art failed me.
i held so many high hopes for art
that when i finally reached the top of art’s slope
i realized that i was climbing a shaky mountain,
not a solid volcano waiting
i was entering an empty house of dominoes
begging to be provoked.
i loved art,
but it failed me,
forced me to become more than
a spectator and practitioner
and tricked me into being
an indentured servant/slave/disgruntled worker/
infatuated with a partner
that ejaculates before i am satisfied.
art failed me because it does not produce
unless i get off my caboose
art failed me because it made me cry
the last time i was so inspired at what i saw
that i not only asked “Why?”
but “What can I do?”
art failed me because it stepped into my life
right when i had gotten chummy with the idea
just as i walked into the tattoo parlor
ready to ink the word “Normal” on my skin,
art busted in
and picked for me an indecipherable,
permanent symbol instead.
art failed me because it pointed out
the specks of dust in a seemingly perfect,
dared me to look in the eyes of people i’d rather ignore;
invited me to evaluate the very essence of my being
and be honest with my scoring;
summoned me to settle the score with myself;
instructed me to know myself
and walk with that knowledge.
i wanted to float in ignorance,
swim in the bliss that comes when one is so content
that “more” is not even a fantasy,
but something to be feared.
but art failed me.
and for that,
i am strangely
if i had boots that were big enough,
i would put them on,
walk through bright pink paint
and stomp on the earth
to leave my footprints.
i’d want the world to remember me
and maybe i’m obnoxious
for wanting to stain it with my favorite color,
but i don’t want to just be
another broke down wannabe artist
too afraid to start shit
and content with mediocrity.
i want to be a visionary
pushing up against obstacles
and daring opposition to conquer me;
i want to be too big for my britches,
for my heart to be so huge that
i bust out of the constraints of stitches;
i want people to forget my real name
and call me “The Dreamer”
with the middle name “Doer”
and the last name “Believer,”
one who used to be an underachiever
til she looked in the mirror
and saw who she really was.
i lost who i really was,
hypnotizing myself to be content with 9-5 consistency
of knowing how much my checks will be.
depending on direct deposit every two weeks
never matches the sensation of expressing the true me
through this art that consumes me.
who is me?
just a big heart,
tongue stuck in dry mouth,
words afraid to come out,
soul waiting to talk,
and feet too small to even walk.
i remember the day when
one of my theatre teachers proclaimed
in a his usual loud, harsh yell of a voice:
“You’re all prostitutes!”
i took it as a joke,
cracked up about it
like the daily comics
but now it’s no longer funny
as i try to figure out
how to use my art
to make money.
am i selling my body?
maximizing my curves for that role of a vixen
or encouraging my unhealthy addictions
for “character research”
so that on that day
when i have to be vulgar and curse,
it’ll come out naturally like it’s been with me
am i offering blow jobs
in the form of words
accompanied by sweet smiles and mediocre verse?
do i even know my self worth?
i shudder at the thought of becoming a whore,
at throwing my talent out
for whatever it gets me
because i’ve seen so-called artists do so
and believe me,
one particular street poet,
seeing my afro and dark skin got me
by being conscious when he first met me,
spittin’ lines about the black man’s plight
and how America don’t really treat her citizens right
but after he caught my eye,
he would whisper to me poetry about sexual fantasies,
paint rhythmic pictures of what he wanted to do to my body
and how his tongue would make my hips dance
and ultimately tried to use his art
just to get in my pants.
i refuse to be a trick to an artist’s self-seeking antics
and can’t muster giving myself up
on a dirty squeaky mattress
or walk the streets at night
for the purpose of filling my veins
with fortune and fame.
so i’ll hang on tight to my goods
and respect what i do
and die before i can be labeled
i look at what is beautiful
and honestly find it
is there something wrong with me?
perhaps i see from different eyes,
pick up in my pupils
objects unseen by the blind
yet i am visually impaired
with images people claim to be here.
i hear, “this is art”
and think, “how stupid.”
they say, “this is ridiculous”
and i respond, “how moving.”
i am brought to tears by what others insist
to be insignificant;
my heart beats faster from words
that fly through ears and leave some indifferent.
perhaps from now on
i should introduce myself as who i really am–
ask those who i encounter
to welcome me with open arms
to their alternate universe
as we compare our differences:
what makes us hurt,
what causes smiles,
what is a waste of time,
what is worthwile.
i will shake hands with every foreigner
until i find one who has the perfect fit
and whose fingerprints match my own
and i discover that i am not in fact
SATURN DEVOURING HIS CHILDREN (1824) by Francisco de Goya.
i am a lovely dish
on a porcelain dinner plate.
who has the pleasure of devouring me tonight?
is it lust?
on some nights, that answer would be right,
but this time the diner is one
with a more refined taste.
