Tough Love

Isn’t it funny how
tough love never manages to
feel like love at all? How
it feels more like hate.
No, not hate, but indifference.
And, of course, the irony of
those thoughts visiting her,
as she watches her mother
stuff her life in two plastic
garbage bags, isn’t lost on her.
How can you just let her leave
knowing she has nowhere at all
to go
? The question stings her
like that time when she’d been
riding her bike all evening and
she went to get off her bike
and the skin of her leg got caught.
in the tire spokes. She hadn’t been
thinking about being careful, but
only about moving on.
But the sting, it had forced her
to stop and think, to consider.
What should I be thinking about?
I’m not forcing her to leave.
If only she would just….Just what
She doesn’t know. Watching
her mother walking down the block,
away. Years of belongings stretching
the inside of garbage bags. Her gait,
unsteady yet determined, beneath
the weight of so many years of
history. For weeks her mother
has been known to live behind
the corner store where she used to
send her only daughter
to buy cigarettes and tall cans of
beer, a note from her mother
balled in her hand. One time
a man lured her behind the store.
He’d stood in line behind her and
followed her outside. She stopped
only because he called her name.
To hear your name on the lips
of another can be dangerous in so
many ways. And that’s why
she never told her mother
who she knew would not understand,
her mother would scold her
for being silly, for being naïve. She
thinks now of the cold
penetrating the old coat her mother
wears and the blood spilled
on the pavement beneath her mother’s
feet in that place where she will sleep tonight.
After all these years, will it still be there
covered in layers of yesterday’s grime?
Yes, she is sure it will. Spilled blood
never loses its memory. And blood binds
across years, across miles, across distances.
This is not the first time they have both
decided to go their separate ways. It’s just
tough love, she thinks, ignoring the tears
on her own face, as her mother once again
walks away. Isn’t tough love walking away
when you really want to stay? Briefly
she considers running after the woman
who gave her life, to stop her, to love her
softly, but she knows she won’t ever
be able to go back there again. And so
she just stays and convinces herself
that love can be both hard and soft.

Peace & Love,

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If He Had Stayed

What if he had stayed?
If all his sweet lies were
strung together to form a bridge
that he’d be willing to travel
across, one way? What if
all those sweet words you shared
were more than gentle lies to rest
your naked back and exposed fears on?
If all the words you shared could have
built a bridge to somewhere other than
nowhere? What if love didn’t require
obligation or acceptance in the court
of public opinion, wasn’t so easily
asphyxiated by wounds left open and
festering for too long? By closed lives
and obvious lies? If he had stayed
wouldn’t that be just another lie?
It seems the most honest thing he did
was to choose to walk away. Because
if he had stayed, you’d always be wondering
if staying was truly a choice or
the softest deceit of settling?

Peace & Love,

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Daydream Blackness

Because in this so-called “post-racial society” my oldest son, who’s working on his music degree at the University of Memphis, was walking to a benefit dinner for his fraternity and a woman who didn’t know him told him, “I don’t have anything you can use.” And, he, the wonderful young man that he is, kept walking and allowed her words to miss him. And because my youngest daughter was verbally assaulted because of her blackness. And because post-racial is a figment of the imagination.

Daydream Blackness

I wear the color black
like a thick, heavy fog
that covers me. Only
I’m not really black, more
like caramel-colored or paper bag
brown, but when he told me
I was a fool for believing
racism still exists, I folded up
my bag, wrinkled from overuse,
and shoved it under my bed.
That corner closest to the wall
where forgotten dust and secrets lie.
I do hate you, he spat, but
it’s not because you’re black.
It’s because you’re a nigger.
Your ape-like children won’t
stay in the zoo where they
belong. I can’t find work
cause your nigger ass
took a job that should be mine.
And you people always asking
for something – clean water,
healthy food, a decent education.
You see, he assured me, I’m color blind.
I don’t see caramel or cinnamon or
toffee or a creamy shade of coffee
with the right amount of cream. All he saw
was a nigger and to him
that wasn’t racism. Excuse me
while I take a deep breath —
that word is heavy with history.
It keeps me from breathing
normally, especially when I’m
sitting in a restaurant with my family
and I suddenly feel the brush
of a whisper beside my ear.
You don’t belong here. Go back
to where you belong. And why you
people always make everything about
race, you ape in high heels?
My God, I can’t breathe. And, God,
can I ask you a question?
Where are you? I mean, where you
been? ‘Cuz my people been praying
to you for hundreds of years.
We been pleading with you
to lift the burdens we been
carrying around, dragging behind us
like too small, overpriced luggage
we never could afford. We daydream
in color, longing for blackness that
doesn’t smell like rotten fruit or
the decaying flesh of deferred
dreams. Carrying around my blackness
is suffocating me. Asphyxiation.
My God, my God. I can’t breathe.
And I really don’t understand
why you won’t save me. Why
must I continue to daydream
a blackness that’s no longer a sin?
Is your silence a sign you’re in
agreement with them, that you
want to see me forever be a slave
to the color of my skin?

