Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ten word poems

Image source: Google

Ten word poems 

1.
sunset
your rejection
of my light
burns horizon
to ashes        

2.
reds, blues, yellow, blacks
a living palatte
eclipsed by you

3.
I was not meant for this world
tears smear colors

4.
sleet pelts cheeks
mingle with tears
how discretely
they
fall

5.
midnight wind muffles sound
I cry peacefully
cursing the void

6.
eastern skies soften              
I wait
bathed in lavender               
you’re early

7.
sunlight pierces me
squinting
I invite you to
ignite me
***

Written for dVerse Poets Meeting the Bar: one, two, three ...tenWord! writing prompt. Go here to read the other dVerse poets who participated.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

a toast to two passing spring grasshoppers

a toast to two passing spring grasshoppers

I raise my glass to secrets untold
and the garden trail we dared not venture
as the path we would’ve walked and tilled
becomes overgrown with ivy and dandelions
reclaimed by twisted, wooded knots and nature

if only you and i had endured long enough
for me to drop my guard, sharing my secrets
we might have lasted long enough
for me to hold you in my arms
as you trusted me with your own

here’s to the garden left untended
abandoned by two cowards addicted to each other’s scent
that earthy familiar smell of new fertile soil,
but too fearful of the harvest
to roll up each other’s sleeves 
***




Sorry I've been away for so long. You know how it is. Holidays, depression, work-life balance, a bunch of freakin' teenagers running around, saying/doing ridiculous stuff and not LISTENING TO THEIR FATHER! But I digress...

This poem was posted for dVerse Poets' Poetics : What is your secret? writing prompt. The challenge was to write about a secret without revealing the actual secret. I chose to write about secrets that the writer desperately wanted to reveal to someone, but sadly, he no longer has the opportunity. 

Go here to read the secrets of other dVerse Poets. I know I will, because I'm pretty nosy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Civil Blindspots


Civil Blindspots


1.
City planners seem to succeed
where King Śuddhodana failed Buddha,
but I see it.

It is easy to detect imperfections
in this gleaming, bejeweled metropolis,
not as obvious viewed from street-level of
the Magnificent Mile, with cathedral-capitalism spires
reaching to the heavens, threatening to wedge-open
the needle’s eye for as many camels as possible.

Pay the exorbitant fee to be lifted onto
the observation decks of these majestic towers,
it is much more apparent up here, but only if the observer
knows where to observe the divining line.
It traverses north and south when facing west,
and east-to-west when viewing south.
It is funny that many cannot see with their eyes wide-open
that which I cannot avoid viewing, no matter how tightly I
shut out the light with my lids.

With one eye, I see the future,
in all of its optimistic, sanitized,
chrome-polished glory.

The other eye sees a twisted, sinewy,
amalgamation of present and past,
my past entwined with this city like
the rusted remains of a chain-link fence
protecting a condemned building that was
once home to countless lives scraping to earn an honest living,
or hell-bent on strong-arming higher-quality lifestyle
by any means necessary.

2.
From the man-made summits,
the horizon blends into haze,
it is easy to forget that people live in this nebulous realm,
but from the imperceptible margins,
there is a clear view of the majestic “big shoulders”.
They cast long morning shadows on playgrounds full of broken swings,
its paint-chipped benches occupied by jobless adults
passing around bottles in brown paper wrappers as they trade
addictions and stories, mostly of failure
and how the system is stacked against them,
or how to game the system for infinitesimal, fleeting successes,

but sometimes there are tales of those who tried but failed.
In what passes for the story’s moral,
the star-crossed dreamer isn’t mocked for his failure,
but for trying in the first place.

3.
About ten miles from the Magnificent one,
the shadows fade by noon, revealing an elderly, shoeless man
chugging a beer in the middle of a pothole-mangled street.

The cops can’t even be bothered
to slow down enough to harass him.

He is a fixture; just another curiosity in front of a sandy,
vacant lot that was once a vibrant juke-joint twenty years earlier.

No one knows his story, the battles he has fought,
the turmoil he has endured, or even caused,
during the many acts of his life.

No one has even seen him begging for spare change
though he must have to at some point to finance
the only comfort he seems to relish.

Each day, the shadows reveal him,
each night, they reclaim him.

