Humanity Redeemed

3/5 of a person?

Property?

 

Stripped of dignity

No sense of civility

To the brink of insanity

 

See, the white man wears no placard

to identify himself.

He marches, but he is

 

separated,

 

to prove the point that

his species

is not in question

 

He will never be called

‘boy’ ‘Charlie’

‘nigger’ ‘coon’

‘savage’ ‘monkey’

 

He will not need to be protected

by the anti-lynching law (there had to be

a law, because lynching was addicting…)

and

Jim Crow doesn’t peck away

at his humanity

 

We would have our humanity back;

Not that it went away, but the effort

to remove it was prolonged, intense,

and relentless

 

And even now, still flares

like solar arcs

 

So yes,

we would take our humanity back,

and whether you like it or not…

 

We don’t need

your permission.

 

Of Soldiers Brave and True

Respect and honor

to our

Black soldiers

brave and true

 

Highly decorated

but also

 

segregated

 

You went

and fought

 

one war

 

they told you

they needed you for,

wishing they didn’t

 

But we all know

you went

and fought

 

two wars

 

and won

them both

 

Thank you.

 

Welcome back

to your people

 

and

 

Welcome Home

to your country

too.

The Legacy of Kings

He will rise to lead

his nation

to greatness

 

He will serve

his queen and heirs

by standing firm

keeping his word

and controlling

his spirit

 

He will guide his people

through wisdom

with knowledge

only he may

possess,

for kings do

not deal in

common things

 

Secrets revealed to him

are on a higher plane,

a riskier level

 

War is ever at his gate

Strife sniffs at his table

Death watches his bed

 

and yet, his people

love and honor him

for his integrity

and fairness

 

they delight in

the peace at their borders

and their countenances

reflect his prosperity

 

Long is he revered

and with bittersweet

Mourning he will be

remembered

 

such is

the legacy of

strong, wise

kings

 

Still On Tryal

Author’s Note: This photo was taken at the Slave Museum. As the little girl’s mother was explaining what happened, she hugged the statue and said, “Everything’s going to be okay.” This is a poem that reflects that faith…

 

 

They sure tried:

 

To strip us culturally

To bend us spiritually

To break us physically

To give us second best

To question our humanity

To question our intelligence

 

They sure tried:

 

To stop us from voting

To stop us from organizing

To stop us from demanding

To stop us from marching

To stop us from praying

To stop us from fighting

To stop us from protesting

To stop us from singing

 

They sure tried:

 

To deny us access

To reduce our numbers

To convince us we don’t belong

To tell us we had nothing

they didn’t give us

To stop us from voting

To erase us from history

 

They sure tried:

 

To tell us to get over

the very history they

imposed

on us

 

They sure tried:

 

To tell us we’re violent

Ignorant

Beastly

Savage

Sexual predators

Dopefiends

Whores

and Pimps

and

Criminals

 

They sure tried:

 

To keep us illiterate

To keep us afraid

To keep us unaware

To keep us drunk

To keep us in vice

To keep us down

 

They sure tried:

 

To keep us enslaved

 

We tried too:

 

To be patient

To be non-violent

To suffer

To fight through the system

To die on our feet

 

But we got tired of trying

because they mistook

patience

for weakness

 

So we said

No,

and we said

No longer

And we said

No more

And we said

Our lives matter

 

And now they try

to say it’s our fault

they have to kill us.

 

And now, in 2016…

We find that

the

Tryal

is far from over

 

But if we stand

and work

and build

and teach

and love

TOGETHER

the verdict

is

Victory.

Black Magi

Black Magi

your strength is wasted,

killing over slabs of

cracked, crumbling concrete

that will outlast

the return

of your bones

to dust

 

Black Magi

your lives are wasted

when the blood

of your

slain brother

soaks your soul,

and the wails

of his mother

are your lullaby

as you look at the same

Moonlight

through the bars of your cell,

and she does the same

through her gone baby’s eyes.

 

Black Magi

your knowledge is wasted

in kilos of grams,

hidden in luxury cars,

poisoning our future,

your neighborhood,

chipping at foundations

you desperately need.

But you got yours, right?

 

Black Magi

your wealth is wasted

on basketball shoes that are

Free

to the person they’re named after,

made by slaves in other foreign lands

(you know you’re not home, right?)