Peace & Love,

  • Note: The title was inspired by the phrase “daydream blackness,” which I read in Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout.
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The Chameleon

I wear fear
like the color
of my skin. So much
a part of me.

The Chameleon.
Settling inside skin
too little for me
to move in. Trapped.

Trying to fool you
with boasts of
being unafraid.

Like fear was never
in the seed
of our love.

Fear wears many
disguises. The masks
hiding what can
clearly be seen.

Like when you’re holding
me, and I try
to etch the feeling of
us in love over the veins
of our existence.

Something to live
beyond us.

Which fear am I
hiding? The fear that’s
etched in my memory
or the fear that gathers

like clouds while
you’re lying
on top of me.

And my role becomes
the watcher: me looking
beyond you to see
what the view
will look like

when you’re gone.
I believed you would
try to stop me.
(Not really, I didn’t.)

That you want me to
believe what we have
won’t just one day
be a hazy memory.

When the truth is
we both know
you and I are a lie.
And lies
that look like love
simply cannot last.
Lies that resemble
love are a lovely deceit.

But being the chameleon
I am, I slipped into the skin
of your intention and saw
the traces of your leaving

long before you were gone.

Peace & Love,

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Our daughters are broken and
we’re not trying to fix them.

We’ve neglected them like discarded bodies
and frames of cars that no longer run.

We watch them being dragged by hair on national TV
or pushed down stairs or gun to head.

We tell their stories, share their stories like it’s evening
news, fodder to firm up the view that

Love is not supposed to be soft, but difficult. Love’s
not easy. No pain, no gain is what we teach them.

That it’s possible to plant carrot seeds and harvest corn—
a mutation. If it doesn’t start from love, how can it ever go back?

That’s the question we teach them to hold in, like bated breath,
afraid to release it. Afraid to teach truth, we present a legacy of lies.

Love is struggle, compromise. Love is trying to convince him that
without you, he’d be nothing when all along you’re the one who
believes you’re nothing, without him. Love is the feel of his words
crawling under your skin, up your spine till you become his
truth and your own lie. A legacy of lies.

When we teach that love does hurt sometimes, do we differentiate
between good hurts and bad hurts? Or that struggling and settling
are not love but an ethereal illusion that cannot last? So, one day
you will have to let go. Or do we teach that love is obsession, a
possession? Because how can she ever let go of what she wants
when what she wants doesn’t want her? If you chase him far enough,
eventually he’ll slow down, stop running and realize, with you,
he can compromise, practice loving the one he never wanted to love.
With you, he’s nothing he ever wanted to be. And that’s love.

Our daughters are broken. Are we ever going to try and fix them?

Peace & Love,




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The Morning After

The morning sun penetrates the sheer curtains
and wakes her up. She stretches, becomes aware
of the tight embrace that’s restricting her movements.
A wide grin parts her lips. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

When she tries to turn and twist to look upon his face
she begins to understand she’s only caught up in the covers.
He didn’t come home. The knowledge darkens the sun’s rays
and causes her room to feel like a prison cell, no longer home.

She sits up with the knowledge that he told me he would change
is just a refrain, something she sings to herself to keep from
going insane from continuously dealing with the same mess.
The meaning of insanity is doing the same things and expecting
things to change. And she fears she’s going insane.

