January 25, 1950 – September 28, 2016
January 25, 1950 – September 28, 2016
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
The more I actualize myself the more comfortable I become with looking at everyday me in the mirror,
the spots in the corners of my eyes
the ends of my mouth are starting to curl down
the relaxed skin on my hands and arms
and I undoubtedly know there is no safe place for me to hide from myself
the pockets are too snug against my spreaded thighs
and this well read mind and worldly tongue
will always offend whispers and stares
the idea the African saw through the cracked wood of
the Henrietta Marie
the seed of new woman
the ecstasy in the fire
the gospel after poetry venues
praised on sidewalks and parking lots
you are now a prophet amongst preachers
burdened with the beauty of the entire rose
pick the thorns or keep them
just stay in tact / you came prickly and prissy
with a rampant river under your feet
your commitment will be constantly tested
through people using revolution to work out personal problems
they’ll say you don’t fit the role / don’t look natural / ain’t ready to fight
you’re not committed to the destruction of the system
and they’re right
because you are a Creator / never forget that
You are a Creator
and you destroy the idea of death in order to live.
from the book, “Pocket Honey, Wind and Hips” – nikki skies
Somebody had to do it. And somebody had to re-member. I was there. And it’s not that I want to be given some glory or plaque. I just want artists to know that it wasn’t 1961 when the Los Angeles poetry scene displayed this disproportionately approach to female poets. And now it is so natural for females to get features and travel but not too long ago we were blatantly denied this. And Jaha, Bridget, Rachel and I really changed the perception of when female poets should be allowed to eat.
Did we pave the way? Call it whatever feels good to you. But I know I was there when humiliation and doubt was given to us from our male peers. I was there when the men performers would get paid a different amount than us at the very same show. I was there when our male peers thought the best position for any of us would be next to them in a relationship and when he was denied he campaigned a “she’s gay” rally to save his reputation.
I saw Roni take poetry to the Hollywood comedy clubs.
I saw Sandra, Alice the Poet and MstMuze operate the longest running all female poetry venue in Los Angeles to date.
I saw Deana produce/host sold out poetry shows inside restaurants on Sunset Blvd.
And all I’m saying is, this happened after she/we shared stories and almost cried because we thought we were alone in feeling so indigent for expression. Some days I feel like a skyscraper in the Los Angeles poetry scene. Standing bold, cold and razor sharp with the moods of mother nature, not being erased from the series anytime soon. My love for Jaha, Rachel and Bridget is beyond an ordinary means of measurement. We were there, when it felt like 1961.
I feel part of the smaller story. I feel part of the larger story. Skyscrapers are like small cities with thousands of people that live and work there. Their foundations and superstructures provide different appearances. These tall buildings are seen as symbols of power and greatness. They are improved in live time to stand the test of weather and the moods of mother nature. Yes, some days I feel like a skyscraper… especially when I began spoken word in Los Angeles.
It was clearly the congregated movement of griots and sages before us that declared the time again. Only the shadowless and their corners really thought “they started something new” or “took it to the next level”. Only time would be able to determine those thoughts just as the medu netter has spoken for centuries in the pyramids. Only time, still will reveal that.
One would have thought the time was 1961 and women were still only allowed to be house attendants. When in fact it was 2001. Writing and performing poetry was not new to me. I was shocked that it was being critiqued and shared in seemingly ‘non art environments’. Coffee shops, lobbies of recreational centers, after hours at businesses and theatres in need of publicity. The art form was taking on a new timeframe and would need new walls to hold it’s voice.
In an already big city. A city with the most highly structured designed skyscrapers, one would think she could just pick up where June Jordan left off. Just take the notebook from Gwendolyn Brooks and turn the page. But it wasn’t like that for Jaha Zainabu, Bridget Gray and Rachel Kann, my “come up” crew. None of us were novices to the arts. Together we were decades of stories, poems, lectures, theatre and visual art. Together we split the city and nestled our art amongst those who neighbored our homes. We supported our venues week after week and then by bequest, politics were engaged in our arts but this time the agenda was to undermine. From history our community arts had a focus of meeting weekly to “build and feed each other”. These new politics were of division because all of us would not be able to eat. In fact, it happened so fast we weren’t even able to decide on our seasonings! And many owned microwaves and had never lit a stove or practiced patience with a crock pot. But she/we stood there.
