Thursday, December 30, 2010

the death of olympia (work in progress)

- after edouard manet's olympia, oil on canvas. (image below)

you have slaved, my sweet queen, toiling
at the feet of empire, your heels to the fire
but "negress", you are my nation. you, my
love, are my 'lady of the room', my odalisque
in apron and sack-cloth / more flora than
the emperors will ever secure for themselves...

soul by soul, scar removes scar / touch us,
tar-like; in embrace black is ablute / we are
soot and silk in joyful longing.

olympia? she can only lay there, wanting figs
and breeding bedbugs / she cries in her sleep
and mourns like vesuvius, her smothered
lamentations flowing into pillow / poor her.
you rub her down, my dark sage, in rosemary
and thyme but she is thistle in our eyes.

you tend to the care of her abject porcelain,
basting breasts and ass in the plumes of
privilege, this pot roast of a woman marinated
by your hands, awaits rotisserie. change her
bedpans then turn her on the spit... line
her torso and thighs with russets and celery...
do not bruise the flower in her hair
or the apple in her mouth!

braise her skin in sandalwood and rose
petals staring at her blemishes until she
blushes, mistaking evil-eye for infatuation...

"mistress, your nightgown." bow, your
brow low hiding the contempt for having
to wait hand and foot on this frail pitiful
thing, but hope for solidarity. maybe
she'll understand, acknowledging
the sisterhood-of-servitude binding
you both. hope for smiles but if
she snarls, well, well then...

remember, queen, the cure for rabies / you've
been bitten by much better breeds and she too
will soon recede, as all do, into the compost of
concubines. and to that end, hemlock is kept in
secret cupboards in the kitchen; signal the cook
by singing "the king and rook have  castled, so
pawn takes queen." then return to your mistress,
the heirloom wasting away in the room-for-whores,
with plums piled high and pillowed about goblets
of wine / just smile and nod... bow, brow low.
purge her clean with midnight paregorics.
whisper spells to the fair maiden

"forgive me, O, Olympia, but 
i have no more life to lien you."

soften the blow, her sheets a shroud. then
clean the cottons; smooth the linens. you've
always allowed her kindness. she is figurehead,
but you rule the roost and very few will think
you, darkie, to be so devious... dismiss her with
care then come quickly home / embrace me,
i will halo you because - scar removes scar.

behind our walls of thatch and tin, we two
usurp the throne; courtesans of the dust...
mouth-to-mouth we are magna carta
- magenta / black magic.

jesters always bray in awe at finely dyed
plumage, but every peacock has a claw
to cleave and to cut, to have and to hold...
that is why i adulate you. head bowed, eyes
closed, lips to palm: i worship you; all
of these poems are your pedestal;
not just adore...


Saturday, December 11, 2010

"amphoric merit badge" - a rough, but not as rough draft...

"Bum stiggedy bum stiggedy bum, hon, I got the old pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
But I can fe-fi-fo-fum, diddly-bum, here I come"
- das efx, they want efx

" spite all of the bullshit we on our back starin at the stars above
Talkin bout what we gonna be when we grow up
I said what you wanna be, she said, Alive
It made me think for a minute, then looked in her eyes"
- outkast, da art of story telling pt. 1

imacs are buried in the backyard
covered in the composts of childhood:
evel knievel action figures, 4 x-men
comic books (issues 135 - 138), one
of daddy's rusty ass pocketknives, a torn
tape of brother malcolm's "i was in
the house last night when the bomb
went off" speech stored in P.E.'s
"it takes a nation of millions to hold
us back"  clear cassette case - ancient
analogs, all catalogued during my mid-
to late-teens; each one an heirloom for
ascension. an atari joystick broken
after joining the boy scouts; a red, black,
and green african medallion purchased
from alphonso's head shop at 15th and
broadway; my entire elementary school
hot wheels collection re-coated in mama's
maybelline fingernail polish / plum red.
i am primed for power; 100% anabiotical.

exegeses marks the spot: the knick-knacks
of an ex-colored/negro/black/afro'd african
boy born and raised on the soils of america;
these spoils of war. the homes of my great-
great-(great?)-grandfather were looted; legacies,
languages, and the learning of familial
trades - all lost. i've lived my whole life as
the industrial pollution of hate, a hard history
to cope with. "shit, nigga, get over it." was
stamped on birth certificate. but if jack kevorkian
was black they would have sat back in stereotypical
understanding, the way he "devalues life" chalked
up to the flowcharts of his nature; blame it on
phrenology, not as the after effects of racism.
patty hearst would have never made it to folklore
as an african. too bad 'symbiosis' wasnt invented
until 1974.

i packed all the compost down, $3000 imac
included; disgusted drawing circles around
myself picking a peck of pixels out of concentric
philosophies. a pack of cmyk-colored hellhounds
nipping at my heels; candy-colored crayons
in my cigarette box as a self-appointed samo©
substitute anointing african spirits at 72dpi. my
desktop apple a bag of beans growing totems
instead of beanstalks. this is how a 21st century
houngan connects to the ethernet. we transmogrify
technology or we die. but pass or fail, we still
come out the 'other side' in much better shape
than how we arrived.