4.
Some afternoons – weather permitting – affluent college students
would follow affluent sociology professors
on audacious field-trips to the ghetto neighborhood of my youth.

I knew they were sociology classes
because they used phrases like “urban blight” and “moral decay”.

I knew they were affluent because they always seemed to talk about,
but never directly to me or the “mostly fatherless” neighborhood kids
who had no hope of higher-learning or advancing
beyond the adults squatting in the playground
or that man swilling beer in the sun
that no one ever sees begging for cash,
though it’s assumed that he does.

I knew their trips were audacious because
each time I saw them bringing their discounted empathy
to my urine-scented streets,
I wanted to punch their smug faces.

As if they could capture the “plight of the negro”
without speaking to a single one of us.
As if we would be too stupid to grasp the inner-nuances
of their safari trips, and in grasping the concept,
also grasping the dehumanizing elements of their studies.

They observed that we were poor and hopeless.
Had they spoken to us,
they’d have learned of our fears and aspirations.

5.
The evening hues cast unique features,
with skyscraper lights upstaging the distant twinkles.
On one such night, I sought out the darkness,
my gaze affixed to the heavens, veiled in youthful enthusiasm
as the earth’s shadow began to devour the moon.

Oblivious to this dueling jostle for attention,
a woman approached, asking the 16-year-old stargazing me
what up there in the sky could possibly be more interesting
than the dual bulging globes of flesh
pressing to escape her blouse to meet my approval.

She asked if I was old enough to date,
which made no sense to 16-year-old me because clearly I was.
Only when she asked how much money I had
did I finally connect the faded dots of this constellation.

Turns out that the perfect location for novice astronomy
was also ideal for other transactions that work better in darkness.

To this day, I don’t know which sight was dimmer;
a woman desperate enough to risk solicitation with a minor,
or the vacant, desolate glint of abject despair in her eyes
after I said, “None,” turning to distance myself.

None of this is visible from downtown’s corporate towers,
though the towers are clearly visible
to anyone who chooses to raise their gaze.

6.
I guess the longer someone lives on the margins
of the structures of others,
with scaffolding soaring higher into vertical displacement
the less often either party are to see each other,
let alone seeing each other’s humanity.

It seems that King Śuddhodana could’ve
hidden the world’s suffering from Buddha’s observation
by imprisoning him inside an observation deck.
***

Written for dVerse Poets - City Songs for Poetics. Many other dVerse Poets also contributed to this prompt. Go here to read their work.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Battle

The Battle


Fleeing love and death
Your gaze fortified my spine
I'll stand my ground beside you
 ***
If our cause is just
I will take up both our swords
Or gladly fall upon them.

***



I learned of the Sedoka from a poem I read on Conscious Cacophony's blog. This is my first crack at the form. Go there to read her own Sedoka, as well as a good description of the form. 

Shared with dVerse Poets' Open Link Night - November 2011. Many dVerse poets have also shared their work here

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aspirations

index

Aspirations

 

“Would Theo do that to Heathcliff Huxtable?”

Dad looked down at me through his Spectacles of Disapproval, which is the name I gave his thick eyeglasses whenever I found myself disappointing him, which was fairly often. This particular event was so long ago that I don’t even recall my infraction now. He often turned to humor in these teachable moments, not realizing that from my juvenile perspective, this only served to further humiliate and rub my nose deep into the stench of my error. Or maybe that was the whole point. Who can understand the mind of a man with an acerbic wit? His favorite go-to move was, “Would Theo do that to Heathcliff Huxtable?”

With my practiced apologetic smile firmly affixed, internally, I winced each time he went to that sanctimonious well. The reasons were threefold; (1) Dad, being lower-middleclass, was in no way making Dr. Huxtable money, (2) Theo screwed-up constantly on The Cosby Show to the point where they could’ve renamed it The Dumb-Assed Theo Show, and (3) it felt ludicrous to be held to the lofty standards of fictional characters.

