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)

Dedicated to Imperfect Heroes Because the Villains Aren’t Perfect Either

Dedicated to Imperfect Heroes Because the Villains Aren’t Perfect Either

The paradox is that we have to use imperfect tools to perfect an imperfect world

I don’t mind imperfect heroes; because the villains aren’t perfect either

It’s all a work in progress as we progress

And maybe that is what is perfect

Teach me, preach me
Just so you can leech me
Dis’ me, stress me
Now you want to test me

Chain me, cane me
Belittle and defame me
Sick me, cure me
Socially endure me

All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

Imperfect heroes and imperfect villains
Imperfect justice
extrajudicial killings
Get your hands dirty and roll up your sleeves

Imperfect drugs are making perfect junkies
On my back a family of monkeys
Pandemic has us all down on our knees

If Michael Jackson were livin’
He wouldn’t believe
shite Trumps not giving

Shoot me; tase me
Boy, you just amaze me
Fool me; school me
Choke me ‘til I drool, me

Slap me; zap me
better double tap me
Jail me; bail me
Michael tried to tell me

All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

Lies and deceptions
Not misconceptions
Selling missiles while we defund the schooling
When a mantis prays it’s not piety

There are no bootstraps, and there are no boots
Food lines longer; don’t ask just shoot
No safety net for our society

If Gil were stil among us
He’d write a song for peace and justice

Thunder lightning
Give me COVID-19
Rain me hail me
Brother can you tell me

Spurn me burn me
Now we’re finally learning
Zone-less homeless
Boy they really owned us

All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

What did he know; and, when did he know it?
If you are angry then burn, vote, and show it!
This system ain’t gonna change itself.

My heroes dead; my enemies are rulin’
This country needs a drastic retooling
I have two fist and only just one heart

If Prince were still embodied
He’d purple hex this Orange John Gotti

Climate crisis; blame it all on Isis
Gangster, Prankster
Legalize The Dank, Sir

Burning forest
Is there still hope for us
Sap glove; bullet
Got a trigger; pull it

All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

(Image Credit: Rewire / Annette Bernhardt)

This is Real America: for Jacob Blake and Everybody Else, Too

Julia Jackson, Jacob Blake’s mother

This is Real America: for Jacob Blake and Everybody Else, Too

This is real America.

When they kill us in the streets we march and burn and get arrested.
I guess they want us to act like Georgians
And meekly go to the grave without complaint.

Or wait like Floridian teachers for a judge to agree with them that
The same children who give each other 
colds
pink eye
head lice
ringworm
And the traditional herd diseases
Will just as easily spread COVID-19
Without a concrete plan.

The answer must be given in the form of a question:
What are diseases caused by human proximity?

We are using our children as lab rats to see what happens
When they cluster together five times a week
And then go home to Ma and Pa 
And Nana and Big Papa

What happens when you push that button?
And which company’s “bug juice” will work first and best?

I had a friend ask me how I was doing during these times
You know as a Black person
And I said:

You mean during this time of political upheaval
During a pandemic
In the face of denial as the American bodies pile up (for various reasons)
And ubiquitous cameras capture the savagery of American life

You mean during a time when
context is still needed because the camera 
And the piles of bodies 
Can lie
And not give the whole story

You mean at a time when America is fighting for its soul
During a presidential election year 
With hearings going on about blatant voter suppression 
Through a manipulated Post Office
And the closing of poling locations in “certain communities”

You mean when leather clad bike hoards cause a super-spreader event
In America’s heartland 
‘Cause ya know we all love a good party 
Especially one straight out of a Stephen King novel
Or a George Romero Zombie Apocalypse movie

You mean at a time when college students have been told they were invincible
And they believe it
So they party like it’s 1999
And everyone goes home sick

It’s only a flesh wound
Rub it
You’ll be alright

Like the Martians of an H.G. Wells story 
All of our technological terror 
Is being humbled by the smallest of things 
The infinite humiliated by the infinitesimal 

A family in Wisconsin clusters together and prays for peace
Prayers from two religious traditions
And asks the question 
Why is my son’s spine shattered 
And why was he shot seven times 
At
Point
Blank
Range

An emasculating extrajudicial judgement in front of his three sons 
They say it will take a miracle for Jacob Blake to ever walk again
Repeating over and over again
This is real America 
How dare we hate what we are, his mother says

You mean at this time when things are so obviously bad that 
It causes you to pause and to offer an earnest existential inquiry?

