Black August Haikus, 2020

for years now, i have participated in Black August, a month of honoring the sacrifices and living wisdom of our political prisoners. inspired by the Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity and Spirithouse communities, i’ve participated in a haiku writing practice in addition to fasting and reading. here are this year’s offers.

Aug 1

six feet apart or
six feet under, but alive
black freedom fighters

we fight for your lives
lift your names up, sacred song
we open your bars

we stop wasting time
chancing our liberation
we owe you rigor

Aug 2

fill your mouth with us
our lives, our deaths, mattering
say each of our names

fill your fight with us
our time, our years, sacrificed
remember our names

fill your lives with us
our dreams, brilliance, this culture
we are more than names

Aug 3

love, stop complaining
of all this freedom you have
that’s our blood, our loss

all our sleepless nights
praying for you, for your joy
you can be grateful

you can stay humble
keep learning, as we still learn
tomorrow’s lessons

Aug 4

our worst nightmare fears
are your daily bread, your sun
rises inside bars

every single year
you see life in snapshots, flash
the children are grown

this is the debt due
our attention to your hearts
to your brilliant minds

none of us are free
we are bound to your hours
to your sacrifice

this is the debt due
practice freedom every day
we belong to you

Aug 5

look at the glory
standing naked in mirrors
waiting for your glance

take in the beauty
stripped of all small attention
infinite blackness

turn towards yourself
and offer that precious love
you always have you

you cannot be caught
you’re never less than your soul
open your cages

stand in the moonlight
bathe, swim in that reflection
you, you are the light

Aug 8

you are meant to love
in spite of everything past
you need to be loved

you’re meant for freedom
in spite of constant cages
you are still so wild

you are built to hold
in spite of the erasure
you’re built for worship

you are here to thrive
this is your reclamation
your orgasmic yes

Aug 14

we hold multitudes
do not shrink, don’t simplify
black complexity
was never for sale
we are not simple, fragile
we are whole, come true
be kind to your wild
ancestor-fed fantasies
distinction matters
oh imperfect one
what you are is so divine
don’t let us miss you

Aug 16

the whole universe
is a black woman, vast, thick
glitter in her hair

she loves the quiet
small infinite busy-ness
cannot disturb her

on Sunday mornings
her languid body slumbers
while you pray on it

drift outside of time
and her silent company
will meet you dreaming

the revolution:
remembering power is
like her great stillness

which only gives trust
to those in mutual awe
no limitations

Aug 17

we learn to lose weight
smaller, grieving, contained: shrink
hush all that weeping

we learn how to lie
be fine, smile bright, say yes: mask
the truth is violent

we learn hunger pains
naked, alone, tired: fuck
this is who I am

we learn to expand
growing, loving, trusting: heal
we aren’t so heavy

we give up that fight
trying to be likable
we choose greater love

Aug 19

the real heartbreak is
even though change is needed
I feel death ahead

feel it every day
as we go thru our motions,
beyond miracles
to keep us alive
to grieve us, to let us go,
holding the broken
promises, prayers
treaties, amendments (they said
oh so many things)

even as chills come
and I find myself wanting
to trust tomorrow

even as I try
not to be selfish in spells
to speak gratitude

I see death ahead –
and know that face, injustice.
let my people live.

Aug 21

laying in the dark
counting heroes and saviors
praying up farmers

pray up prisoners
who fight fires when healthy
but caught the virus

pray up the teachers
forced to watch their dear students
for symptoms and signs

pray up the nurses
and doctors who toil, tired
no respite in sight

pray up the parents
meditating thru kid-screams
loving thru danger

pray up the artists
creating for us laughter,
dreams, threading forward

bless organizers
beaming light and direction
from here to justice

this is how I sleep
counting gratitude and hearts
beating, surviving

aren’t we a wonder
harnessing a tomorrow
we won’t surrender

Aug 23
black rest is sacred
time reclaimed, time indulged, time
that is mine alone

we need time to cry
to hold ourselves, each other
and this too much world

lay down in the dark
of your own sweet mystery
and wander, amazed

particles of star
waiting to whisper pathways
beam within your black

fill up your glass jar
press down the red dirt, water
and seed your garden

dreams may beckon you
smelling of vetiver, sage
visions live in sleep

humble into deep
slumber like a soul at peace
let the night hold you

Aug 24

birthday girl Marsha
your pink cake laughter comes home
when we turn to look
back across time you
broke free from invisible
smashed the glass and screamed
you left us unwound
from false binaries, from lies
you gave us beauty
you left us on high
celebrating all trans lives
thank you for guidance

aug 25
mountain range of rage
I punch the sky with longing
misunderstood. fuck.

