The Legend of Jocko Graves: The [I] Wonder [where we were] Years

The Legend of Jocko Graves: The [I] Wonder [where we were] Years

In my Summer of Soul I listed to the Keats-ian Grasshopper
Of sweet soul music that would become the soundtrack of my life

That was the same week Woodstock was held

And that Americans landed on the moon

We were singing in Harlem in spite of all

And everything

Contrary to popular belief
James Brown did not teach us that we had Soul

But he definitely confirmed it
And he had a lot of co-signers

Now in my Keatsiian autumn I listen at the crickets
In the resounding silence coming from America’s second political party
As they Whitewash 1/6/2021
That sees the attempted coup as just another day in our country
America

And maybe it was
just business as usual
From the usual American suspects

I juxtapose the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project
To Ahmaud Aubrey’s dead murdered body with sock less feet
And “long dirty toenails”

To an 18 year old White boy made a spokesman for The Right

Embedded with the conservative press

And offered jobs in congressional offices
Shown more deference and respect than an adult Black man

First running for his health
Then running for his LIFE

Not given the benefit of doubt
Had he resisted, three murderers
Would have gone free

People like to tell me that things have changed a lot since my summer of soul

Because we’ve had a Black-ish President
And a Black-ish Vice President

What they mean is
that it has changed for them

I’ve always had Black He-roes and Black she-roes

(and I’m looking at you here PAM GRIER)

They didn’t just show up
It’s just that now
They are widely seen
And others are aware of them, too

I have always been able to “say to myself what a wonderful world”

And I didn’t learn that at a mindfulness meditation retreat

Or from a Jungian analysts either

A nation of millions can’t hold us down
Nor COVID-19
Nor Neo-Nazis
Nor gerrymandering
Nor voter suppression

Will it all be better now just because
The Rolling Stones will no longer sing and play Brown Sugar?
Without asking the question:
Why were they singing in it so loudly and for so long?

How come it tasted so good?

Is Sir Paul MacCartney right?
Were The Rolling Stones just a Blues cover band?

Yeah, yeah, yeah — OOOOOOOOOO!

Cause representation matters.

I’m to old to swing
And so I sing
Sing to younger people with stronger arms and more nimble minds

So that you can swing for me
And swing for yourselves

Representation matters

Growing up we wondered how many times Charlton Heston could save the world:

Free the slaves from Pharaoh

Conqueror the Moors while dead on horseback

Set off the Alpha and Omega bomb on a planet of apes

And be the last man standing in the Omega Man

Until they would pry his gun from his cold dead hands
As he lay in a fountain dying like sci-fi Jesus

Like Rocky, I guess 75,000,000 American voters thought that
That bullshit was real

Ali, boma ye
Ali, boma ye
Ali, boma ye
Ali, boma ye
Ali, boma ye
Ali, boma ye

Shaft came just at the right time,
Just when everybody needed him

Smooth, Leather clad and funky
With his own theme song
Righting all the wrongs
Saving Hollywood and movie theaters
Because no one was believing Charlton Heston’s bullshit any more.

Sing  of Urban Myths and the reclamation of Jacko Graves

The inspiration for lawn jockeys

Teenage hero of the revolutionary war who froze to death
Faithfully holding George Washington’s horse
As the pre-first President crossed the Delaware River
To ambush and murder Hessian soldiers in their sleep

It was a myth that became so pervasive, That our neighbors painted their lawn jockeys white in protest

That is
Before the White flight made them move out of the city
And into the cloistered suburbs
To hide behind gated communities

This poem is for
The Legend of Jacko Graves
and
“The  [I]  Wonder [Where We Were] Years” between my Summer of Soul
And my contemplative autumn

But before my winter of discontentedness

‘Cause everyone wants to go to Heaven
It’s just that nobody likes to die.

 

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Image Credit 1: Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima. The Berkeley Revolution)

(Image Credit 2: Chase Hall, Jocko Graves (The Faithful Groomsman), Jenkins Johnson Gallery)

“…As a child I spoke as a child

“…As a child I spoke as a child

Thought and understood as a child

But when I became a woman

I put away childish things

And I began to see though a glass darkly…”

Joni Mitchell’s adaptation of Corinthians

With apologies to Jasper John’s Mirror.

I think that we all are looking into “dark mirrors” as we enter the third year of the pandemic and growing American polarization.

