Poetry & Prose

An Unfamiliar Road

I drove to a familiar place
On an unfamiliar road. All
Along the way there were
Vultures and dead carcasses,
And yet the road was
Filled with peaceful foliage.
The expanse of greenery
And fields of crops and hills
Pulled my attention away
From the carnage
Again and again.
The unfamiliar road
Brought back memories
Of the Appalachian Trail.


The Bequeathal

To you my children,
I leave you the color blue.
Not a sultry azure, but true royal blue –
Blue as streams of water reflecting the morning sky,
The blue of the heavens coming to embrace the sea,
Yes, blue –
Blue of the dark shadows against the driven snow
To comfort you and bring you peace in the murky tide
Of grief and the stormy grays of your days ahead –
Embrace my Blue as I have embraced you
Allowing it to sooth your soul
And penetrate the places that nobody ever touches
To you I leave my blue.

To you my faithful friend,
I leave you the color purple.
The color of royalty for your sweet loyalty,
Purple rich as cool satin fabric against parched skin,
Eggplant purple growing in the garden of life
Near the path where love begins
Yes, purple –
Purple to warm your heart as our memories ascend,
To places where friendship and love will never end,
Enjoy each purple moment, relax and take it in
For it embodies a companion’s heart and all the joy it clutches
To you I leave my purple.

To you my wayward offspring,
I leave the color white
The absence of color like lightening searing through the night,
White as the foamy spray upon the splashing sea,
White so bright and glossy it burns the scales from your heart
And leaves no more room for misguided mischief
That has torn our family apart.
Yes white –
White undeniable like the paper on which I write
I say WHITE
To remove the sinewy shadows from colorless truth
And expose that which beckons and lures you from the light
Until a caring someone can recoup our losses
And help you do what’s right
I leave you white.

I keep for myself all the silver and gold.
Silver shining silhouettes of sweet smelling infants in my arms
Trinkets of conversations with toddlers and teens,
Velvet lined boxes of senior wisdom are still my charms,
Golden moments of affectionate love in the arms of my guy,
Untold wealth of memories and days gone by
And yet they sing the savory song of living before you die
Silver and Gold
Silver and Gold –
My soul’s safekeeping of sweet treasures
From friend and foe – Yes, silver and gold!
I keep for my self.

It Is Not Enough!
It’s not enough that I’m a seer, a prophet, a saint
All you see is an old black mother too proud and free
Saying what she pleases when there is a need
For frankness and grit and political release
Of tensions that freeze out the joy of existence
With hatred and disgust for every man’s belief.

It’s not enough that I’m a poet, a preacher, a reader of thoughts
All you hear is an ancient grandma too set in her ways
Telling young people to rise and claim their legacy
Paid for through degradation, sweat, and tears up the broken
Ladder of dreams, hopes, and fears that the day
Would never come for her people
To be free to demonstrate their dreams.

It’s not enough that I’m an elder, a master, an arbitrator of truth
All you feel is fear, and uncomfortable foreboding that you missed
The opportunity to sit at the knee of folk like me and learn
Who you truly are – your purpose is to stand for more
Than the superficial fads of the land. You too are called
To plant more, live more, and give more for the culture to stand
For something worthy of remembrance.

It’s not enough that you look at me and wonder . . .
It’s time for you
To look at yourself
And proclaim –
I am!

The Voices

Do you hear them . . . the songs, the moans, the humming
Of our ancestors who could find no words for the misery, the hurt,
And the pain of constantly hoping for change;
Continuously praying for an unseen future for their children
And for their children’s children?
Do you hear them?

Can you hear the whispers to the Almighty Creator
That your great grandmother prayed?
Her only desire – to see her man-child strive, succeed,
And steady his grip on the old field plow –
For the crops to bring in enough money
To sustain the family for one more year
Can you hear her?

Listen! To the wails of long gone generations
As they arrived on the streets of northern land’s – Urban ghettos;
Shouting victoriously that the blight of the southern sun was left behind.
Trading cotton, peanuts, and corn fields for the dank concrete floors
Of factories and mills. Only to find that work in the North
Was from sunup to sundown and domestic task masters
Sounded much the same as the foremen of plantations/share crop owners.
Listen to the mixed cries of hopelessness and joy!

Can you hear the voices deep inside your chest
Pounding with sorrow over such little gain?
Grandmothers and fathers still crying, still moaning, still praying
And humming songs without words because the big house of their dreams
Turned out to be slang for the prisons that hold their sons
And their sons’ – sons who remain on death row
Waiting for appeals that will never produce freedom.
Can you hear them?
Voices still praying, still hoping, still claiming,
“There’s a brighter day ahead!” When another generation will rise up
To take their rightful place as men and women in this insane system
Of haves and have nots. Still calling, still crying for equality
In a bureaucracy where animal lives matter more than humans and
Dollars have voices too, do you hear it?