I was probably the only Black kid alive who eventually developed a deep contempt and resentment for The Coby Show and its spin-off, A Different World back in the 80’s. While family and friends mostly lauded these shows as shining examples of how African-Americanism can be lifted up if we all aspire to be our best selves at all times, all I saw was a lofty perch that I would never reach because I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and I wasn’t ambitious enough. The sum of whatever I thought I was, of whatever I thought my “best self” was, just wasn’t… enough. (To that end, I cried myself to sleep after viewing Spike Lee’s film School Daze, not because of the plot – undergrad, dark-skinned Blacks beefing with undergrad, light-skinned Blacks over ultimately senseless tribalism – but because I knew that my best-self wasn’t good enough to go away to college to weigh-in on that ultimately senseless tribalism. Turns out that I was right for the wrong reasons.)

I try not to hold a grudge because after all, there is no ghetto parental playbook, and Dad made a good-faith best-effort at guiding me down the right path. Dad couldn’t even perceive my poor self-esteem, and I was too passive to ever consider that my perspective mattered. So much for engaging in dialogue that could’ve spared me a few decades of uninformed decisions. Still, things worked out surprisingly well for me. A Naval recruiter took one look at my ASVAB scores and sold me on the Honor, Courage and Commitment of the U.S. Navy, where I matured, continued my education, and learned that my voice does matter. As it turns out, my “best-self” was good enough for whatever I set out to achieve. That’s what Dad was trying to tell me. That was Bill Cosby’s message in his pious, cloying television shows and his cranky, out-of-touch “Pull your pants up and stop using Hip-Hop, boogie-music slang!” old-man rants. I still found Dr. Cosby as annoying as any sanctimonious parrot could be, but I felt that his heart was in the right place, so I could deal with him in small doses.

When the rumors about Bill Cosby allegedly raping women began, I instantly dismissed them as urban legends and mean-spirited character-assassinations because Bill Cosby was clearly the Bill Cosbyest of all of us African-Americans aspiring to be our “best selves”. Bill Cosby couldn’t rape a woman any more than you or I could punch an infant in the face. Come-on, now! Bill Cosby doesn’t have sex, son! Bill Cosby is asexual, like an amoeba that just wants you to speak in grammatically-correct, profanity-free sentences at all fucking times (Sorry, Dr. C.)

But then more stories started to come out. And then more stories. And then still more. And then there were stories about Dr. Cosby being a mean-spirited bully. And then there were stories that made Dr. Cosby sound like a mafia Don or some kind of evil Black Pope entrenched in an intimidating power-structure that made victims question the wisdom of coming forth with their stories of Bill Cosby’s alleged predatory sexual acts.

I was briefly amused by the perverse irony of it all (“Ha-ha! The guy yelling at us to pull out pants up can’t keep his own pants on!”) But then, as empathy for the alleged victims built, and as the details of each story became darker and more depraved, I started to feel angry and betrayed. How dare this pillar of our Black community who inspired us and insisted that we show our best-selves not only show us the worst kind of human-failings, but also fail to see the humanity of the women so inhumanely exploited (allegedly)? Goodbye, and good riddance, Dr. Cosby! The Black community will do just fine without hypocrites like you failing to practice what you preach. It’s a good thing that nothing racially traumatic has happened recently that could've used the benefit of your now seemingly irrevocably broken moral compass-

Oh yeah. The Ferguson verdict. And then the Ferguson riot. And then the Ferguson protests in other American cities. And then the condemnation of the Ferguson protests by callous people who are either unwilling, or unable to comprehend why the apparent shooting of a surrendering, unarmed 18-year-old by those sworn to protect us might upset some of us. And then the irresponsible cry for vengeance by those who feel that justice has denied them one time too many. And then the few craven opportunists who believe that this society and its rules are bullshit anyway, and so when it threatens to unravel, they might as well get theirs. And then still more condemnation by disingenuous people who will use the craven opportunists as clear examples of why shooting an unarmed surrendering kid was justified. Of course, this horrifies me, not just because the skin color of the victim is similar to mine, but also because like me, he was once a human being with aspirations that won’t be met.

There is still the very real possibility that the Ferguson shooting was justified, though I still have my doubts. This is also a tough sell to most Black people because there are far too many instances of us having excessive force used on us for no justifiable reason. Many socially-conscious White people are rightfully outraged by these injustices, but if your skin color is similar to mine, you are most likely terrified. I fear being mugged by criminals, but I also fear being questioned by the police, and I have never committed a crime. Lest I forget, there are always more reminders that my “best self” is still just one misunderstanding and/or sudden-move away from being carried away from the scene of my death in a coroner bag. There will always be more reminders that I, a U.S. Navy Veteran, can be stopped-and-frisked for “fitting-the-description” or accidentally gunned-down for reaching for my wallet after a routine traffic stop (Good thing there was a dashboard camera, right? Also, why aren’t all police required to have cameras?)