One would have thought it was 1961 they way we were over looked to perform feature poetry shows. One of us was even told, “women can’t hold the audience attention to do a feature segment”. And week after week, we went and supported the self served. And we began to see the bending of the art. This was called open mic, to disavow the necessity for us to hold one another accountable. We were allowed to do and say anything and not read or study and some times not even demanded to practice. Our art scene became like loose, dangled dred locs from an unhealthy scalp. Her voice strewn like sidewalk abandoned Christmas trees. With the desperate opportunity for manhood to be demonstrated, she/we were overlooked. It was not 1961.
Now about this, She was given the mic and then cut short by loud music playing in the background to a host dancing behind her begging for a laugh and a few smiles. She wasn’t given the same time limit, as he. And She, was given time on the stage to express her newest and most intimate poetry piece. She was accepted by the audience with warm applause and finger snaps. Capsized with emotion, she stepped away to gather herself only to have the host scold the audience clapping for her by saying, “We don’t do that here”. And then She, was too serious and her voice was too loud. “You should write some love poems”, he declared to her after she received thunderous applause when all night he received scattered rain drops. And then She, was a performer amidst reading writers. And while both are styles of interpretation, it distinguished her natural flame to a fire and cast her away feeling lost and unheard.
And she/we were paid less. And she/we were heard less. And then one night we all talked. And we almost cried. And we all had the same story and we all reaffirmed it wasn’t 1961. And Rachel decided we should do our own. And we did. And we sold out a night club on Hollywood Blvd with an all female poetry feature show. The first of it’s kind during this wave of poetry in Los Angeles. And we ate. And then our four corners of the city saw what we were made of. That temblor thwarting technology that doesn’t fall during earthquakes. That strong wavering skyscraper that houses thousands of people working and living with stories to tell.
(part II tomorrow)
After a delightful conversation with some girlfriends on dating, I have summed up a few tips for men to follow when sending out selfie pics to women they are interested in. If you want to present yourself as a single/available man you may want to:
1. Change the pillow you’re laying on, unless you really like Betty Boop.
2. Remove the flat irons/curling irons from the counter in front of you.
3. Remove the bras and pantyhose hanging over the shower rod behind you.
4. Close the closet door behind you so your girlfriends/wives dresses aren’t showing.
5. Move the family vacation picture taken at Disneyland from the nightstand so it’s not showing.
My mother’s family is from Mound City and Marion, Arkansas so traveling to this area for family reunions was an annual summer event. These rural areas are the outskirts of Memphis, Tenn.
I recently went to Memphis with a woman that I have called friend for the past 29 years, Vanessa. Buddies since junior high school! Between us, we have lived in nine different states! Both of our birthdays are in July and a few years ago we decided to travel to a different city and see what it has to offer. Last year we did Chicago and just this past weekend we met up in Memphis. Now even though I have been to Memphis before, I had never been as an adult and without holding the hands of a younger cousin, etc. Once I got back to Atlanta, I knew I wanted to share photos and write about the city but then I decided I should write about friendship.
So what do we do? We laugh, eat what the locals eat, laugh, talk about our relationships (she’s actually married her high school sweetheart and they’ve been together for the past 25 years!), take a city tour, talk for hours and sleep in. I know the things I told her will stay with her and we will re-visit next year and throughout the year. She knows her ideas and thoughts are safe with me. Friends like this, don’t judge but gently persuade. When she laughs at me I don’t get offended. We don’t support pity parties but encourage each other to look to the light. To get to the point, we trust each other. Trust is what has sustained us all these years.
To all those who have true friends, time can/will get away from you so make the time to nurture those relationships. Of course you hear all these tips for your significant others but don’t take for granted your friendships. They need TLC too. I just traded in the Memphis blues to maintain some Memphis trues!
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
If I could take a moment and tell you how I still hated me after the
nights of building / and black power audio tapes
maybe you’ll understand
why I anchored your blues / and never questioned your intelligence.
Allow me to explain how being fitted your friend
meant cooking link sausages to connect us with nothing more than / flesh&bones
Ascension not attainable to neither one of us who recognized and loved
a good argument
some hot gossip.
My cotton pillow ironically enslaved my thoughts on what could have / should have
been said sorry
I stepped from the ship to walk the land. Girlfriends