 

Black Magi

Gather your belongings

Now

 

Call your loved ones to your side

Today

 

Black Magi

the stars bid you

travel far,

and one of them falls

when one of you

turns back to die

 

Black Magi

Your son has questions

only you

can answer

 

Black Magi

Your daughter

has smiles

only you

can share

 

Black Magi

Your woman

cries tears

only you

can dry

 

Black Magi

The years of

your harvest

are spent in rehab,

then just spent,

And poisoned seeds

again take root

through the husk

of what used to be

Fertile and Wise and Strong,

the shell of what used to be

You

 

Black Magi

Stop

Think

Repent

But mostly,

Stop.

No, My Love

No, my love

you will

not

speak of things

done in darkness,

of

things that strip you

of your clothing,

then your innocence,

and maybe,

if you’re really, really good…

 

your life

 

No, my love

you will

not

speak of the pain

in your heart

and long showers that

never

purify

your tainted soul

 

 

No, my love

you will

not

speak of my cruelty,

my cursing,

my fists,

my feet.

 

No, my love

you will

smile,

and the mask of

our dead love

will harden

like a cocoon.

 

And then,

 

let only

fantasy butterflies

alight from your tongue.

 

The Eyes of Heaven

The Eyes of Heaven watch me walk

across the virgin snow,

impassively marking

my passing

 

I see the winter wolves in

my periphery, gathering

in curious, carnivorous lust

for blood and meat to slake

their killing urge

 

The blade of my knife is

cold

against my thigh

 

The weight of my sword

gives me

balance

in the

high, white drifts

 

And the

Eyes of Heaven

glimmer with memories

of other travelers

who’ve traversed these

rugged rocks

 

Some to their hearths,

Some to their gods,

And it is all one

to the

Eyes of Heaven

 

And I stop,

feeling the chill night wind

in the thick fur

of my hood,

in the scruff of my

wild whiskers,

and look back into the Eyes of Heaven

And long to be

loved,

 

But

they are 

as blind to me

as they are

infinite

 

And the Eyes of Heaven

close

to dream

and

remember

ages past,

and

unsoiled

virgin snow.

 

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Dead (3)

Too early to go home, too late to go back to the office.

I’d put something maudlin on the stereo, and grieve with an expensive bottle of single malt; the picture of that in my head was too pathetic, even for me.

I went to the Full Moon Saloon instead; it was everything it promised.

My favorite barmaid, Sandy, was there; she didn’t like the term though. She preferred bartender, because she had her reasons, which oddly enough, were pretty valid.

“Hey, Kent.”

“Hey Sandy.”

“I heard.”

“Who hasn’t?”

She leaned forward, searching my face, all compassion. “What can I get you?”

“The usual, stronger than usual.”

She gave a little smile, but there was concern as she pulled back. “You sure you want to…?”

I sighed. “Sandy, I’ve been second guessing myself since I heard about Valentine. I just had a young cop get in my face and second guess me too. I consider this place a refuge, and a haven, which may be the same thing, but I don’t care right now, and I’d like to think I know my own mind, at least here.

“So yeah, I’m sure.”

“Hey,” she said, leaning back over. “This place is a refuge for you?”

“Yeah.”

She smiled. “Does that make me your refugee?”

I groaned, smiling in spite of the fact my heart felt like a sledgehammer hit it.

“Really? Is that the best you got?”

“Ha! I got a million more like ‘em.”

“That’s why you’re here.”

She stroked my cheek, then gave it a little slap.

“Fuck you, big man.” She went down the bar to make my drink.

“When I watch you walk away, anything’s possible.”

She looked over her shoulder, then it registered, and her mouth dropped.

I started laughing, then she joined in.

We actually did have a thing once, but she wasn’t going to walk the path I chose, and truth be told, I didn’t want her to do it either; she had an innate sweetness, despite the jadedness of the surroundings she worked in.

The place was a dive, but it was ‘our dive.’

She came back with the drink, and poured a shot for herself.

“To Valentine,” she said. We dribbled some of our drinks on the bar; she let it run down a bit, and the scent wafted up like sinful incense.

“So what happens now?”

“Word’s getting around; by tomorrow there’ll be a manhunt.”

“You in it?”

I sighed.
“No, Kent. C’mon. Those jackals that do this stuff for real are great at it, way better than guys like you.”

“I’m motivated.”

“By what? Were you…?”

“No. She was like a daughter to me. Sort of.”

 You didn’t admire your daughter’s legs. or let her roam the world in short, tight dresses killing people for obscene amounts of cash.

“You, and other guys like you. C’mon, Kent! She’s played the role on stage a million times to guys like you.”

“You keep saying that, Sandy. What do you mean by that?”

“Careworn, world-weary. Guys like you, carrying weight you no longer need to carry, having problems that should have gone away by middle age. Guys like you, trapped by money and no way to get out ‘cept through the morgue.”