his name is ambition
and he drools as he stares at my face.
he prefers to eat me raw like oysters on a half shell,
relishes in my taste and puts me through hell.
i wish the roles were reversed–
that i could be sitting in a fine dining establishment
and order plates of ambition to my heart’s content.
i would eat like a glutton and be worry-free,
having taken control of what controls me.
but of course this is just a dream–
ambition bites my head so i can’t concentrate,
then he plays with my body as he scrapes the plate.
is it too late to decide
that i don’t want to be consumed?
or will i forever be confined
to this miserable doom?
i am food,
meant to be chewed and digested
by plans that i myself suggested.
although it hurts to be bitten
by my own brainchild,
there’s no place i’d rather be right now.
i am in a time of transition,
not fully cooked
but attractive enough to be eaten,
strong enough to be on the plate
and not lying in a corner beaten.
i have this plan…
since i taste rather delicious,
once ambition has scarfed me down
and scraped all the dishes,
i will cause a chemical reaction in his insides
and play with the pool
where his stomach acid resides.
i will swim there and cause a riot
until he realizes all too late
that he can’t tolerate me in his diet.
from there he will regurgitate
and i will come out victorious
before it’s too late.
i am not just a lovely dish
on a porcelain dinner plate,
but one who has learned to wait
until the appropriate time and hour to fight.
i am not one to be devoured.
i sit at the table tonight
and i have the power.
all of what is me.
my booty holds the power
in this butt-clenching society.
in a world that is straight and narrow,
my backside is characterized by curves.
it stays full even when i am empty,
keeps me conscious of what’s behind me
as i move forward.
this big ol’ booty of mine,
a source of self-consciousness at one time,
is now where i hold my pride.
each cheek is a container for my accomplishments.
i am woman all the way
as this convex cavern of flesh sits heavily
between the stretch of my hips.
oh the miles we have seen
as we traveled one step at a time
and sometimes sprinted
on journeys of discovery:
stopping to rest on sex
and then rising on beauty,
making trips again and again
to find and redefine my identity.
today this version of me
loves her big ol’ booty.
i embrace it in all of its round glory
and know that i don’t need
affirmation or compliments
to be content.
even when i want to be stiff, it shakes
causing an earthquake that makes heads turn
in the aftershock of my presence.
i used to call it a curse
but now unwrap it like a present.
God put His foot in it when He made me
sweeter than molasses and thick as an oak tree.
each curve on me
represents the hurdles i complete.
one day all women
will turn their necks to look
at what rests between their backs and their legs
and re-awaken that section
that we all at one time
allowed to be dead.
there is power in resurrection
and in the connection to my beautiful body–
my skin, my smile, my hair,
my breasts, my eyes, my hips
and even my belly
but most of all
this big ol’ booty.
i forgot i was alive
until i got goosebumps.
i used to believe that my vitality was at its peak
when hot anger massaged my insides.
but summer has said farewell
and fall poisons my life.
when seasons change,
so do i.
sunshine slips away
and night outlives day.
how i get so much pleasure
from darkness now,
find such softness
parts of me fall off deep-rooted trees
before the leaves
as if we were racing…
“Who can grow the brightest, then die the quickest?”
(at least for now this is true).
however, even in my sunken,
i carry beautiful hues–
colors i never knew existed.
they tint my existence
through that which i exist for,
the craving in me i just can’t ignore.
i HAVE perform.
i need my art like Jimi needed his guitar
and i will play it every which way it allows me to,
turn it upside down and defy convention,
let it pour from all orifices of my body
beginning with my mouth.
i will open it so the blessings of God can spill out.
in case you didn’t know,
the beauty comes from He, not me.
me is a mess and He is complete.
through my work, He strengthens me.
and in His absence, He stretches me
to believe that what He
whispered to me faintly
one night as i wept
will elevate into a shout
that rings infinity decibels loud
so all around
will have to cover their ears.
my transformation is homeless,
but it will find its residence as i
float between lives,
i see beyond eyes,
i won’t need clocks
that it is my time.
every day i walk miles and miles.
my legs have seen more hills
and my feet have stubbed more toes on sidewalks
than i can recount. if i had to count,
estimate how many miles i ambulate,
i’d have to confess that most of my traveling time
is spent inside of my mind.
i may sit in a cubicle from monday thru friday
but my imagination flies through van gogh’s starry nights
and lands on romare bearden’s collages.
it stretches and contorts like salvador dali’s objects
and tries to remain sleek like the art deco movement
but it’s too rough around the edges to be modern,
too complex to be described by a simple period in time.
this mind is stronger than my muscular calves, which have ached
from the toll of rushing, tried to look too cool for running,
but settling on moving briskly, avoiding
those who choose to waste their days moving at a slow pace,
burning from the fear of always running late.
i look at these thick legs, scars and all
which each have stories of their own
and contemplate how much stronger
my brain must be.
yes, it is bruised by memories
but those same sources of pain have caused it
to become capable of dealing with any and everything,
expansive enough to see the past, present,
and worldly enough to whisk itself away
on new journeys that arise and never cease to surprise
as the feet on my body and on the sidewalks of my mind
travel for miles in order to survive
each hectic day.
