A smile for my readers.
Happy writing and reading!
Peace & Love,
i am a sensitive piece of fruit
a pear that is easily bruised.
my fruit flesh a corporeal canvas
brushed over with violent slashes of color,
muted hues of blue and green,
a dotted landscape of pain.
beneath the vivid swaths of color
a place for me to hide the brown mushy
bruises like the one from one of those times
when my ex-husband hit me and
down underneath where no one
can see is a long gash left behind by
the man who didn’t want kids
even though my mom already had them.
he blew up one day and knocked me to the floor.
i fell down into a bowl of fruit salad,
sitting in the cobwebbed corner – alone.
lost where no one could see me
because no one bothered to look.
spiders, roaches, and other nighttime crawlers
walked all over me, sucked me down
to the core, left nothing behind for me.
and one night a stranger saw me
lying there, he quickly took out an old rusted
fruit peeler and started peeling back my layers,
seeking to find the best of me. He
wanted nothing but to drain me of my
passion fruit. one after another
people stopped by for a peak,
like tourists, gawking, to get a glimpse
of this strange fruit.
Peace & Love,
Last night, I was out to dinner with my four kids. My youngest son, Cameron, chose the place so we were dining at Ihop. A few of my current and former students had been watching a movie at the theater next door and had spilled out into the streets as they waited for their rides.
We had been seated and were looking over the menus, though I already knew what I wanted, when we heard knocking on the glass separating the lobby and restaurant. I looked up and saw a gathering of students smiling and waving at me. My oldest son said “You’re like a celebrity. You see somebody you know everywhere we go. And if I saw my English teacher out somewhere, I’d try to act like I didn’t.”
My response: “I love my students and they know it.”
I don’t consider my job as a high school English teacher as merely an occupation, it’s a calling. Teaching was never something I wanted to be as a child. I cannot ever remember saying, “I’m going to be a teacher when I grow up.” I did want to write because I’ve always loved to write and read. But, no, I never ever wanted to be a teacher. Now that I am teaching, I know this is where I belong.
Teachers have the incredible opportunity to impact the lives of their students in ways that most other people don’t have. We can get our students to see opportunities where they only saw a cloudy or foggy future. We can help them imagine themselves doing and being people they never knew they could be. This is my soul-calling and I will remain here until it’s time for me to move on.
While I love them all, there have been a few I have developed special relationships with. These are the students who come and hang out with me in my classroom after school has been dismissed. Sometimes for assistance with assignments, sometimes just because. One of those students in particular has been on my mind this weekend. She inspired a poem I’m working on. In fact, when I was walking to the house yesterday after leaving my car at Firestone, the first few lines came to me and I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and had to jot them down.
My heart bleeds for
the daughters who
I didn’t give birth to.
Sometimes I wanna
scream & holler 4 all
the shit my daughters
have to go thru.
I wanna scream
Hey! This shit ain’t
right. I just wanna
scream at u
how fuckin’ dare u
put ur hands on
her me she, 2
do anything but luv
her me she when we
deserve 2 B treated
oh so carefully so
don’t u dare put ur
hands on me her she
2 smash me her she
in the face—SMASH it
that’s what u say when
u hav ur woman ur way
why r we surprised when
u don’t view us
as a prize but
as a trophy cuz
clearly there’s a
Happy Sunday guys! Hug someone today, if not with your arms, then with your words. Words have the power to carry more than just meaning. Sometimes words have the power to change lives. Tell someone you love them. Let someone know they matter.
Peace & Love,
A poem because what else are you supposed to do when you can’t sleep because you’re too tired to sleep? You write, of course. Well, I do.
So, a poem that I posted earlier with some revisions:
Love can bear the meaning of
challenge, but it shouldn’t have to.
If love really brought you to me &
me to you, then it’s you who brought
the challenge. You set our love up
like a crooked card game where one
person knows the cards the other is
holding, so he always remains one
step ahead and is able to stack the
deck. The winning hand was always yours.
Stupidly, I played the game, having no
knowledge of rules. Now when I should
be beside you, I’m here alone.
If I was able to sleep, I’d sleep
my life away knowing I can’t have
you, but I filled your head with my
childish dreams, the ones that center
around love supreme and you
kept it all, took everything I had
to offer, and left nothing for me.
And now I can’t even sleep.