She put her hand across my folded forearms.

“It was never going to be enough, Kent. Don’t you see that? You’ve got blood on your hands, your conscience, and no one to inherit anything good, because nothing good came out of it.”

She dug her nails in a bit.

“All you have to show, for all you’ve done, for all the years you’ve been supposedly cleaning up the streets and changing things for others, and profiting from it, is an onset of cirrhosis, and a dead young girl with her guts steaming in the rain.”

Her words felt like someone jammed a double-barrel to my head and pulled both triggers.

I felt myself convulse, and she took her hand away.

There was such a rush of mixed emotions, I wound up acting on none of them: I wanted to slap her, I wanted to throw the glass as hard as I could and watch it shatter, the way Valentine shattered when the bomb went off. I wanted to shoot something or someone, I wanted to scream, and I wanted to die.

I was out of tears, but my face must’ve gone rumply like I was going to cry again.

“Sorry, Kent. I care about you; I don’t want you to do this.”

“You’re really saying you don’t know if I can.”

She turned that over, took a sip of her drink, then focused back on me.

“Yeah, at the core of it, that’s what I’m saying. Let the hounds loose, and they’ll find him. Swoop in then, and take him away and butcher him all night when they do, but don’t join the chase.

“Please, Kent. Don’t do it.”

I took a sip of the malt.

“You had me at ‘butcher’….”

“Kent?”

I took another sip.

“Ahhh, dammit, Sandy…”

She beamed, leaned over, kissed me quick.

“That’s my man…”

We had another round, and I caught a cab home, and watched the rain run down the window, and the red neon lights colored it, and it was Valentine’s blood again, running down the window, down the gutters, down the drain, down to wherever the damned souls go, crying for peace.

 

*****************

 

When I got in, I booked a mid morning flight to Valentine’s hometown.

I hung up, feeling a bit guilty, remembering everything Sandy said, but there was one thing more important than anything else that stood out.

“Sorry, love.

“You really did have me at ‘butcher.’ ”

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Dead (2)

When I stopped bawling, there was work to do.

It should’ve frightened me that I wanted to be the one to do it, and if I’d known the depravity my own heart would reveal, I would’ve put a bullet in my head that instant.

But Valentine always said I was a hardhead.

It was raining. There was a white sheet over a red blob, and the sheet was soaked through.

“You sure about this, sir?” the cop said, standing just outside the crime tape.

I wasn’t, and he took my hesitation as an answer.

He waved over the ME. I knew him: Larson Hughes, smartest in the business.

Hughes looked up, saw me, put something away in a case, and walked over, peeling off a bloody latex glove.

“Kent.” He nodded.

“Larson. What happened.”

“Explosive of some type.”

“Thrown at her?”

“No. Found traces of it in a briefcase she was carrying.”

My heart sank.

“What color was it?”

“The case?”

“No, Larson, her blood. Yes, the fucking case.”

“Silver. Why?”

“Cuz he gave it to her,” the cop said. “There were money fragments all over the place.”

“Larson, shut this kid up.”
“You opened the door, Kent.”

“I didn’t give her that case. I paid her two days ago, and she disappeared. That’s how we worked. That’s how we always worked: I paid her, and she went away while the cops scrambled their eggs and came up with nothing.”

The cop’s jaw hardened.

“Walk away, Gilliam.” Larson advised.

Gilliam took a moment to let me feel the weight of his wrath, and walked off.

“Don’t be stupid, Kent. You’re gonna need them at some point.”

“This ain’t that point.”

Larson sucked in a breath.

“You’ve been at this awhile, so I’m gonna let it go, because I know you know better. Don’t be an asshole on this. Everyone knows what this girl did, they just can’t prove it.

“Either she met somebody better, or the whole thing was a tragic accident, and there’s nothing that’s ever gonna get proven either way.

“You know that too. Don’t’cha.”

I nodded. “You know what I have to do then, ‘don’t cha.’ ”

“If I catch you Kent, you know what I have to do.”

I nodded again.

“Too bad, Kent. Sweet kid, when she didn’t have a gun.”

“Somebody unsweetened her a long time ago, Larson. I need to find out who, and why?”

“Does it matter? Chick assassins are as commonplace now as—“

The look on my face stopped whatever he was going to say next.

He looked away, lit a cigarette. “Head back. Get outta here. I’ll see to it she’s taken care of.”

“Thanks, Larson.”

He waved and turned away.

I stood there a moment longer, looking at the white sheet soaked red, the blood and rain mingling in rivulets that sluiced down the drain in the gutter.

“Ah, Valentine.”

