Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Whispering the Black Canon

This morning I realized

that writing literature is like the same as holding a conversation. When you write poems or stories or essays, you talk to the lay reader and to the academy, the intended audience and the critics. Perhaps most importantly, when you write you contact posterity directly. Call her up on the phone and text her on twitter asking to speak to your ancestors, your slain great-great-great grandfathers and your successful great-great-great grandsons at the same time.
 
I want to be a part of that conversation.

I want to talk to Baldwin and Watkins Harper, in particular.

This morning I realized that if I'm going to speak up at all, I better speak up right now. There are so many gifted men and women -- black men and black women waiting to be heard.

They love the same novels as me; they revere the same poems. They went to the same schools as me; they suffer the same grievances. They are me.

This morning I realized, now is as good of a time as any to write
to publish
to talk
to love.

All I have is today.

Monday, March 02, 2015

No Such Thing as Promises


No Such Thing as Promises
"For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine.."
--from "The New Song" by W. S. Merwin
"For some time I thought there was time and that there would always be time..."
Well, isn't that the story of my life?
In February, I lost my step-aunt. Meine steif-tante. She was an opera singer who lived in Germany. About 5 years ago, she suffered from a stroke. She lost the ability to speak -- in English und auf Deutsch.
Immediately, everything changed. One day, she was teaching vocal lessons; the next she was mute. One month, she was completely independent; the next she was completely dependent. One year she was healthy, in shape and beautiful; the next year she was fuller and rounder but still strikingly beautiful.
How fragile is life?
Since she passed away... I have been thinking about how temporary this thing called life is. And I realized in January when I had my first mammogram that my own mother never reached the age of 50.
I had a nervous breakdown on my 23rd birthday. My psychosis lasted for approximately 5 years.  
And so, if there is anything I want to do, I must do it now. If I want to spend time with my daughter, I must do it now. If I want to date men, I must do it now. If I want to write books or choreograph dances or direct films, I must write, I must publish, I must dance and choreograph and direct right now.
Tomorrow is not destined.
Some people think I am working on too many projects at once. I am trying to reprint my old poetry books, find a publisher for my new poetry book, record my first spoken word album, find a literary agent for my first novel, rewrite my first screenplay, start a literary journal, host an open mic, do public speaking and find a way to financially raise my 4 year old daughter.
Some people think I should just focus on one thing at a time. Poetry or Fiction. Dance or Literature. Books or Film.
If I knew I would live to be 100... I might take things that slow. I might wait until I get my poetry book published before looking for an agent for my novel. If I knew I would live for another 70 years, I might wait until my poetry book is sold before trying to sell my prose.
But honestly, not only do I not know how long I will live, I have absolutely no idea how long my sanity will last. I don't know how much my adrenal glands can handle. I have no idea.
I don't know if cancer will skip me. I don't know.
And so every single dream and ambition I have, I'm going after it. Right now. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning. I write my novel, I record YouTube videos... I write articles and poetry and short stories through out the day. I visit libraries and bookstores and museums in the evenings.
I read. I write book reviews.
I watch documentaries and dramas. I take notes.
And I will write and love and work and read and support and support and support and support until my time runs out, until I cannot control my own thoughts and my own emotions, until my sanity wears thin.
Like Merwin, I used to think that there was time and that there would always be time.
Now I know, nothing is guarantee; there are no such things as promises. Today isn't even promised -- not all twenty-four hours -- all I have is this moment.
And so I will listen to a CD of my aunt singing Verdi and Mozart, Gounod and Charpentier; and I will write and write and write, enjoying the sanity and smidgen of health I have now.
 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

No Disrespect in Departure


Honestly,

I don't like to keep secrets. For the most part, the only secrets I keep are other people's secrets. And even those tales, which I hold close to my heart, seep out in my poetry, my fiction, my anecdotes -- with varying degrees of anonymity.

Most find my transparency a bit jarring. After a while, they realize its just me.

I admit the type of things that other people take to their graves.

"it is utterly important
that you know these things
before you dive off
into some fantasy
of what i might be only to be
shocked by what i am"

This is a stanza from one of my favorite poems, "Do You Know Me?" by Nayo Barbara Malcolm Watkins.

