No Glory Here

There is no glory here for me

The victory flame is quenched

No more the striving, driving fight,

in perspiration drenched

No more the laurel crown

that wreathes the winner’s fevered brow

The tender flesh of virgin maids

press not against me now

No more the cheering of the crowds

resounding in my head

No smiles or chants or accolades

No rivals full of dread

In this arena here I stand

though weary, sad and worn

But not til death’s hand pulps my heart

this sword from hand be torn

True Formation

These
Black Men
proud,
determined,
tired of being
treated as less

tired of their
People being
treated as less

made a statement
took a stand
took action

See the
seriousness
in their eyes
in their demeanor

Protecting
those
who would be
brutalized

Yes, they were a hate group

They hated
oppression
police brutality
injustice

They hated
seeing children go hungry
because there wasn’t
money to feed them.

They hated
living in
neglected and
downtrodden
communities,
and didn’t wait
around for
the government
to change things

And for
all of that
they were
betrayed
infiltrated
and
destroyed

Pull up your pants,
and make
something
of your life
besides
another
tragic tale.

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?

 

Why You Leaving Now, Daddy?

Back then

the shovels,

picks, hoes,

rakes, pitchforks,

axes and scythes

were held high

on tired shoulders

that had to make it

through

one more day

to eke out

a hardscrabble

living

under people

with hardscrabble hearts

 

They sang and joked

and laughed between

the grunts of effort

that went into

breaking ground

 

Their sweat brought

the flies and mosquitoes

 

Their existence brought

bullies carrying violence

 

But their thoughts were

on their wives and children,

who knew that when their men

left them

it was to make the

best life

they could until

they could do better

 

There was hope in their toil,

and love in their hearts

and it hurt them to see their women

standing with the children waving, sad smiles on their

little faces, and his wife with

worry in her eyes even though

she smiled too

 

He might run into the wrong man today…

 

Coming home tired,

to a cooked meal,

and children on his lap,

and a warm bed with

the love of his life

holding him close.

 

So

 

Now that the chains are off,

Now that you’re free

Now that you can dream your own dreams

and lift up the next generation

 

Why you leaving now, daddy?

Why you in jail now, daddy?

Why did you shoot that other Black man?

Was he a daddy too?

Why you don’t come by to see us?

Why is mama crying?

Did you hit her again, daddy?

 

Don’t you love us anymore?

 

Daddy? Daddy?

 

Don’t go…

 

Why you leaving now, daddy?

 

 

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.

Leiko and the White Wolf (5)

5)

 

As it often happens when in a strange place for the first time, Leiko couldn’t sleep, and got up to skulk about the monastery to explore whatever piqued her curiosity, which was just about everything.

The dark halls with single torches intrigued her most, but she knew the monastery was likely labyrinthine, and didn’t want to risk getting lost.

She decided to see if Akira was up; perhaps he could make some sort of sleeping tea for her, if he wasn’t too angry at her behavior during dinner.

A bit peeved to find that she cared what he thought of her, she figured it was best to go apologize; he’d been kind to her, all things considered, and she hadn’t, as he’d promised, come to harm.

There was no threat here, at least not from the Brothers, but she could also sense an undercurrent of contained power, controlled, but almost throbbing like a heart, inside the walls, under the ground, a vibrancy running like a warm current tickling the fine hairs on her arms.

It was a sense of gathering power, and it gave her an excited, anticipatory fright.

If that was what they were going to teach her to harness and wield, she dreaded the learning of it, and never desired anything more.

Some of the doors were open, and she looked in to see the men packing large satchels. When they saw her, they hurriedly looked away, almost shamefaced.

She stood in the doorway of one, and the monk came over to close the door, but she wouldn’t leave.

“Leiko, I need privacy.”

“Are you leaving? Did Hakurou send you all on a journey? A mission?”

She saw his face change at the words ‘journey’ and ‘mission,’ and something clicked into place.

“You’re leaving.”