Oh I’m just fine, I said.
And you’re fine, too.

Crossing

Crossing

Rose Petals on a bridge.

Where is the voice of “our” President?

Watching “the last crossing”

With 21st century technology 

Under conditions similar to a medieval pandemic

In death John Lewis is still crossing the Edmond Pettus Bridge 

And so must we all.

(Photo Credit 1: Al.com) (Photo Credit 2: WLRN)

Save the Bleach: Yudhiṣṭhira’s Insight

Save the Bleach: Yudhiṣṭhira’s Insight

“You don’t need to be in no hurry
You ain’t never really got to worry.
You don’t need to check on how you feel
Just keep repeating:“None of this is real.“

And if you’re sensing there’s something wrong
Well just remember It won’t be too long 
Before the Director cuts the scene

This ain’t really your life 
ain’t  really your life
ain’t  really your life…”

— Gil Scott Heron —


The New Age is an Old Lie

Old Colonial strategies neither die nor fade away
They are just rebranded and sent into virtually reality
And sold online to people too young 
To remember snake oil salesmen.

Or, broadcast out over Zoom 
To create 
Family of choice simulacra 
Resembling the opening of The Brady Bunch
A celebrated family 
That didn’t actually really exists either.

This Neo-Divide and conquer

If America becomes a Towering Inferno 
Don’t you realize That there are no ladders long enough to reach you 
On the 108th floor.
To save you from the burning 
If the lower floors are alight.

Will you sit in a circle and sing Kum ba yah?
(‘cause that’s not your song either)
Or perhaps chant the lyrics from Maureen McGovern disaster movie songs 
And hope it extinguishes the flames?

There’s Got to be A Morning After
And We Will Never Love this Way Again
But will we be here to love 
When the sun rises on America tomorrow?

The Ku Klux Klan no longer wears sheets 
1000 thread count Egyptian cotton is just too expensive
And it so much easier to just run for office.

Or cluster at seminars that teach the art of Hap-why-ness
Selling crystals 
Yoni eggs 
And exorbitantly priced aroma therapy bath salts 
To wash the stress away 

Take me away Calgon bath oil beads no longer strong enough 
To wash away the day
Something stronger is now needed
As America convulses.

“Stand as far away from me as you can and ask me why
Hold on to your mālā beads 
Close your eyes And watch me die”.

If you’re not angry 
Then you’re just not paying attention.

As “Mind-less-ness Meditation“ exhorts us to  
Watch our breath
And become comfortable in our seats
Presumably so that our meat won’t be too tough
When they slaughter us 
Just before they make us into Soylent Green

Or send us out into the world prematurely like cannon fodder 
To see if COVID-19 
Is really as deadly as they think it is

As they KNOW it is.
New opiates for a New Age
Being “spiritual” does not mean being clueless
In the tradition of:
Dayānanda Sarasvāti,Ram Mohan Roy
Mohandas K. Gandhi, 
Srī Aurobindo, 
Srī Yukteswar [in his younger days]; 
Arundati Roy
Malcom X,
Rosa Parks 
Fannie Lou Hamer
Martin Luther [Mike] King Jr.
Nelson Mandela; 
Alice Walker; 
Ruth [Ruthie] Wilson Gilmore; 
Angela Y. Davis
and Barak Hussein Obama

To name ONE — as a Vedāntan would say.

Great ONES who knew how to work through their relative selves 
To help To change 
Our ONE world.

The face of yoga is that of a Dravidian sage.

Save the bleach for COVID-19
But don’t use it to denature the Ideas and Ideals of Brown skinned people
For memes
Twitter and Facebook quotes
Or monuments designed to rewrite history.

