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WRITING ON WRITING: Contemporary Afro-Mississippi Poetry

This selection of Afro-Mississippi poems (audio files and text versions) has been compiled by C. Liegh McInnis as a supplement to his article “Penning the Revolution." A special thank you to Tibbet Music and especially DJ Mr. Nick for their kind assistance.

 


“Untitled” by Charlie Braxton


My lawd don’t move no mountain
just give me the strength to climb….

grandma sits on her
wooden porch
rocking in her wicker chair
swaying back and forth
        back and forth
moaning her Monday morning blues
into the hot thick humid mid-day air
oblivious to the
sweaty faced white man from
city hall as he tries to explain
why she has to leave
her house
her home
the one she spent over forty years
chopping
picking
scraping
and baling cotton
until their was no more cotton left
to chop
   pick
   scrap
  or
   bale
and when the cotton
was all gone

grandma
went on
to clean white folks nasty ass houses
cook their funny tasting food
and wiped their children snotty noses
even when it meant seeing her own
go without
saving the little left over
after she finished feeding
the family
dogs
and
cats
all of this just to pay the bills

“but mable”
said the man from city government
his sweaty face flushed from the heat
and frustration of dealing with a stubborn
old nigger woman who refused to be moved
from her place
the righteous space that she bought and paid for
with her blood, sweat, tears and years of thankless toil
“the city really needs this land, see
they got something called eminent domain
they can take your house anytime they want to
and ain’t nothin’ you can do about it….
absolutely nothing
now mable if you just make an X right here
I promise I’ll get you a fair price
I promise”
but what of the sentimental value
what price will the city pay
to erase the memories of living
in what was once her house
what amount will soothe her aching soul
whenever her heart longs to go back home
and what amount will wipe away
the pain of being
raped repeatedly by a system that has
no justice for an old black woman whose
soul nurtured the very boy
whom they sent to steal her land
the same way his father stole
the sanctity of her virgin black body over 40 yrs. ago
now the boy is a low-level city employee
sent to rape her of the only thing that she can point to
outside of her battered body and her humanity and say she

truly owned
how could he!
“it’s my job mable
lord knows I hate it
but I gotta do my job”
and then he proceeded to rape her
one more time by
robbing her of the only thing she knew she owned
her home
her sweet and precious home
the thing that sheltered her tired aching body from the
stormy memories of her past
now grandma sits
on the concrete porch
of her government owned apartment complex
fanning her sweaty brow with a fan from
cook’s funeral home
still moaning her special brand of blues
her eyes iced over with age-old cataracts spare her
the agony of seeing her only son’s sixteen yr. old
daughter turn trick for a lick
on the devil’s dick
for the price of a white powdered rock
sold by some sick soul in the street
the son of the man who stole her land
and the grandson
of the man who stole her body
now steal her grand daughter’s dignity
killing her softly
with each lustful stroke

“Jazzy Street Walk” by Charlie Braxton


Hip hitting riffs
Split my brain beyond
The sullen refrain
Trane’s free jazz movement

Going on & on & on & on & on & on

And now
Even though I don’t know exactly
Where it all begins or ends
I do know that I have spent
Decades untold doing an
Old blues walk/dance down
Mean & empty streets
Sweating between the sheets
Of satin dolls & Minnie moochers
Singing good night Irene
Cause poppa’s got a brand new bag
Of rhythm & blues
Rocking & rolling all the way live
Down main st. Harlem
By way of Muddy Spring Mississippi
You see contrary to the all popular belief
Jazz ain’t no kind of music
It’s an artful way of life
Spiced like pickled pig feet
Steaming on a peppermint twist stick
Yeah I say I do walk alone along
These rough rugged robust roads of jazz
The same damn way
I walked the dirty dusty
Rows of cotton way back down
In the deep
           Deep
                     Deep
                              South

You see you don’t know
What it’s like to live
The lyricless life of a poet in exile
Lost without vision
with only the bittersweet rutta begga memories
Of life back home

Home                                             where the heart beats tom tom
                                                        Voodoo chants

Home                                             Where a small pin in the bottom
                                                        Homemade rag doll is a sudden
                                                        Sharp pain in the ass of mass
                                                        jack

Home                                             Where shango’s hammer swings
                                                        Hammer swings like Basie’s
                                                        Big band on a one night stand
                                                        In a funky joint north of
                                                        Gutbucket USA

