school years he’d moved out to Teaneck, NJ, and I spent summers there house sitting while he was at work. There wasn’t much in the way of chores except on the weekends where I’d help with the gardening and woodworking projects, but during the week I was free to dive into the bookshelves and records most of the day.

One day I was playing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass) because I’d never heard it before, and didn’t even know he’d written a Mass. My father walked in, listened to a few seconds of it, and identified it somewhere in the middle of the first movement.

I was impressed. To this day, I wouldn’t be able to identify that if I heard it; it’s not the sort of thing one often plays outside of those who are Beethoven aficionados, or hears played even on classical music stations. It’s a long, serious piece of music, to put it mildly, and I couldn’t say then (1977) how many times he listened to it himself, but it was often enough that he recognized it from a tiny section of audio.

As deep as his love of music was, I don’t know why he never became a musician himself; he was pretty much the kind of man who could do anything he set his mind to. But as far as I know, he never did.

The passion with which he did love it yet remains, and became a permanent part of my life. It provided an escape from the streets, a release for expressing myself, and a legacy my sons continue.

I now have most of my dad’s collection now, Missa Solemnis among them. I haven’t played it yet, but summer’s just starting…

Holding Out Hope

 

Here, a small bright blossom

that contains a wish,

a hope,

a fantasy,

a dream

you hold dear,

a love you crave,

a life you desire,

a treat you’ve been missing.

My gift to you,

My wish for you,

My prayer over you,

My love of you

is all contained

within this

small, fragile,

world,

soft and fragrant,

sweet and kind,

and forgiving

of the fact

that I plucked it

from the source of

its beauty, now fleeting,

because you

are worth the life

of a small, bright blossom,

lasting,

and far lovelier.

Take it.

Together

we will be,

fragile, mortal,

and fleetingly beautiful,

holding out hope for far more

as we get less

than we truly deserve.