And I’m lookin’ at you Texas Synagogue terrorist and MAGA NATIONALIST!!!!!

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Image 1: Amanda King, (Untitled) Prayer Rug, commemorating the 16th Street Baptist bombing. Credit: Cleveland.com / Rustin McCann)

(Image 2: Jasper Johns, In Memory of My Feelings—Frank O’Hara. Credit: Whitney Museum of Art / Art Institute of Chicago / Jamie Stukenberg)

Memorial Day in Manitowoc Wisconsin

Memorial Day in Manitowoc Wisconsin

I took an inhalation and like Bashō I traveled North 
Returning to native soil only to find my mother gone
Though unlike the hair in Bashō’s haiku
The silver strands caught in my mother’s hair brush 
Did feel as though they would melt in my fingers
She was Wisconsin strong 
And so was her hair
And it still smelled like her

I exhaled and traveled south to find my father gone
He had left to chase my mother’s ponytail into eternity
I inherited his sense of humor 
And wore a giant plastic wedge of cheese on my head
As I gave my father’s eulogy in a bright green sari 
His favorite color

Here I see my Mother 
Here I see my Father 
Here I see my brothers and sisters
And the line of my family reaching back through beginning-less time
We left coins on my parents tombstones 
Safe passage Mom and Dad for crossing both the rivers Styx and Lethe

My family takes so many photographs and movies
Among them 
Photographs of smiling children dancing on tombstones and graves sites
Like little Śivas and Kālīs
The older generations tell stories of posing in taffeta funeral dresses
Next to the caskets of the departed for stiffly posed pictures
Or cradling departed siblings in their arms to create final mementos

Photographs like these inspired my sister to become a photographer
And a Wisconsin State Treasure
But by the time Julie had died 
We had forgotten how to practice some of the old rituals
The rituals that had once allowed us to embrace Death like a lover

Now the younger generations call the old ways
“Wisconsin Death Trip”
Once we knew our rituals of life were true 
Because our rituals of death were true
Large gravestones baring the family name 
As certain as hand and footprints on a certificates of live birth

Here I see my Mother 
Here I see my Father 
Here I see my brothers and sisters
And the line of my family reaching back through beginning-less time
And when my time comes 
Leave coins for me, too
Two rivers to cross 
Same as it ever was

American Gothic
There they all lay in a Manitowoc cemetery 
My cradle named after Algonquian Demi-gods that rule nature
Though not death
The ancestors continuing to teach us
Even from the grave
Teach us about time 
And the folly of the vehement dreams and nightmares we choose to live
They are dust to dust
And they are the native soil 
On which I was nurtured 
And from which I drew my strength

Sing of Carl Sandburg and the Midwestern bread basket
Corn ripening and falling to the earth only to rise again
Become the popcorn my nieces and nephews eat while watching Disney movies
Become cows
Become milk
Become cheese
Become butter
And the bodies of the farmers that plant and replant crops generation after generation
Stalwart sunburned men, women, and children whose graves we pass 
On the way to our family plot
For the annual Memorial Day picnic

The cookies are made from molds taken from tombstone imprints
Children  merrily fight for particular flowers shapes
Or the letters that begin their given names
And the adults spill a little beer
Some because of clumsiness
And some on purpose

From time to time Memorial Day coincides with my oldest brother Phil’s birthday
And then there is birthday sheet cake too
It is cut into perfect squares and served on paper plates 
Waiting for the greedy tiny finger to take it 
From the top of the largest granite family headstone 

Sing of graveyards on Memorial Day and family picnics 
Celebrating the generations past and present 
Variations  on a singular theme
Experiencing a counterpoint in well kept bone orchards 
Proving that Omar Khayyam was right

Sing of Bashō’s cicada
And it’s song that showed no concern for imminent death
Like the children eating snicker-doodles, brownies and bars
That have been neatly packed in old shoeboxes saved for just such occasions
Carefully arranged in layers separated by wax paper

One day my breath will merge with the atmosphere 
Let me cover my body with this good rich earth 
Into which my ancestors have merged
In which they now rest
And on which the children are now playing
Their bodies too will someday become the loam that feeds America

Immortality is a song passed down from generation to generation 
Always changing 
And never changing
It can be heard in the lowing of cows waiting to be milked 
And in the sound of seed corn and wheat filling silos at harvest time

Life giving grain falling like rain

Let my body become this good earth too
The first of many who will follow me 
And in the midst of all who have preceded me
Let me remember all of my deeds 
Good and evil 
So that I can say
I have learned

Let me remember 
Let me remember 
Let me remember 

It momentarily died again to became me 
Now let me live again to become It all

 

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Image Credit: Cicada, by Hobun Kikuchi / Ukiyo-e)

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA

Mama told me a story

She said:
You are an ocean and I am a river that feeds you and makes you grow.