Yeah I do walk alone
Along these rough rugged robust
Roads of jazz
Praying for ancestors holy wisdom
To close the gaping hole in my soul
Before I expose too much too quick
For these old mean and empty streets
Are too mean to be seen
Without an axe to grind behind
If you dig my meaning

 

“Apocalypse” by Charlie Braxton


across the sandy dry plains
of the wild wild wild west
the thunderous den of
dead buffalo hooves beat out
a desperate warning
to one and all
beware, beware, beware
jesus
is a big mean assed black man
painted smoky grey
and boy is he mad
upset, pissed off
dressed in a camouflage shroud
a three-day beard
and a steel blue jammie
and last seen
kicking asses and
calling names
headed straight for
the second coming

Charlie Braxton, a McComb, Mississippi, native and Jackson State University graduate, is a poet, playwright, and music and culture critic. He has written the plays Blues Man and Artist Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and the critically acclaimed collection of poetry Ascension from the Ashes. Braxton’s works have appeared in the African American Review, the Washington Post, The Black Nation, Catalyst, Crossroads, Candle, Drum Voices Review, CutBank, Minnesota Review, San Fernando Poetry Journal, Eyeball, Sepia Poetry Review, and Black Magnolias Literary Journal. His poems have been anthologized in Word Up: Black Poetry from the Deep South, In the Tradition, Soulfires, Step Into a World, Bum Rush the Page, and Role Call. As a hip-hop scholar, Braxton has written for numerous publications, including The Source, Vibe, Murder Dog, and Doula.

 


 


“Intro” to Women, Revolution, and Tennis Shoes by Skipp Coon


heavenly father please order my steps
im trying to write right songs, but they keep on pushing me left
im on the verge of just saving my breath
cause it looks like now heckler and koch are willing to help
im praying im saved, but heaven will wait
my folk got bit im in the field lord im looking for snakes
and i dont know how much more i can take
between the tears on my cheeks and both my sweaty palms starting to shake
put enough straws on a camel back it will probably break
put enough water in a puddle, you can make it a lake
i cant run, i wont hide, i will stay in one place
please know that the gun aint safe
come push me
see we gon be on the news
you for losing your life and me for losing my cool
i aint a killa but they keep on telling me choose
and i aint marching but they keep on telling me move
king said peace—he got shot
malcolm said fight back—he got dropped
im trying to pen the revolution—i aint built to be pop
i been looking for something better since medgar got got
im in a fight for liberation til my heartbeat stop
until my blood on the concrete and the last shell drop
until the hammer stop moving
and the trigger wont budge
til i see dolly white lights and im coughing up blood
lord i know

“Concrete” by Skipp Coon


Beyond the poverty and pistols where children die for colors and initials
We stack they bodies next to the negligence from them officials
Elected to serve the state and oppress us
So campaign promises they making don’t impress us
The policies they crafting in they offices address us
The drug trade, liquor stores and mothers that caress us
see it in our eyes and they start feeling the pressures
making diamonds and busting pipes in the words that express us
we fed by the junk food and raised in the church
suffer for 353 and live for the 12 firsts
potential in the stroller never realize it before we in the hearse
never miss the sunshine til cell blocks or the dirt
the goods that we purchase give us purpose on the earth
and the deck we playing with is stacked against us at our birth
the pennies that we purchase give us purpose on the earth
and race and class is the isms that combine to make it worse

“Color Complex” by Skipp Coon


Between her hair texture her skin color her videos her big brothers
She don’t think nobody loving her but her grandmother
Her resources is limited so its hard to discover
How to rate beauty that’s not on top of a disc cover
Since she’s not matching it she’s flawed and theyre immaculate
Her beauty’s skin deep but she got acne she aint happy with
She gotta get something to influence her appearance
’Cause she’s tired of backing it up and being an object in the lyrics
They keep bruising her spirit; they breaking her heart
They set her value off the size of her parts
And how does she start to heal knowing all they want is her womb
She prays for mammaries as soon as puberty loom
’Cause if she flat chested and they big breasted
She gets rejected ostracized or just neglected
So now she at this doctor to get Gods errors corrected
’Cause her daddy didn’t stay to see that she was protected