Embodied ideas are more confrontational and problematic to consider
Then New Age tapioca and flavorless tofu teachings

If that wasn’t true
Barak Obama’s presidential portrait would be unveiled 
And Harriet Tubman would be on the $20 dollar bill.

But instead of celebrating the Queen of Freedom 
And the Underground Railroad
We build fences around 
And fortify a statue of 
The President who drove the Trail of Tears.

“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding 
But find our expressions of faith sowing division
We believe ourselves to be a tolerant people
Even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape
And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts
Our politics fans them
Exploits them
And drives us further apart.”

Now who said that?

I think we may have forgotten in these past four years
That have felt like a century.
He famously carried a token of Hanumān with him 
Where ever he went
And lifted the mountain of healing herbs on his Demi-Nubian shoulders 
And for eight years 
The fragrance of HOPE
Filled our nostrils.

It started as a whisper in Springfield Illinois
And now we are shouting in the streets again
And hope again seems audacious.

Because of social distancing 
And sheltering in place
The night sky is becoming visible again in India
The Himalayan Mountains are visible  in the distance
Even from cities whose air was once gray with pollution.
Wild animals are encroaching upon urban environments 

Are we the HOPE or the PROBLEM?

Is there a Goop product that cures stupidity?
And if there is, where would you rub it?
If I rub it on a Confederate Statue will it Melt away and disappear?

Is there a Goop repellant we could spray on the White House
To keep Trump away from it?
We could call that fragrance “Melania’s Hand Slap”Because it works for her.

Yudhiṣṭhira knew the truth:
If they ever open a gate for you
And invite you in saying:

“This is heaven;
But, you just can’t bring your dog.”

It’s a trap!
Be steady in war
Know that place to be hell
And walk on.

The God of Small Things would let you into heaven
Especially with your dog.

Will America have a breakdown 
Before it has a breakthrough?

Oh God of Small Things!
Convey me into a heaven where 
Even my family and my dog is welcome
Grant Us Wholeness.

(Photo Credit: Margaret Barthel/ DCist/ WAMU) (Video: YouTube)

Episode XIV: Tonight You Have Your Answer/The Specter of Barak Obama

Episode XIV: Tonight You Have Your Answer/The Specter of Barak Obama

It is a time of purges and pandemic

There is record unemployment and long lines form at food banks 
Farmers dump milk, food grains and slaughter animals 
Unable to find markets for their produce.

The quarantine has brought the consumer market to a standstill.

Elements of the previous administration are being swept away in 
Friday Night Firings,

While untested medicines are being used to treat COVID-19
America pulls funding from the World Health Organization
And muzzles the Center for Disease Control.

All 50 states have reopened 
Without meeting the minimum requirements for enng the quarantine safely.
Florida and Georgia falsify their data for political expediency
Sending frontline workers into the line of fire
In the American Hot Zone.

A telephone conference is held by a former two term President with 3000 of his loyal staffers still in a position to fight. 

As his successor Dolt 45 does everything in his power to erase the legacy of his triumphs

Including a failure to unveil 44’s official Nubian Presidential portrait.

Oh, why can’t you quit him, Orange Man.

The broken hearted burn Cities in America’s Heartland
Another Black Man strangled by a Thin Blue Line,
Sparking empathetic riots in other major American Cities

And I will give my Nephews “The Talk”.

It is almost the same talk that was given to me 

But served with extra side dishes of 
Plague, tear gas, and flash bangs

Tales of “Officer Not So Friendly”
And the American Injustice system 
They will face if they are ever stopped or arrested.

Boys I say, we are definitely not living in a post racial America.
And the masks you are wearing may protect you from the plague
But not the tear gas.

At first they don’t believe me
My words clashing with the Specter of Barak Obama
Their most vivid memories of a president 
Who looked like them.

Eight Years of Barak Obama and his beautiful sleeveless Queen.
As they came to consciousness 
And came of age.

Then they watch a Black CNN reporter arrested and taken into custody
As his White counterpart remains unmolested.

And they think that perhaps
Their crazy Uncle may have a point or two.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things once possible can be erased,

Who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive;
but, unwell in our time,
Sickened by all of our contradictions.