how you gonna come
with those bullets for my back
and paralyze me

how you gonna come
to where I sleep, and take me
out of this sweet life

how you gonna come
with tear gas and shields and guns
to this small altar

where we keep praying
you’ll find some sense, you’ll come to
you’ll see our heartbeats

tectonic rage bursts
and the fraught landscape reforms
beyond your hatred

we are miracle
we cannot be killed, feel us
we are multitudes

pray we don’t taste blood
pray we don’t remember you
pray we feel mercy

pray for miracles
we have faith like seeds in braids
we have rage intact

we have grief within
we are heartache hurricanes
you will scream our names

Aug 29
we who lose our kings
grieve dignity, grieve honor
grieve our own best selves

no, we don’t need kings
we need our beautiful ones
to live, to survive

to hold our sick close
to face cancer, to fight it
that is a true war

Aug 31

did we do enough
we knew what was falling down
did we hold enough

our muscles trembled
our backs ached, our knees went out
forgot how to sleep

forgot how to pray
or why, remembered in tears
returned to the whole

raged and reposted
slipped behind scenes to reach out
broke each entered door

danced into the war
refused the disappearance
spoke names to candles

shared each known spotlight
whispered clues back down the line
spoke the truth we felt

did we do enough
when we speak of freedom then
did we do enough?

notes to self aug 7 2019

notes from the Northstar church pleasure activism event in Durham last night…

first, read these notes about Toni Morrison:

and @thisandthatkat said: “tweet’s southern hummingbird was my shower soundtrack this morning. as “oops (oh my)” played on repeat, i thought of toni, this twitter post, and the part in her doc where she fondly reminisced on being “loose” as a howard undergrad and unapologetically declared, “it was lovely, i loved it”. toni was sensual. she reveled in the sweetness, the pleasures, the fullness of black womanhood and encouraged us to do the same. thank you, toni”

and these:

i got to sit between Omisade and Nia and listen and learn about the pleasures of the crone.

we thought and said, aging is humbling, can make you invisible to huge portions of humans, can make you feel shame about falling apart. but you can remind yourself to feel into your body, that you are just changing, that each day is still miraculous.

we uplifted the #decolonizethecrone work of Omisade – have you heard her podcast, A Black Girl’s Guide to Menopause? Omisade pointed out how we give tons of attention and information to people getting their periods, but so little information about menopause, how it will feel, from the inside to the interactions.

in this conversation i was reminded that both outside of and because of age, ability is always shifting. i want to be in my body in a way that increases my joy each day – each day is another day to make good on the contract of creating a beautiful life for myself, for my people.

i shared something i learned from Alexis Pauline Gumbs, whose essay The Sweetness of Salt was the centerpiece of tonight’s reading. Mya read the section about Kai, Omisade read the section about Cara. it was a very Durham love burst.

Alexis taught me about time travel, how we can transmit across time and space. i spoke of my two formative grandparents tonight, and felt their distinct presences in me, the celebration of being remembered, the joy of being useful, that sparkle coming up my back in ancestral shivers. i spoke of how i can see the pleasures my grandmother missed, working multiple jobs as a maid while raising seven kids…where were her footrubs? massages? meals cooked for her, orgasms just for her? i gather these delights and send them back to her, share them. for a moment, i can fold time and let her feel good.

at some point we spoke of the weight of grandmother wisdom. and how sometimes it’s racist, patriarchal, transphobic, close minded stuff. we got to the idea that when we come across people acting out from that inherited ignorance, part of our work is to remove the weight, bring them to current time.

i was also reminded that, often, those who are most conservative in my life are older women who believe themselves to be in a covenant with god. it’s repression, shaming, self negation, denial, all in the name of being closer to god. and what helps me navigate the conversations is to understand that even the force i am moving against, that force feels sacred to the other person. i must contend for divinity to really move the conversation. to say, god, goddess, god-is-change also made me, particularly.

also, did you know men can use beet juice and a vegan diet to grow virility?

oh and nia taught us how we must decide, and begin to practice, something new. in the here and now. that’s the work of spirit house, to build a foundation for the time when we win, are free.

we remembered, from somatics, how compassion helps us soften in the face of shame, and move through it to the terror, or grief, or other big emotions that shame protects.

this was a beautiful day for thoughtful feelings or emotional thinking. one day at a time, but each day has lineage and dreams.

today we dreamed within the revered energy of the Phil Freelon. it was an honor to feel the goodness of that space, the love he rendered.