If I’m an ocean now; then what will I be when I grow up, I asked?
That’s easy, she said, you’ll be a river that will feed an ocean just as I do.

Choose those that choose you.
Not every eye can see your coat of many colors
Nor can every ear hear your plaintive cries desiring belonging

Not all fingers can touch the wounded places and the scars
Nor offer the healing touch of consolation.
Not all skin folks are kin folks
And strong enemies contribute to ones growth, too.
Rivers lose their identities once they reach oceans.

Lose their identities 
And their contradictions.

Who is my mother and father asks the ocean?
Child of many streams
And many rainstorms
Where is your home 
And where will you lay your head?

What floodgates open because of intrepid questioning?
And, what Jerichonian walls crumble because of courageously blown conch shell horns?

Funeral Pyres blaze in India
Telling two stories
One ancient
And one new
Tell me who I am as I inhale deeply
As the dust of the dead mingles and enters my nostrils 
reminding me that I am a sleeping god.

Pandora’s curiosity brought forth both plague and hope.

Who is my family in all of this?
Like calls to like; but, can that call be answered?
All of this is mission; but, can it be accomplished?

My brothers and sisters have many names.
They ask questions as I do
And are not afraid of the answers that they receive.
By their curiosity my Family of Choice is known.

In Tibet they are called Vidyādhara because they want to know
And knowledge is their seat.

Among the Lakota they are called Heyoka — contrarians for whom night is day and day is night
And, Reality is only just when and if it can be questioned.

In India they are called Brahmins because they seek the truth.
This cannot be achieved merely through bloodlines and birth within a family.

Among Yoruba Orishas, my family calls on Shango
And the Wise Women in my family venerate Yemaya.

American Griots,
Fearlessly tell your stories and sing your songs
And teach the children to sing, too.

Sing the songs that Grandma sang in the kitchen
Or as she danced on the laundry with her blessed feet.

Sing work songs and war songs
That helped men survive chain gangs 
And oppressive assembly lines.

Sing bawdy songs and love songs 
That foment perilous rendezvous.

Sing new songs of Hope and learn to call on The Mothers once again.

How many more Mothers of Exiles can be named 
In this melting pot called America?
That hasn’t yet finished melting

Not even close.

But the Gods came here to these shores with the people who brought them
Listen for the answers that they whisper
Even though we vaguely call upon them 
With dimly remembered prayers.

Let your peace fall upon all of those who will listen to you and receive you
But if they shun you
Shake off the dust of your sandal on their threshhold
As a testament against them and their house
Then walk on.

All it takes to make stone soup is
A pot
A stone
a story
And the willingness of Families of Choice to bring the rest of the ingredients.
All seasonings and flavors blend in a stew.

And all oceans eventually become rivers that feed other oceans
Losing both their identity and their contradictions

I am just a ghost driving a mitochondrial DNA machine made of:
Blood
Fat
Bone
Marrow 
Tissue
Ovum
And Sperm

Why am I even afraid?

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Image Credit: Metropolitan Museum)

Five Haikus for Malcolm X

Five Haikus for Malcolm X

Let’s talk down to earth 
No celestial problems
Ballots or bullets.

Not scared of bullets
More frightened of the ballot
But no new gun laws

New Legislation
Forty-seven angry states
To limit the vote.

American fear
Shaped like a citizen’s hand
Holding a ballot 

Tell the whole story
No Malcolm X no Martin
The yin and the yang

 

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Photo Credit: Library of Congress / Parris Stancell / Camilo J. Vergara)

Elegy for George Floyd

Elegy for George Floyd

Take a deep breath and sally forth
When taking three steps beyond your front door
If the breath flows predominantly through one nostril
Then take your first step with the corresponding foot
Your luck might be better 
If you believe in the old teachings

Because a human Life can be taken because of a pack of menthols 
And a counterfeit $20 bill
In god we trust still printed on its ersatz face

Is big face paper and poisonous tobacco more valuable 
Than a Human Life?
A Black Life?