She wanna be / she wanna wake up and be light skinned

Now its fashion beyond her years to get acceptance from her peers
And extra make up that cover up the tracks behind her tears
And its magic ’cause once she give it up they disappear
But even the sex is hustle cause love aint living there
So in between every in out / every moan that she let out
Every car that she get out / every night that she set out
Its nothing but the hurt she tries to reroute
The pain she wants to block out
But cant because we claiming it’s a cop out
But the heartache is real and the heartbreak cant heal
But it’s the inside void the outside cant heal
And that’s the pain that the sex cant kill
But as long as they lusting she ignore it
’Cause at least they give something inside that they cant steal
And for that second of pleasure
She feel like she got a reason to live
So she bed hop it hurts more when she sit still
And pray to God that death his will

She wanna be / she wanna wake up and be light skinned

Skipp Coon is a poet, emcee, Jackson native, and a graduate of Jackson State University. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in history; his thesis focuses on commercialism’s negative impact on hip hop. A co-founder of Tibbit Music, he released the CD Women, Revolution, and Tennis Shoes, a favorite of the Jackson underground-music scene, which has caused him to become one of the most sought-after emcees in the area.

 



“Hea’m (Heaven)” by Keno Davis


Remember that Tupac song “I wonder if heaven gotta ghetto?”
If that were true, would your mama still send you to borrow four slices
of bread from the lady next door?!?

I wonder what do people in Heaven eat since Jesus and ’nem ate the last supper.
Or do they just have breakfast and lunch now with jelly and peanut butter?!

I bet they eat clouds. & that’s why thunder is made ’cause
when they finish they all burp at the same time real loud.

I wonder if God looks & sounds like Morgan Freeman, Oprah, or Denzel.
What if there’s a different God in Heaven for every nationality like:
Chinese, French, & even people from Brazil.

I wonder if black Jesus & white Jesus arm wrestle to see whose turn it
is to answer a prayer...
Or does black Jesus answer black people’s prayers, white Jesus answer white
people’s prayers, and there’s a generic Jesus that answers other races’ prayers.

Man, I wonder what they sell in the mall of Heaven & I damn sho’ hope
it northing like the Metro.
I bet God has every pair of J's. Yes Man... Even the retro.

Is God a virgin? Wait that’s a stupid question... ‘cause we all know
the answer to that…right?!?
& I wonder if there’s a Hooters in Heaven ‘cause I’m gonna need
something to do on Monday nights.

Well I’m off to think about more random things about Heaven,
So I'll see you when I get there... Well, at least I hope there’s a
SEVEN in Heaven…

 

Keno Davis is a Jackson State University graduate and a former college track athlete who has gained notoriety for his wordplay, satire, and controversial themes. He is currently finishing a B.A. in education while enrolled in the student-teaching course at Poindexter Elementary in Jackson.


 

“You Don’t Know Me” by Mariama Gibbs-Guice


I’m the reason you wake up in a cold sweat,
With your heart beating out of your chest,
Wishing you had a stiff drink to get your femininity erect,
Because to have sex with me…
Is like the closest you’ll ever get to knowing what’s in my head.

I’m the reason for THE revolution,
Ties within ties of Masonic restitution,
And you envy me because your ignorance is
none-more than environmental pollution.

You don’t know me

I’ve given birth to not only a beautiful eve,
destined to be queen, who at her early teens
would be half of the woman that you’ve prayed to be
And not because of He who answers all things,
But thee can’t seem to get past adolescence
I’m the spirit that haunts you more than your conscience.
And the reason your relationships are nothing more than
selfish deeds too boost your low self-esteem,
and men aren’t minutely appeased.
See my words can’t even be processed in your dreams.

I’m the reason flowers bloom.
My grace is as undefined as the way nature moves
And my nectar is so sweet,
Bees get angry when I’m removed.

You don’t know me

I’m going to rise and make some star bucks with CREAM but
Cash will never Rule Everything Around Me—class can’t be bought,
But I’m the reason you should stay hidden beneath your degrees

I ish bull backwards, because backwards bulls ish is timeless,
I’m the reason why your heart is aging quicker than your mind is,
Stoned eyed worthless of speaking intelligence,
Hope you find inner eloquence,
To compensate for your lack of tactfulness

I said you don’t know me…

I’m the reason that when you look in your mirror,
your reflection is as distorted as Bush politics,
As crazy as remembering slavery as history’s common sense,
And as dumb as the Europeans claiming that they founded this.
I once had to lose myself to find myself so…

People get lost
I’m done being nice

“Vacancies Available” by Mariama Gibbs-Guice


There are no residents at this address
But once there were two.

Ms. Love Me was here, and she never wanted to live alone,
so every week there were visitors.
Hate was Monday
Sex was Tuesday
Cry was Wednesday
Pain was Thursday
Sex again on Friday then
Saturday and Sunday touch was there.
She couldn’t keep up with them all
so she began to get confused,
verbally abused and sexually misused
she decided to move.

