Category Archives: break family traditions

the duality of it all

her name is Coco. she was the brave one when I was petrified to walk in front of the class to speak. she was the one who dreamed me through tough times. she has impeccable comedic timing! she loves bright colors and big hair. she is my muse.

seriously, my mother recalls me talking to her and referring to myself as Coco as early as three years old. I haven’t referred her as a part of me in years but, she remains. bringing out the courageous part of me that is an artist. the place in me that remains timeless. oh, the duality of being an artist…

the other day I was thinking if it is truly more liberating to be an artist in Europe. a country where artistry is not thought of as strictly entertainment but linked to the perseverance of their culture. no doubt, this is imitated from the antiquity of Africa where artistry was connected to the seven sciences. there, a writer (djali/griot/scribe) was one of the noblest jobs one could have in ancient times! so important that if the documentation was not accurate, it could mean death to that writer. from what I have heard, artists in Europe get compensated well. what brought those thoughts about were my life long struggles with balancing out my “regular” life and my “artistic” life.

the duality of it all. when I’m on A-Game 100%, the performance art (and product, i.e. books,) pay the bills. when I do something like, let’s say… rest, I have to get that speaking engagement booked with a quickness to rid the urge to dip into the savings account. I have to balance my performance art with education. I yearn for the solace of one. for my two worlds to become one.

as the years go by, I want to turn in my juggler hat. I’m losing the patience of being careful and I just want to have the gig of writer/performer. I suppose what Coco has allowed me to do is always have a safe plan b. say what you want but… that trait ends with me. no safe plans for my nieces! no plan b! go with your heart and MAKE PLAN “A” WORK!

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One Day White Woman

As clear and high standing

as that evening table chandelier

be that woman’s candle of insecurities if she be

pssssttt at again / or danced about to a funky beat

And then this woman / who agreed it would be ok to die quickly

if she could be beautiful for just 10 years

no vegan / no fast

keeping everything out help her skin stick to her bones at last

caged inside foul swallowed down upchoke

she dare not speak out in skin cancer’s name

cause she don’t like her skin tone either

but she agreed it was okay to die quickly if she could be

beautiful for just / 10 years.

Even though I love my mama to re-birth and heavens

some love the white woman enough to vacuum out the fats that God gave

to protect the baby in the womb and the hips to carry them bye bye.

But we continue to eye each other down

cause you’re sick and tired of me and my sister girl walk / like

I’m sick and tired of you and your valley girl talk

now / we begin to eye down Asians and Latinas but quickly dismiss them from the game

cause this war be ours / black woman against white woman

you love the way I look  / I love the way you look

so who said we had to hate eachother?

you love me thick lips / like I love your thin waist

so you shape your new breasts to be as perky as mine

and I straighten my hair like yours time after time

…. if we love each other so much

maybe one day /

I’ll love me enough to help you teach men and the world that you are a

beautiful white woman / short legs, long torso, flat ass, thin lips, thin hair

beautiful /        beautiful.

and maybe one day you’ll love you enough

to help me teach men and the world that I am a

beautiful black woman / long legs, short torso, fat ass, thick lips, thick hair

maybe one day / white woman.

excerpt from One Day White Woman copyright 2005 Nikki Skies

Kenny the Leo

my hand ached.  my right hand gripped the pen with mission.  I had to write down everything he was telling me.  can’t miss a single adjective because I had not been there and he would not be here.      /soon

jake or jacque?  what tribe in Oklahoma?  who is still there?  do we have land?  where is your mother buried?

‘nik, memorize the smells and sounds’,    ok… slight hint of ben gay is embedded on his heating blanket, his body reeks of medicine excreting from every pore, … I smell water…

his face / his face, looks so worried when the doctors enter the room.  his eyebrows raise with storyline spaces for someone to hear him until the end.  he wants his bible near by and his playstation on the television screen.  (some army game, the name escapes me right not)  still so tender towards me, he entertains everything except my conversations of him barbecuing in the summertime.  he never says it from his mouth, but his eyes tell me / beg me… accept he is leaving soon.

so I write the secrets he kept even from his brothers.  I write about the alcoholism.  I write about the child abuse.  I write about the abandonment.  I write about his mother’s beating with a black jack.  I write about the robbery.   I write about the players ball.  I write about the love he never lost for my mother.  I write about his fears of being a father to me.

notepadandpen

I write about his girlfriend with the snake.  I write about Tall Mike.  I write about his grandmother’s pet ducks.  I write he never speaks of his father.  I write he never speaks of the shooting.  I write about the look in his eyes when I finally mention his father’s name, Big Kenny.  I write about him overcoming paralysis and living a life he loved.  I write about his voice cracking when he mentions how often he thought of me.  I write the definition of dead beat dad.  I write it doesn’t fit him.  I write he was afraid I would be mad at him.  I write how proud he was of my books and poetry cd.  I wrote until after his funeral… then stopped.  and cried.

my dad was true to his word and true to his heart.  viewed selfish by some but he passed with no fear or regrets.  he has given me a great story.  he has given me beautiful cheek bones.  he has given me a golden smile. he has given me an example to live true to my heart.  Kenny the Leo.

The best of my Mom, I am taking with Me

She is a first generation city girl. The advantage is she is the beginning. The disadvantage is she is the beginning. No one ahead to show her how to make a sharp turn left or that stop ahead doesn’t necessarily mean to quit. This is the personal genius she created from Mounds City, Arkansas to Kansas City, Mo. The mistakes she hides behind stones in the garden. The best of my mom I am taking with me. Indeed, all of her.

There are parts about her that are silently me and other parts I defy loudly. I am her history and sense of being. We both long to feel we “belong”. She is avid in knowing the parents of her parents parents and when and how and why. I love history. I have always been intrigued with before, the first and alpha. She is an artist. She is a writer and singer. Characters and voices move about in her head. She can differentiate them into various connotations and dictions. She is the inner shell, poked and laughed at. Mocked at for “thinking” she could be a singer. However, she is my outer shell. Protected me from these family discussions that killed dreams and independent thinking.

She signed me up with free modeling lessons at the community center. She helped me with my lines for the black history shows in elementary. She went outside her budget and bought me stickers to visualize my second grade poetry book. She allowed me to pretend and be “Coco” when I needed to escape my reality.

I defy her silence. For never speaking out just keeping me away. Keeping me separate from courage or confrontation. Keeping me safe but not protected.

I am her fear of not trying again. I am her fear of “once burned” so don’t do it again. I live her fears because I was taught to follow someone’s example, literally. I live her fears because I was taught how to live religiously not religiously live. And I was taught how to cope and cover pain and carry brick buildings on my back. At 20 years old I vowed to “not be like her.” Now 20 years after 20 years old, I would be an insane person to not embrace all of what she is… for her to be whole. For her to know I love all of who she is.

With three nieces looking to me and two nephews listening to me, I pray I give them the tools to accept my duality and love me 20 years from now. Love me through my contradiction. Love me past my fears. I pray they continue to break shoddy family traditions, take the best of me and grow themselves closer to God.

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