I have no interest in keeping up with appearances. I'm horrible at that sort of thing anyway. I was never great at keeping a perm, I never had the money for weekly manicures and my foundation often gets on men's clothes when I hug them.

If someone likes my writing, I'd rather it be because they know that I am poor and they respect my struggle. I would want them to know how many pages I wrote in homeless shelters and warming centers.

And if someone likes me, especially in a sort of non-platonic fashion, I'd rather it be because they know all of the abuse and all the diseases that plague me. Let there be no surprises.

If my burdens are too much to bear, I understand. There is no disrespect in departure. I respect you just as much from a distance as I would if you were my most intimate friend, my most intimate lover.

And for every man who has left my bed with semen, but has not returned.
And for every first date that never turned into the second.
And for every woman who is embarrassed by my reality.
And for every woman who has chosen to leave me.

I love you. I respect you, anyhow.

There is no disrespect in departure.

Every man and woman who leaves my world  makes me fall to my knees with my tears, praising God for every friend who remains.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How I Got Over

I am certain that no one would believe my sentiments regarding homelessness. And even if they believed my assertions, they definitely wouldn’t agree.


The five months that I slept outside on the streets of Detroit were the most beautiful, significant and spiritual moments of my entire life.


Although I was homeless, I was not depressed. Even though I was reported to a bus stop bench every night of June, July, August, September and October in 2012, I experienced more freedom and joy than I had for each month of the previous two decades combined.


Perspective is everything.


It did not take me long to realize that there is nothing more beautiful than the sunrise in the summer time. And I realized, that in the comfort of my middle class upbringing, I had never watched the sun arise in my entire life. Even in the poverty and destitution of homelessness, there was an opportunity.

Even at the lowest moment of my life, I found both beauty and peace.


And so I slept peacefully on Livernois near University of Detroit Mercy and on Seven Mile near Hartford Memorial Baptist Church and on Six Mile near Marygrove College and on Conner near Wayne County Community College. I slept on benches that were enclosed in glass. Built to protect pedestrians from rain and snow, wind and hail, these bus shelter’s protected my two bags and I from the summer’s night rain.


And it did not take me long to realize that there is nothing more phenomenal than a light summer’s night rain. Breath taking.


I was not simply outside; I was outdoors. As Morrison differentiates in The Bluest Eye, I was not temporarily displaced; I was outdoors because I had no where to go.

Yet outdoors, I was free.

In 2012, I was in the fourth year of an abusive encounter. I enjoyed my time in domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters and warming centers; and, I enjoyed my time outdoors because I could breathe. I could go to sleep and wake up, I could leave and return knowing that there would not be any violence in between. For once, there was no manipulative emotional violence, no angry verbal violence, no bruising physical violence, no traumatizing sexual violence. For once, I was free.
 
I survived homelessness, I survived living outdoors by being grateful for everything that was going well.

Every morning I decided to pray as soon as I woke up. (I prayed after watching the sunrise.) After praying, I meditated for five minutes. And after meditation, I did all of the yoga poses that I could think of that did not require laying on the ground.

Every morning that I awoke, I decided I would never ask God for anything. I decided that I would only pray prayers of gratitude. I thanked God for waking up at all; I thanked God for the sunrise; I thanked God for my health; I thanked God that I never missed a meal; I thanked God for my daughter; I thanked God for my family; I thanked God the free toiletries I had accumulated; I thanked God for my sands; I thanked God for Candace; I thanked God for Subway -- who hired me not knowing that I was sleeping outdoors on Seven Mile; I thanked God for the random pedestrians and drivers who would give me a $5 or $10 bill upon seeing me nestled against my bookbag inside the translucent bus shelter; I thanked God for Capuchin Soup Kitchen; I thanked God for libraries and bookstores. I thanked God and thanked God and thanked God.
 
And through gratitude, I survived.
 
It has been two and a half years since I was last homeless. Since then, I’ve published a short story and nine poems, I’ve written 450 pages of a novel and 150 pages of a screenplay and I’ve completed my third poetry book.
 
And if I would have focused on everything that I didn’t have, I would have never left the streets. If I let not having a computer stop me, I would have never written 70 pages at a warming center; once I purchased a computer, if I let not having the internet stop me, I would have never written 450 pages at home. And so I learned, that neither rain nor snow, carlessness nor homelessness nor joblessness  can stop me from accomplishing what I need to do.