The next resident, I could never forget.
Ms. Marry Thee.
She wasn’t one for much company,
always with that man bundled in pseudo harmony.
They remodeled the place and turned it into sin,
because Mr. Thee became too careless with his friends.
She attempted to paint and buy new furniture for the interior,
thought this would make him stay,
So he continued to give her money
and throw it all in her face.
Mrs. Thee changed dramatically,
size 8 couldn’t fit her waist, so almost 16 it replaced.
Unhappy and unfaithful he was,
nevertheless, separation became the new buzz.

Now this space can be rented again,
and only if one decides that self hate is the new trend.
See, this can be your home.
Love and disparity, not allowing
Jesus to take a seat at his throne.
It will be the beginning of and endless end,
if one doesn’t realize that without Him
you only exist, and will never live.

 


Mariama Gibbs-Guice attended Lanier High School and Jackson State University, where she received the Fannie Lou Hamer Award for Citizenship and Democracy. She is a favorite of the local Jackson open-mic scene because of her ability to express the entire spectrum of what it means to be black and female in Mississippi.

 



“For Chocolate Babies with Glass Hearts” by C. Liegh McInnis


There are shoes and crayons and baby dolls and barrettes and broken
pieces of candy and colored pencils and balled-up pieces of paper
and I wade through the disaster area of Hurricane Deja
my eyes closing, my head throbbing, my mind spinning,
and she is a two foot imp or half of a chocolate angel
who is buried somewhere beneath the destruction of my living room—
her laugh bounding and exploding through the debris, bouncing off
the ceiling and returning to me in waves of carnival music and cotton candy.
Her laugh massages my heart, a building I thought was condemned years ago.

I pick up her artifacts off the floor; I am the appointed garbage man,
but Deja does not like empty floors so the artist that she is—
she paints the empty spaces of the floor with books and more crayons
and beads and sippie cups and baby chairs and blocks and
I follow behind her like the thirteenth disciple waiting on more to fall
to be picked up, and she looks over her shoulder—her eyes
innocent as the first lamb to look upon nature created just for her
and I drown even as I fight against the currents of pleading looks
to allow the floor to remain a comfortable mess as she
is Dora exploring more rooms that need more mess.

And there are other moments when lambs learn of other creatures
that break the covenant and sink their fanged teeth into innocent wool skin
and her back and legs and arms are littered like my floor
littered with spots where someone too lazy to find an ash tray
put out a cigarette on that back, burned holes into caramel silk,
created ashy holes to match the now fossilized scabs on her legs and arms
that litter her body as if it were an abandoned neighborhood with
paper and empty cans and dead roaches and rats and scars that litter her body
as her eyes are the same broken glass that peers back at you
from buildings that once had life are now buildings that stare
into the suburbs waiting for the mercy of a wrecking ball to bowl it over.

And there are round knobs and plastic buttons and levers and
other pieces of games and toys that no longer belong to anything
as my floor becomes a toddler’s junkyard for nude broken crayons
with their wrappings pulled off after being snapped into pieces
and dolls lay like they have stepped on bombs—their limbs scattered,
the head of black Barbie discarded in the corner of the room,
the face facing the wall while the left arm is under the couch,
the hand barely exposing its location while a leg is propped against
stuffed animals with their stuffing snatched from them by Deja
who is merely a sick kitten passing the virus while she seeks
some sweet solace from the killing fields where baby dreams go to die.

When she is with us, I am a drained battery, a flat tire, an empty hooptie;
To chase her around the house is to catch greased chickens on marble floors,
and her moods are a Mississippi spring:
morning sunshine surrendering to evening thunderstorms—tornados are
always just over the levee because wire hangers bruise the heart’s inner skin.
Yet, when she is gone, it is a long and lonely winter of gray depression
as we are suffocated by the thick weighty air of silence,
her laughter sucked into the recesses of a taunting black hole while our hearts
reach for fading flashes of her light against the freezer burn of absence
A Raven’s “never more” joins in haunting harmony with the sobs of Brooks’s “Mother”
and Deja’s return is fresh as the first flower
that pushes its head through the corpse of January grass

