9th ward blues... pt. 2


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the city that eats its young
swallowed by tears of rage…

water
everywhere
water
that chokes streets and throats
water
that reminds us

and they said
dryness shall come in early October
and they said
God was unhappy with man
and so he flooded the earth
40 days and 40 nights
of water
everywhere

but this time
the ark was late
and so they traveled
two by two
by two by two
through holes chopped into attics
on ropes
hanging from helicopters
and atop anything that would float

in the 9th ward
where streets named Independence and Piety,
streets named Desire
are all crossed by Law
the 9th ward
where national guard
once accompanied Ruby Bridges to school

but who
will help the children now
their blues are sung
throughout the nation
and our president’s mother
says they are better off

but
under a Denver moon
Javan cries to a stuffed dog
because it is all he has left
and the Coles are in Houston
but
Ronald and Kevin are missing
and wherever they are
I hope
I hope
I hope someone knows that
Ronald gets scared by loud noises
and
Kevin needs his medication
and Nicole
your babies are safe in San Antonio
Troy, Eugene is there too
I pray somehow their messages reach you.

the Big Easy
where life for most is not
I remember loving
strings of beads suspended
from trees along St. Charles
I was tempted by your mysteries
but the face hidden behind the mask
was grotesque and deformed

New Orleans
your secrets are now broadcast
on the nightly news
there are bodies still in the street
people stealing to survive
the babies are still crying
parents missing
the bricks still trap those
who cannot leave
and help still arrives too late
all over again

all over again
Nagin is cursing about injustice
the people
screaming
about being ignored
interests vested elsewhere
while our backyard lies in ruin
and help
still arrives too late
all over again

in New Orleans
where streets were putrid
and
air was stagnant
long before the levees broke
where harsh reality hides behind
mardi gras smiles shellacked on faces
that have yet to know better days
where les bon temps
don’t roule
for those you do not see
and the second line can’t roll
because there are too many to mourn

America
our children are crying
singing the 9th wards blues
from California to Carolina
from the jungles to the swats
the Delta to the Rio Grande Valley
the 3rd ward
still looks the same
whether its in New Orleans or Houston

and everywhere the children are crying
their voices echoing from deep within the bowels
of places we try to ignore
our future
has tear-stained cheeks
and
distended bellies
and
dreams locked away
in hearts that slowly turn cold
and this
THIS
is the real national disaster
that should bring us to our knees
these blues
that are sung to a deaf audience
these blues
that should reach into the hearts
of each and every one of us
we are fools
to think their pain is not our own
fools
to think these problems
do not concern us.

and everywhere the children are crying.
can we hear them now?
and will now
be the time
when we finally listen?


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the trees dropped their defenses
on the corner of Maple and Hillary
and I fell in love with you
on the steps
under a harvest moon.

but

seasons changed
situations, rearranged
we became
addicts
our love, frantic at best
and so I left.
my dear john letter a
'for rent' sign and a
disconnected phone.
ran home
sought solace in poems
played inverse neruda
I wrote you
twenty songs of despair

and now here I sit
in the aftermath of nature's cruel intentions
searching for the face
of a man I've murdered so many times in my dreams
straining to pick out the voice
I fought so long to forget

I wrote you
twenty songs of despair
and not a single love poem
learned the healing properties
of pen to paper
only after I left you
after you left me
torn and crumpled
like unfinished thoughts in
discarded notebooks

I wrote you
twenty songs of despair
and this be your love poem
for nights spent on the lake
our dreams stretching past Ponchartrain's North Shore
for breakfasts in my classroom
stolen kisses before the kids came
this shall be the poem
where I hold moments to my heart
the first time I met your brother
you, fighting back tears
when he woke up long enough for a smile

this shall be the poem
where I remember
chess and dinner with your folks
long Sundays in bed
dinners in the St. Bernard
showers until the hot water ran cold
and how no other
has fit me quite like you