If I have to catch a bus at 4:30am to arrive at the same time as someone who began driving at 7:30, so be it. If I have to save 12 months for that which others can purchase after a single paycheck, so be it. If I have to live off of a bridge card and canned vegetables, so be it.
 
Sleeping outdoors, I learned that nothing can prevent me from reaching my destiny; and thus, I will be grateful for every park bench and inflatable mattress and bunk bed that I slept on; and, I will be thankful for every library and bookstore and computer lab that I accessed; and, I will be thankful for every time someone called “seconds”. I will always be grateful for having enough to eat.
 
Because the second I complain about walking two miles a day, I meet someone who does not have two legs to walk; and the minute I complain about the roaches or the rats, I realize there is someone without heat or water or a home at all. And I realized that my desire for better never prevented me from counting my blessings.

Gratitude is how I survived.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On Rejection and Rejecting

I hate rejecting men; it disturbs me.

I reckon other women don't have this problem. I suspect that my cousins and friends and sands don't have this issue. I suspect that women who are accepted as beautiful grow used to compliments and adulation. Suspecting ulterior motives, and rightfully so, they grow tired of being bothered.

My life, however, has been one long rejection slip.

I remember having my first crush when I was in pre-school. Seriously. I always loved Black boys, Black men. And I always longed for their attention.

Pre-school through eighth grades, I was overlooked. Ninth through twelfth grades, I was ignored. In fact it was only pledging Delta Sigma Theta that made me at least fuckable. Even with my letters, I was not a girl that you took on dates; I was not the one who you introduced to your friends; and of course, I was not the girl you would bring home to Momma for thanksgiving dinner.

I was the girl you called in the night and invited to your dormroom. My life was a walk of shame.

I was always such an unsuccessful whore. Who ever heard of a hoe who can't get laid?

I never wanted to be a one night stand.

But, I was. But, I am.

Every man I've ever had sex with is a man that I would have dated, married -- happily. What was I to them? I was just a girl with decent head. And the pussy was -- okay. They've had better.

These rejections lay with me at night. They eat with me at every meal. They talk to me while I am praying for a husband. They laugh at me while I meditate. They mock me every time I try to say affirmations. I must be lying to myself. These rejections never leave.

Since I've been writing my memoir, I've contacted several of the men who I've had sexual experiences with. And most of them don't even remember that it even took place. They remember me. Sure, they think I'm nice. But they have absolutely no recollection of me opening my mouth and my legs, my heart and my spirit and inviting them into spaces they did not deserve.

When a man approaches me who I am not attracted to... I feel every time I was rejected coursing through my capillaries. I remember all the first dates that never became seconds. I remember all of the first fucks that never became second. I remember asking to be kissed and being told no. I remember being told in my bed that I was not loved. I remember inviting the man, the men who never loved me back into my bed.

I'm sure rejection for a man is different. Perhaps rejection for a man punctures the ego.

For me, rejection makes me call into question the whole of my identity. Not only am I not a feminist, I am not even a woman. I am some type of undesirable vagina. I am a sort of deformity.

Sometimes, I want to thank every man who approaches me. Every man who asks me on a date.

Even if we have nothing in common, I want to thank him.

I want him to know that I love him even if I will never be in love with him.

And I want the absolute best for him. He deserves the best the world has to offer, even if it it's not me.

I can't say this. He might get the wrong idea.

But, secretly, I want him to know just how precious and wonderful, valuable and necessary he is. Our world needs every single one of the Black men living on it.

He is a miracle, even if he's not for me.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Five Most Important Words: According to Lhea J. Love


ONE. Liturgical.
I am more than a liturgical dancer; I am liturgical. My history is liturgy.

I am not going to tell you that you are going to hell. I am not going to demand that you believe what I believe.
My goal is to be a living testimony that you might see just how good God has been to me.

The son of the Black Madonna said, “the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” (John 14:12) If Christ says that I can do greater things than he, who am I to argue?

I’ll never be perfect. Like a curve approaching the asymptote of Christ, I will strive all the more earnestly to reach the goal.

TWO. Existentialist.
I am a Black existentialist, a Christian existentialist, a Black nihilist, an absurdist. I probably don’t have to define absurdism for you to agree: the world we live in is absurd.