I sit in the middle of the disaster area,
wondering where is black Barbie’s other leg
I pull Deja’s limp Raggedy Ann body from the floor and
she is a condemned building collapsing into me—
her four-year old frame never feather light.
Weighted with the wet sand bags of someone else’s neurosis,
she is already a sprinter with worn legs, a running back having been
tackled too many times, a boxer that’s taken too many punches to the head
she looks up at me with her shattered pearls for eyes
and in one swoop I thrust her into the air above my head
and she becomes a bird who is reclaiming her wings.
Up and down I toss her little bean bag body,
and a smile begins to creep across her face like a late sunrise
and by the third toss she forgets the cigarette burns and the scars,
and we are baptized in her laughter as we soar into the sunshine

“Mississippi Courage” by C. Liegh McInnis


Courage is a lighthouse guiding ships to salvation.
Courage is a fire that burns down the dead weeds of racism
that rise to suffocate the voices of liberty.
Courage is an antibiotic that kills the bacteria of hatred.
Courage was the nucleus of the Mississippi Trinity.
Three lamps full of freedom oil
that shined the path to manumission:
an insurance salesman, a sharecropper, and a teacher.
Three instructors of liberation, teaching that
righteous knees only bow before God and that
the children of God have an unyielding, organic duty
to protect the meek like umbrellas shielding us
from the acid showers of colonialism or overcoats
shielding us from the frozen winds of prejudice.
Three bucking broncos, railing against
pale cowboys who lurk in the dark of the night
armed with the silver bullets of white supremacy.
Three lambs of justice who boldly walked into
the snake pit of the South and the lion’s den of America
to take their freedom from Ross “Nebuchadnezzar” Barnett,
Pharaoh Bilbo, and his side-winding, salamandering scribes,
the Jackson Daily News.
The insurance salesman, the sharecropper,
and the teacher bore the cross of change.
They were the fertile soil in which we planted our seeds of hope,
as they petitioned us to invest the collateral of our talents
into the mutual fund of the movement.
That’s why we must be tired of paper-tiger intellectuals
and playboy revolutionaries who care more about their
Cadillac payments than the dilating of ebony education
as they are standing on the backs and trampling
the program of work of Medgar, Fannie Lou, and Ms. Devine.
They midwifed and nurtured the germination of the movement,
which caused a rippling of flowers and trees sprouting through
the winter of racism to the spring of transformation.
Like Shaka they were the pounding tom-tom heart
of a militant movement,
like Jesus they came to heal the sick, and like Mohammed
they laid down the blueprint for their people.
Still everyday people fighting for everyday concerns.
Speaking volumes with their actions,
this trinity shook the fibers of the universe.
Through intellectual guerrilla warfare with the spirit of
Jomo Kenyatta, they showed that
you can’t teach people to stand if you are on your knees,
taking up the sword of justice and the spirit of protest.
Ministers for justice and preachers of the gospel of freedom,
teaching us to be the engine of organizations
rather than be driven or run over by them.
With little possessions, they fought for the disposed,
each one crying 900,000 tears for 900,000 Black citizens
at the mercy of mis-educated teachers and chicken eating preachers,
all the while refusing to fight evil with evil
believing love to be the only antidote for hate.
For what is love if it is not the courage to love yourself.
Courage is love, and no greater love than a man
who would lay down his chivalric cashmere coat of life for another
so that we may walk unblemished over the cesspool of struggle—
his payment to be beaten,
kicked, sprayed, spit on, spied on, lied on, bombed, and tuned out by his own
for a few crumbs of token positions and jus’ enough money
to move ’cross the tracks into the homes that white folks abandoned
to preserve Mississippi tradition.
In the name of emancipation, equality, and liberty
their legendary, lingering legacy demands
that we heed the call to make this cocoon exploded into a Capital city.
So, [i] don’t know if [i]’m going to heaven or hell,
but wherever [i]’m going, [i]’m going for Mississippi.
[i]’m going for Mississippi.

C. Liegh McInnis is an instructor of English at Jackson State University, the publisher and editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal, and the author of seven books, including four collections of poetry, a collection of short fiction (Scripts: Sketches and Tales of Urban Mississippi), and a work of literary criticism (The Lyrics of Prince: A Literary Look at a Creative, Musical Poet, Philosopher, and Storyteller). He has presented papers at national conferences, including the College Language Association and the Neo-Griot Conference, and his work has appeared in Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Sable, New Delta Review, The Black World Today, In Motion Magazine, MultiCultural Review, A Deeper Shade, New Laurel Review, ChickenBones, and The Oxford American. In January 2009, C. Liegh, along with eight other poets, was invited by the NAACP to read poetry in Washington, D.C., at its Inaugural Poetry Reading celebrating the election of President Barack Obama. He has also been invited to colleges and libraries all over the country to read his poetry and fiction and to lecture on various topics, such as creative writing, African-American literature, music, and history. McInnis can be contacted through Psychedelic Literature, 203 Lynn Lane, Clinton, MS 39056, (601) 925-1281, psychedeliclit@bellsouth.net. For more information, please check out his website.

