His Skin

Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

‘Handsome’ does not conjure the strength succulent enough
to uncover the sun underneath his skin.
Shame on those who sexualize him.
Who sees his body as cheap and public.
Who does he think he is, being darker than a brown paper bag?
Sometimes they notice him
like the moon against the pitch-black sky
and still, he is only handsome “for a dark-skinned guy.”

They do not know that he is the color of the gods.
I will describe him the intensity of ebony
a precious rarity.
How’d he get so lucky?
Who bathed him in sunlight?
This black hardwood-colored flesh.
Delicately bronzed.
He is black keys on a piano.
Play a song for me.
Whisper truth through lips thick and sensual
remarkably soft and pliable.
This espresso-colored body.
Dangerous when diluted.
Potent when raw.
They do not know any better.
How do you greet someone so breathtakingly gorgeous?

It will take them a minute to get used to the truth.
That not even the bite of winter can dare diminish
his light.

Will There Be a Fire Next Time?

“I am very worried about the state of the civilization which produced that photograph of the white cop standing on that Negro woman’s neck in Birmingham in 1963.”

– Lorraine Hansberry


Fifty years from now, when you do not see protests on the news,

sixty years from now, when George Floyd’s blood has dried up,

and Ahmaud Arbery is nothing more than a Google search,

when you no longer see your brothers and sisters marching and protesting in the streets for justice,

forty years from now, when there are no more hashtags

on which to hang your consciousness

and no Instagram to snapshot the revolution

when “black,” is no longer “trending”

will there be a fire next time?

 

When the news goes back to its regularly scheduled program

and the American flag is still soaked with the blood of the saints

their memory etched into the concrete we walk on

who will walk on?

When the history books forget to mention Breonna Taylor’s name, will we?

Did you know there were five little girls injured during the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963?

Did you know that the fifth little girl, Sarah Collins Rudolph, lived?

twenty years from now, whose legacy lives?

Who will Emmett Till Trayvon Martin’s memory?

When America’s anger sizzles into complacency

will there be a fire next time?


“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” – James Baldwin

The Black Plague

Steppers Delight Giclee On Canvas by John Holyfield

They treated them like The Black Plague.

This walking pestilence ravaging the Earth.

Walking all proud-like and powerful

all royalty-like and purposeful

infecting generations of people with its culture, music, dance, and cornrolls.

This was a virus that needed to be controlled.

They could not have this thing infecting people with all this hope.

COVID-19 is terrifying, but empowering the people was worse

so, the powers that be raised their glasses, smiled and solidified the oath.

 

The first phase was overt

strip them of their names, rape their wives, and remove their clothes.

Next, shackle them together and dismantle their dignity.

The vaccination was so far working.

They became Mammies instead of Mothers

and Negroes instead of Kings.

 

But the Black Plague continued to spread

continued to influence

and shift the direction of the Earth

there was no restraining the wind

out of its affliction grew the epidemic

of black excellence

building communities, gaining wealth, and reestablishing identity.

The so-called powers had to take their power back

and so, they infected their neighborhoods with crack.

Mass incarcerate them

“Jump Jim Crow” them

redline them

school-to-prison pipeline them

hide their history

hide their truth

miseducate them and kill the youth.

Put your knees on their necks

and stick your knives in their backs.

But none of it worked.

 

It was a secret deeper than White Supremacy

more in-depth than the witchcraft of stolen identity

deeper than unarmed black men bleeding in the streets

more frightening than charred bodies hanging from trees

more detailed than this apparent sickness was the truth

these people they called plagues were not plagues at all

they were Prophets

and healers of the Earth.

 

It was no wonder the more they were afflicted,

the more they grew.

SugarCoated and Springtime

They get tired of hearing it.
Ain’t nobody got to say it,
I know that they get tired.
Tired of these distractions in brown-colored skin
waking up from Valley’s
with muscles and tendons
all conscious-like.
Uncovering the blood in the American Flag—
Tired, tethered, and intoxicated
with his story.
Unraveling the color of bigotry on a beautiful glass,
Smeared fingerprints and fallen stars like
Why they keep sittin’ in?
Between our comfort and a hard place.
America,
This be some kinda hard place
for brown-colored skin
in the springtime.

Strange fruit popping up again on trees,
‘cept Nina ain’t here to sing us a song.
After 400 years
songs just don’t work anymore.
Tired of these guns accidentally going off,
Landing somewhere in my purse.
somewhere in my womb.
Somewhere in my future between lipstick and foundation.
I’ve got to warn my sons
about accidental guns.
Generational homicide got me on my knees praying
the badge
ain’t got his name on it.
Let’s be accurate about it.
Will I be left with the fragmented
pieces of my husband’s shoes
between our front porch and the living room floor?

