Sassy  (Sarah Vaughan)


When marooned

in the deep 

slant of evening

there is lush, swirling.


Stardust enhances

this gift

the sound low and sustained.



I worked to maintain propriety

when your voice led

to such places

the road singular and slow.






























the murder


on t.v.   

a young black man 

a son


his little brother was murdered.


mama looking at the camera.


broken son  


and how is it that grief

etched her body with rare and delicate wonder     

sorrow’s pulsing lines?  


sunrise in an evil place

is still a resurrection.  

another grim lullaby


pink and yellow lies.

what do you tell the children? 


don’t be stranded little ones

in the dense light 

of grown-up torment/its     

heat and fury destroy.


wandering through the brush     the 2 friends wonder            thick giggles   eyes wide    puppy dog’s tails?    

what if we take devil’s path to school this morning? huh?    ya wanna? 


Angel’s wings don’t always fit small children

they can be cumbersome.

some of the tiniest kids







the murder (con)  



have fallen backwards

through clouds

toward the weather

this irks the older, mentor-angels no end.

































Billie Rescues Eve


    chant for holiday





She did eat

from the tree


though it stained

her body primitive


and they spoke

of her malaise.



the song of our people


do sing!

Refute the lullaby.
























Mr. & Mrs. Johnson 


       mr. johnson


Charles is a rusty 

bus stop tragedian.


Scrupulous in memory

of silk and smoking jacket.


His haunting 

operatic voice


finely woven through bartered and closed doors

leveled ancient, smooth.


His blind knock 

his unlit cigarette


misspeak the sonorous chains

I see him! drag to his seat.



    betty mae johnson


Charles brings Betty Mae songs of anger.

Poverty is a house of circles 


he croons

a bustling pagoda with a singular shrine.


His cardboard soles 

tap, tap, tapping 


Miss Betty walks there too

her feet infuriated flares.


Insistent the promenade she tramps

Life burns!  Consumes! 


If you pass by

you will see Betty’s mouth 

a raw rant.

Mr & Mrs Johnson (con)



Rage tints her hair, flames 

wild, wooly explosions.



you must spit fire.


Today she strides along the porch 

her gaze an assimilated shout.


Welcome my friends! 

Welcome to Betty Mae Johnson’s house. 



































Cafe con Leche in Brooklyn 


                  sunday afternoon


the people fuss at the preacher:

save yr white lies and plump, empty promises.

that is a fable of another, older age!

these are the days of no integrity. you will see

the scorned spirit move across the faces`

of those who yearn, unable to be free.



...pass the sugar, please!


Hot Costa Rican   

with thick, warmed cream

is this soul sister’s holy water.     

I say     


is this sister’s

high, holy water 

Its dark liquid           

another dusky promise.


Friends come and go.   

Lovers taint 

& stain 

unruly, wild   

with no home training.


Cigarettes and witch’s brew I do consume.


And when the church fathers murmur    

I raise my hands     



yell praises for  

hot, wet redemption 












la vieja (the old one)



senora alonzo 


to carry the years


they are jagged

and crumble together 

without grace.


she treads on them,

feet bloody 

with the foolishness

of graying fears.


her sharp face

woven of dust, mold, cobwebs

























Hymn For Yusef


        for the children of the middle east 


Some say

God came to this place

a caged bird

without song and sullen


and could provide no armament

from hot iron


blown into the skin.


This yarn

a pigeon might bring

a myth intact

lo, a steady and heart tale


but when the people wept

few did hear

while the children

did tumble and fall.


       Part 2 


Fate/those who trumpet her arrival

seeking an artful cageyness

subvert the small, wide eyes

burned hands and swollen bellies.


If each man a King 

unto himself

each woman Queen

who will serve?


Said, sing me this tune: 

Find your Golden Book

your Mourning Piece

Pray the Ancestors.



  Have Some Gravy With Your Mashed Potatoes


         in memory of reetika vazirani


She traces the line

of culture arriving at

its failure to redeem.


They served her black-eyed peas

and hamhocks.

She offered a ravenous grin. 

No, not quite right.


The smallish minister 

his silver bible, insistent

asked, What religion?


She picked at the thread 

though it was heavy and smelled strange.