 


“Memo # 13: There Are No Thugs in College” by Scarlette


The administrative board would like to clear up a rumor that has been circulating around campus. Though looks may be deceiving, there are NO THUGS in college!

For everyone who is sick of people claiming their sets from high school
fighting over colors like they invented the hues
bragging about guns and talking noise about who they will pop if they feel offended,
but in the next breath speak extemporaneously about
cellular division
and must PLAN to make it rain in the club ’cause if he DO
he’ll
have to budget the rest of the week and eat Ramen Noodles.
For
everyone sick of dudes threatening professors who give them bad grades and
“threw some D’s on that”
from the refund check they got from Financial Aid
Who
every pair of jeans they own, the bottom’s frayed and dirty
’cause they’re sized 40x36 and dude is 26x30
Believe their cocky and brash attitudes are a display of their supposed power
but don’t realize that, even if they are
Jordan brand
real thugs don’t wear slippers to the shower
rolling round the block and saw this shorty that was cute
but can’t get wit her tonight ’cause he has a study group
sayin’ he push that work, with a 9 and 45 like T I that stay cocked
but
all he REALLY pushing
at work-study
is the
TI-83 calculator in his pocket
THERE ARE NO THUGS IN COLLEGE!

Real thugs deal with hardship on the daily
realize tomorrows a maybe
and don’t have time to watch MTV ’cause
real thugs sell drugs to feed their family
they don’t fear death because they’re living in hell
and most importantly
they don’t go around TELLING everybody they a thug
’cause runnin’ one’s mouth often lands one in jail
they don’t base their worth on their jewel encrusted letters
because REAL THUGS
quit thuggin’
when they find somethin’ better.
So don’t let baggy clothes
and bravado deceive you, keeping it real
whatever they call it
scare you from attending class because
they turned in their thug card when they filled out their FAFSA

I repeat, THERE ARE NO THUGS IN COLLEGE!

“Be Not Our Love: A Sonnet” by Scarlette


Be not our love the green-limbed sapling tree
who gave her buds, unfurled, to early rains
and gave her blossoms’ fragrance to the banes
of spring’s first exhalations. Aft agley!
The frost had yet but respite! So the rime
had chilled quite thoroughly its tender wood.
The fiery light trapped in her crystals could
not warm her soul to save her soul in time.
Thus, by and by, her green limbs turned to beige
and, one by one, her buds fell to the earth.
About her, to the Fates warped sense of mirth,
lay tattered blossoms on her dying stage.

Bid our love courage to stay unadorned
’til come both frostless night and balmy morn.

Scarlette is the founder and former president of the JSU Poetry Club OutSpoken and is currently the coordinator for the 2009 Poetry Slam Series in Jackson. A dynamic poet, she is also a senior music-education major and Presidential Scholar at Jackson State University; a former member of the renowned Jackson State University Marching Band, “The Sonic Boom of the South”; and has performed with several university ensembles, including the Chamber Orchestra’s performance at the 2009 Inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C. Under her leadership, OutSpoken became a model of artistic activism that held readings to raise funds for domestic-abuse centers, an orphanage in Haiti that was destroyed by a hurricane, and for the Lanier High School music department. She also led OutSpoken to coordinate campus and community forums at which poetry was used to introduce panel discussions. She has plans to publish a compilation of her poetry, Scarlette’s Letters, in November 2009. For more information, she can be contacted at PoetryIsMusic@hotmail.com or (614) 937-4091.