Inhale, exhale 
Breath in, breath out
The whole world is watching 
Waiting 
Breathlessly
For a verdict.
How many camera angles does it take to get justice?

Breath entering our dust and we become living souls
Hong Sau, Hong Sau, Hong Sau, Hong Sau, So ‘ham
21,600 times a day 
Everyday
For 100 years
Or, until the day we die
And for every breath the heart Lub Dubs four times
How long can you effortlessly hold your breath?

8 minutes 46 seconds?
9 minutes 29 seconds?
Or until we are Genesis 7:22’ed?

Taking away what they could not give
George, You came  in like a Lion 
And went out like a lamb
To the slaughter 
Blue clad knee on a brown skinned neck
A perverse imitation of a vengeful god
Who was tired of all the rowdiness

A scapegoat baring all of our cultural sins
Lamb of god show us the sins of our world
Show us the of our world
Show us the sins of our world 
(I say beating my heart with my fist)

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH take a deep breath
Ujjāyī — the breath of victory 
A baby’s first inhalation 
Before its first scream 
Before it can even know its  mother’s face 
Breath, stamp my story onto my spine 
And let me live it until it’s end!

Mother: first Guru and first lived embodied archetypical experience
Madonna and child
Being born 
Collecting the winds of the four cardinal directions 
Into the center of my being
My navel
Let crying out to you be my last earthly act, too, 
Mother
Whether I die with steel in my hand 
Or even under the knee of cowards 

Juxtapose the children baring the weight 
Of testifying on behalf of their Elder
Too young to appear in court 
But old enough to have witnessed atrocity
Sobs
Breaths of sadness
Breaths of tears

And 46 other types of breathing that typify our human existence 
All snuffed out as 
Your breath left your dust, George.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE 
The last exhalation and the breath of leaving
George, Let your breath merge with all breaths
All breaths that have ever been sighed into the atmosphere 

Merge with hurricanes wrecking trailer parks
And Santa Anna winds feeding California fires, 
Merge with the tornado so that the world will notice your passing

Let Ọya‘s arms embrace you so that your face can be seen in the storm clouds
Your voice be heard in the thundering
And your eyes be seen in lightning flashing.

Blend with the sirocco
Zephyr
Pneuma
prāṇa with its five divisions
And the air that feeds household and sacrificial fires

Merge with Shekhinah

Blend with caressive springtime winds inciting 
The Johnny Jump Ups
Tulips
Hyacinths 
Crocus and cherry blossoms

Be the life of another 
And another
And another
A portion of you part of the first breath 
Of those newly born as you died

What is immortality if not this?

Be ¡presente! in the revolutionary voices of people crying out for justice
Who and what do they think they were trying to kill?
You would be seen see everywhere if people had hearts
Thousands of eyes
Thousands of heads arms and legs
And a spark from the light of one thousand suns.
Not other than that spark

But a blue clad knee controlled by cultural impurities saw you  as Other
Other than themselves 
Other than America
Other than one man one vote
Other than fully human
Beloved on sports fields 
And reviled on American city streets
Made menacing by your strength and size
A product of late 17th century plantation genetic engineering 
Frankenstein wasn’t the monster
He was the man who created the monster

But your promethean flame was not initially stolen
You were not a perverse imitation of life
And you weren’t a monster either
Your Flame stolen after the fact 
I take a spark of you and blow on it 
To bring a little light into this darkened world.

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Image Credit: Saatchi Art / Miguel Amortegui)

Swirl: For Women’s History Month

Swirl: For Women’s  History Month

Princess Café au Lait Barbie and Prince Ginger Ken couldn’t do what we have done
United two families 
The day we were married and our hands met
We were Black and White touching
All these years together
And I have never written you a poem

Too busy loving — I guess — to write about it

But as I watch Meghan and Harry walk the tight wire between 
despair and disillusionment
I marvel at what we have done with the love that we have brought into this world
Revolutionary hearts beating revolutionary rhythms
And our breath exhaling revolutionary words
Revelatory hearts surviving the “for better and for worse’
Inhaling inspiration from the events of the day
And our own lives

