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Poem: First Lines

first lines never cares what time it is
they nudge their cold noses against my ear, wanting to go for walks in the briskest part of the a.m.
they don’t care that I just went to sleep
that I’m lazy
that I no longer take to the habit of keeping journals by the bed for this very moment
that I want to shoo them away
but I’m too afraid of losing one
so I drag my right hand from under the covers
grab the pen that has long since riddled my bedspread with ink blots
and let the poem do its business
so we can both head back to sleep

some days I want to quit
afraid that the words I write or maybe even my own life just will never be good enough
but thankfully words don’t give up
they are ants, crawling in a line
sending out one at a time to scout out the territory
I mean they bring reinforcements
long lines of stanzas tracing the trail from floorboards, down the doorjamb, surrounding the perimeter of my walls
will not be stomped out or stopped until they find the sweet thing they’ve been searching for

so despite the decline of printing presses
or the fact that magazines, books, and newspapers are becoming an endangered species
or that words have historically been misused and taken advantage of
they will never grow extinct
will not be rationed or relegated to government assistance
words know no economic crisis
their stimulus plan
can be found in my grandmother’s scrabble tiles
searching for triple word score
or in the hands of a little colored girl
clutching the spine of for colored girls
hoping to find the backbone to be herself
in a world that would encourage her to be anything but

so as long as God is still speaking
as long as the story must be told
as long as the words hidden in your heart will always show up on your tongue
as long as a whisper still has the power to send the hairs on the back of your neck to rise in standing ovation
words will survive

they are really just like the rest of us
searching for a place called home
with strong arms and a warm heart to hold them
hoping for someone to take them in and accept them in their present tense
for someone to believe in them, that they can be something

which is why at the end of a long day of living
and an even longer list of things to do
I leave my worries outside this room
lay next to these words and wrap my arms around them until I can feel them breathing
and sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night just to share each other’s secrets
and after we both fall asleep
the pen slips from my fingers and leaves its mark on the page



To My Future Son: With Thoughts of Ferguson

You have yet to be born
You have yet to be conceived
But I see you in my dreams
And I dream of the man you will be
And I pray that God would help me to prepare you for this world
Even though I sometimes worry this world is not prepared for you

You are the seed of your mommy and daddy’s hopes and dreams
Irish, African, Scottish, Southern, American
You will be the best remix we will ever help to create
I want you to know your roots
That you come from hardworking people
That you are a descendant of slave and free
I want to play for you the songs of your people
Made on porches and hills
In villages and in cities
In the songs of the free
And the blues of the oppressed
I want you to always find yourself

Your skin
Will be a mix of daddy’s freckles
A tinge of red hair
The rich hue of soil
Sweetened by sun
My son
You will be a symphony of skin tones
A roux of all the generational colors and shades that helped create you

Your hair will curl at the slightest humidity or rain
Will bend and twirl
Constantly searching for beats for minute and electric frequency
Your wide shoulders and chest
Will carry the load God gives you to bear
While helping you to surrender that load to the One who has already carried it all

Your hands are meant for pianos, for saxophones
For carpentry, for artistry
For sketching the architecture and design that comes to your mind
For handling scalpel and needle to fix heart and brain
For lifting praise, for counting the days
For drawing the line
For knowing when to stand up and fight

When it’s time
I want to prepare you
For walking out of our door
Into a world that may see your brown skin and fear it
Misunderstand it
Demand it be subdued

I want you to walk tall, with your shoulders back as your grandma taught me to
But because I love you
I will tell you sad truths
Everyone will not love your brown skin as much as you do
There have been many men and women before you
Who lost their lives for having the same brown skin you do

My son
I will not teach you to walk in fear
To judge anyone by their color of skin or the money they make
Only by their character and the respect they choose to give or take
I will pray for you every night
And think of the mothers of Oscar, Sean, Amadou, Trayvon, Emmett, Michael
And so many more
Who’s hope for what would have been their son’s future now lies in you

And I will hug you
And kiss you
Even if it embarrasses you
For all the mama’s kisses missed
For all the things these sons didn’t live to experience

My son, every life matters
Their lives mattered
Your life matters too
I love you,
Your future mommy