“Please…” he pushed the door at her again, not hard, but firmly, and she had no choice but to back away or let it hit her bare toes.

The lock clicked, and she heard him shuffle away.

They’re leaving because of me.

Disturbed, she went in earnest to find Akira, and ask what problems she’d be facing with them now that she was living here.

 

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

“Come in, Ko.”

She went in, saw Akira standing by the small window, looking out at the yellow moonlight on the green grass, giving it a bluish cast.

“You knew it was me?”

He chuckled, but didn’t turn to her.

“No powers needed there; the brothers aren’t prone to knocking, and they’re a ham fisted lot if they do.”

“You called me ‘Ko.’ Hakurou changed my name. You call him master, but you defy him by using my old name.”

He turned to her then, looking at her intently; her observations were keen for one so young. Tigress by the tail…

“Between you and me, you will always be ‘Ko.’ That is the name I found you under, and the name in which you branded your father’s cheek with your spittle.”

She reddened at the memory, and looked away.

Good.

“It is also the first cord of our bonding, and I will only call you ‘Leiko’ when Hakurou is around.

“Are we agreed?”

She nodded, not wanting to speak yet, fearing her voice would squeak.

“You are not asleep; tomorrow, Hakurou’s going to start your training in the path of the Rei.”

She sat on the edge of his bed. “Some of the men are leaving because of me. I saw them.”

Akira inwardly cursed them for cowards.

“There is nothing to be done for it, Ko. Those that remain…”

“Those that remain…?”

He shook his head. “What is it you want?”

“Besides returning to Iwai? I’d like a sleeping tea, if you have any.”

“I do. I will even join you. Any later, and we will both see the sun before we topple.”

 

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

 

Hakurou’s voice was low thunder.

“I am grieved…so grieved I can no longer call you Brothers.

“You are craven, useless dogs.”

“You said to consider carefully, Hakurou. We all have—“
“No spines!” Hakurou’s fist slammed the large table they were sitting around, and they all jumped, blinking at the sudden fury of the motion and his expression.

Another monk spoke. “Maybe you shouldn’t issue edicts you don’t mean then, Hakurou.”

Hakurou sat down, the blood slowly leaving his face as his hand worried at his beard.

“You’re right. If you didn’t leave now, you’d prove a weakness in the fighting, and run, or die. Either way, you’d have the witches victorious, and this is not the time for people like you. I would say ‘men’, but that doesn’t fit you.”

The monk who first spoke stood. “I’ve had enough. You said we could leave. We’ve done our part, and served our gods; we want to go on serving them. We don’t want to die.”

Hakurou gave a bitter laugh.

“And if the witches win, pup, do you think they’ll leave you be?”

That gave them pause, and some of them remained sitting.

“He’s turned you? With that simplistic question, he changed your mind?”

One of sitting monks sighed. “He’s right, Brother Milal, there is no place to run they won’t find us.”

“But there’s a chance they won’t; there’s a chance we’ll survive, and as long as it’s there, I have to try. I have to take that chance.”

“Best be leaving then,” Hakurou said. “The sun is up soon, and Leiko’s first session will start at first light.”

They stood, and filed out in silence, giving the old wolf at least that much respect, dropping their pendants and rings in a reliquary beside the main doors.

 

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

Leiko and Akira saw them leaving, and before Akira could react, she was off, running toward them.

“Wait! Please! Please wait!

The monk who spoke to Hakurou first stopped the rest of them, watching her wild eyed approach.

Seeing he was the leader, she went up to him.

“If you leave, sir, you weaken the monastery. You weaken us all.”

“I have no part in this war. It will be a bloodbath, and none of it theirs. You seem like an intelligent child, for a peasant’s daughter. Demand Akira return you to your homeland.

“Dosojin Monastery will be destroyed in the battle to come.”

“Are you a seer, now?” Akira interjected.

Milal looked at him as if he’d just bled on a hymnal.

“No, I’m a realist.”

“If you believe your god is real, ‘realist,’ then why don’t you stay and ask for victory? Your brothers need you.” Leiko said. “And I need you.”

