Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
– Langston Hughes
This woman vomiting her
hunger over the world
this melancholy woman forgotten
before memory came
this yellow movement bursting forth like
coltrane’s melodies all mouth
buttocks moving like palm tress,
raining rhythm to blue/black/smiles
this yellow woman carrying beneath her breasts
pleasures without tongues
this woman whose body waves
this woman wet with wandering,
reviving the beauty of forests and winds
is telling you secrets
gather up your odors and listen
as she sings the mold from memory.
there is no place
for a soft / black / woman.
there is no smile green enough or
summertime words warm enough to allow my growth.
and in my head
i see my history
standing like a shy child
and i chant lullabies
as i ride my past on horseback
tasting the thirst of yesterday tribes
hearing the ancient/black/woman
me, singing hay-hay-hay-hay-ya-ya-ya.
like a slow scent
beneath the sun
and i dance my
creation and my grandmothers gathering
from my bones like great wooden birds
spread their wings
while their long/legged/laughter
stretched the night.
and i taste the
seasons of my birth. mangoes. papayas.
drink my woman/coconut/milks
stalk the ancient grandfathers
sipping on proud afternoons
walk like a song round my waist
tremble like a new/born/child troubles
with new breaths
and my singing
becomes the only sound of a
womb ripe. walking. loud with mornings. walking.
making pilgrimage to herself. walking.
– Sonia Sanchez
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine
In the Northwest region of Seattle Washington
There’s a homeless man, armed with a beer can
Trying to drink away war memories
Waiting for someone
Self-less enough to lend him an ear
He sits on the side of a Pizzeria on the corner of Queen Ann and Mercer
In a chair, they probably kick him out of after business hours
Has grown all too fond of the concrete beds that he rest his shell-shocked head on
His braggadocios body
rocks back and forth showing off to the world the only gifts war veterans ever receive
He addresses me, “Ey lil Bra, you got a dollar?”
Without even checkin my pockets I tell him, “I aint got it”.
Having anticipated this appointment he responds with,
“That’s fine, cause I really wanted a 20.”
Amazed, not that he still knows what humor is,
but that is one of the few possessions that the war actually let him keep, I laugh
Before digging into my coat pocket filled with a ton of change I’ll probably never use
He lets me know that more than a 20, what he really wanted was a conversation
And takes my 75 cent donation as an invitation to start one
Without offering much space for me to converse,
he lets me know how in this country,
war veterans are rarely anything more
Than patriotic flies on a wall
And that for all these people to ignore his request
Is just as second nature as swatting at a pest
None of them realize that here lie their tax dollars at work
His body jerks
To the percussion of his bones
Dancing to the song of post-traumatic stress syndrome
Is it of humans to lack humanity
Demanding he keep his lips locked but
Possess the audacity to ask where he got his army cap on
To think it’s a trigger you can purchase at a gift shop he tells me
That they’ve labeled him as crazy and they say
he has to take medicine called percadine but the one time he took it
It made him high so why would he continue when it makes his mind worse with time
It seems like the perfect crime
Having people fight for a country that won’t fight for them
Was for one of those countries to take his life from him
And the opposing country failed when he
Returned to civilization but
The home country would succeed by stripping him of his home
Will this be the standard in this country?
Where if war doesn’t kill you
They distill you
Sending you back home just to rot and mildew
“War is good for absolutely nothing”, is still true
Before he lets me go,
he tells me
that he wants to die.
And I see the tear-shaped white flag surrender from his eye
I give him a pound
Before digging back into my coat pockets surrendering
the rest of the change I found.
I tell him I have to go
Cause there’s a white man, screaming at me through traffic
Waiting for me to end this conversation
There’s a young lady at a bar and grill across the street
Waiting for me to join her for dinner
And there’s a poem
Scratching at the insides of my soul
Waiting for me
To tell this story.”
Copyright Lamar Jorden