True Colors

In this asylum called life, no one makes it alone.

In my own times and trials, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that in my own life, there have been good people, people who don’t look like me, who came alongside me when my fortunes reversed.

From the late 90s through the early 2000’s I went through a serious thyroid illness, a divorce, and severe financial distress, one paycheck away from homelessness and having my only means of transportation repossessed.

It was humbling to need help, and embarrassing to ask, but need overruled pride, because I came to the realization that I would do whatever was needed to keep from being on the street, because, to be honest, I didn’t think there’d be any coming back from that.

So I asked. And sometimes G-d provided without me having to say a word.

And with unconditional love and no hesitation, there were friends and acquaintances who simply came to me and said, “What do you need?”

Color, politics, entitlement, privilege, condescension, patronization, and a sense of supremacy were never part of the equation. A man in need was aided by good people, in the spirit of the Samaritan.

They made sure I had food, gas, bass lessons, and shelter. They gifted me vehicles for transportation before I was finally able to afford a car. They opened their homes, finances, and hearts to me in my darkest moments.

They encouraged me when my spirits flagged, but they also loved me enough to hold me accountable to make the changes needed to get back on my own two feet. That meant leaving them and pulling up my roots to start over, and they helped me with that, too.

Without them, there is no Alfred Smith, wannabe author and occasional bassist.

Without them, there may well not have been a 2017, where I’m now back on my feet and moving forward with a lifelong dream.

I am honored and blessed to still number them among my friends, even though way has led on to way.

So it is to them, I say:  It’s been a long road back, but you’ve all walked the extra mile to get me here.

And for that, with love and gratitude, I thank you with all my heart.

God bless you, all ways.

 

 

 

The Value of Things

Indrissa hated everything about the market: the noise, the smell of animals, the smell of people, the squalling of reckless running children that always resulted in something breaking, fighting off the feral animals that roamed and the endless vermin that stayed, the constant haggling, the heat of the sun, and the leering of men.
Resigned, she lamented her lot, until the day he came.
He bought a small, cheap necklace from her with a fake green gem and asked her to try it on so he could see how it looked. “I’m buying it for a special lady.”
Humoring him as well as herself, she put it on. “I’m sure she’ll be happy with it,” she fastened the clasp and looked up at him with a fake smile, “and pleased with you.”
He smiled back. “And are you?”
She tilted her head and looked at him, questioning his meaning. “What?”
“Are you happy with it, and pleased with me?”
She began to unfasten it and hand it back to him. “I don’t understand…”
He held up his hand to stop her. “I bought it for you, Indrissa.”
“Sir, I don’t think—“
“I’ve watched you for a long time. You always look distant and unhappy; you don’t like the market, do you?”
She felt her face heat, realized her hands were still poised to take the necklace off, but she didn’t.
“No, I don’t. I inherited this business from my parents so I wouldn’t fall prey to the scavengers here.”
Not far away was a stage with half naked men and women, and the grim, silent men below them who’d as soon cut a throat as shake a hand. Gold and silver coins flashed through fingers faster than the eye could follow, and the stage began to gradually empty.
He nodded. “I’ve watched them, too.”
She assessed him, trying to place him, but couldn’t; he said he’d been watching her.
Either it had been in plain sight, or he was stalking her.
Still, he’d bought her a gift, albeit from her own stall, and made himself known; if he’d wanted her dead, or harmed, he had more than his share of opportunities.
“So what are you going to do?” she asked, surprised to find herself a bit shy, “Take me away from all this?”
He shuffled a bit, now nervous himself. “Not right away. I could make coming here better for you, though.”
“And how’s that?”
“It’s what you’re selling. No one wants that. It’s for children…”
He stayed at the booth, talking business in between flirting.
He bought lunch for two, and sat beside her as they ate.
She could see some of the other merchants begin to cast furtive glances in their direction.
If he noticed, he didn’t seem to care; he was all business, offering to increase the value of her wares, and if she wanted, she could take him on as a partner. They’d do well together, and ….
The hours went quickly, and he helped her pack and walked her to the gate.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” she asked.
He smiled. “Would you like to?”
She actually giggled, and nodded. “Yes, I would.”
“Then I will be here.” He stuck out his hand for her to shake, and she did.
At home that night, bathed and pleasantly exhausted, she had a sip of something strong, and stared out the window at the rising moon.
She thought of him, and her hand went to her throat.
With a small smile, she felt the gem and chain beneath her fingertips.
She’d forgotten to take it off, and now she didn’t want to.

