Just Say Know

No thermostat heat

No central air conditioning

No storm windows

No waxed floors

No cafeterias

No new books

No shiny desks

with compartments

for your stuff

 

No high tech lighting

No cell phones

No smart boards

No desktops

No laptops

No gaming consoles

No wi-fi

 

No bullies

No nonsense

No cheating

No missing homework

No disrespecting teachers and elders

No smartass remarks

No sagging your pants

No midriffs and cleavage

No smoking to get high

No cutting class to have sex parties

No baby daddies

No baby mamas

No drug dealers

No gang bangers

 

No dropouts

Just say Know…

Know technology
Know reading
Know math
Know science
Know history
Know music
Know mechanics
Know carpentry
Know electricity
Know geography

Know your brothers
Know your sisters
Know your purpose

Know your future
is in

your hands

You do know that, right?

 

Weapons of the Heart

Always

at the heart of it

is a weapon

 

A kingdom’s fate

A love’s revival

A warrior’s life

A prophecy fulfilled

 

 

Always

at the heart of it

is a weapon

 

Discarded

Forgotten

Dulled

Unblooded

Uncared for

 

But a weapon

all the same

 

Waiting patiently

for a hand

to lift it

up into the light

 

to transfer its

Power

 

anew

 

Go on…

 

pick it up

and

feel its

heartbeat

pulse

in harmony

with

your own

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.

How Regal Our Princes

How regal our princes

How handsome, how bold

How bright eyed and dignified

Even when sold

 

How regal our princes

How strong in their ways

Though chased, caught and netted

And emptied of days

 

How regal our princes

How proudly they stand

In shivering sickness

Inside a sick land

 

How regal our princes

Imprisoned in chains

And beaten and broken

For freedom took pains

 

How regal our princes

Their blood flowing down

Their hands pricked with nettles

Their skin glistening brown

 

How regal our princes

Their voices that sang

Of freedom and justice

As white church bells rang

 

How regal our princes

Their sacrifice great

With hope their descendants

Would not bear this weight

 

How regal our princes

We thank you, we do

There would be no us

If it wasn’t for you

 

How regal our princes

Now faded with time

Remembered and honored

In this humble rhyme

When Grandfather Stood Up

Grandfather,

they made you

bow your head

and not

look at them

because, they said,

you were unworthy

 

they made you

bend your back

to place burdens on it

no man should have to carry

and told you

to carry it

 

they made you

quiet the warrior

within you

and told you

to swallow

your pride

and bite

your tongue

And be a

‘good nigger’

 

And you did

because

you

were standing up

for

me

Our Love Like Diamonds in Black Sand

I scattered myself

spread myself out

purged myself of

fickle, transient colors

and became a

solid monochrome,

containing all that you would need

to shine

And you, lain so sweetly, gently

over the top of me,

like diamonds on black sand,

took the sun from my heart,

and turned it into

angelic starlight,

reflecting the night sky,

and our enduring,

timeless love

to the

infinite universe

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.’ ”

 

 

Leiko and the White Wolf (4)

The evening meal, as it turned out, was less a somber affair than Ko would’ve thought; the monks were smiling, even chatty, after grace was said.

They passed the plates along with good natured jokes about round stomachs and big appetites.

The servants, probably neophytes, hung around behind the monks, waiting with refills, smiles of amusement on their faces; Ko took notice of that too, and thought it a good thing they weren’t being reprimanded.

She sat next to Koji, who did have a round stomach and big appetite, and didn’t seem to care what the others thought of it, and he served her from the platters of food that came his way.

Her stomach growled, and she had to force herself to exercise control.

The scents of the cooking here were different, more smoky and pungent; in her home it had always been tangy, with some sort of orange spice her mother liked to use. It was peasant fare to be sure, but it was filling, and Ko couldn’t remember ever going to bed hungry.

Her diet had consisted largely of fish and the things that preyed on fish; her mother grew her own vegetables, and was fast in the kitchen after long years of arduous experience in her own mother’s small kitchen.

But the monks here seemed to eat well, despite the seeming indolence of their calling.

She noticed Akira watching her, and gave him a small smile to assure him she knew what was going to happen, and she was prepared: he was ready to introduce her to the rest of the monks.

The servants cleared away the dishes and utensils, and Akira stood and signaled for silence, which came as abruptly as the chatter had after grace.

“Brothers, I have news.”