I hear them . . . speaking in my heart, not in my head,
And I see them in the eyes of my children and their children
Seeking solace in the non-reality of video games
While self-medicating on legal drugs and alcohol, trying to escape
The substandard education that lies in textbooks without their history.
I hear it in the rap and rhyme, the croon and flow of music-makers
Who still speak of the Promised Land.
I still hear the mixed cries and voices!

The voices . . . my legacy, a perpetual cry for courage,
For tenacity, for equal opportunity; for royalty to return to their majesty
And propel our nation forward into the vision of a dream no longer deferred,
But one that will blossom into our posterity; a heritage,
Achieving the possible and becoming the prophets for the new hope
And the real truth of the next generation that encompasses all people.
The voices of one generation to another.
Listen! Hear them!

Walking through the Graveyard

Walking through the graveyard carefully
Marching around the granite stones
Knowing my spirit is not alone
Because memories walk with me
Up and down each row.

Marble stones so cold and smooth
Warmly reminding me of the loved ones
Who have gone to the unknown home
Beyond this temporal globe
Of possible dreams turned reality.

Reading each name and number of years
Reliving the voices now gone
In the night air the epitaph too short
To cover the lives hard lived until death
Lives so entrenched with mine.

Family plots aligned and adorned
For generations whose dreams live on
Their voices and plans a composite
In our heads guiding us forward
To claim territories for which they bled.

These hallowed grounds continue to speak
Of generational lives lived simple and sweet
Posterity and heredity leaving its mark
For the living ones to take up the line
Of the hymns that kept them going.

Walking through the graveyard
I feel loved and so free
For these are my ancestors
Watching over me and
Making me complete.

The Nursing Home

Her silvery dome glistened under the light, and her eyes shimmered gray and bright.
Unanswered questions lingered in the air while she wondered who had left her there –
Alone amongst strangers in an unknown place; did anyone notice the puzzle on her face?
Why couldn’t she remember who these people were or hear them speak above a murmur?
Was she really loosing her mind or was something else out of place in this present time?

“Don’t worry,” they said, “You’re quite okay.” But she certainly didn’t feel that way.
She wanted her mom or maybe her dad, anyone from home would have made her heart glad. If she could find her keys she would get up and leave and bid these people a fond farewell – before they could bring her to one of their cells.

Yesterday, they had tied her down and turned out the light leaving her mind in such a fright. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? All these things were just plain mean. She was so tired and confused by every sight and sound; nothing familiar was lying around. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone; all she wanted to do was get home? Somehow she had to get away, but no one would listen to a word she had to say.

“You are at home!” the young lady said, “And in a few minutes I’ll put you to bed!”
To bed, to bed! The words echoed loud; could this be all that they allowed?
When did she eat, where were her clothes? This was not the life she had chose.
Silent tears rolled down her face when she couldn’t figure out how to get out of this place.

She was a victim but there had been no crime, only nature to blame for this downtime.
Her mind has been stolen day by day, and her strength was failing along the way.
The dreaded disease had no mercy at all; it took everything, the great and the small
Until nothing was left but the outer shell and this sad story I’m trying to tell.
Alzheimer’s disease is so cruel, it leaves the setting but destroys the jewel.

Surface Knowledge

So you think you know me because you heard some title.
Titles are one dimensional, they can’t define me.
Reverend, Mother, Sister, Girl – they don’t begin to show you my world.
Who I am, who I might be; you can only find out if you get to know me.
I have ridges, creases and folds so deep, you could never know me in just one week.
My lineage, some history, even my ancestry can’t truly reveal the essence of me.
There are things about me that you can’t see;
I am not who you want me to be.
It’s certain, you just don’t know me.

The only child of an unwed mom won’t explain where I’m coming from.
Bullied until I learned to fight exposes nothing of my real blight.
Molested, raped and broken down built myself back up from the ground.
Sex, alcohol, took some pills; thank God I was never overtaken by these ills
Militant, tenacious, determined to succeed so some other black women could follow my lead
High school graduate, college and degrees; you still don’t know me because of these.
There are things about me that you can’t see;
I am not who you want me to be.
It’s certain, you don’t know me.

You are Not Invisible

You are not invisible although you think you are.
To me you are a bright shining star.
You have talents the world has never seen,
So remember you’re on the winning team.
You are not invisible because I see you.

No one can pass every test,
So just keep striving to do your best.
You are sensitive, serious, and smart,
And carry so much love in your heart.
You are not invisible because I see you.

So when you’re in your tiny room
Feeling ignored and full of gloom
Just remember you’re not alone
You are the champion that sets the tone.
You are visible . . . I see you!

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