It doesn’t take long for her to get dressed because
like a fireman she’s always prepared for the distress of
loving him.

In the streets, she takes turns she’d never take if it wasn’t for
the fact of loving him. She steps through doorways of abandoned
houses, walks down alleyways, walks up to groups of men
whose darkened eyes and dark intentions frighten her, but she’s
trying to find him. Always in the back of her mind, she’s afraid
that she will find him.

She fears the day she will find him unconscious or dead.
She fears the day she will find him with a needle in his arm.
Is that how he chooses to get high? She doesn’t know because
she’s never bothered to ask. She doesn’t want to know how
he chooses to escape, she just wants him to not feel the need to
escape. She fears finding him with his eyes closed, not knowing
if he’s dead or just so high, he’s unreachable.

It’s fear that keeps her walking the streets. It’s fear that keeps her
believing that she has to keep chasing love when it keeps running from her.
It’s fear that keeps her from believing that the morning after should be
spent this way, chasing an elusive love instead of wrapped up peacefully
in her sheets, in her bedroom. That she should be home, the only place
she truly belongs.

Peace & Love,

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Your Smile

What secrets are hiding
behind your smile?

I used to know the language
you use to communicate

But over the years we
became strangers

And now your language
is your own.

I cannot tell if it’s pain or violence
lurking behind your smile

Are you remembering the way
my heartbeat would accelerate when you
were around? The way your words
caused me to imagine my own death or
are you remembering the pleasure you felt
from causing me pain?

I wish I could curl into the curve
of your smile, learn all your secrets

And maybe keep you
from ever hurting me again.

Peace & Love,

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Window of the Soul

If the eyes truly are the windows
of the soul
why is it that I steal a look
in your eyes and
I feel trapped?

Are your eyes really mirrors that reflect
the undeniable truth?
We’re both trapped, prisoners of
our own existence.

The opening you provide for me
allows me to spend days
gazing out, wishing that mirrors were
actually windows.

Why is freedom so elusive?

Sometimes it seems
you’re trying to move closer to me
but your movement is an illusion
that leaves me reeling. When I think
you’re moving closer, I see
you’re farther away
than before.

Life is a beautiful illusion
a trick of the eye that
makes us believe
we can be free
but freedom continues to elude.

Will I be forever trapped
behind the glass wall
gazing out the window
fooling myself into believing
that one day
I’ll be on the other side
looking in.

Peace & Love,


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Love Deep Down in Her Bones

She leans over him
so close she can
still smell her milk
on his breath.

Inhaling deeply, she parts
the shroud of silence
that separates them
Is love an emotion
   or a choice?

She hears her mother’s voice in her mind,
the words cracking her bones
letting her know the aching heartbreak is real.

He’ll grow up one day and leave you

Doesn’t seem to matter that her mother
has been dead all the years
since she has been born, died in childbirth.

She struggles to stand
slides to the floor & the blade
glints in her hand,
the truth of what she has come for
slices through the night.

But the loneliness suffocates

She is tired of singing the blues
as if though it were her birthright

When she hears the key slide
in the front door, she knows it must be done
quickly. That love is a choice.
and she must make it.

The knife almost glides across
the curve of his neck. She expects to
have to stifle his screams as the blood seeps
into the pillow lying beneath his head
But one deep exhale is all that comes.

Then the sound of her lover’s voice
“I’m home.”
She smiles to herself knowing
he will be proud of her for what
she has done and that he will
finally allow her to know love.

Peace & Love,

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Snatches of a Friday Afternoon Conversation

He said
But I don’t want to hurt you

She said
Don’t worry my love is bulletproof

No bitter lies steeped in desperate loving
     can destroy
     No burnished, hollow love masquerading
     as true

Carry me in your bosom
he said
so close my heartbeat will mirror yours
And then you will know

She said
I know all I need to know when I
look into your eyes, I see
all the reasons why my love needs to be

He said
I’m nothing like the others
She said
You’re all they were and more

When he smiled, she felt his attack like bullets
to her soul
But because she was bulletproof
she knew she was protected, not loved
but protected

Peace & Love,

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