Who still questions the power of old hatreds to subvert our 
New Democratic experiment

Tonight you have your answer.

(Image Credit: Dolly Li / Oxford American)

Episode XIII: The Ghost of Thurgood Marshall

Episode XIII: The Ghost of Thurgood Marshall

It is a Dark time for the Representative Republic; the Ideal of Democracy is taking body blows world wide.

In North America 
A bright orange alien president with bone spurs 
Who can’t even win the battle of the sexes with his ice queen wife 
Wants to declare himself a wartime president against an invisible enemy Without ever firing an accurate shot.

In Times Square
 A Trump Death Clock has been ERECTED to track the lives lost 
as a result of his IMPOTENCE in dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Jill Nelson 
A 63 year old grandmother 
Political Activist 
And Rebellious Heart writes
 “Trump equals Plague” in white chalk on a boarded up building 
And is instantly arrested and held.

Unfortunately for her 
She was not an angry White man With a gun in a Michigan Statehouse. 
If she were she just have could just continued on with her day. 

Malcom told us: 
Clear thinking is more dangerous then bullets
And the most dangerous thing in the world is a rebellious person of color that can read.

Dissent from the apathy

Dissent from the fear

Dissent from the hatred and mistrust

We must dissent from the apathy of an America that has buried it head in the sand 
Waiting in vain for the needs of its poor 
It’s elderly
It’s sick
To just disappear and magically blow away
In April, or May or June or July
Or, Until Dolt 45 is re-elected.

I hear the ghost of Thurgood Marshall howling.
His voice is speaking through 
The rhythmic purring of the ventilators and the ECMO machines. 

As a child I asked my Mother why she was forcing me to read his words 
She just said:
“Don’t worry. You’ll definitely need them later.”

“We must dissent from poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership. We must dissent because America can do better.

Because America has no choice but to do better.“

Will there be an Episode XIV?

(Image Credit: Failure to Listen)

COVID-19 And the Death of Common Sense

Marc Chagall’s The Falling Angel

COVID-19 And the Death of Common Sense

Yes
Apparently part of the plan is
That I
A Black Man in America, am going to put a mask around my face
A bandana
Leave my house
And then go outside.

Where there are policemen with guns.

Who do so well with Black men without masks.

With the ascent of fear
Comes the death of common sense.

Why do we wait for liars to tell us the truth
And doubt our own insight and experience?

And then he started to scream.

It was a low guttural growl at first
Changing gradually to a sound one might expect to hear
If the doorway to Hell were left ajar
And like an idiotic lovecraftian eavesdroper
You to put your ear to the crack to hear sounds
That would leave scars.

And after hearing what could not be unheard
You will ask yourself for the rest of your troubled life
What was worse:
The screaming
Or what was being done to cause it?

I mean, you would ask this
If you could stop screaming!

Safety gear is just for your psychology
Just like headgear in full contact sparing
Or like football gear that DOESN’T prevent chronic traumatic encephalopathy
In lifelong players

Transmission of a virus occurs through contact
It doesn’t matter how much safety gear you have
If you are in constant contact with a virus

Said the doctors in Italy

Isn’t that written somewhere in children’s school books?

Presentes mis doctores que luchan en la vanguardia de esta batalla

The common cold is a virus
And there is no cure or vaccine against it
Because of how a virus changes vectors

How, then, will there be a vaccine for COVID-19?

People take flu shots every year
And every year people still get the flu
A flu that is always from somewhere else
And never from “here”.

I’m not a doctor
Or in medical school
And I don’t play one on T.V.
But I know that.

Tactically, they know people can’t deal with the truth
They are bringing the population along
Spoon feeding us lies incrementally
Inch by inchTo prevent a wide spread panic

And suddenly there are daily Presidential press conferences
But still no uniform national strategy

COVID-19, Kidney Stone, Chemo
The new rock, paper, scissors
And COVID-19 beats Chemo

As healthcare professionals
And Samuel L. Jackson urge us
To stay the fuck at home.

This is what I’m lookin’ at.