As fearless as veteran warriors
And as ardent as midwives bringing new life into this world
We are not a prince and a princess
We are a King and a Queen

Think new thoughts by not eating the foods of childhood
From food you get mind
Both our families amazed because we make our pancakes from a mixture of five flours
Adding both cinnamon and ginger powder to the batter
The alchemy of mixing foods 
And of mixing peoples
Let your table be an altar and all foods be sacramental 
Because if you know how to mix
The outcome is always astonishing

We cooked mountains of vegetables from a Wisconsin garden  
And used more onion and garlic then either of our families had ever eaten at one time
Food cooked in houses that didn’t know 
The smell of clarified butter dancing with cumin and coriander
Brown and gold touching 
We watched our food disappear 

Everyone always asks for the recipes
But the alchemy of mixing is hard to learn 
And requires both artistry and skill

You have to cook the way you live
But Meghan and Harry didn’t cook their own food
And they planned for the wedding day but not for the marriage

Start the day with conversations and endless cups of chai
The only ritual we do daily, regularly, and sincerely 
Fresh ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, mint and black tea
Everyone always asks for the recipe
But the alchemy of mixing is hard to learn 
And requires both artistry and skill

Smash the cake into my face at the wedding party
Or, the women in my family will think you weak
You took me at my word 
Your Lucille Ball to my Desi Arnaz
Devils food cake covering my face as my Mothers laughed 
Punctuating their guffaws with
“Oh no she didn’t!”

They called you “Teena Marie” when you pierced your nose 
To commemorate your mother’s death
And my sister called you sister
Our revelatory hearts — again — surviving the better and worse

Maybe Meghan should have smashed cake into Harry’s face
You have to make space for yourself 
If you want to live unconventionally

So Swirl
Swirl down through the Middle Passage
And slavery
Swirl through “HAVE ME MANDINGO!”
Reconstruction
Through Birth of a Nation and the Klan
Swirl through JIm Crow
The Civil Rights Movement
And marches on Washington
Swirl through Blaxploitation Movies 
Through Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman
Through Baps, Bohos, and Buppies
Swirl through  Obama 
and through Kamala
Swirl through Black Lives Matter
Swirl through the Zoom age replacing words on the printed page

Marriage IS a political statement

Swirl Helen Pitts and Fredrick Douglas;
Jessie Walmisley and  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor;
Etta Terry Duryea and Jack Johnson 

Swirl Louisa Matthews and Louis George Gregory;
Josephine Baker and Jean Lion;
Ruth Williams and Seretse Khama 
You were Meghan and Harry before Meghan and Harry 
Were a gleam in their parents eyes

Swirl Pearl Bailey and Louie Bellson;
Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving — and thank you;

Swirl Grace Lee Boggs and and James Boggs;
Swirl Billy Porter and Adam Smith;
Swirl George Takei and Brad Altman Takei;

Swirl for the Wakandas that have already been and are yet to come
Love in Black and White
Love in Lavender
Rainbow Love
Black Love
Brown Love
And all The  loves that now dare to speak their names

This is for Hettie Cohen and her husband Leroi Jones before he became Amiri Baraka 
For Lena Horne and Lennie Hayton
Diana Ross, Robert Ellis Silberstein, and Arne Næess: 
Two scoops for Miss Ross!

And all of the other swirl couples too numerous to mention
Which is the point.

Walk seven times around the sacred fire with me and make a promise with each circumambulation
For earth, water, fire, air and space.
For self-actualization 
and for transcendence

Wed on the day winter becomes spring 
On a Venus’ day
And at the hour of the unconquerable
Our friends asked what the attire would be 
And we said:
Come as you will be for the rest of our lives 
And the lifetimes to come
Everyone always asks for the recipe
But the alchemy of mixing is hard to learn 
And requires both artistry and skill

Keep thinking:
It can be stopped at the boarder
Or with gated communities
It can be lynched out of existence
It can be gerrymandered
Or put into interment camps 
Or stifled by anti-miscegenation laws 
With 7 states still requiring racial disclosures on marriage certificates 

No one is coming to get you
We are you!

Red hair and creamy skin are genetically recessive 
Which is why they asked how dark the children would be
Meghan and Harry — a reversed living Bridgerton
AND HE BURNS FOR HER!