I shall love you in this poem
tuck your scent into its words
hide your face in the safety of its lines
lock your memory away
in the boundaries of this poem
here, where it is safe to forgive
I shall release you of guilt
from lesson's learned in blood and tears
scrawled 'cross a dark chapter of my life

I wrote you
twenty songs of despair
and this shall be your love poem
from the woman I wasn't then
to the man I know you could have been
and though you will never hear it
this shall be your love poem.

wherever you are


song of the trees


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I.
we push pens through protective coverings
etching truth
onto stone tablets of time
creating new commandments
to define life
in our own language.

we dance in raindrops
sparkling like tears of morning joy
that alight on the worlds’ cheek
upon each new days’ dawning.

we are the conduits of creation
that give birth to hope
and suckle possibility at our bosom
so that it may drink of our strength.

our backs bear the scars
of the hearts’ endured lashings
but with each step
we are straightening
the scoliosis of life’s path.

rebirth
is welcomed with arms flung wide open
threads of a new consciousness
being pulled from our scalp
woven together by nimble fingers
forming patch-worked quilts
from a million scraps of life
sewn together with care
on the loom of time

we are the seamstresses, the mothers
the healers of wounds
we are the snake-charmers
that dance under full moon’s light.
we are the weary travelers
that have found home deep within our hearts
we are the place
where it all comes together
after it has fallen apart
we are the shepherds of peace
the writers of wrongs,
and we lift our voices to the world
in a shared song of strength.

II.
this is the song you will sing
little sister
when you have traveled to the depths of your own eyes
when you have viewed life from the bottom
chin upturned, arms extended
fingers reaching upwards
grasping at salvation.

this is the song you will sing
when yesterdays threaten to shackle your ankles
when today’s weight on your chest
forces breath to come shallow
and when tomorrow’s promise
seems nothing more than a dream.

this is the song you will sing
sometimes in a still whisper
and at times strong like a million voices
you will sing
even when the words are feared forgotten
because the melody
shall forever resonate in your blood.

you will learn,
little sister,
to reside in a forest of strength
that the language of trees
has always been your mother tongue
and that you were born with wisdom
planted like seeds in your womb
by every woman
who has walked the earth before you.

these things you will remember
when darkness threatens your light
when the earth feels empty
and you have lost your way home
when every voice screams at you to forget
you will remember these things
and in the face of all
that tries to hold you down,
you, my sister, will sing.









you.
me.

spinning dance floor
pulsing bass
friday night in the quarters
your face in the crowd
acting like water on fresh paint
swirling the colors of the crowds' canvas
into muted blurs
the two of us
vacuum-like suspension
until all that remained was

you.me

we
moved quick.
i fought it
you fought my fighting
harder.
but softer too.
with
roses on pillows
jill scott on stereo
breakfast in bed
picnics in the rain
'you move me'
it was just

you.me

phonecalls til dawn
drives through the bayou
and by you
i stood
with love on my lips
we made
plans.
you plus me
child makes three
said you wanted another.
dreamt in white
of dresses
picket fences
said
'let me get this money bay
so we can start building'

forced departure
for educational advances
we started planning
for

you.me

then
separation anxiety
let to
ill-fated
disneyworld vacation
i stopped believing in magic kingdoms
threw
rocks at our castle
tore bricks from foundations
tried to make it crumble
but you
sealed every crack
patched holes
to keep us from spilling
persisted
in building life for us
for

you.
me.

we
became
electric circus
you played clown
before a cold audience
juggling
my problems
your problems
til our problems
flew too fast for you to catch
and you
broke.
called my call
before I called
to tell you
not to call
said

'bay don't be scared
i have faith in us
we can make it'


but
my hands were full
carrying too many suitcases
couldn't let go
to help you
hold the pieces together
so i missed
your call
rather
let it go to voicemail
didn't want to hear
your words
your tears
your confidence in us
when
i had none in myself
so
i made
you
separate from
me

and i was wrong.
i'm sorry.





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