examinations in the spiritual side
has always been our science;
"thank god i was born a smart-ass."
is an african-american slogan.

my poems hide behind Poro masks, "africadabra"
written in reams on lumumba carson's mythical
shroud hidden beneath the tongue, an ndebele temple.
words have a torso of driftwood, orbital bones cast
in cowries, words with afros carved from soapstone
standing tall like an afrocentric skyscraper in shell-toes,
no shoestrings (all poem lacks is 8 square feet of
linoleum and a jvc boombox strapped to its shoulder).
i am a god of life; a walking / talking ossuary. not
"hidden" as in you're not allowed to see but "hidden"
as in get up off your ass / come and find me.

i'm johnnie conqueroo growing guedes from
an apple seed. i pray at the knee of forgotten
equations, but i'm not  an atheist... ...this is
amethysticism - a purple reign empowered
from a borrowed bandwidth. "rich?" no.
i am witch, bitch. damballah wedo hazed me
as a rookie; baron saturday sat and watched
over me as goddess asase spun gospel on
the ones and twos...

my merit badge is earned. i've join'd the club.
i'm in the guild. the written word pays my dues;
my voice drifts up from the vévés drawn in cornstarch
on the kitchen floor. there is hip hop and polynomials
in my poetry. i'm a psychopomp with kentucky
tendencies... lean unto my shoulder, my collarbone
is keystone for a bucolic cosmology, my portmanteau
is neon, Chukwu is common denominator for nommo
and numen and there is rainbow to my gravitational
collapse. Petey Wheatstraw breaks bread with Unoka
in prose... Achebe and Octavia hold congress to my
confessions / in poems i am Roy G. Biv in dreadlocks;
i'm polychromatic with my caul and response. in black
words i am supernal, a supernumerarian and there is
nympholepsy in my black-on-black praise-songs.

relax, child.

pawpaw has you now. allow me to
induce nutation; it wont hurt you.
i am paregoric - i taste bad; but you'll
learn to like it. my vespers rubbed
into your chest and my hooks in your
nose, your eyes open / your eyes close.
a camphoric ghost-story my words.
it's all about the blowing of smoke;
the way a writer purses his lips and
makes a bottle bellow, his breath
breaking wind in passing, releasing
the djinn from the jug, birthing
laureates from mush-fakers and
dervish-fakirs, every word an ovary,
every thought an opening.

i stumbled into black lit / fell into
insemination; this composite poem
a pimp and a parable - this is the part
you pay the fee and enter / enter;
pretentious or extra-celestial, there
is no winter here. here be dragons -
i'm houngan from a black cocoon.

the babalawo in a b-boy stance.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

"woman with small ankles" (poem)

"woman with small ankles 
kneading wheat-gluten" 
- 18x11
historical fiction & mythology on poster board
2010 - sold!
(for crystal)

ah, if only i knew with highest surety
that a son of osiris had created jazz, then
i could claim your stance the world's most
elegant musical composition. or if sun ra
had turned ascension into t-shirts
i would silkscreen you across the bluegrass.
i'd be an advocate. your acolyte seeing
your dark face in the bark of white poplars,
be the first man in a line a block long / a throng
of worshipers and well-wishers come to lay
offerings at your roots, sing songs of your grace.
if you are ceo of unseen beauty then consider me
an intern. your initiate. initialize the program of me.
i'm already chief-squatter in charge of
your crawlspaces. i am damp. covered in dew
and your mosses. i draw the celestial heavens
in your soot and seitan droppings...
i paint you in coal and cornbread on canvas,
draw you in coal and water colors on the sidewalk
for the daughters-of-zora to hopscotch on.
you are my creator and i collage you, your distracting
visage hangs in my hallowed halls, your facebook
avatar is framed in glass on my temple walls;
this aesthetic of you lining the shadows of my life
like pedro bell's signature art style on a pfunk
album cover; your country smile my hardcore jolly.

and i love you.
i love you more.

you are my ideal for an abstract africana;
my prototype for an african space program
in payless heels / a sande priestess storing
the nile delta in a goodwill purse - i orbit all of you.
you give good gravity (and your meatless gravies
are also good!) my language crawls into your lap;
you are not my mama. you are my motherboard.
i offer you cupboards, this canvas-me the pantry
for your absolute womanhood.