That the answers to our questions and concerns lie on a the path less traveled 
Is — perhaps — the greatest fear of people who think 
That salt, black pepper, and sugar 
Are the only spices there are.

 

By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry

(Image Credit: Sol Lewitt: “Swirl Platter”)

For Black History Month 2021

For Black History Month 2021

There are  at least two America’s waiting for a shot in the arm

Dolt 45 is gone but definitely not forgotten
Citric Acid in exile 
Able was he err he saw Mar LargoHis
Waterloo was Georgia

But he still dreams of future victories
His acolytes rioting in disbelief 
Privileged revolutionaries granted organic food in jail
And freedom to leave the country for vacation 
With pending federal charges. 

Effective immediately I’m advising all black and brown people 
All of the huddled masses yearning to be free approaching our southern boarder 
And all of The Dreamers awaiting a path to citizenship 
to become:
vegan Shamans 
who need organic food while jailed
AND to have previously planned vacations outside of the country
Before they “ALLEGEDLY” commit federal crimes 
Recorded by multiple cameras
Resulting in death and mayhem

That is as long as they are not killed as they are being apprehended
Shot in their own homes 
Murdered in parks at twelve years old for playing with a toy gun
Or, killed while crossing the boarder

No!
It’s time to sing Kum Ba Yah
Or to hold hands and sing We Are the World
Democracy isn’t dead 
Yet
It just has a bad case of COVID-19 — the American mutation

I’ve heard people say forgive and forget while
Carrying the confederate flag 
Which apparently hasn’t been forgotten

And yell JEWISH SPACE LASERS
And like ideas that once fueled a Holocaust 
Which apparently has been forgotten

I’ve heard it said “reach across the aisle”
While denying the rise of homegrown domestic terrorism

We Shall Overcome is still sung in the future tense

Take your foot out of my ass
And I’ll find it much easier to shake hands
Stop using my heart as a scabbard 
If you want me to find a way to love

What has to happen before 
Enough has happened?
Give me my flowers while I yet live
And sing to me before my elements become five
Become dust to dust
And my breath merges with the atmosphere

I don’t want to be free to carry a gun through a metal detector
I want to be free enough not to be stopped and frisked while not carrying a gun

I don’t want to become a Congress person with only a G.E.D.
But I would like retuning citizens to have the right to vote and become gainfully employed 
Once they have paid their debt to society.

Or, are there limits to forgiving and forgetting?

And while we are at it
Feed the jailed organic food, too, 
Like they feed Jake Angeli The QAnon Shaman
The men and women who will do more time for a bag of marijuana Than men and women who tried to steal America
Subvert the political system
And disenfranchise citizens who voted legitimately 
And had no criminal records at all.

I’d like to ask why making it easier to vote and increasing civic participation in a representative democracy is a bad thing?

I’d like to ask why there are over 100 new state wide initiatives to limit access to voting now being proposed?

Is it because the road blocks to the ballot 
And the gerrymandering now in place 
Weren’t enough to stop Stacy Abrahams from doing her best imitation Of Fanny Lou Hamer?

It must have been voter fraud 
How could determined grass roots door to door organizing 
Overcome all of the obstacles to voting 
Erected in the last decade
And flip a southern state from red to blue?


Somebody cheated
Screamed the “somebodies” who have always cheated
And failed 
This time
To institute a 21st century neo-reconstruction 

Stay together children 

For the barbed wire now ringing The Capitol

For Juneteenth

For Stacy 

For Fanny Lou

For Ida B. Wells and soulful women with crowns who saved America and sent the dreaming down to us

For Rosa Parks 

For those who believe in Homeric gods that can fix elections 
but allow COVID-19 to eat us alive

For hypocritical evangelical preachers still wondering why 
What god whispered in their ear didn’t come to pass 
And for their flocks that think that god cares more about an election than we should.

For New Age peaceniks who think 
“It’s ALL in our minds”
Or the result of a long acting Pluto transit
Namaste
All of the positive thinking
And all of the granola 
Doesn’t seem to be saving California

And if you had read the myth you would know that 
Spring returns to the earth
When kidnapped children are allowed to return 
And embrace their mother

Free The Daughters of the Earth!
And let the springtime return.