 


 


“Love” by Jonathan Thomas


Love is God’s smiling face
A warm wind that can’t be seen
Love is the way a golden retriever
Happily bounds to fetch his owner’s duck
On an stomach that has been barren for a day
Because in order to love
Two juke joint blues notes must become one melodious choir harmony
This sacrificial melody doesn’t require the chord of freedom to be muted
But love makes itself a metronome steady soloist
To provide a psychological bedrock
The lack of understanding this principle
Signifies that one is maturity tank is significantly destitute
Meaning any relationship is destined to stall out on the highway to Selfish
Love isn’t the rose
Love is the manure in which the rose grows
Love isn’t the love song
But the years spent in voice class
In order to hit the legendary note guaranteed
To leave goose bumps in its majestic sonic peacock’s tail wake
Love isn’t found in choosing the perfect wine
To complement the anniversary dinner.
Love is the willingness
To weed, to shovel, and to rake
Through a temperature range that both yetis and cactus would find equally oppressive
No matter the blisters
In order to cultivate
The cluster of red grapes
The entire Napa Valley would disintegrate
in jealousy green hued mini explosions over
Love is not symbolized by the wedding ring’s carats or purity
However it can be witnessed through unadulterated marriage testimonies
Love’s life blood is trust
Love is the Northern Lights in an eternal twilight
An unfading miracle
Love is made of God’s adamantium
It’s easy to be friends
When the lotto ticket hits
A true friend
is still a friend
when you drive their car
when you then wreck that car
then eventually laugh about it together
Love is counterfeited
A four dollar billed printed with kisses and gifts
Necklaces and embraces
Lockets and watches
Make no mistake
Love is more like concrete
Immovably there
For us to witness its presence
To bind all together in the walls of God’s castle throughout generations
God in His Gregory Hines dancing with helium filled taps grace
Put a wisdom that is older than time hence beyond its years here
Put a living copperprint archetype on this earth for us to follow
Love has been in this world,
Fleshed out in a gentle straightforward earthen hue
Love endured emotional and verbal avalanches of barb-wire
Love was the social worker who reconciled the spiritually moribund
Love was the plastic surgeon who regenerated the physically grotesque
Love made free and took death’s keys
Love’s reward was scars and pierced hands
Love died on Cavalry so that all tired horses
Have the opportunity to drink plenty
From the gentle, natural, antibiotic stream called freedom
Only to ascend through life’s spectrum backwards
The length of seventy times seven universes
All the way back to the land of the living in three days
But those who walk on this heavily starched cashmere road of love
Understand that love lives through out the four corners of the earth
Like a Holy Spirited wind that drives our sails to Righteous
No matter where evil has slipped a dirty magnet into our spiritual GPS
Love is always fighting in a dirty hospital robe
to bring warm soup to someone else’s sick soul
But…most importantly
Will you answer the soul cleansing,
Warm whisper that’s quiet,
But yet a deaf man can hear it in a thunder storm, call of Love?
For if you do
Love will be the elephant on which your burdens and sins lay
Love will end your strife and enhance your life in a hell shattering instant
That is the magnificence of Love

“The Deception: Judas’ Seduction and Fall” by Jonathan Thomas


Come here Judas
Let me holler at you
I picked you—the ignorant weed among eleven grape vines—
Because the prophecy to you is a galactic ether
Yet to be discovered by your cerebellum
No you won’t need your Bible
So if you could leave it on the table
Listen I got a proposition
You a hustler right?
And still, Jesus picked you
Peter is a fisherman
And Jesus let Peter keep his boat, dude
So therefore it must be okay to be hustling and serve Jesus on the side
Stop fidgeting you’ll get used to the brimstone trust me
Listen to me, hold on
Let me turn down the hell fire in my biceps
So when I put my arm around you
Your forsaken soul will mistake it for a soothing warmth
Besides if you wrong for this
I’m sure you’ll get forgiveness
Because once saved always saved, right?
Plus Jesus knows your heart
This plan is a guaranteed money maker from the start
Look at the dirty ransacked money bag
Tell me the fact that the Son of God is poor isn’t sad
Even a dishonor worth weeping for
Maybe that’s the real reason Jesus was shedding tears
Since He knew that Lazarus wasn’t really done for.
How many times has Jesus escaped the Pharisees?
What if you started turning Jesus in for the bounty?
If Jesus is who He say He is
You guaranteed thirty pieces of silver every week
Jesus been treating the Pharisees like he worked in Victoria’s Secret
Giving them the slip as if their robes were translucent…
Nevermind, that’s after your suicide…I mean time
Instead envision this
How much more could Jesus do if
You could get Him rich?
He could buy His army
Could even purchase the poor food
Because God forbid
What if Jesus run out of miracles?
So go ahead and use a kiss when you do this
Just to let Jesus know this is just business

