My Dad never mentioned his grandfather from his Dad’s side. It’s like my grandfather just fell onto the face of the planet with no father. Now, my research finds his Dad in a boarding house as a child. Perhaps he was an orphan or he ran away. But my Dad had an immense love and knowledge of his grandmother and her family fight for their native land in Oklahoma. Anyway, my Dad’s father was a musician. He played the trumpet. He frequented around the jazz scene in Kansas City down on 18th and Vine. He was educated. His back up plan was being an English teacher. He served in the Korean War. He fell in love with my grandmother. They married and had two sons. He loved my Dad and his brother. I suppose that is where my Dad learned that seamless love for his grandmother. Then my grandfather didn’t want to be an English teacher. He wanted to be a musician. But all his friends were in Europe playing in bands. He went to the war remember… Then he didn’t love my grandmother anymore. And he didn’t love my Dad or his brother. I remember my grandfather singing to me. He was tall and thin with a gap between his front teeth like me. I remember khaki pants and a black hat. My father remembered the police being called. He remembers slammed doors and black jack beatings. He remembers empty gin bottles and knives. He remembers kidnappings and abandonment. That’s the first chapter.
My Dad stayed away from home. He ate meals at friends homes because my grandfather cooked half raw hamburgers because the doctor said he would die if he continued to drink on an empty stomach. My Dad was teased a lot. He wore third passed down clothing and the same one pair of shoes all year. So he developed a quick wit and quicker right hand punch. And he was a gentleman because his grandmother would have it no other way. And he knew what praying with purpose meant. And his poker face earned him instant street credibility. And he was a fast runner and loyal to the game of fostering respect. He earned the friendship of my uncles and won the heart of my mother. He loved her. He said I came about after them messing around one day after school. They were 16. He got a job at Church’s chicken and bought my mother food home. Then, some say it was an attempted robbery some say it was my father being witty. But, he was shot. And paralyzed. And then he didn’t love my mother anymore and moved to another state away from me. That’s the second chapter.
He started over in a new city. And later told me stories of girlfriends with snakes and winning dance contests in his wheelchair. He had a devoted love to his mother even though she never came back for him when she moved and his father kidnapped him. He sometimes called me. He sometimes visited when he came back to visit Kansas City. That was very weird looking at somebody who had the same eyes and chin and cheekbones and smile. I would turn my head but he would stare at me. My uncles still had a sincere respect for my father. My mother was married now and I had a younger sister and brother. And my dad’s father was still mean to my father. And one day the time ticked and the gun went off. There were no prison accommodations for my father being in a wheelchair so it was self-defense with no trial no nothing. And my father never came back to Kansas City. And 26 years went by. That’s the third chapter.
After everyone had left the room, he told me he was afraid I was going to come in and slap him. He was nervous I was going to curse him out in front of everyone. Because of the 26 years. That never crossed my mind. I wanted to see if we still had the same cheekbones and smile. We did. We also discovered we prefer brown liquor and we’re not embarrassed to curse wherever. Our combined comedic timing kept the conversation easy and flowing. He wanted four things, (1) that I look him in the eye and say I forgive him (2) that I spend the night so we can talk and he can stare at me (3) we keep the television turned on with his favorite video game, “Call of Duty” on the home screen and (4) his hand held bible stay on the hospital tray. I gave him all but #2. I spent the night over my cousin’s house. My father died. That is chapter four.
He was at peace with all he had done in life. He had space in his heart to justify everything and have no regret. He told me stories upon stories that filled 26 years but in none of them did he try and justify why he wasn’t there for me. He simply thought I would be better without all he was carrying. Me forgiving him was his primary goal in January of 2009. Everyone knew my name at his funeral services. People that had gone on my website and bought my books and cd’s wanted my autograph. He was my public relations person in the Midwest and I didn’t even know. He told everyone about me. I was this mystery daughter that he described as a go-getter. They told me 26 years worth of stuff on me. Things that I didn’t even know he knew. That is chapter five.
And all these chapters have a direct impact on my mental health. My emotional capabilities as well. The chapters set the parameters of how much of a risk I’ll take in life. How much I will let one get away with before I respond. That is why this book will be written. So I can demonstrate to others that parents being there or not being there does matter and generational cycles are as real as the sun in the sky. Love and hate can easily be mixed with the same atoms. The proof is my life paralleled with the chapters of my Dad. That is chapter 6.
from the book, “yardwork”
My father died in February. Around the 22nd or so. I purposely misplaced the obituary and forgot the date. It was the year 2008 or 2009. It was such a blur but I know I was living in Atlanta at the time.