He looked at her, incredulous: her rudeness knew no boundaries.

“He is not a god of warriors, you fool girl, he is a god of the temple. He watches over us in peace and in life, if we should so pray.”

She looked at him a long moment. He was bristling, but dared say nothing in front of Akira. He was shifting his feet under her gaze, and not making eye contact, but summoning backbone to stand straight and say:

“If there’s nothing else, child, we must go.”

She stepped aside, and as they filed past, the leader stood glaring at her, and she calmly bore it until it was his time to step forward on the path of stones.

As he passed her, she murmured so only the three of them heard her:

“Pray hard then, Milal.

As Akira began to close the door, she the fear in Milal’s eyes, but his pride wouldn’t let him capitulate.

He swallowed, and turned away from them, and walked out.

As the lock clicked, a roll of thunder resounded in the far distance.

 

 

 

Leiko and the White Wolf (2)

2)

 

In time, her captor’s robe did its job, and Ko was settled into it, wrapping it up around her shoulders, and over her head. The weight of the wide, waterlogged hat had grown heavy, and it now sat on the bench beside her.

She saw the small crew sneaking glances at her, though what they could see with her hidden inside the robe, and with the thickening fog, she didn’t know.

They seemed content to do no more than that, since, as her mysterious captor told her, the journey was not long.

He’d abandoned his post at the stern, and now stood in the bow; those mysteriously bright eyes were probably piercing through the fog to watch for the shore line.

Ko, feeling more relaxed, more due to inactivity and the receding of the adrenaline from her father’s betrayal than being comfortable, decided to stretch her legs, and join him, and perhaps get some answers to some of the questions she now had.

When she stood beside him, he acknowledged with a brief look, and turned his attention back to the unnaturally smooth river.

“What do I call you?”

“I go by many names.”

“I just need one.”

He smiled at her sarcastic quickness.

“Akira.”

“Akira…I like it.”

“I am pleased.”

“How much longer, Akira?”

“I can see the coastline now.”

“Through the fog?”

“Yes.”

“How?
He turned to her. “Are these the questions on your list?”

She shook her head.
“Then I am under no obligation to answer them.”

“That’s rude.”

“Yes, it is.”

She looked up to see if he was joking, and thought she saw him just barely hide the trace of a smile.

“Hold your questions, Ko, until we are both warm and fed, and you have settled into your quarters. I will reveal things to you as you need to know them, and not before.

“Do we have an understanding?”

Considering there was nothing she could do to force anything, she nodded.

“Say it.”

“Yes, Akira. We have an understanding.”

“I am pleased.”

“Land!” the front oarsman called. The word reverberated, but the fog muffled it; it sounded strange to Ko, as if a ghost had shouted.

Akira offered them no guidance, and Ko, who couldn’t see anything, felt a little flutter of worry, but with the familiarity of long years, the oarsmen guided the boat into the city harbor with alacrity.

Ko took her hat, and shook off the loose water that remained; it was no longer raining, but it was still too damp for the hat to dry.

Akira placed a small sack into the front oarsman’s hand, and Ko could hear the clink of coin inside it.

He nodded once to the oarsman, who bowed from the waist, and shooed his crew off the boat to disappear into the fog.

He reached for Ko’s hand, and she took it; his hand was warm, and her own felt like a nestling in it, somehow safe and warm, and the weariness of recent events began to tire her now; she didn’t want to relax, wanted to stay on her guard, but Akira was making it difficult.

“And what do I call this land, or does it too, go by many names?”

“Only one: Dosojin.”

“Dosojin…the god of roads.”

“You don’t like it?”

“I’m not sure.”

“It is named such because there are many paths.”

“Paths to what?”

“To your destination.”

“Where is that?”

“That is for you to find, Ko. I am only a guide, but you must tell me where you want to stop.”

She shook her head, her voice edgy now, frustrated with the seemingly constant evasion.

“I don’t understand, Akira.”