*Written July 6, 2008*
i had a dream that God told me to paint humanity–
take my life and use it as an instrument
to capture all the colors of his children,
so i start this mission with me:
i explore the deepest blacks of my people,
the darkness of drum beats and culture coursing through my veins,
the brown of skin that is smooth and strong,
the purple of pride from my ancestors that in me remains,
the blue of depression, lost plans, loneliness, and failure,
the green of envy, peace, hunger for money, and nature,
the yellow of the consistent sun, joy, and energy,
the orange of the warmth that only comes from family,
the red of blood, passion, and rage,
the white of the oppressors who tried to kill my race.
my life is a paintbrush
searching the in-between hues of personalities,
the value of words,
the pigment of emotions,
dipping into the water of my tears
until everything becomes one color and runs together…
truth, lies, joy, sadness, laughter, confusion
all co-mingle in the bucket of my body
mixing with one another so that at times, i forget what i’m painting.
i realize that all of my colors are interconnected,
deriving from the same three primaries
while i’m a painter staring at a blank canvas
trying my hardest to determine
the formula of documenting and sharing,
of composing and communicating just what it is that makes
*Written July 2, 2008*
forced to hide a part of my identity as if i had a deadly disease,
i smile, divert subjects that would lead to a litany of lists
of how that passion really is my life.
but let me quiet that and explain just how much i am excited to be here,
how suited i am for this job,
pretend as if a crucial part of my life doesn’t matter
cuz no one really wants to hire an actor.
the stigma of instability and lack of dedication is attached to this profession,
so inevitably i will hear the question:
“If you’re presented with an acting opportunity that would
conflict with this job, which would you choose?”
now if presented with the opportunity to get paid for my art,
see the world, and change lives
or sit in a dusty cubicle staring at a computer screen all day,
and counting down the hours til i get off at five
it’s obvious which way i would sway
but the fact of the matter is that today
i need this job.
i need to pay these bills,
i need my independence,
i need to move out of my parents’ place one day
so if i have to slave for the man for a while and sit and smile
while that voice in my head tellin me i’m an actor is mumbling,
i remind it that you need money to keep your stomach from rumbling
cuz money makes the world go round
and until that day when money is no longer a factor,
i’ll sit and fake and gloss over the fact that i really am an
*Written June 18, 2008*
i feel like i’m meant to be a voice in the world.
a force like Oprah,
like an effing tornado, u know.
like a halo over the evil world.
like a bright light in the midst of a blackout.
like “Lights out, niggas,”
but time is transforming,
lives are reforming, souls are rejoining,
art is dominant,
present in the lives of many.
pearls from pain, blood in veins,
refrain after verses of hurt.
the stopping of thinking and beginning of living,
bringing truth to the masses,
making families for bastards,
becoming a global pastor
reaching the congregation of the unreachable in the past,
reaching my hand thru the glass of prison visitor rooms,
taking over the lies told in classrooms,
i see it.
and it’s not for the spotlight
but so i could sleep at night,
so i can turn what was wrong before in my life to right.
i wanna effect change,
enter brains and leave feelings of un-same.
enter the lives of many, show them a way,
show them hope, show them love,
show them them–the beauty that they already have.
i want to mirror the beauty of the world.
these dreams seem outlandish but they exist in me
meaning that they are me-landish
not he-landish or she-landish
cuz i am the sole passenger on this mental plane.
i was once afraid to dream.
thinking that the thinking of it would
make it disappear, no longer be real.
i was afraid to fly, only taking trains on land
and limiting my visions.
why is it that we hold the keys to our own prisons?
that we are voluntary convicts to our hopes,
voluntary ropes to tie nooses around our own throats?
why do we sabotage ourselves?
run espionage on ourselves
allowing doubt and warnings from others to dictate how we live?
oh i feel like a speecher or a preacher
but i’m merely speaking what’s on my mind.
oh my mind is like a marathon, like a 5k
cuz it stays runnin like Jackie Joyner or
Marion before the steroid confession,
it’s on top of it’s game.
taking care of its frame,
observing all that goes on around me like security cameras
my mind is surveillance.
my body is surveillance.
my life is surveillance cameras on display
so that customers could see,
stay away from me
or be influenced,
be taught, be brought to reality.
be exposed to truth.
come by and never leave the same
once you join me
on my mental plane.