For the summer peaceful protestors attacked in Lafayette Park to make way for a photo opportunity in front of a church
An upside down Bible 
In an Orange spray tanned hand

While their wrathful winter counterparts were allowed to pillage the people’s house
And smear their excrement on its walls 
As 45 watched in glee
Refusing to call in the National Guard
Rioters who had enough enthusiasm to cause mayhem 
But not enough civic mindedness to have voted.

For the branches of government that can’t pass a stimulus bill
But can rise to censure those who vote their conscience

For those who can only speak their minds in secret 
But pander to the ignorant mobs when their names have to be attached

For the teachers who are dying of COVID-19 for which there is not an accurate count

And for the homeschooled children forgetting what they already didn’t know

And most especially 
For those who still think that on January 20th “WE” won.
In a divided house
With a divided house
That cannot stand

 

By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry

(Image Credit: Kennedy Center)

Magical Brown Bags that Never Emptied

Magical Brown Bags that Never Emptied

Let me sing to you about magical, brown, road lunch bags that never seemed to empty.

Of James Brown silencing the riots in the streets
Of an attorney general who actually reconsidered his initial strident positions

Of AM radio
And Black radio stations nationwide 
Always found at the very top and bottom of the car radio dial

Of Nina Simone singing songs I wouldn’t understand until right now

Of a time when Kentucky fried chicken was one of the only restaurants that would serve everybody on the road
And they were only found in the South
(although the Colonel definitely stole the recipe) 

Of a time when there were only two McDonald locations in our area

And families went to Drive in movie theaters 
Sometimes hiding the little ones in the back under blankets.

We found ways to live and love through anything and everything

I wanted to write a love poem today

About when we — my sister and I — were little 
And we had to travel down South 
By car 
By train
Or, by The Greyhound Bus 
as Southern people use to say

We always made special “Trip Food”.

Grandma used to make us huge bag lunches. 
You don’t need a Green Book when you’ve got a bag lunch
She always packed them in huge brown paper grocery store bags
And this is where “saving the paper bags” comes from

Black people have always recycled

Before a big trip, Grandma would fry several chickens and put them into doubled brown paper bags
Along with loaves of gummy Wonder Bread in wax paper

Mom always liked the wings

My little sister would go crazy if she didn’t get the drumstick
But this was cured when it was discovered — quite by accident
That she was a huge fan of the sliced ham and cheese sandwiches
Neatly wrapped in wax paper bags
And suddenly, I could eat as many drumsticks as I wanted

People ask me why I don’t write other types of poems
Poems about ecstasy 
Or transcendence
Or peace

But that is all I write about

The ecstasy of naming daemons 
The transcendence of crystallizing my thoughts
And the peace that allows me to stare at the face of Gorgans again and again
Without turning into stone

I can write love poems, too

This is a love poem to Sonia Sanchez who asked me to find my fire and send it into the future

To Nina Simone singing God, God, God, with Nubian passion

To Gil Scott Heron who said we’ve got to do something to save the children
This is a love song to my and my sister’s yester-selves
I say that 
The inner child can never be healed 
But only hugged
And this is the best I can do

To big Southern women who urged us to “Stay together children“
And the laundry dancers in galvanized steel tubs 
Who always made sure that we were clean.

This is a love poem
As they all are.

But most importantly this is a poem dedicated to greasy brown paper bags 
with huge oily spots in them 
that always seemed full 
And everything that they symbolized

The comfortable freedom of bounty in an uncomfortable world

This is to the generations to come. 
You won’t have to eat lunches out of brown bags
But you can still learn from this love song

 

 

(Photo Credit: N. Jay Jaffee, “Strange Fruit” / The Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Hot and Spicy Extra Crispy

Hot and Spicy Extra Crispy

This is how the world ends
Not with a whisper but with a bang!

Of a gavel on the Supreme Court 
Or in a grand jury judgement for the killers of 
Breonna Taylor

With gas Guns in state designated Anarchy zones
BAM!
Were Americans protest peacefully — and otherwise for justice
BAM!
With the slamming of the doors of 
Bed Bath and Beyond
BAM!
Because apparently even e-commerce can’t  support
Brick and mortar capitalism during a plague
BAM!
With apologies to Emeril Legasse
The world is suddenly getting too hot and spicy
And the fires are making everything extra crispy.

Amy Coney Barrett,
What Black Clad Aunt 
Her moment come at last 
Slouches towards the Supreme Court bench
Moving us closer to Gilead.

(Image Credit: ABC News)