Shadow Love

I see it standing there

at the

bottom

of my life

like a

snarling wolf

at the

base of a ladder

 

This amorphous shadow,

Shifting, shining stars

contained in

incorporeal limbs.

 

I remember when

they reached for me

and held me close,

One hand on my eyes,

the other on my throat

so I would not see it

was killing me,

as it sang

death’s lullaby

so sweetly

in my ear

so I couldn’t feel

my life ebbing.

 

But I grew too heavy

with sorrow

to carry,

and it set me down.

 

Gorged on my misery,

it could not pursue.

And when I returned

to the sunlight

it fled.

 

I remember it,

not fondly.

And these days,

not long.

 

But I can still

feel its eyes

boring into me,

And it waits,

black and coiled

round the cold scraps

of what it once prized.

 

Wanting me back

even as it moves on

to claim

new souls

to suck.

Can’t Swallow Your Poison

I can’t be myself within your parameters

that define me according to what

you think

my limits

should be.

I don’t only belong in the places

you tell me

I can go.

My mind is not limited to your perceptions

of what

I am capable of achieving.

My freedom is not contingent

on your condescension.

My life

is not yours to take

because

you’re afraid.

My will

is not yours to mold because

you hate

what makes you afraid.

My color is not an accident.

My true ancestry is not diluted by you.

My creativity need not celebrate you.

We are on this sphere by divine will.

You are in my sphere through no choice of my own.

But understand, I will not swallow your poison.

You belittle our massive, unspoken love

for this nation of bondage; whenever we are asked to serve,

we do it with dignity and honor, but not at the expense

of our dignity in service to your hypocrisy.

I will not give you water for your pill of denial,

and I will not drink the poison you’ve

slipped into my life.

I give you back your cup, untouched.

Partake of your own bitterness,

And when you leave

I will place coins on your eyes

for the ferryman,

because I won’t carry the weight of

your ignorance on me

anymore.

 

 

 

Plunder

Into my life you came,

bold against the rising sun,

your wind-tossed locks alluring,

your bright, bold eyes searing.

 

And I opened my chest to give you the contents

of its heart, and at first you treasured them.

The glorious days of sailing with you

were warm and secure, with clear skies and

wide horizons.

 

But in time, you craved not the warmth of my heart,

preferring the cold hardness of gems and coins.

Not the stable strength of my arms,

but the fickle roll of riches.

 

Turning yourself to seawater,

you slipped from my grasp

and left me no choice, set me adrift

with no anchor, no oar.

 

Under the stars my heart withered.

The sun-kissed days grew dank with brine,

and the raucous racket of overbold gulls

pursued my foundering lifeboat.

 

I dreamed that in a reef of nascent coral

I put the seawater to my lips as if to kiss you

once more,

but therein lied a fatal thirst,

and under a high tide moon,

I spilled it and left it behind.

 

What remains ahead is unknown, uncharted,

yet with a sense of direction and purpose,

of longing fulfilled, a calling realized.

As the gull calls fade, the windsong rises.

 

And I know that in the distance,

a paradise awaits my arrival.

I shield my eyes from the sunlight

dappling the dancing waves,

and sail on to fate’s warm hearth,

alone

but finally

free.

Light Breaker

I heard the light crash like thunder into the darkness.

Saw the obsidian surrounding my cage

shatter.

Heard the screams and wails and curses

turn to laughter, songs, and shouts of joy.

For too long

I walked under the canopy,

shielded from everything.

Yielding nothing.

 

And the light broke

through the darkness.

 

I saw the sky blue swatch of sky

flecked and speckled with drifting clouds,

felt the breeze of an early summer evening

cool on my skin.

The slope of the climb

to the world above was gentle, easy

and pleasant.

My heart rejoiced.

My will rebelled.

I wanted this light,

this blue, this breeze.

This joy.

But I burrowed

further down and broke

the light,

and sent it on its way.

 

Vanquished

Vanquished now,

I return

to find

all bare of life,

and stilted, stifled purpose

laces the air that has

disguised her

earthy scent,

rank loam in the ruins.

The stones of my home,

my fence,

tumbling

atop each other,

as my men

from their horses,

ungainly unseated,

and skewered

for their lack of skill,

or a champion.

Grasping, bare, black branches soon

reach to pull me into

the shadows

of my mind.

As did she.

Merciful

was the

headsman’s ax,

and swift.

The sky and ground

joined hands

to somersault

in sun-dappled motley

 before my eyes.

And

I returned home,

now

Vanquished.