You challenged me in a duel
with the piercing sword of your love
dulled with your believable lies, all while I
somehow failed to realize that
love is usually a fast food dinner, one
warmed up instead of broiled to perfection,
based on take instead of give and served
on non-matching plates. Fast food
love is flavored with lumps of
disappointment, the kind that swells
little girl hips as they drink down a bitter
concoction – a bitch’s brew. No matter
how many times she tries to sweeten it
with her love, it’ll remain bitter. So
the more love she gives out, knowing
nothing is coming back, she’ll choose to
keep on drinking that bitch’s brew down
while concealing her disappointment by
disguising her frown as the smile of a clown.
Peace & Love,
I have a policy in my English class, one designed to keep students from failing. No one has to fail my class; no one has to make less than an A unless he or she wants to. If a student doesn’t like his or her score on anything, they are free to re-do it. Especially tests. I offer tests in multiple formats. I offer second chances. Third chances. However many times it takes for a student to master the material.
I’ve been thinking about tests lately. Life seems to always be giving us tests or opportunities to learn life lessons. And the old saying goes, that life will continue to give you the same test until you get the lesson you’re supposed to get. And maybe you’ll get the test in multiple formats as well.
I hate taking tests. And it seems to be showing. I have a feeling life keeps presenting me with the opportunity to learn a very important lesson: people make time for those things that are precious to them or those things that hold value for them. As soon as I think I’ve got it, I feel like I’m back in another position to learn the lesson all over again.
Today, I was talking with a co-worker about how tired I am lately. I’m literally drunk with exhaustion some days. And the sad thing about it is that on those days I don’t have time for writing or reading. And, so, on top of feeling drained, I’m incredibly disappointed that I’m not finding time for the thing that really matters to me, my true passion. During our discussion, my co-worker tried to comfort me by telling me that there’s no way I’ll lose my talent and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But, the truth of the matter is this, people lose things and people all the time because they don’t treat them like they are important. Time lost cannot be re-couped. And some opportunities once lost, well, they’re completely lost.
It seems my last couple of posts have been lamentations about the lack of time I have for my writing. Mostly because I’m teaching two college courses in addition to my high school classes. Frankly, I’m spreading myself way too thin and I know it. I just don’t want to be one of “those” people. You know, those people who are afraid to live their life the way they want. Those people who put off living the life they want today because they believe there will always be time tomorrow. Sometimes there is no tomorrow.
I read a quote today that said, “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take that step.” So, I gave myself permission to take a short nap when I came home this evening, but then I forced myself to get up and write. My small step to send the universe the message that this is my passion, this is the thing that makes my heart skip a beat, this is the thing that gets my blood boiling. To get my creative juices flowing, I pulled out a poem I started earlier and worked on it. It’s nowhere near where I want to go with it. The poem, like me, is a work in progress.
As a young girl I would walk
along thin rails of abandoned
tracks near my home –the
loud blare ringing in my ears
trying to assure me, eventually
I’d know home. One day
the loud blare didn’t make a
sound & the days weren’t the
same. I stopped in the middle of
the road longing to hear the
metallic scream, a reminder
it was near. Silence was all
that came to me. A deep
fog of silence let me know
I was all alone.
It’s a dangerous thing to
try & fill empty silence with
the noise of screams cuz
screams reverberate in emptiness
and fall on deaf ears. I can’t
stop the memory of the screams
from keeping me up at night
so I sit in my home, still alone,
enveloped in a shroud of
darkness, listening for the
shrill screams. I want to
tell her to relax—make her
know that if she doesn’t resist
it’ll be all over soon.
The only problem I see is
I don’t know if she’s
screaming in my head or
if it’s all happening in my
dreams. Is it the girl next
door who’s screaming or
is the girl screaming really me?
And now, with my creative juices flowing I’m going to do some more work on a short story I’ve been working on for a while. It’s a story I’m very excited about and that I’d like to submit to some college journals and a few short story contests. Off to take my small step for the day….hope you’ll do the same.
Peace & Love,
Why are you here?
Why am I here?
Same question, different perspective. I just finished reading The Why Cafe, an inspirational book that encourages the reader to determine his/her purpose for living so that he/she can lead a more fulfilling life.
A co-worker recommended the book. She received the book from her neighbor who told her to read it, then to pass it on to someone else who might need it. The book is written as a fictional story about one man who gets lost on a dark road, only to end up at this cafe that has menus that suggest three questions customers should ponder as they wait on their food: Why are you here, Do you fear death, and Are you fulfilled?