Good news takes care of itself
Don’t tell me about 5 minute tests
(Five minutes abs didn’t work either)

As bodies gather in hallways
And are loaded on to refrigerated trucks

Good news takes care of itself.
And there is no good news.

Today they are hoarding toilet paper
What will it be tomorrow?

Maybe I do need a mask.

May the angel of death pass over your home.
מי ייתן מלאך המוות פסח לביתך

(Image Credit: Marc Chagall)

What Should I Do Assata: for the Ancestors

What Should I Do Assata: for the Ancestors 

What should I do Assata? They’re coming for my womb!

Shouted Justice

And, I won’t know who is grabbing my pussy because I’m blindfolded!

But, I can guess.

Is it quisling Alan Dershowitz forgetting the wisdom of “when they came for…”

Is it the narco-trafficante 

Killing Isabel Cabanillas while she bicycles home from a gathering in Ciudad Juàrez?

Was her music too dangerous?

Or, her murals too revolutionary and inflammatory?

Was it the artificial intelligence facial recognition technology that misidentifies Black, Brown, Yellow and female faces?

But can spot a Uyghur from outer space in a crowd of ethnic Chinese.

Removed from their homes

Their graveyards desecrated

By a country that claims to be re-educating them 

And protecting them from their own culture, religion, and language

To make them more productive citizens.

Uyghurs — apparently — are the new Niggers; or perhaps the new Redskins or Chiefs

And, A.I. Identifiable “Whiteface” is the new blackface warns the MIT Media Labs.

Was it the new laws in South Dakota outlawing treatment for trans youth? 

They won’t have to be oppressed if they just kill themselves and be done with it

Cause of death: body dismorphia

Is intersectionality dead 

The wisdom of “when they came for…”

Or are the opiates just that strong?

Because if they come for my body

They will come for yours, too.

Who was it who said:

I wish that they all had just one neck so that I could slit their throats all at once 

I think it was Caligula

If he had waited just 2000 years his wish would have come true. 

We rewrite the New Colossus to include a wealth and education test

While we install a new Caligula

His hand on the throat of Our collective dreaming 
One foot in America and the other in the Middle East

While pissing on immigrants. 

And the lies 

So many lies.

“Why don’t we get to keep the oil?”, he asks.

I shake my head in shame

Everyone I respect is dead 

And all of my enemies are in power 

The affirmation of an optimistic 

Revolutionary mind

I would root for the intelligence agencies if your COINTELPRO experience didn’t inform me, Assata.

What should I do, Assata? 

While you are still here for me to ask you the question

What should I do?

How did you find hope in your gunshot riddled and beaten body?

How did you not despair when your godson was taken away too soon?

When you were imprisoned with men

And they tried to murder both you and your hope

How did you escape to fight another day? 

Oh, 20 century escaped slave with a price on your head

A two million dollar bounty for helping people to get freed;

While America bends over backwards to exonerate a man murdering representative democracy

And renewing the call for your capture

The first amendment has been  shot through and beaten 

As if it were a Black Panther on the New Jersey Turnpike 

Tolls paid for with blood sweat and tears 

Hope left waterboarded, tortured, and gasping 

Through disinformation and the scrawl of a Sharpie marker

Assata, may the trade winds of Cuba ever caress your skin 

And Afro-Cuban music ever fill your ears. 

Spit in the direction of Mar Largo

And cast ancient curses at an Orange Man.

Should I learn how to make myself small like Harriet

Or should I become larger then Life itself like you?

If we sing out loud; or paint our murals; or march

Will the Space Force and the A.I. cameras see us? 

They are coming to get me

And I AM paranoid.

Justice is blind 

But not stupid. 

At midnight all the agents and the superhero crew 

Will round up all the people who Love more then they do

Then they’ll hook us to Alexis to publicize our dreams 

And sell our souls to Facebook and the information machines.

Ain’t I a woman, too?

Asks justice 

Taking off her blindfold 
And bearing her breasts.

Ain’t I a fuckin’ woman, too.

(Image Credit 1: LA Progressive) (Image Credit 2: Mural de Genero)