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Showing posts from 2006

Cement Oasis

I went to prison this week, for the first time. Sadly, like many folks who've never been inside a correctional facility before, my expectations had been shaped by MSNBC's Lock-Up, HBO's Oz, the films ConAir and Shawshank and, maybe, a dab of The Andy Griffith Show.

I know. How surburban of me.

Suffice it to say, my assumptions were ... um ... wrong. True, the innmates could've been actually shanking and hustling and tossing one another right before I showed up, but they were writers and poetry fans with me.

By the end of the night, I was signing programs like a rock star and accepting generous compliments and thank-yous for the day we'd spent together.

"You're a blessing ... really."

Me? Sheesh. "Thank you" isn't quite adequate, d'ya think? No, I didn't think so either. Especially when they are the ones who made the day important, which made it spectacular. For my part, I turned a workshop into a sustainable series ... something that …

Reality numb

Words stand still
broad bands
of expectation

Bodies of young boys
beneath murky lagoon
bound by marsh weeds
pulled down to sweeten
its stagnant streams

frozen in my mouth
jagged edges digging
into fury
tearing open that simple shell
exposing apathy's patient dead seed

Unable to bear fruit
from freedom ringing verdicts
handed to police academy misfits
one family
our community
all damned to prune these
plantation field perversions
grief proving its forever harvest

shrink away
too small
and limp
to even wobble
beneath the weight of this
unbrave world
into corners
what good can they do

Nothing promised

When I'm not scribbling lines of poetry on Q'doba receipts or dialogue quips on my daughter's homework (hey ... Yale will not be asking for copies of her worksheet on words that start with "th"), I'm pretending to be a marketing consultant.

Actually, I'm pretty good at what I do (I'm allowed to say that, right?) I only say "pretending" because I'm one of those people who always thinks they could and should be better, especially since I started working independently 6 yrs ago. I used to recoil from the [whisper] overachiever label ... but I used to think I'd be a Size 10 again, too. Right. Get over it.

Anyhoo, I was hired to plan a 99th birthday gala for the first African-American woman to become a licensed mortician in the State of Wisconsin (I know). But, this sista was smooth, you hear me?! She's still vibrant and eloquent and graceful and warm and funny, simply amazing. I put together a photo montage for the reception and dinn…

Tribute Poem

I know I promised a moment-by-moment of Mahagony & Jive's show, but anything above "outstanding" is truly saying too much. The venue was a chic, and still cozy. The crowd was lively, and still fertile. The hosts were skilled, and still raw (what?! with the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches?!?!). The show was well done, well attended and much-appreciated.

The lineup included myself, Christa Bell (Seattle), Bassey Ipke (NYC) & Queen Sheba (Atlanta). I carry a great deal of respect for all three of these performers; so it was an honor to share the mic with them:

One of Those Tribute Poems
This is my first
I’ve heard plenty of poetry
with well-crafted lines
to stutter my breathing
and collide my palms
into spasmatic applause
but I’ve always found
tribute poems to be crude
flat & simple
seductuctive, even
but I vowed to never write one

And then
her signature bit me
with a whip
dipped in some poison
I …

The Fan in Me

I admit it. I'm giddy. Giddy like a school girl putting on her first formal gown ("school girl?" "gown?" yes, I'm getting old).

Anyhoo ...

I'm part of a lineup for a show that Mahagony Browne and Jive Poetic have put together in NYC called Women Take Back the Mic: me, Queen Sheba, Bassey Ipkey and Christa Bell. When I agreed to do the show, I had no idea that I would be in such illustrious company! Thick? Maybe. But I truly admire the pen skills of these women. In fact, I'm honored (my husband teases that I'm "honored" about everything ... but I can't help it, I am!) to be on the bill.

Anyhoo ... I wanted to log in my "before" excitement. I'll key in an "after" play-by-play tomorrow while I'm sitting in JFK at the butt-crack of dawn waiting for my flight home.

A New Stage

Okay, so I'm putting on my maid costume, right? My oldest daughter earned a small part in a community theater production of the classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and --somehow -- found myself hoodwinked into being a servant named Sookey.