They gave him their full attention.

“We have, in our midst, a young lady that we have taken from her homeland, and her parents’ side, to train in the path of Rei, thunder and lightning,  for reasons she does not, as yet, know, but will in time.

“Brothers, I give you Ko of Iwai.”

Ko stood, stepped back from the table, and bowed low.

Murmurs of approval at her manners and training buzzed briefly through the assembly, and when Ko straightened, Akira had sat down, and they were all watching her.

A thrill of nervousness coursed through her, as her eyes fastened on the man at the head of the table, the one whose eyes now bore into her as if they would have her soul or know the reason.

He was tall and broad, with a silver mane and full whiskers, luxurious and immaculate, handsome in a long, dark blue hakama with a white wolf head sewn over his heart.

“Welcome, Ko, to Dosojin Monastery.”

Ko thought his eyes could pierce granite, but she decided not to be cowed; it wasn’t an easy decision, since she couldn’t stop her knees from shaking.

“Welcome? It was not my choosing; my father sold me for reasons I don’t know. Akira has tried his best, but to be honest, elder, I am not a little angry.”

The table buzzed again at her forthrightness.

“I know that I’m here because you feel you need me; how I can deliver you from whatever it is men such as yourselves are threatened by, you will have to reveal to me sooner rather than later.

“For all that I’ve been kidnapped, since I cannot return to Iwai, it seems I must do what I can.

She turned to Brother Koji.

“Thank you, Brother Koji, for taking care of me. If you will excuse me, Brothers, I slept through most of the afternoon, and I need to make a list of belongings that I, as a female, will need.”

Hakurou and Akira remained expressionless, but the looks around the table ranged from surprised affront to amusement.

“May I be excused, elder?”

“You may, Leiko.”

“With respect, my name is Ko, elder.”

“I am changing it for the duration of your time here; you are Leiko now.”

She seethed, but bowed in resigned acquiescence.

“Thank you.”

She left, her mind swirling with emotions: surprise at her boldness, bordering on disrespect, and a slight flush of pleasure at the reaction she got.

Her name, Ko, meant dutiful daughter.

The name he’d given to her, loosely translated, meant ‘sarcastic one.’

Given her behavior, she supposed she earned it.

She was smiling in spite of herself.

Leiko. Thunder and lightning indeed.

 

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

 

Hakurou roared with laughter, and the monks themselves, not quite knowing what to make of things, laughed too, albeit nervously.

“Akira,” he sputtered, “you’ve grabbed a tigress by the tail.”

“It would seem so. I will go speak with her.”

Hakurou waved his hand. “Bah, leave her be. She said nothing untrue, and slighted no brothers. Think on it a moment, and if what happened to her happened to you,” he looked around the table, “any one of you, you’d be inclined to be ill-mannered too.

“Send for a village girl to get the supplies our female will need.”

He sat down, the gaiety leaving his eyes, and as he regained his breath, he addressed them.

“The threat from across the sea grows, gentlemen. The witches play their pipes, and light their fires, and mate to sacrifice the offspring, and the isle mist has a scarlet cast to it, and it is darkening despite the resplendent dawns we enjoy here.

“It is a real and distinct possibility that they could be lost to sight, if the mist gets thick and dark enough.

“I know they’re beginning to conscript an army, wielders of steel, to slay us outright, so their magic can be saved for the extraction of their treasures from our soil.

“You know the history of our battle, and our victory came dear.

“Now we have a weapon, one girl against an army, and the path of Rei has been forbidden us for centuries, if not millennia. It is a dark and terrible practice, but we have weakened ourselves, and there is no time for us to catch up to them.

“We needed a woman to fight against women, for a man trained in the way of Rei will not be effective. The battle is aligned by gender; male for male, female for female.

“This is the way the Rei have always done it.

“Leiko is that weapon. Her feistiness could prove to be a two-edged sword.”

He cast a sidelong glance at Akira, and grinned, briefly, “Akira, I trust that you are up to the task.”

There was light laughter.

Akira didn’t share in it, only nodded.

Brother Koji spoke. “As her attendant, I too, will do what I can to aid Akira.”

“Thank you, Brother,” Akira said.

“Yes, Koji, that would be appreciated,” Hakurou said.

“Hakurou?” one of the other monks asked, “If she invokes Rei, will it not destroy us too?”

“It could. But we have ever known that it is better for both to die, than for one to be unleashed, unchecked, across the world.