Will my kiss linger long enough to bring him home tonight?
Or will I suffer a widow’s fate of mistaken identity?
After all, these brown, tan, bronze, and mahogany-colored
skins all do look the same…
Don’t they?

I’m afraid of your guns.
They don’t know the difference
between friend and foe–
or maybe, they do.
Funny how bullets be mistakin’ themselves for judges
that ain’t got names on them.
They say a gun
ain’t got a name on it.
Why are they sugar-coating it?

‘Cause people get tired of hearing about all this black…
All this oppression,
All these curses,
All this power like,
Why we won’t pour sugar on top of these bodies?
Get ’em up off the street.
Don’t want our bullets to get stirred up, ya know.
Getting up outta beds,
loading themselves into chambers
and taking walks at night,
in the afternoon, and especially in the morning,
when it’s springtime.


Fun Fact: I first wrote this poem four years ago (almost to the day). Reposting because it is still fitting for today’s climate. You can find it in my I am Soul poetry collection. 

If My Books Shall Die

jez-timms-unsplash

I read James Baldwin today

and realized I was carrying his bones

in the crooks of my arms,

and that if my books shall die,

then I have labored in vain.

 

I have swam through centuries

and ran years in someone else’s shoes,

I have climbed mountains

and crawled under valleys

only to bleed death.

I have wasted my time

carving obsession into paper

with invisible ink,

Words fallen like stars

on deaf ears.

 

If my books shall die,

then let me not be born.

Take me back to the safety

of my mother’s womb,

the privacy

of not yet existing

if my works have been in vain.

 

If my books shall die,

then I do not exist.

Not on the tops of your shelves,

or faced down on kitchen counters,

or underneath your children’s beds.

Honor me

in the palms of your hands

and not standing next to Grandmother’s old picture in the living room—

Grandmother is dead

and I do not wish to die.

 

Give me my flowers today

and accept the life I offer you

in the form of metaphors

On silver platters,

For I am feeding you

with silver spoons

and all you’ve got to do is eat…

I offer you

the best of me.

 

And when I am dead,

no longer among the living

crack open a book written by me

and feel my breath on your skin.

Hear my voice resurrect

from inside an ancient pen,

Watch my tongue dance,

See my lips move

and witness passion soar from beyond the grave.

 

If my books shall die

then my words did not really contain life,

But if my books shall live…

What are you waiting for?

Go to your bookshelf,

Resurrect me

and carry

my bones.

So She Sang Poetry


Poetry was the cry of a caged bird
Inside, imprisoned by walls, she built herself
Her chest heavy with questions she did not have the guts to ask
felt her voice was too secret
her mission too silent
her purpose too underground railroad
and ain’t nobody wanna be free.
So she sang poetry
and the walls melted like liquid honey.
It was startling how her voice vibrated the air
and she saw her skeletons, ugly and raw
a graveyard of insecurities locked inside the cages of her mind
She was not dead, but something else was
she saw the struggles of her voice
the agony of a quiet storm in a world full of noise
Her mind was a Civil War, and she wasn’t sure who would win,
the enslaved or the free
So she sang poetry
and the shackles melted like liquid honey.
There was strength in her lungs
she could not tame the lyric
there was no trapping the gift
no caging the courage
no binding the song.
There was freedom in her fingers
and a revolution in her pen.
Paper was a bloodbath of truth
and writing a sanctuary
Fear didn’t live here,
only wings that lifted her above the ground
a canvas of silver linings across the sky
a colorful reminder that her struggles were stepping stones
to freedom
that her flaws were flawless
and her mistakes, miracles in disguise
these were her confessions
a resurrection written in ink.

Poetry was the cry of a caged bird
who learned to sing poetry
until the bars melted away
like liquid honey.

It’s National Poetry Month!

It’s National Poetry Month!
I am Soul is 99cents on Kindle and $8 in paperback through the end of April.

Signed Paperback

www.yecheilyahysrayl.com/bookstore/i-am-soul-poetry

Amazon Kindle

www.amazon.com/I-am-Soul-Yecheilyah-Ysrayl-ebook/dp/B078FS2ZJT


What are you reading or re-reading for National Poetry Month? Here’s my list so far!
  • The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (1968 – 1998)

 

  • Maya Angelou Poems: Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie, Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, And Still I Rise, Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?

 

  • If Only There Was Music : The Poetry of Forbidden Love by Nonnie Jules