I don’t know if I’m lost “on a dark road,” but I do know I have many days where I feel unfulfilled. I have an idea of what I should be doing, but I sometimes wonder if there’s more I should be doing. I also wonder if I’m on the right path or just trying to convince myself it’s the right path? Maybe the signs I’m reading are an illusion, a trick of the eye. They probably change when I’m not looking and I don’t even realize it.
As you can see, reading the book has me thinking. Thinking, thinking, and thinking. In the midst of my thinking, I pulled out a sheet of paper and attempted to answer the first question: Why am I here? Sitting on my porch, lulled by the nighttime music of the nocturnal insects, I allowed the pen to guide me to my inner feelings. I composed a poem. It doesn’t have a title and, more than likely, it’s just an outpouring of my feelings as I try to determine how to live a life that is more fulfilled.
Here’s the poem:
Why am I even here?
The answer found in my tears
is to bear the burden of hurt
and shame. Nothing but disgrace
shines in my eyes. I’m so tired
of hurting; just wanna be free
from the hundreds of years of misery—
slave to a homeland that no longer
recognizes me. Oh, Africa, you claim
to see a majestic Queen when you
look at me, but I shudder to have
to admit that though you are my
birthplace, it is in your arms
I learned to feel a shit stained
misery. Smeared all over my face
your bloody feces – Stop! I scream
yet I accepted it with my eyes &
mouth wide open while proclaiming
you are Africa to me. I open
arms wide, accept the motherland
inside, feel it nestled between
my thighs and I sigh – Home.
Home is where the heart is & also
where it’s shattered to pieces.
All you are is inside of me
tryin to convince me you’re a part of me.
Africa you can no longer hear me
and I don’t know if you ever
could. Every day I plot to be free,
to break the chains of bondage
holding me tight, tied to a place
that could never love me.
Rhythmic beats once sang to me
opened a NEW WORLD to me.
You promised me, O Africa, to
always be that space where I
could return, but I look at you
& no longer see a place to call home.
Mama always used to tell me
“I brought you in, I’ll take you out”
You were supposed to be different
Africa. You’re the same, but worse
cause you showed my worth to me
then sent the stocks of me
plummeting. Why Africa!
Don’t you realize I always
loved you Africa? I would have
done anything to return home
but now I just want you gone
so you can stop hurting me,
stop pretending to love me
when you don’t even love yourself.
If you did, how would you be able
to do this to me? I wanna
return home and wanna be free.
So Africa let go of me.
Our history is now diluted
& watered down and I see
that Africa could never be
home to me. Stop, Africa.
Stop trying to break me.
Peace & Love,
I washed the mirror with
my tears and exposed all
my fears. As I wiped the
drops of sadness away, I
scrubbed away the layer
of protection that hid the
truth. I’ve always been
crying inside and knew how
to hide the tears beneath
a veil of intensely loving others.
I loved you because I couldn’t
love myself. Helped you and
never asked for help. I’ve always
been broken but you didn’t know
I hid behind the shadows of
“Do unto others as you would
If, just once, you bothered to look
inside of me, you might have seen
that little girl inside who had stood
in the same place year after year
with tears in her eyes.
A little girl who possesses
the kind of sadness that stares
longingly at a bottle of pain
relievers wondering if the secret
of happy-ness lives at the bottom
of the bottle. Can I? Will I? Can
I? thoughts that whirl around
my head like wisps of cigarette smoke,
she thought she was blowing bubbles.
Doubt paralyzes me and I can only
wonder if the wispy thoughts will
once and for all strangle me,
snuff the life out of me.
I can’t breathe when my
throat is full of pain
pills and I can’t scream when
nobody is around to hear
me. So I stuff my pain and put
it off again, but I know one day
soon I will get the strength
to dry the tears from the mirror
and from that little girl’s eyes.
Peace & Love,
I wasn’t going to write this. I was going to keep my opinion to myself. People have said this is not the right time. Something like this could be seen as a slap in the face of his mother. But, if now is not the right time, then when is?
When is the right time to tell our own black sons that black life matters? When is the right time to tell our sons that life matters, period? I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for Michael Brown’s mother. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a son. But as I have done with any police shooting, I have been reserving my opinion until the entire story is told. As best as it can be told, considering the fact that one of the victims is dead.