Friday, December 03, 2010

the "black artist vs. artist who happens to be black" argument...

there's a(nother) "being a black artist vs. being an artist who happens to be black" discussion going
on at black art in america. i think we spend too much time discussing this issue, only because it
never seems to lead to a fulfilling conclusion one way or the other... people, for their own various
reasons, are often entrenched in their beliefs (and even their lack-of-beliefs) concerning the matter.
BAIA is good because it brings many artists together who otherwise would not or may not have been
aware of one another. every generation seems to have this discussion. at some point i'd like to see us
focus more on our collectively individualistic destinations as opposed to our walking in circles
while debating which of us has the most recent cultural thesaurus.

click the link above to view the discussion in its entirety; the following is my latest response:

the ideologies of 'blackness' are always shifting/changing - colored, negro, black, afro, african, universal, etc - and in the wake of us traveling toward a more complete self-definition or running away from full-time labels with part-time social impact, how does an artist make his/her craft remain 'relevant' to transient, cultural philosophies? to be relevant means we have to direct our work towards a fixed ideal. a focal point. and in this 21st century focal points seem to be the last of our concerns.

i fully admit to being jaded. i firmly consider myself a black artist. i seriously attempt to make work that expands the definition of pan-africanism more than it attempts to redefine it. being 'black' is a tribal belief for me, the art and literature i create are my rites of passage into that tradition. i'm 'a race man'. for me, discussing 'blackness' equates to comparing the differences between 2 floods 50 years apart: "yeah, the water was really deep last year, but you shoulda seen the flood in 1962! that was a flood!" a flood is a natural action. the only thing that changes during floods is a person's proximity to them - the closer you are at that moment the more detailed your views about it. "blackness" is the same way. either we choose to be right up on it / in the middle of it or we paddle away, trusting that the natural calamities of higher ground will be more kind to us. i've used that analogy before and someone suggested that maybe a flood is akin to a baptism... it can be, but that's a romanticism of the problem. reality sometimes hurts too much to view it with kindness. this is a reason why many of us are so divided about what it means and doesnt mean to carry the label of being a black artist.

when we romanticize being black then a certain portion of our people, still bearing scars and in search of healing, will flinch, still stuck on the very real things that has happened to them as a result of racism, histories of being disenfranchised, and the ugliness that other black people have inflicted upon them. too often, those of us who are very positive in labeling ourselves as 'black artists' bash that concept over the heads of those who are still working toward labels that work for them. during a flood, you can't make me get into your raft if i've chosen to swim. i may drown; you may not want me to; but that is for me to discover. those in the raft travel in one direction, those in the water get swept away elsewhere.

what needs to happen is this: the people in the boat follow the people who are swimming - that, for me, is the only working definition of what it means to be 'black'. anything else is a person grinding an ax.

so... "relevant"?

swimming or rowing, both are relevant actions to the people involved in those circumstances.


at some point maturity itself must become your priority.

you must be able to recognize when lifestyles and philosophies aren't working for you.

that if some of the ideals that you hold dear aren't fulfilling you spiritually, psychologically, or
philosophically, then you need to surrender those concepts to a higher or alternate authority
and develop new ones that become beneficial to you as a growing entity.

wrapping your identity in concepts you developed for yourself in your youth, before your
acquisition of wisdom (or what passes as 'wisdom') or concepts that are counterproductive
to how you must carry yourself as an adult on a daily basis, harms not only you as an
individual, but also harms the collection of individuals surrounding you who care about
your well-being. at some point the weight of what is "real, loving, and lasting" in your life
must take precedence over the illusions we tend to carry with us, masking who we truly are
with the dream-of-who-we-see-ourselves-being. here's a newsflash: no one loves that dream-you
but you, unless you surround yourself with the delusional. in which case,
all of yall are shit outta luck.

i'm not saying you should abandon your dreams. but if the end result of you pursuing those
dreams, whether you succeed or not, does not leave you a better person / does not add to your
personal definitions and your worldview, then holding onto such dreams is a childish endeavor.

and not that you can't be "a child at heart" - being child-like in some aspects can actually add
to and fill out your natural tendencies as an adult. but there is a difference in being child-like
and being childish. its not a good look for a grown person. grown people will talk behind your back
and the real-serious-grown-folks will talk about you directly to your face. THOSE are the ones
you should spend the greatest effort listening to. they may or may not like you, they may or may not
love you, but unless they operate from a childish position themselves then chances are their criticism
of you and their advice to you will be deadly accurate.

swallow yourself.
shit out habits that hinder you.
lean into the wind; pull up your collar; walk anew.

Olive Senior - literary crush of the week

it takes diggin' in the crates, late nights and early mornings
spending the set-aside, essential creative time for precious projects
on web-surfing, google, bing, etc... but when you come across
that previous nugget-of-the-dark-unknown™ then it all seems worth it.

(at least until the people you're beholden to wanna know what's up with your deadlines!)

Olive Senior... why do we not know who she is on the education circuit?

check her out... her work is canonical.

tongues of the ocean is another good site to check out... this link takes you to Olive's poem there.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

protoplasmic phrenology (the video!)

about as close to doing a literary reading as i get.

and listening to the robot-voice read my work i think it's a favor
to the audience that i refrain from ever doing so... ever.

dont worry, it's only the first 2 stanzas.