Monthly Archive for August, 2018

my Black August poems

every Black August I engage in collective practice with many people in the work of abolition and particularly remembering and lifting up political prisoners. I write letters and poems to those still behind bars, and write haikus with my BOLD family.

these are not great poems, but I appreciate the haiku form for pushing me to get to the essence of what I’m thinking.

this year most of the poems in some way relate to prompts from M Archive, Alexis Pauline Gumbs latest spiritual must-read text. the prompts were developed by Spirit House.

enjoy.

1.
cells so full of us
burst open, dear and wild, Black
liberated life
????

2. remember shackles
remember finding magic
these fingers know spells

these hands held the rape
they recall tapping poison
they recall birth mess

remember black bars
gripped in fingers finding sun
reaching for freedom

remember child cheeks
these hands raised up a Black world
these fingers know spells
????
.

3. Detroit Summer youth:
– hard shells that break into smiles
– Black brilliance walking
????

.

4. in her drank and men
in her laughter and babies
grandma brown got free

in her loneliness
unglamorous uniform
she grew too weary

????
(prompt from M Archive, joys and pains in my dna)

.

5. breathing thru this wall
out over fire-dry land
out to the Black sea

all that exists now
back to that cold beginning
beyond future flame

into your broken heart
to the very edge of life…
and then we exhale

????
prompt from M Archive (what collective breathing and love makes possible)

6. beloved precious
innocent unbroken child
needing everything

two streams flowing clear
miracle and breathless awe
enough, once, enough

????
(prompt, M Archive, who you are on first breath)

7. our reparations
need abolition, love song,
the debt so massive

not just our labor
not just money, but Black lives
spent in fields, cages

freedom, nothing less
nothing alive imprisoned
that is our North star

fight not for dollars
but for land, for years, for breath
for bone deep freedom

????
M Archive prompt, what words have not been spoken, are left unsaid

8. bye bob bye bob bye
evil don’t prosper too long
Kayla fights for mike

we win these rigged games
because we fight together
Black back to Black back

???
????

9. anyanwu lessons
I quiet myself enough
to hear bones, fault lines

hear trauma calling
out from my hip, dropping masks
listen on purpose

today Mike Brown waves
ripple through my pain center
touching all my grief

I feel everything
this is how I spend my life
feeling surrender

I practice recall
reclaiming scarred memory
uncoil my sacrum

I practice breathing
be here, right now, regardless
alive, of my time

I practice seeing
beyond the time horizon
shaping the future

I practice quiet
learn when I choose how to be
reclaim agency

practice not knowing
change is all. and miracle.
turn and face your life.

????
(prompt, M Archive on what are you practicing. calling on Octavia Butler’s beloved healer Anyanwu for inspiration.)

10. swallowed the rage and
made it something beautiful
you loved it, not me

now i interrupt
demand true abolition
throughout our movements

not to be righteous –
to get free, all of us free
we must see the bars

we must see our hands
we must follow our dollars
we must love our rage

????

11. sifting through shadows
I find lives I did not live
scars I never bled

massive weight to pull
the years growing back to land
years of blades and wound

centuries mothered
through the impossible pain:
visionary love

we always know home
know we lost, know we seeking
sifting through shadows

????
prompt from M Archive

12. bodies melt into
one mass universe scale ‘yes!’
this is a greeting

‘suck this breast darling
grab onto something solid’
(remember delight)

laughter moves my flesh –
that earthquakeish movement, these
tectonic mood shifts

I can carry it
when I plant my feet earth sighs
saying ‘yes come home’

lovers do marvel
say ‘no, stay naked, feel sun’
unlearn skinny love

children dive into
these arms, this bosom, they know
they can rest deep here

a road to freedom
is held in her fat black palms
when she touches you

????

prompt M Archive (write about the love of a fat black woman)

13. mind knows black brilliance
hands, divine work of pleasure
soma, our oneness

my skin reads the room
my gut feels the storm coming
knows if we survive

my tongue knows your taste
my spine knows undulation,
the music that moves

feet know to open
heart knows release, ritual
body knows to live

my body knows how
to live survive dream give love
and let go, let go

????

m archive prompt: what the body knows

14. always been freedom
dialectical Blackness
spiraling upwards

????

prompt from M Archive

15. woven in my skin
longing, belonging, and loss
still in your rhythm

????

m archive prompt on relationship to Africa

16. we already dead
we lived before, we let go
we chose to return

we not tied to you
but we love all around you:
say yes to what is

when you can’t hold us
we’re in your blood, under skin,
your sound memory

finished with the fear
the small longings, broken hearts
we are left with Black

????
M Archive, on the dead who are with us, while grieving Aretha

24. I kissed the ocean
lost myself in languages
I will never know

unlocked my Blackness
from suffering, from smallness
from expectation

found my skin wider
world scale in undulation
beyond any wall

freedom is quiet
many paths will bring you home
wander further now

here and now is brief
travel back, correct the harm
then, go everywhere

???? (back in land of signals and data, been practicing in other ways for a bit.)

27. ask the question, pray,
tears flowing, dripping, crashing.
hush: I know nothing

quiet politics
until you can hear your heart
learn your own rhythm

in that still pulsing
let your knowing fall away
listen for fire

????