He was my biggest fan but I didn’t know. He was consistent with inconsistency. Or maybe it’s “we” were consistent with inconsistency. But usually the child is allowed to blame the parent so I said “he”. We weren’t consistent like the hurricanes that you expect every year. We were more like tornadoes in the south. It can happen but it would be a surprise. Except we never made the news. Not together at least. So that was the weather of our relationship.
I called in December, around the holidays cause that’s what you’re supposed to do. His girlfriend answered and told me he was dying. They had given him a few months to live. He told me he was dying a few years before that, so I kind of didn’t believe her. I can’t remember where he was or why she answered the phone. But then he picked up and said, “hello”.
Continue reading the memories in February
My mother taught me how to make a living.
My father showed me how to create a life to live.
She was deemed responsible.
He was deemed selfish.
… I want to be selfishly responsible from here on out.
Actually, I think they both already left
but still there for the little black boy
with fair skin.
Whose hair and lips tell the world who his daddy is
I hope someone is there to hold her
when her sons eyes go to a place she won’t be able to reach.
a depth she can’t fathom one humanly possible to survive
cause, she’s gonna’ leave the father.
he works sporadically
nothing reminiscent of her father
who bought home the steak and potatoes
he says / it kills his spirit
and she don’t understand that.
call him lazy.
they yell through the walls
she’s gonna’ leave
and live life as a single white woman raising a little black boy
he’ll / only believe the world stares at him
cause he looks exotic for so long
then he’ll feel cornered
and she’ll beat at the walls and tell him he’s free
until she’s blue in the face,
with coruscate eyes
he’ll look at her and tell her
something is killing his spirit
…she just don’t understand that
but she’ll dare not call him lazy or leave his side
so she yell at the walls
I hope someone is there to hold her
when her sons eyes go to a place she won’t be able to reach.
Saturday afternoon truth
told by thick brown hands,
stories of survival and struggle until both
sound like all the names of the black mamas in the neighborhood
Hymns and laughter
imparted in between sections of greased scalps
that smell like coconut or yesterday’s frying oil
Here, little girls get to disappear
feel their mother’s heart beat
as her fingertips massage away her little girl worries
not turning the jump rope fast enough
getting picked last during recess for dodge ball
on the floor between her mother’s legs
the little girl’s father appears in a new light
fresh and foul
like discounted gizzards
she learns why to save
why the pulled out back seat of her grandfather’s Cadillac is a
treasure in the garage
safe Saturday rituals become
sanctified Sunday religion
and all this from sitting in between her mother’s legs
getting her hair
It’s a boy.
That puppy love brought forth a boy, Junior. He was the first child and the first son. He will be a junior.
and there were tears. soft cries of joy.
and Junior was ambitious. he climbed for freedom from his playpen and the security gate / he had his father’s eyes. Junior
and his father’s hefty build. shoulders, a parallel span to the sky.
and speaking of skies, Junior told his father with a trembling voice,
he saw “Satan chasing the angel and the angel running into the face of God”
and his father chuckled until he saw the picture sent from his son’s cellphone. then he believed him /
Continue reading he Howled / no cry (a prose)
Their words inspire internationally. Boldly illustrate the colors of political change and voices options in curing our societal ills. Our fractured diction has been preserved through early works of Sonia Sanchez’s, “We a baddDDD People“. Maya Angelou spoke honestly for being sexually irresponsible as she grew to conquer her mystery as a woman in “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie“. And Ntozake Shange and June Jordan re-defined the writing style known as prose with lengthy poetic pieces. These two could quite easily and possibly be credited for the birth of “performance poetry.” I dare say we unanimously agree that these women join the ranks of men who taught us through their works the tools to envelop a devoted love for our community, children, and self love. Now, as I take on ownership of their continued path, I get lost for direction when it comes to being a selfless artist and balancing a successful relationship simultaneously. They didn’t write that down for me! Is it perhaps because they are all divorced and never remarried themselves? Do they know the answer? So… I wanna’ talk about it…
Why are all my sheroes single?
I have not found the poem or story that tells me how to be a vulnerable artist for a voice of people and then sincerely transform into his confidante and lover. The consistent downfall of my relationships are me not being afforded the space and freedom I need to be an artist. The process is very selfish and my partners understand that only 45% of the time. The other 55% is spent with their conscious or unconscious repeated attempts of trying to get to the root of my creative power. If I can’t practice my art with the space I need, I’m half a person. Which means he’ll only be getting half too, then we’re both unhappy and it ends.
Continue reading Art and Loving a Man
40 Words of Wisdom Every Parent Needs to Give Their Child