“In the taking of their lives, we may be sacrificing our own; the path of Rei has been untrammeled for longer than men can remember, and in its dormancy, it gathers power.”

He leaned forward across the table and looked at each man until they were newly focused on him.

“That means that when she destroys the island, it may be too much for her to control, and we will die as well in the ensuing destruction, by tsunami, by earthquake, by fire, and there will be no escape.”

He sat back.

“Consider carefully what lies ahead, and if any one of you wishes to leave, see me no later than midnight tonight, and be on your way by first light.

“Leiko’s training starts tomorrow.”

 

 

 

Leiko and the White Wolf (3)

Ko stopped looking around her; the day was as damp as her spirit.

Perhaps the sun would be out another day, but she knew that places by water were often clouded of a morning, depending on the surrounding countryside.

She and Akira walked in silence, their own footsteps soft on the streets.

There had been no one to greet them when they disembarked, no horses for travel, no wagon.

Akira had taken back his robe, but not before asking if she was warm enough.

She said she was.

“Good. I cannot appear before my master unclothed.”

Having seen something of Akira’s power, she was surprised that he used such a word as ‘master’ in such a nonchalant manner, and didn’t want to think about the man who might be stronger.

“Who’s your master?

“You will meet him when he sends for you.”

“When will that be?”

“When he feels like it.”

She didn’t feel like playing the slippery eel word games Akira seemed fond of, at least with her.

Perhaps if I were a boy he’d share more freely.

“Akira?”

“Yes?”

“Why did you seek me out, and not a boy?”

“Gender did not matter, Ko; it was a matter of other things.”

“But I-“
“Enough, Ko.”

He said it calmly enough, but she knew better than to answer.

“All things, in time,” he reminded her.

“All right.”

“We are here.”

Ko looked up at the monastery, on the summit of a medium sized hill, shrouded by yet more fog, with torches burning like captive, dying stars above the crenels.

A bell pealed, signaling their arrival, but Ko saw no watchtower.

“How do they know we’re here?”

Akira smiled down at her, and gave no reply.

I want to stomp on his foot Ko thought, and instantly regretted it, not knowing if he could read her thoughts.

If he did, he gave no sign.

A monk in a dark red robe with gold piping opened the doors, and two more in similar garb stood in the middle of the entrance, bowing from the waist to Akira.

“Welcome home, brother,” the monk on the right said.

“Welcome to our guest,” the monk on the left said.

Akira stopped, and greeted them with a slight bow of his own.

Ko followed his lead, and the monk who greeted her grinned.

“We part here, Ko. Brother Koji will take you to your quarters. I will meet with you again at evening meal.”

Ko felt a shot of anxiety rush through her; she said she didn’t trust what Akira said, but she trusted Akira.

He said no one would harm me, and time would prove it true.

“This way,” said Koji, and Ko followed, feeling the eyes of the other monk and Akira watching her.

Another test. I mustn’t look back or he’ll know I’m afraid.

She quickened her step until she was beside Koji, and felt the weight of their eyes lifted.

 

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

Brother Koji had a kindly face, clean shaven and rotund, like his body.

To Ko, he looked like a barrel with legs, and she smiled at the image, but didn’t laugh.

“A pleasant memory, young miss?”

She blushed, as if he’d heard her thought out loud, but the lie came easy enough.

“Yes, Brother Koji. I was just thinking of home.”

His eyes grew soft in sympathy. “I hope you will see it again one day, young miss.”

Ko felt bad about the deception, but what he said actually got to her, and she felt the hot sting of tears pop up.

“It is my only wish,” she said, mourning that her father was a coward, and her mother as shadowy and vaporous as the dark corners she seemed to prefer dwelling in when they were indoors.

“Well, while you are here, I hope you will come to find some pleasantries to keep your days fulfilled until then.

“Here we are.”

He opened the door for her, and stepped out of the way.

Her room at home had been small and cheaply furnished, but that room was a palace compared to this one.

There was a bed, with a thin blanket, thin mattress and flat pillow, and a nightstand on which sat two pieces of bad pottery that were a pitcher and cup, and a ceramic vase of dubious use tucked into a shadowy corner.

A wooden chair and desk occupied the wall opposite.

“Welcome, young miss,” Koji said. “I will return for you when it is time for the evening meal.”

He bowed, and walked away.