Between police officers killing innocent Black men and the same officers getting away with murder, there seems a conflict between the quest to find and prove the value of Black life and the inability to find it, the inability for it to be accepted by others. That’s absurdism. The only meaning in our lives is the meaning we put there. That’s existentialism.

What about God? Well even God gave us a choice.  This freedom, leading to dread-angst and despair, is completely within our control. Didn’t He say I am the city and ye are the city? Didn’t he say that you could do greater things than Christ? Paul tried to tell us that we could do all things through Christ.

All. No one ever said that we could only do the things that we could afford, or the things allowed by our genetics; no one ever said we were limited by our IQ. We can do all things.

I am an existentialist, a Christian existentialist, because even though I am an other in American society, I believe in my own authenticity. I determine my life, my future, my experience. I know that even in Black nihilism, Black existentialism when there is no intrinsic purpose or value that doesn’t mean that there is no purpose or value at all.

I create myself, through the power of Christ; condemned to be free.

THREE. Oppressed.
I am oppressed. My great-great-grandparents were enslaved and my great-grandparents not much better; my grandmother was a domestic and my own father was the same age as Emmett Till when he was lynched, living not too far away. In Mississippi-goddamn, that tree could have been for my father.

And I wouldn’t be here.

It is no accident that many of my favorite books have the word oppressed in the title: Pedagogy of the Oppressed; God of the Oppressed.

Most Christians overlook the scripture, “Envy not the oppressor and choose none of his ways.” Perhaps, because it does not apply to them. But no one knows how hard it is not to envy your slave master, your tyrant or your rapist, your country -- no one knows but the downtrodden, the oppressed.

FOUR. Fortitudinous.
I am Lady Fortitude. Or at least, I am Lady Fortitude waiting to awake into her own power. I am Lucy -- Dinkinish; I am Nefertiti -- Neferneferuaten; I am Mary -- Madonna. I am mother nature.

There is nothing that I cannot survive. I can survive drought and plagues, wars and occupation, slavery and colonialism and imperialism; I can survive exploitative capitalism, racist democracy. I can survive rape and theft and violence and rape and illiteracy and miseducation and rape and rape and rape. I can. I have. I will.

Yet, even though I can survive oppression and repression and depression, I remember I am worth the best. I am worth of the best this world can offer, perhaps better.

FIVE. Genius.
I  am a genius.

I am not a genius because I am smarter than you or better educated, because I am more talented than you or better trained; I am a genius because I have decided to claim my essence. I am a genius because I have created a life of genius. I am a genius because I’ve finally decided to stop settling for anything else.

My being a genius does not prevent you, too, from being a genius. There is no limit on the number of geniuses this Earth can hold.

I am a genius because I figured out how to succeed after failure; I discovered the knack in not giving up, not giving in. I am a genius because I figured out how to be fought against without becoming a fighter; I figured out how to be a fighter without resorting to violence. I am a genius because I discovered when, rarely, violence is necessary.

I am a genius because I have survived what has killed others. I have survived suicidal tendencies, and physical abuse and anal rape. I am a genius because I have survived poverty and homelessness. I am a genius because I know that my my degree and my diploma, my publications and my accomplishments, my personality and my beauty do not make me any better than you. I am a genius because I see your genius. I see your intelligence; I see your talent; I see your depth; I see your spirit.

I am a genius because I see God every time I see you.

Walter Mosley once wrote: “The decision to use the term ‘genius’ was not to isolate our thinkers… We understand genius to be that quality that crystallizes the hopes and talents and character of a people. This kind of genius is something we all share. It is a presence where absence one reigned. It is the possibility for a people to look into their hearts and to see a life worth living.”

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Not Quite a Writing Mother

Everyday I wake up at 5:30 in the morning. I try to write a page or two. Sometimes I only write a scene.  Now that I have a computer, I type what I have written.

Nothing in my day to day activities has to do with being a mother. Unless I am of course reminiscine about my mother who has been dead for almost 20 years.

The day before yesterday, I found milk in my right breast. Last night I found milk in my breast.

I called my child's father because he is the only man I have sex with. I do not know what to think. I expect to have a period. But if I do, I will probably cry. I always cry at the start of my periods. I was happiest while pregnant and breast feeding.

Writing is a close second. It is the happiest I can be without a child.

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