A lineage through land and family

may not protect.


The lens of stereotype

dull and disgraced

is a mirror of startling proportion.





















Songs of 1865 #2,  A Maniacal Holding


     Slavery’s third lesson: Hold fast to the word.


Words might fall from you

below your fingers

leaving you 

feeling light,

a sure, steady stream

irresistible to behold.


But, you must wake 


For this is a dream 

of fools.


Dead language is hard 

is stiff.


If the light 

catches it

it will shine. 


It will glisten 



as if it were alive.



















color, texture, memory


baby, i know you too

own many squat memories

some are thinly sliced constructions

others, fleshy and embellished.


in my own musings

red & orange reign

though sometimes

i am immersed in a flatter gray.


i heard you say 

grace is a twisted braid

on top of a nappy head

looking suprisingly like your mama.


while i remember

blue sky 


greasy and warm.































she saves copper pennies in mason jars

and works the bills into her mattress.

works the madness!

you know

you just can’t trust the banks.



her padlocked shed 

bulges; boy-ar-dee ravioli

tuna, spam, beans.

you must admit


the closer she gets

to tin & glass 

filled promise

the quieter she is


You’ve seen her

face fluttering sideways

spin the cans ‘round



with the sterling shine.

stow, not weep!

her pure omissions














a surrealist poem


    oakland california: 103 murders


an old man knelt at the gate

his body folded

in prayer

the blistering sun raged against the wind

bodies torn asunder

moved before our eyes


mi amor, la vida es sueno


hands taut, embedded

swaying wings & 

soft lips 

against a charred sky


    word to the children


coveting thy neighbor is dangerous

that which allures

can tempt a spirit bruised


examine yourselves

with significant color

and hot, indignant light

not this wide, gray indifference

this falling into blackened leaves

generations of them at my feet




i have told many stories 

of a good ever after


my face tinged 

cloudy and blue

what matter truth 

in a song of sorrows 

in a lowdown, baleful tune?





  Protest Song, 1-3


    in celebration of rap music


I saw her there, perpetual curves

Boisterous, truculent sensuality.


The people called her name: Enchanted.

Her movements, shuffled, shattering light.


They perceived her song

an agile, less vehement anthem.


Two thinly misshaped notions lured them there.

No surfacing sorrow to mark the place of entrance.


An integrationist’s nightmare

thirty years a canard.


No placards.

Who would testify?


Oh! But you are the scorned blacks.

Those haughty and revealed.


Your ancestral home

Gospel, Blues, will sanctify


anointing you! Yet others will decry,

another pied piper’s mistress in Hip Hop costume.


    mr. record company


He slogs through the grey, urban landcape

one derelict eye flashing!


The children holler in delight

jump off their stoops.


The names of the children are construed.

He’s found their dwellings and holds them


ears splayed to the root, while he riffs on

a dark, cloudless melisma.


Protest Song I-3 (con)



Children, your mouths are chattel.

The giant is heavy with your wealth


wearing your teeth

like gold chains around his neck.


    the rusty-butt rap


Two rusty-butt boys 

play outside my wall


trading jabs, keeping tabs. 

Both observe the call


of rogue thoroughfare

a patois that dares


sinewy domination

creative captivation.


They do a scalawag shuffle

do puff


and yell. Hip-Hop’s emissaries

Ah yes! Do tell!























Contessa Muse hides her face

fearing I will swoon.

A lush rendition of an old tune.


I immerse deeply

legs plowing



emerge smoldering.

Her primeval smell taunting me

rushing at my back.


Did I tell you

of that night?

Velvet Charcoal and


her eloquent shape

her soulful tones

the length between toe & shoulder?


Sometimes I am as a blind woman

stumbling along barren walls

that bear no distinction



refusing to proclaim.

Oh, but when she is here...





















Songs of 1865 #3, 

                freedom pleading


Would I this oblation

red, black, green 


this bone white?


They say it is mine

to give away.

A moment I have stumbled upon

and hope I do not waste.


Always the chance

it will turn to dust in my hands. 




My people are webbed figures

and occupy the space between Temple and Eye

sometimes hovering way below. 

My lip quivering, quivering.




































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