“I don’t expect you to; you are trying to force what should come naturally. Look, I know that what happened to you was traumatic, and you feel more like a plucked weed than anything else, useless, therefore without value, but I also understand the weather is inclement, and the circumstances surrounding your selection cannot be easily explained in the span of a ferry ride.

“There is much for you to learn, and much more to think about, and I have told you no harm will befall you.

“And as much as that frightens you, you must take me at my word, until time proves it true.”

As they walked, she fell silent, and looked around her.

The city, town, village, whatever it was they were walking through, wouldn’t give up its secrets.

The streets were empty, and the shops dimly lit.

The fog seemed to have an oppressive quality, almost as if its ethereal weight had strength and substance.

She had no impression of color, or structure, or design; the fog sat like a cosmic toad over everything, and Ko soon gave it up as a lost cause.

Akira, for his part, seemed lost in his own thoughts the closer they came to where she was supposed to be.

So, father, you have sold me to Dosojin…the god of roads…of many paths.

But I see only one way out.

 

 

 

Leiko and the White Wolf

It was raining hard when Ko’s father helped put her straw hat on, and told her they were going fishing.

Ko looked for her mother, but she was cloaked in shadows, cooking something tangy that made Ko’s mouth water, and her stomach growl.

“It’s raining, Father.”

“Yes, I know, but Mother needs fish, and they come to the surface for fresh water when it rains. We’ll catch them quickly, and return. You’re so good at catching them, we’ll be back in no time at all.”

His words of praise warmed Ko to the task, and she eagerly followed him down to where their fishing boat was tied on the aging, rickety pier. Ko used to think it would be fun to fall in, but with the rain and wind, and the high waves out in the harbor, she hoped the planks would hold her and Father’s weight.

It was hard to see with the rain blowing in almost sideways, but Ko was determined, and driven by hunger, to see this through, and have more warm words of love from him.

As they walked, a faint roll of thunder rumbled in the distance, and Ko took her father’s hand. He held it, and smiled down at her, and she took comfort in that.

He would keep her safe.

When they arrived at the harbor, a boat was docked beside theirs, bigger, darker and foreboding, and a man in a wide straw hat with tassels stood on the deck, watching their approach.

Ko slowed down, and her father did too, but then he said, “It’s all right, Ko.”

She relaxed, but didn’t let go of his hand, part of her still wary; the boat was a ferry, and it was unusual that it was such a remote part of the river. This was a land of small farms and local fishermen, and everyone knew everyone, and their business, and their children.

The man on the deck didn’t seem affected by the rain at all, and except for a narrowing of his eyes when they got close, he hardly seemed to acknowledge them.

Her father let go of her hand, and a little thrill of fear and anxiety went through her.

He spoke quickly to the man on the deck, and then their hands touched, so quickly that Ko wasn’t even sure it had happened.

Turning around, he looked at Ko, and beckoned her to come closer.

She went, not knowing what else to do, but felt the sting of tears behind her eyes, and dread in her spirit.

“Are we using this boat to fish, Father?”

“No, Ko. I must fish alone, and you must go with this man.”

He reached for her to bring her by the hand, but she backed away, staring at him, incredulous, and her solid grounding in him turned to soaked mud.

“I will not. I will not!” Ko was turning to run, when she saw the man thrust out his right hand toward her, fingers spread, and it was as if she’d grown roots.

“Father, help me! Why are you letting him…? I can’t move! I can’t move!”

“I’m sorry, Ko. I can’t undo the bargain I struck with him.”

“Bargain? A bargain? I’m to be sold, like some market piglet?!”

The man on the deck called out: “The winds and waves rise, ‘father.’ Is she coming with us, or do we return for you?”

She saw him flinch when the man mocked him.

A realization cold as the river rain settled over her.

“Mother’s pregnant, and you can’t afford me.”

Her father began to cry. “I’m sorry, Ko, so very sorry.”

Ko walked toward the boat, and stopped beside him, but he couldn’t look at her.