I understood Larson’s point; he’d known her too, before I did, in a different life, when she was a teenager. A lot had happened, and he tried to mentor her, but she wanted something more than the straight and narrow, and my other friend provided that, for awhile.

She would’ve moved on from me too, in time. Perhaps she already had someone else lined up. She never really worked for anyone; she was freelance, and handled her own affairs.

Her rep in the underground markets was impeccable. I’d been lucky to get her.

Most of my problems were gone, but not all, and none of them were good enough to get her like this.

I had to work up a list of her enemies, and her competition; there was room for overlap there, but true pros always left it at competition, and never made it personal.

Valentine had been one of those.

There was the matter of an estate, if she had one, and I decided to start there.

Someone made a ton of money if he was able to take her out, and I decided to find out whom that might be.

A niggling feeling told me I was getting into deep waters: Valentine was international: passports, money, tech, anonymous drops, first class hotels and flights. She knew the ropes, made the loopholes, and walked wires that would make other assassins quit.

She was the best, and someone had taken that away.

I wouldn’t be the only one hunting whoever it was that thought they could replace her.

They were off to a good start, but Valentine was well-liked.

Whoever you are, you better have killer legs and a sunny personality. Being a crack shot might aid your cause too. Explosives were over-reach, cowardly even; just put it down, and slink away like a vole.

She was the only one I knew her age who would get my jazz references.

The last thing I’d said to her was the opening line from a jazz standard, and she knew what to say.

That alone was cause enough to marry her, in my book.

“I’ll find them, Valentine. And when I do, they’re gonna wish I blew them up.”

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Dead (1)

As always, she delivered. There was never a trace, never a mess.

Honestly, I don’t know how she did it, and I never cared to ask.
She came referred to me by someone she used to work for; they parted on bad terms, and she shot him in the knee, but even then, he admired her work.

“Best I ever saw.”

“Rate?”

He told me. It was up there, but workable.
”All right.”

 

*****************

 

She came in looking like new pearls; guess that made me the swine.

Short red dress, body like a tight spring, killer legs, not too made up, soft perfume, the whole nine, then nine more.

Now I realized why he kept her after she shot him; she was the kind of woman who could do that to a man and be forgiven instantly. Hell, I forgave her, then and there, and she never even took her gun out.

She crossed the killer legs, let me look my fill and travel my way up; when I finally got to her eyes, they were amused, and she was smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

“Do I pass…inspection?”

“With flying colors.”

She uncrossed the legs and leaned forward, eyes no longer amused, and told me her terms.

“I work alone. No cops, no tails. If I get wind of anyone, anyone, I’m giving you a refund, but I’m coming after you.”

I sat back, steepled my fingers, intrigued.

“You shouldn’t tip your hand so early.”

“I don’t care; I need to get to Mexico.”

“Why Mexico?”

She looked at me as I’d just fallen on my head and changed color.

“Why not Mexico?”

I shrugged. “Why not?”

I told her the job, and gave her a down payment, the rest to be paid upon completion.

“So, just to be clear, I work for you now?”

I held out my hand: “You can always give it back.”

We locked eyes for a few moments, before she brightened, smiled, and winked, all flirtatious play, like a shark bumping a hole in your sea cage.

“See you later, boss” she said, and left.

She did it in two days. No trace.

I paid her double.

 

*************

She went on to do a few more jobs.

I liked her sass; you didn’t see girls with sass anymore; in my day, I might’ve held her for a bit, but she’d have burned me like acid.

I’d have melted away a happy man…

“My money?”

“Right there, Valentine.”

I pointed to the briefcase.

“Yes, they’re not marked, blah blah,” I said waving a dismissive hand.

“I trust you, Kent.”

“You should. How long we been together now?”

She smiled. “A gentleman remembers her birthday, never her age.”

“Ha, listen to you. You’re still in diapers, and you didn’t make that up.”

“I read, peasant.”

I laughed.

“Anything else for me,” she said.

“Might be, Valentine. Gimme a day or so.”

“You’re the only one that calls me ‘Valentine,’ Kent. Everyone else says ‘V’ or ‘Val’.

I got up, stretched, yawned, then said to her, “I ain’t everyone else. I like the way your name sounds. I like you, and I’d love to…well, if you’d let me, but that gets…”

“Expensive?” she teased.

I cleared my throat, then answered her.“Costly.”

She laughed then. “Charmer.”

She picked up the briefcase.

“Til next time, lover man.”

“If you’re ever feeling lonely…”

“I’ll call you.” She turned and blew me a kiss. “Promise.”

I never saw her again.

When they found what was left of her, I bawled like a kid.