A couple of days later

Judas what you crying for?
You got the money
What you mean you didn’t know that they would kill the Savior
Don’t come crying to me
I don’t do forgiveness
I heard the disciples won’t speak to you either
Why don’t you use the money to holler at Mary Magdalene
And let her do what it do for you
Oh…she done changed on you too?!?
Well there’s always that tree
Here’s just enough rope on me
I don’t think Jesus would forgive you
Don’t even wait the three days
Because even if He does come back
He ain’t forgiving you
Don’t you feel so stupid
Plus if He did come back
You the one He mad at
So rather than face Him next week
Just kill yourself
I’m telling you man…this here seems to be the perfect tree
Once God is mad at you there’s nothing else to do
Believe me it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees
That’s my personal testimony

Judas hangs himself

Now it’s time
To play my favorite children’s game
With my lieutenant demons
Come on kids lets form these hellish lines
Look at God cry
Oh Your Holiness, Your Holiness
Send Judas’ soul right over

Jonathan Thomas is a twenty-four-year-old married writer who regularly performs his poetry in Jackson. He has a degree in physics, and he uses his writing “to free minds and to receive peace within mine.” Though he reads at various events, he is a central artist in the Gospoetry scene. His poetry has appeared in Black Magnolias Literary Journal.

 


 


“For Keisha, Ora, and Brittany” by Kanika Welch aka The Poet of Truth


I have seen Small Brown Girls in puffy pigtails
Round tattered home-made bases with tremendous force and speed
Skillfully waiting for the perfect moment to run
Embody both potential and kinetic energy
While playing kick ball with the boys
Cotton soft hair painted by the night
Scruffy and fraying and the ends
As a result of losing their
Tiny / Plastic / Multi-colored barrettes

I have seen Small Brown Girls dance
Punch-a-nella punch-a-nella
Their agile bodies rippling by some unseen cosmic force
That is their laugh
Dashing out into the rain
Only to return to cold
Fragile houses
Sniffling sick and snotty
Yet happier than
Sunday morning’s aroma of hot buttered biscuits
And maple smoked bacon

These Small Brown Girls that I have seen

Silently fading away like analog television sets
With no digital converter box to come and save them
Angry with cold brown eyes
Expanding in all dimensions of
Mind / Body / And thought
Cursing God for this growth
And the inevitable Black curse
Of growing too damn fast
Still pausing to praise the mothers who left them only in death
Black Mamas who do not cease life to die!
They reschedule death
To finish dinner / Hem dresses Kiss wounds

I have stood watching as these Small Brown Girls
Were hemmed up against graffiti adorned concrete walls
And violently searched
Innocence seized from all five pockets
Of their Levi Strauss jeans

Brown girls turning dreadfully gray at small ages
Too much weed
Too much liquor
Too much sex

And no one to read them “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks
And no one to give them Malcolm’s autobiography as their first real book
And no one to tell them they’re beautiful but to never rely solely on their looks
And no one to tell them that if he respects you he’ll wait until you’re ready
And no one to tell them that God sometimes creates storms to show you he can calm them
And no one to tell them about God
And no one to tell them
And no one to tell
And no one

Yes
I have seen
Small
Black
Girls
Swept underneath midnight currents
Comprised of their solid, gold tears
Because when they stared into the mirror’s image
They saw the reflection of a woman
And knew not
Who she was

 

Kanika Welch “Poet of Truth,” a graduate of Alcorn University, is the Jackson Music Awards 2008 and 2009 Poet/Spoken Word Artist of the Year. She has served as a third-grade teacher and tutor of all subjects for students grades K–6. For nearly ten years, she has written and performed poetry throughout the state of Mississippi and is completing her first collection of original work, to the YOU that you are, a compilation of poems and letters exploring the various emotions of relationships. In 2006, she co-founded the Stop for Poetry Campaign at Alcorn State University, a campus-wide initiative offering open forums, workshops, and performance opportunities for students and the first campus organization to join the faculty and staff in artistic efforts. Poet of Truth has presented papers at Delta State University, Jackson State University, and Alcorn State University. She performed at the Mississippi Obama for Change rally and Swing the Vote and has published her poetry in Black Magnolias Literary Journal. Truth can be contacted at (601) 668-9321 and nika27_85@yahoo.com. For more information, please visit her myspace page and website.

 

 



A final thanks to Dora and Candace Brown (owners of Cultural Expressions), Cocky McFly (host/coordinator of the Sunday open-mic night), Big V. (host/coordinator of Gospoetry), and Alexis Spencer-Byers (owner of Koinonia Coffee House) for their efforts to keep poetry alive in the Jackson-Metro area.

 

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