She leaned as if to kiss his cheek, and spit in his face; he felt it dribble along with the raindrops that mingled with his tears.

“‘Father,’” she used the same mocking inflection, “I haven’t begun to  make you sorry.”

 

Obasi’s Honor

The sun was hot on his skin, and the camel he rode began to stumble.

He is going to die, but not me. I will do what I must.

Behind him lay the bodies he’d killed, but it had been, at best, serendipity, and not skill.

He would rather that it had been skill.

The town was in the distance, indistinct in color from the sand everywhere, save that it had shape, and he could see the shapes of the buildings through the haze and the heat shimmer that felt like it would boil his eyes in their sockets.

I did not avoid being a sacrifice only to have my bones bleach in this merciless sun.

He stopped, and taking the knife he pilfered from the body of the man that had sought to tie the rope around his neck, he put his hand on the camel’s neck and said a silent prayer of thanks to its spirit for providing him life.

And he cut its throat with his spiked club, ripping out the spike and cupping his hands around the fount that spurted as the animal bellowed a final curse, and toppled. The taste of its blood was rancid and bitter in his mouth, but he was going to die if he didn’t drink, and water was not to be found.

And as he had no water, he made no urine, or he would have used that instead.

He was tempted to skin the camel and make a tent, but the sun had crested its zenith, and would be down soon; if he skinned it now, night would catch him crossing the dunes, and the chill wind would ice the blood that was now boiling.

Breathing heavy against the urge to vomit, which would dehydrate him further, the burning sand licking at the sides of his feet in the leather sandals that adorned them, he took the spiked club from the camel’s neck, and pushed on.

Distance was a tricky thing in the desert, however, and if the town wasn’t as close as it looked, he would be covered over by the relentlessly flowing sand, buried in an unmarked grave so deep and remote his ancestors would never see him.

“You will not die, Obasi. Your ancestors will strike you in the afterlife if you do.”

He didn’t know if the part about his ancestors was true, and anyway, it was a promise he wasn’t sure he could keep; he only knew that if he didn’t hear himself make it, he wouldn’t survive.

 

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

 

Two horsemen came out to retrieve him from the sand, where he’d vomited and lay in a pool of rancid blood.

“Fool boy, drank the blood of his camel.”

“How do you know?”

“The hairs on his robe, his skin. He was unskilled, and favored by the gods that he made it here.

The guard that noticed the hair threw the boy across the saddle, and with the other, he walked his horse back.

The watchman called. “Is he alive?”

“Barely, but yes.”

“Take him to see –“

“I know, I know. He needs water though, and now.”

The watchman threw his canteen down, and they dribbled water into the boy’s mouth, held him as he sputtered and coughed, gave him some more, and he spat.

The water was threaded with bright red strands of bile, and both men made the sign against evil.

“Get him out of here,” the watchman said.

The other guard proffered him to take his canteen back, but the watchman smiled and shook his head.

“I’ll get another; he can keep that one. I should’ve let the vultures have him. If it hadn’t been for their circling, I wouldn’t have seen him.”

“You did well to save his life; these things come back to you.”

“As I well know. Take him quickly.”

They proceeded to the town sick house, as they called it, and the boy began to stir.

They were carrying him on a horse, sideways across the saddle, as if he was a sack of something heavy and unpleasant, but he didn’t know who ‘they’ were or where ‘they’ were taking him, but their robes were dark, in stark contrast to the sand, and against the normal dress of white and tan, which kept the heat of the sun away.

He noticed they were on a road of stone.

“Where am I?” His voice came out like a croak, and he coughed.

The horse nickered in warning, not liking the smell of stale camel blood in its nostrils.

“In the land of Fatinah, south of your lands. We are taking you to the sick house; our doctor is an elder, and will see to your needs. Rest now, boy. There is time enough for introductions and conversation; this is not that time.”

Not willing to trust his voice again, or have the horse bite him, he closed his eyes and mouth again, and swayed to the animal’s rhythm, his insides rolling, as unconsciousness reclaimed him from the waking world again.