A Season for Living


Why is it
I can’t afford
a season living here?

The lights that gleam
elude me
                    the last rays
off glass windows
in the traffic of debris
outside my faded window.

Bright men and women ​
                 briskly return
the heavy jaundiced heat,
one leg stubbornly
pushing  just before the day breaks

No one finds the end
And in breathing
they live in loops
of what is next and old
old and next


Nostalgic Soup: Joy Harjo

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, check out this poem by the great Joy Harjo from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky. You can find this and other Harjo poems at Poetry Foundation, too.
Perhaps the World Ends Here
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Source: The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1994)

Nostalgic Soup: Esther Belin

Public Eye, remembrances

Blues-ing on the Brown Vibe

And Coyote struts down East 14th
feeling good
looking good
feeling the brown
melting into the brown that loiters
rapping with the brown in front of the Native American Health Center
talking that talk
of relocation from tribal nation
of recent immigration to the place some call the United States
home to many dislocated funky brown
ironic immigration
more accurate tribal nation to tribal nation
and Coyote sprinkles corn pollen in the four directions
to thank the tribal people
          indigenous to what some call the state of California
          the city of Oakland
for allowing use of their land.
And Coyote travels by Greyhound from Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA thru
to Oakland, California, USA
Interstate 40 is cluttered with RVs from as far away as Maine
traveling and traveling
to perpetuate the myth
Coyote kicks back for most of the ride
amused by the constant herd of tourists
amazed by the mythic Indian they create
at a pit stop in Winslow
Coyote trades a worn beaded cigarette lighter for roasted corn
from a middle-aged Navajo woman squatting
in front of a store
and Coyote squats alongside the woman
talking that talk
of bordertown blues
of reservation discrimination
blues-ing on the brown vibe
a bilagáana snaps a photo
the Navajo woman stands
holding out her hand
requesting some of her soul back
she replaces her soul with a worn picture of George Washington on a dollar bill
and Coyote starts on another ear of corn
climbing onto the Greyhound
the woman
still squatting
tired of learning not to want
waits there for the return of all her pieces.
And Coyote wanders
right into a Ponca sitting at the Fruitvale Bart station
next to the Ponca is a Seminole
Coyote struts up to the two
“Where ya’all from?”
the Ponca replies
the Seminole silent watches a rush of people climb in and out of the train
headed for Fremont
the Seminole stretches his arms up and back stiff from the wooden benches
he pushes his lips out toward the Ponca slowly gesturing that he too is from Oklahoma
Coyote wanders
“where ’bouts?”
the Ponca replies
“Ponnca City”
the Seminole replies
Coyote gestures to the Ponca
“You Ponca?”
the Ponca nods his head in affirmation
Coyote nods his head in content
to the Seminole
Coyote asks
“You Seminole?”
the Seminole now watching some kids eating frozen fruit bars
nods his head
and Coyote shares his smokes with the two
and ten minutes later
they travel together on the Richmond train
headed for Wednesday night dinner at the Intertribal Friendship House.
And Coyote blues-ing on the urban brown funk vibe
in and out of existence
tasting the brown
rusty at times
worn bitter from relocation.
Esther Belin, “Blues-ing on the Brown Vibe” from From the Belly of My Beauty. Copyright © 1999 by Esther Belin. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.
Source: From the Belly of My Beauty (University of Arizona Press, 1999)

Public Eye: James Weldon Johnson

Public Eye

Did you ever sing or hear  “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at one point of your elementary school experience? 

I did. It was a very stirring song, musically. It sounded nice sung in a chorus. However, I never did consider what sort of freedom this song was depicting. I hadn’t yet studied  the Civil War or the Reconstruction Era. But I always knew I liked this song. 

This song was co-written by James Weldon Johnson, a man of many talents in a post Civil War America. This man is embedded in the African American Reconstruction culture and period (i.e. Jim Crow South and Harlem Renaissance). He was a scholar much like W.E.B Du Bois and if you search today, you will find a ton of information on him. He was not only a composer, but a poet and prose writer, too! His prose, as well as lectures, focused on racial advancement and civil rights. His only novel, The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man is a memorable and haunting depiction of a light skinned black man passing in America. For several years, he held a leadership position at the NAACP. 

To come back to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song was co-written with his brother. Sung throughout the South and the years to come, the song became quite popular that the NAACP adopted it as the “National Negro Hymn.”

Today, we feature him for his poem “The Awakening”. 

The Awakening

I dreamed that I was a rose
That grew beside a lonely way,
Close by a path none ever chose,
And there I lingered day by day.
Beneath the sunshine and the show’r
I grew and waited there apart,
Gathering perfume hour by hour,
And storing it within my heart,
        Yet, never knew,
Just why I waited there and grew.

I dreamed that you were a bee
That one day gaily flew along,
You came across the hedge to me,
And sang a soft, love-burdened song.
You brushed my petals with a kiss,
I woke to gladness with a start,
And yielded up to you in bliss
The treasured fragrance of my heart;
        And then I knew
That I had waited there for you.



The imagery: a lonely dejected flower, growing. 

I ran into the same imagery while reading a song/poem published years and years later. I don’t think it’s far-fetched if you read this poem and then take a look at Tupac’s “The Rose that Grew From Concrete.” Actually, if  you read them both, there’s a definite tone of defiance and resilience stemming out of the imagery and diction that appeals greatly to me. Not only is this image old, but it starts to feel like a memory. 

Here see for yourself: 

The Rose That Grew From Concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.


The Dead to Life


I look down on you


you kill.

I look down on you


you condemn.

I look down on myself


my clueless ways

The number of ways to hurt


keeps growing

like a fungus in humid air

I can’t keep wishing

for that day

they’ll realize their

perversity is foul

No attack is misguided

its target

will always hurt in

its dying

I look down on you


I did not


I look down on you


even when you have the power to kill

you          can’t  bring               the dead to life