Friday, March 24, 2006

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 dinner, and it was uncanny fingering her life. Pictures of her as a child, her grandparents, friends posed in front of Studebakers, husbands wearing wingtips, children sporting curls, flips, hi-top fades. Black-and-white, faded colormatics, full color newspaper images. She has admirably lived a rich and honest life.

Earlier this week, one of the gala guests tells me that someone who did not attend said, "I just didn't understand why they didn't wait until her 100th birthday. I'll be sure to come next year."

Are you serious?

99 years of living is a blessing all by itself. So is four months. So why do we take the obviously-unpromised things for granted?

Well, before I get too high on my horse: I'm guilty, too. Two young boys have been missing in our community for almost a week now. Volunteers combing the park grounds. Police netting the rivers. Mothers making tear-steeped pleas on the news. The whole tragic nine yards. They were 10 & 12, I think, and good kids -- great in school, active with youth groups, well-liked, from loving families, (for "some reason," that has mattered). These two friends were last seen playing at a basketball court near their home.

Last seen?

I constantly have to remind myself that evil people are out there ... just walking around. In the grocery store, at the movies, in parking lots, near basketball courts, and somewhere on my block. My husband lectures and scolds me all the time about dangers that "could" happen. In my mind, I've always tempered his warnings with background music provided by Donny & Marie, with the new lyrics "He's a little bit paranoid ..."

Well, once again, he's right. "Could" happens everyday. A pretty juvenile statement to make at 36, I know. But, sadly, it's an epiphany I'll arrive at over and again throughout my life. I

I can only pray that it won't ever come behind a newswire story.

Please pray for the safe return of these babies.

Quadrevion Henning and Purvis Virginia-Parker and were last seen on March 19, 2006 at approximately 3:30 p.m. playing basketball. They have not been seen since. Purvis was last seen wearing a white t-shirt and gray jogging suit. He may go by the last name Virginia. Quadrevion was last seen wearing a white jacket with blue stripes on the sleeves, black oversize tshirt over a white tshirt, and black jeans. He was also wearing red, white, and blue shoes. If you have any information regarding these children call the Milwaukee Police at 414-935-7401

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

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 don’t dare say her name
In case
Some lunatic decides to pitch a tent

in her mama’s yard
And y’all

start thinking it's
gonna be easy to make me leave

Lyrics spun
above rarefied air
a craft
Supervised by witches

and angels high on hallelujah
Witnessing her inisight
spring to life
behind microphones
brakes the world at her heels
all else
are whispers of lives held

it will be there

that life
but I’ve got to hear this again
and again

and again

After the 4th time
I’m embarrassed
I’ve been sprung by a poet
First time for everything
And I want her
I want to hold words on my tongue
Like her
Openly love the high notes of my own scripture
Like her
Love my verbal imperfections
like fleeing open my robe before bedding a lover
with breasts less
Like ripe fruit
But engorged with sweetness
Just the same
I want my pages to be decidedly alive
Like hers
Give myself permission to
Stamp my stories onto daylight
Balance my purpose
On slender, chipped edges

of No. 2 and clotted inkwells

I am alive
With my language
And celebrate it by accident
And wisely
So I must allow myself
To applaud a phenomenon
Whenever it cyclones nearby
Let fly into the storm clouds
broken houses
Beachfronts, stadiums
And egos
Giving respect
To inspiration
Elemental in its beauty
Her words were honest
seductive, even
and I could tell
that she kept her
words tied around her waist
And tucked between her breathing
Leaning on a sheer netting of glorious language
Like me.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

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.

Monday, March 06, 2006

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, subscription to Nick Jr having, exposure to the arts preaching, obscure vegetable cooking, teachable moment seeking, paranoid of finding my kids on the Daughter of Oprah Show in 15 years, overachieving mother.

That would be me.

But, as it turns out, it was a great idea. Both of the girls look forward to playing with the new extended family and I've even caught a bit of an acting bug.

Not to worry. I won't be added this to my too-long list of things to do until I can get a pass to show up on game day!