28. we lock ourselves up
the prison concept spills bars
we call shackles love

teach each other ‘nope.’
limits, office hours, greed,
singular beliefs

live in old footprints
circling worn paths throughout time
caught in righteousness

judging each new inch
punishing each stumbled step
we create the walls

freedom is a way
to protect the part we play
in evolution

freedom is a path
from one heart to another
on a long dark night

????

31. we may look so wild
we crying with our hands up
frustration and praise

raging over change
feeling the differences
more than the oneness

we dream together
but the path is long, labor
lasts through the black night

what is emerging
is too new to bear our weight
caught the old trauma

but so beautiful
a movement of breathe and scale
we intentional

flawed midwives, mothers
raise up miracles daily
hands scarred and lovefull

flawed humans, dreamers
rededicate our whole selves
to revolution

????

if you want to go far…

two days ago i got the news that my wage levy is lifted.

in january i was at a meeting and my bank card stopped working. i checked my accounts and all of my money had been withdrawn. by the irs. and they’d put a wage levy on me.

i asked for help, hired a company, and began to wait. and pray. and surrender. and change my relationship to money and value. and assess my financial landscape. and put this in perspective to other things of value. and recenter connection in my assessment of wealth. and lose mad sleep. and learn how to speak my financial situation aloud with my dignity intact. and pray to all the deities and cast all the spells.

i was a war tax resister for many years, and this is my punishment. i still deeply agree with the politics that led to this action, but i know now that i didn’t do it the right way. i acted as an individual, as if my singular act of rage should be respected, as if it could have meaningful impact on the systems of oppression that lead to the military spending i want to divest from.

it helped me sleep well at night, but it wasn’t tied into a collective strategy, a system of accountability around whether it was effective. someday i hope to be part of larger direct action efforts around debt and taxes, but from this struggle i have learned in a most personal way the importance of the collective. i am also interested in debt coverage as reparations in radical communities. more to come on this.

i am very grateful to the small massive circle that has held me down through this. i am challenged in asking for help, a basic human thing, so these are people who read between the lines, persisted, asked awkward questions, were generous with attention and resources, and countered my negative self talk while also encouraging my humility.

it will take me a while to integrate the lessons. moving through the financial-emotional roller coaster of this year has been humbling. i wanted to share this big lesson, that going as far as i am meant to go in this life will only happen with others, because it is so simple, hard and clear. and my gratitude for the lesson is overflowing.

the quiet hours

i love the quiet hours
pale beach or soft lamp light
i slow down until the sound can’t catch me
so slow you couldn’t see me
while they sleep without dreams
while they dream of being normal
i gather light from the stars
stars, you shine? light is time
time is light moving towards us
having let go already of that old life
or, each star is a life being lived
everything we see has happened, as it happens,
we reflect and plan, stars are
until they are not
we go dark some day
but a little bit every day will keep you humble and hungry for that quiet place
between the dark and the light
when it’s too beautiful to look
when no one answers
so you have to live with those thoughts
true. true. still.
maybe it will all get forgotten
maybe apocalypse is a chaos of memory
and if so, if so, why remember, anyway
only memories make a case for it
only the smallest snapshots
and really, only a handful, two
but the gift has no boundaries
spills through fingers
always unexpected, all that vicious feeling
we’re all accidents, walking,
late for purpose.
man, if we weren’t miracles.
i love the quiet hours
no cars pass, the walkers are silent
involved in secrets guided by their soft bellies
singing internal songs that cannot be translated
cannot be measured or placed in a rhythm
in the quiet we shift into freedom
a memory
a fantasy
a structure to our sentience
a longing that seems familiar
what we mean by love
you’re free, you make me feel free
not to run but to rest
not to get lost, but to stay found
not to root but to unfurl into the earth
not to reach but to remember
we have to ‘wait till the midnight hour’
that’s all we ever need to know

Detroit Summer Spell

yesterday i got the honor of spending some time with Detroit Summer on the last day of their programming.

the very first time i came to Detroit was to work with an earlier iteration of this incredible youth program. this year, alumni from those earlier years decided to run the program again. they invited me in to give some emergent strategy framing on the front end. i had each of the young people identify something in nature that aligned with their energy, something they wanted to bring to the summer of collaboration and creativity. they picked things like the playfulness of monkeys, the easy transition of beaches, the calming force of rain.

yesterday we started out by going around the circle and asking each young person what they had brought to the summer program. it is so important to understand that we shape everything we are a part of.

we then did a brief writing reflection: what did i bring to Detroit Summer, and what did i receive from Detroit Summer that i want to bring forward into my life.

i’m sharing this here because we all know about going off and having magical, transformative experiences and then returning to life and feeling like the magic gets swallowed by the mundane or stressful aspects of life.

from these reflections, they wrote brief spells: i use my power of ___(insert things you brought to the program)_____ in order to generate _____(insert things you received from the program)_______ in my life.

many of the spells involved using the power of humor, kindness, listening, calm, confidence in order to generate connection, community, happiness, belonging and creative work. i was impressed and inspired by the growth of relationships and sense of community between my first session with the young people and yesterday.

shout out to zena, jon and dakarai for taking this on and doing a beautiful job! Detroit Summer forever!