Sookey, for the love of Snoopy.

But the costume (complete with full apron and a little kerchief hat) was the easiest to get used to. The tough part was -sheesh! the amount of time this effort has gobbled from my life.

Selfish, yes. But I'm entitled to be human, right?

The first week, I had to send an email to the director and make a plea for a relaxed schedule.

"She's five ... has only two lines in the 150-minute production ... and ... she's five. Kindergarten is going to be oh, so rough after getting into bed after 9 and 10 pm 3-4 nights a week. Not to mention the four year old I have to drag along, too ..."

I stamped the experience as the Worst Great Idea I'd had in a long time. Damn rec center activities overloading, subsc…

Leftover Zodiac

I coined a new t-shirt slogan while at lunch with my girlfriend Gerry yesterday (you know us poet-types never speak in plain English!):

Every star we discover is not part of a constellation.

Okay, maybe more of an inscription inside a Get Well card than a t-shirt franchise, but you get my drift.

Gerry and I were talking --again-- about balance in our respective lives. I love getting together with Gerry b/c our six lunch dates a year (in a good year) have converted themselves into years worth of hugs, tears, confidences and teachable moments. The other reason I love talking w/Gerry is that she thinks like me in a lot of ways, confirming that I'm not entirely crazy. (The alternative, of course, is that we're equally insane).

We talked about serendipity and how easy it is to be misguided by its allure ... "I wasn't even going to that Blockbuster at first, but I needed to get a copy made from the place next door and ..." or "Can you believe that on the one day that …

Vaudeville Frog

I am brilliantly efficient. I capture precision strategies. My brand of creativity is unrivaled.

And then I leave the waiting room, the lobby or get out of my car.

See, when I'm forced to sit still, my thoughts unfold into straight lines and sharp edges. With amazing clarity, I come up with opportunities for launching new projects, defining improvements on existing endeavors, consider new partnerships to forge, and recall distant relationships to bolster.

But as soon as I start moving, thangz get fuzzy. Not the ideas, so much; that faucet drips constantly. But the how of it all can get sickeningly coy: where should my first calls go? what kind of advance time do I need? what relationships do I already have in place? who could help pay for this? is this a realistic concept, anyway ...

Once the doubts begin needling into certainty, my thoughts unfold into languid, waving ribbons instead of crisp, hard edges. Makes me think of that Warner Brothers cartoon where the guy discovers a frog s…

A Preacher, Prostitute and Duck go into a Bar ...

So I'm on my way to do poetry in Iowa ...

Which lead-in sounds like a joke?

Well, the Iowa thing could've gone either way, especially when my gas needle hugged waaaayyyy to close to E as a result of the exits with gas stations being waaaaayyyy too far apart. Me digging out my teensy gas can, leaving my car abandoned on the rural road (I exited, at one point, thinking there had to be a gas station fairly close), walking miles in the dark, my right pinky toe humbling me to vow a forever allegiance to rubber sole wedge flats, and peeing on myself at the mere thought of getting snatched up by some snaggle toothed creep driving a Dodge charger, Mack truck or state patrol car.

No ... no punch line there ...

Instead, I put my car back on the highway and thanked God --in advance-- for letting the next exit be one with a gas station.

If it was humor I wanted, though, the Iowa City Slam was hilarious! There was a poem about belly lint ... a poem with steps for baking blood pudding ... a poem…

Hello, Friday

A new year can be like a new love: this one is going to be special. Better than the ones before. This time, not only are you going to expect more, you're going to be more -- more healthy, more honest, more assertive, more daring, more passionate, more thoughtful, more ... more.

Then, of course, January ends and you realize that this new year is weighted with familiar strains and tendencies as the ones you've barely survived before. You realize --again-- that upgrading your entire mindset or your life is much more than a notion.

Still, we set ourselves up for possible deflation every year. Even the folks who proclaim that they never make new year resolutions (and you posers know who you are!), even they have made a silent promise or two to themselves for a better world. Announced or not, broken promises are a drag. Especially when you can only suck teeth at yourself.

Knowing all of this, I still love January. It's a guaranteed block of 30 days where I can walk around feelin…