Yes, I said one of the victims. The store owners were victims on that day as well. (And continue to be victims as their business is looted, though they did nothing that day that Michael Brown was killed.) People always complain that the only businesses in our communities are liquor stores, check into cash businesses, title loan businesses, and pawn shops. Well these are the businesses that are guaranteed to receive our patronage. Truth be told any other business is taking a chance opening in our communities. There’s the chance they’ll be robbed (Kent Smith, a business owner who has been in my community for many years was murdered recently as he was robbed.) or the chance that the business just will not thrive. Where are the protesters for this?
The statement that has been chanted and repeated in this last week is that “black life matters.” Yes! I agree. Black life does matter. Who’s going to tell that to our sons? When I go to my news app on my phone to receive the latest updates on what is happening in Ferguson, the Ferguson update is bookended by stories of our own black children being murdered by other black children. Yesterday, alone, I read stories about four black people being killed here in Memphis. Why are we not sharing the message with our own that black life matters? Hell, life period, matters.
Anyone who does not see this as a problem is clearly not rooted in sanity or reality. I teach students who believe selling drugs is the life, who think that being a “thug” is cool, who think that life has nothing to offer them other than what they find in the streets. It’s a mentality I try to tear down every day.
Back to the Michael Brown incident, if it is true that Michael Brown grabbed the officer’s gun or tussled with him in any fashion, where’s the outrage for respect of authority? Why do we, as a community, continue to teach our children to disrespect authority of any kind? And I say we, though my own children have been schooled with the knowledge that police do not shoot to wound and that when stopped, they are to comply with the officer’s orders. The citizen is not in control of the situation, the officer is.
Realistically, what message is being sent as people in Ferguson continue to destroy their own neighborhood and continue to disregard authority? A message that was already prevalent in our community: “Fuck the police.” An attitude that never seems to take into account that we are responsible for our own behavior. You can’t rob someone (take what they worked hard to earn) and then become indignant when the police stop you. You can’t sell drugs and then become indignant and shout “Fuck the police.” The life of the people who are being sold drugs, namely crack and much harder drugs, well their life matters as well. And, let’s think for a second, if black people felt a sense of connection to their neighborhoods, would they be destroying it like they are now? Lack of ownership and entrepreneurship, more reasons to protest.
We have a problem in our community. And, sadly, it is not as simple as being mistreated by police. No one wants to accept that we have been responsible for the image that black life doesn’t matter. Our kids have the most behavior problems in school. Our kids don’t perform well in school, and it’s not always because the school is a bad one. (No one addresses the fact that the “good schools” are the schools in white neighborhoods. The schools in neighborhoods where parents have expectations for their children.) Our kids, in drastically increasing numbers, are killing one another over Facebook arguments, over gang affiliation, drug territory, drug deals gone bad, and just killing each other, period. I want to take to the streets to protest that. And in that same breath, as I walk to tell my own people that black life matters, I want to tell those outside my community that, yes, I believe black life matters.
I’m sorry if anyone sees this as a slap in the face. I see it as a slap in the face when one of my students is shot on his way to school. I see it as a slap in the face when a child who’s only been in my class for less than two weeks is lying in the hospital fighting for his life because he was shot in the chest after school by another black teenager. (And when I’m calling roll, another student pipes up and tells me he’s in the hospital because he was shot in the chest. Absent from this young man’s face, the one reporting the news, is the deep sadness I already feel.) I consider it as a slap in the face that so many of our black young men believe they will not live to see adulthood, not because of the police, but because of the war that is being waged in our communities. The war that no one wants to protest.
I contend that current tactics to get out the message that black life matters are not working. To exact real change, we have to go in and find the tumor that is killing our black children. And in taking out the tumor, we will see real change.
There will be some who say I’m not black, I’m being inappropriate, and the message I’ve heard many times before: that I must think I’m not black. Yes. I’m black. If you don’t believe me, just ask my sons.
I cannot shed my
black skin, stop this pain. Death stings
self-inflicted and cop-inflicted.
“A pile of dead birds taller than me stands in the corner. The stench is unbearable.” These are the thoughts of a woman in the book I’m currently reading, Ava Sing Lo. The book, The Book of Dead Birds, is about this daughter who has been killing her mother’s pet birds since she was a little girl. Her mother keeps a journal with memories and keepsakes from the birds that Ava has killed.