A glib, stuffed-shirt will stare into a teleprompter and ponder nothing while parroting the words on his screen that form sentences of legions of air-tight strawmen like “what if he wasn’t surrendering?” Which makes sense because what if I pushed a guy and shoplifted cigars so I can go “stuntin'” (apologies to Dr. Cosby for the hip-hop slang) like some kind of gang-banging rap star? See? The shooting would be justified, right? And then regardless of what we believe, we will inevitably retreat to our respective echo chambers instead of summoning the hairsbreadth of empathy required to listen to one another while having an actual conversation about race and racism.

It is ludicrous, even laughable, to suggest that an elderly, out-of-touch comedian who inspired millions to achieve greatness could somehow bridge the widening gulf of racial mistrust and dehumanizing violence if only he wasn’t an alleged predatory serial-rapist. (As early as last week, my previous sentence would’ve been rejected as a failed plot-pitch for Law and Order: SVU) But in times like these, with social injustice and it’s inevitable backlash threatening to smolder and burn away everything we struggle to hold together, with empathy for others evaporating in the harsh drought of national tribalism, willful ignorance, and staggering apathy, I now find myself wondering…

Who among us in our race – the human race – will step up to remind us of who we aspire to be?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lovelace

Credit: Aurora over a Glacier Lagoon © James Woodend (U.K.)


Lovelace

lace swaddles my vision
looting her aurora

love smearing my judgment
left her tied in ribbons

lifted by emerald skies
longing for her rare air
loss gives way to wonder    
                             
***


Written for dVerse: MeetingTheBar: Pleiades. This is a fun form. I'm glad I tried it. Go here to read other dVerse poets' Pleiades form. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nihirizumu no Kage

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Image source: google

Nihirizumu no Kage (Shadow of Nihilism)

Turbulent winds blow, tearing asunder
the life-force, a full flow, feeling the thunder
shockwave tear the air, rip through the atmosphere
impale the ill-prepared, lungs inhale blue fear!

Oblivion, be my blade, be not afraid
obliterate the masquerade, air-raid remade
in the image we imagine with dragons of all fashion
with a visage we envision that drags on flame passion!

Pierce the foundations and burn through the earth
render all creation to dust for rebirth
this existence is transitory, so what’s it worth
for your assistance to transcribe the story?

I’ll wield your girth in my hands for the master stroke
bookmark the chapter with designs on that disaster smoke
soul-cutting raptor!

Now obliterate, Nihirizumu no Kage!
***

(Disclaimer: The video above includes graphic language, graphic comic-book-style violence, and graphic all-around ninja-move badassery. Don't watch it unless you have a kung-fu grip on yourselves.)

Written for dVerse Poetics : Modern mythologies. The prompt was to modernize an old mythological story. Other dVerse poets gave this prompt a whirl too. Check them out here. I was drawing a blank, so I decided to take an already modernized mythology (source: modern obscure geeky anime) and add my own spin to it.

The Anime/Manga Bleach is a story about a kid named Ichigo who discovers that he has the supernatural powers of a soul reaper. Each soul reaper has his own soul-cutting spirit sword (or Zanpakutō) that basically embodies his fighting spirit and “lends” the wielder its power once the wielder calls for it by name (usually accompanied by a flowery, poetic incantation like “ROAR, ZABIMAROU!”)

Here's a clip of Ighico being trained to communicate with his Zanpakutō, named Zangetsu ("Slaying Moon")


I know what you're wondering; how is any of this relevant? A few years ago, my writing was blocked, big time. To get myself back to writing, I decided to give myself a Zanpakutō and an incantation that would act as my writing's “fighting spirit”. I wanted the name to sound authentic, so I googled Japanese phrases and translated them to find a really badass-sounding name. (Yes, I’m that kind of nerd, but it worked!)  

Here’s the original incantation:
Turbulent winds blow!
Oblivion be my blade!
Pierce the foundations!

Now obliterate, Nihirizumu no Kage!
Pretty boss, right? Like I said, I’m a nerd, and here’s my own personal nerd mythology.