Ko wanted to cry, scream, and faint all at once, but the fight was out of her, and she merely sat on the edge of the bed, her mind numb and her vision blurry, until the events of the day overwhelmed her, and she threw herself onto the mattress, and wished herself dead.

Her eyes only granted part of her wish, and merely closed.

 

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

“Hakurou will see you now, Akira,” the monk who greeted him said.

“Now? I thought he would wait until after the evening meal.”

“As did I, since that is what he first ordered, but upon your arrival, he saw no reason to delay.”

They arrived at a set of large, black marble doors with bronze, vertical handles shaped like swords, though the edges were dull to prevent cutting.

“Thank you, Brother.”

He left.

Akira opened the door; his master had no need of guards.

He walked in on his master pouring a second cup of something brown and potent, and he turned and smiled, waited for Akira to finish his bow, and offered him the cup.

They drank in silence, though Akira felt the weight of the elder’s power observing his face, as if deciding whether or not he would take the life of a spider that landed on his last piece of bread.

“Another?”

Akira coughed, and waved his hand.

“Ha! You would be sober for vespers, then. That’s good. Ever the faithful monk, you are Akira.

“How fares our young charge?”

“Her father handled things poorly, and she spit in his face as she left him behind. Of course she was scared, and sullen at first, but seemed to resign herself to things soon enough, and peppered me with questions I had to stop. Also, she is quick-witted, and not easily frightened.”

“You did not tell her why she was chosen.”

It wasn’t a question, but Akira answered to assure him.

“No.”

“Good; leave that to me. Spitting in her father’s face, though, shows rebellion.”

“Rebellion is often the outcome of betrayal, Hakurou. Is that not why we need her?”

Hakurou finished his second drink, poured another, and under his silver white mustache, Akira heard his voice deepen almost to sorrow as he let out a heavy sigh, nodding.

“It is.”

 

 

Justice = Just Us

So as a cop, you don’t even have to engage the tween with the TOY gun in the department store. No criminal record, no threat to you, himself, or anyone in the store, but he never even got a ‘drop your weapon.’

Just pull up, and bang.

When we’re innocent, cops plant evidence.  Alabama ‘police’ did it for 10 years. Where’s the outrage from #ALLLIVESMATTER?

Make up your mind:

Don’t want us ‘thuggin,’ but won’t hire us.
Don’t want us on welfare, but don’t want us educated.
Don’t want us holding political office, but it’s okay if it’s a ball or a microphone we sing and rap into, as long as we’re not decrying supremacist / oligarchal bullshit disguised as ‘policy.’

Then redline the districts to remove black representatives, and put them in districts where prisoners can’t vote.

Then talk about ‘reverse discrimination’ when it used to be called ‘hiring on merit’ before.

Worried about terrorism? Guess it takes one to know one.

Time to segregate, on our own terms, for our own reasons, to rebuild ourselves, our youth, and our communities. Stop celebrating Kwanzaa for a week when we’re not living out the principles 24/7/365.

We weren’t brought over here to live, but to work, and as long as we’re not turning a profit for anyone else, we can ‘go back to Africa.’

But let’s get back to Black Wall Street instead. Let’s build schools where our youth will excel and begin to invade the halls of power: science, law (and its enforcement),  finance, technology, and trade, in the same numbers we seek to invade the NFL and NBA.

We’ll be talking about a different country then; help is not coming from the outside, and for damn sure reparations are not coming for slavery. You’re paid less for the work you actually do, as opposed to the work you didn’t, where no one was paid at all.

Stop rapping about money and hoes and guns and drugs, and pull your pants up so you can stand up and man up. You do know by now that showing your ass means anyone can screw you, and screw you over?

If you ‘love your hood,’ stop poisoning its people with drugs imported from countries that don’t like you either, and shooting your brothers, and impregnating your sisters with babies you can’t take care of from behind bars. You leave them vulnerable, like Tamir was vulnerable.

Stop riding around in expensive cars through neighborhoods that look no better than bombed out Syria, talking about ‘I got mine’ before the cops add it to the Criminal Forfeiture fund to pay for their bodycams, which they’ll turn off the next time they aim for your heart.

Poverty is a mindset; it just manifests as an economic factor.

Wake up. Strap up (your mind first, your home second).

The revolution has started, and it’s not only televised, it’s being broadcast all over the world.

Resolve in your spirit, now, to answer this question:

How long are you willing to remain a target?