Instead of picturing birds when I read those lines, I imagine that is a pile of my own words, unwritten poems, stories, etc. This happens every year at the beginning of the school year. Every summer I reflect over the school year I just completed and come up with new strategies to achieve better results than the year before. Also, the new year, with a new crop of students demands brand new enthusiasm, a setting in place of new procedures and expectations. It seems that from day one I’m buried under an avalanche of paperwork, lesson plans, papers that need to be graded, assignments that needed to be created and, inevitably, my writing suffers. This school year has been no different.
A friend of mine recently told me that I am trying to serve two masters. Writing, he knows, is my passion. And he suggested that I find a way to cut corners with my teaching. I had an argument for everything that he suggested. Truth be told, I get incredibly excited when I’m fully prepared to present a lesson to my students and lo and behold when I present the lesson, the students “get it.” As a teacher, it’s a feeling I live for. So, no, I won’t be cutting corners. Like every year before this one, I’ll just have to find a way to re-connect with the passion for my writing I felt all the way up until the day before school started. This summer I was writing every day, words flowed from me like water from a faucet, but now that creative energy has been diverted toward the lessons I’ve been teaching since school started. There’s a way to build a dike that will separate the flow of creative energy so that there’s some for teaching and some for my writing. I’ve done it every year.
Right now I find myself feeling like a small lost child. I’m afraid that I’ll never be re-united with my words. What if they’re gone forever? What if all I’ll ever be is a teacher? What if sales of my books never pick up? What if every agent tells me no? What if…
On that note, here’s a poem that came to me as I was driving not long ago. The image of me driving down the street, trying to look through my purse for paper still makes me smile. When the words come, they come. And I just open my mouth wide and accept them like I used to do when I’d hold my head back and let the water from the garden hose flow into my mouth.
ur name drips
like sweet honeydew nectar
that falls down
to my chin & I have to trace
my finger along my lips & down
my chin to get the last few drops
every time my heart beats it
sends a morse code message
2 my brain, saying I will
always seek u cuz my heart
knows what no other part of me
does that loving u is motivation
4 evry beat of my heart so if I’m ever
foolish enuff to stop loving u
I will die a little inside
until I’m no more & there’s only
the memory of me & u
when u speak I imagine
myself dipping my toe in the
clear depth of ur words
evry time u speak u give
my life new meaning
a place 2 B free, a place 2
B me cuz I know I can
swim in ur words &
not ever B in danger of
when I’m lying in ur arms
I don’t think of strength or
even security —those are given –
instead I think of the fluffiness
of the clouds & warmth of the sun
on my skin & I imagine frolicking
in the sky above surrounded by
miles & miles of fluffy clouds
cuz without a doubt I know
in ur arms is the closest thing
to Heaven right here on earth
when I’m looking in ur eyes
I wonder if ur mother & mine
were sisters or just close friends
cuz our souls connected is twins
separated at birth, this I contend,
yet our connection remains the same
see how loving u has me sounding
insane and u ask me will my love ever
change, baby I need u 2 know
this ain’t no temporary love thang
Happy writing and reading peeps!
Peace & Love,
I haven’t been posting in a while because a new school year recently began. The first week is usually quite overwhelming and, honestly, leaves little time for anything other than setting up procedures, assignments, and other things for the new school year.
This poem is one I’ve wanted to write. Ever since I decided that I no longer wanted to be known as a strong black woman because I recognized that the label “strong” somehow seemed to detract from my womanhood.
Here’s what I have so far:
The Dichotomy of the Strong Black Woman
To carry the world on our shoulders
without uttering one word of misery,
yet to desire the pearls of womanhood
that is the dichotomy of the strong black woman.
We wear the mask that grins and lies
because we want to hold onto our pride,
then pay the price by being pushed aside
as a way is made for a woman, the real ones.
My black Kings don’t hold the door open for me
because I told him I’d do it myself.
My black Kings won’t hold their hand out to me
because I told him I didn’t need him.
My black Kings won’t defend me
because I proved to him I’m a strong on my own.
When the rent is due, I won’t call you
or anyone else ‘cuz I got this. When
the TV is on the fritz, I’ll figure it out
‘cuz I got this. When my tire is flat,
I won’t call you ‘cuz I got this. When
I need help, any help at all, I
won’t call you ‘cuz I got this.
Somehow the strong overshadows the woman
so I’m left standing all alone. And it’s those times
when I’m all alone that I take off my mask and
see the lies I’ve been feeding you and me, that
even though I can handle it all on my own
I don’t really want to. And that’s the dichotomy
of being a strong black woman.
Happy writing and reading peeps!
Peace & Love,