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Paper Tiger

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm

My father about two years ago had begun to tell me that I did not how to love. More specific I did not KNOW LOVE. It was in a conversation in which I had initiated by a simple phone call. A ritualistic outreaching that I made occasionally in order to demonstrate possibility by enacting hope towards a relationship with a man who is the only father I have ever had or known. In the months and years preceding this diagnosis of me, most times he did not answer my phone calls, had refused to see me, and returned mail that I had sent him. Reasoning in poetic and philosophical terms as to why he has flavored his rhythmic lifetime neglect of me with seeming disdain. This phone call I had placed to him, was intended to be quiet and smooth, to tell him I love him and hope that the words would find a place within him, stay whole and absorbed. (and in my delusional way to make him love me and treat me as his daughter.)

This comment of me not being able to love was thrust within accusations of my abandoning him, of my simple and impressionable mind, of him declaring soon and imminent death.* This comment poisonous and palatable to a spirit that has been conditioned to accept intimate contempt. The sword of it was precise and stunning. This comment was condemnation that created an amount of ache in me that felt as quiet and colorless as any kind of loneliness. I had not realized that simple words like that could have me convulsing in tears on a long train ride from Harlem to Brooklyn (unable to stay at work that day having to leave, immediately as death).

Being in New York felt like the perfect place to receive such news of the incapacity to love. To be able to cry like an unclaimed child in the acquaintance of strangers was an answer to a lack of comfort I could provide myself. My tears were deep and heaped in lungs that could not fill with air for a deep breath, my face was warmed with the weight of being-ness and shame and consequently I was numb in places that never felt sensation. What I mean by that, is in spaces that were not loved in ways that I (deeply) wanted my father to love me, to an extent that the places disappeared from a lack of acknowledgement, the desire to be known and to be seen in a way that made me feel like I mattered (or maybe even existed, do I exist? Do I disappear if he does not see me? am I here? a ghost, a light a breathe a meaning a name, a seventh child, a black thing, a relation within a context of him?) those spaces found a new depth, a new emptiness to evolve into.

So this story begins in various gardens within me, connecting like stars and seeds and streams and all kinds of natural things. The momentum of nature and growth, neutral of disaster or birth, is here in my heart as I turn thirty and desiring to belong to a specific path, chosen and marked. So spirit has been telling me to return my gaze to a memory, a moment that is really young in me and remembered by me in the vivid taste that childhood is experienced.

I was in my bedroom that I shared with my little sister, knees bent underneath me, angrily and dutifully ripping up my first ever school pictures. When I had received them from my teacher, I had looked at them and had realized I was ugly and therefore needed to destroy them/and/me. Our room had hardwood floors, a big window that faced west and always seemed sensible for jumping out of (for escape or fun or death, all in the same hue) our walls were decorated in crayon, scribbly art of brilliance and freedom, which was already fading. In the ripping and tearing apart of my five year-old miniature two-dimensional selves by my tiny breathing assassin self, I was interrupted by my mother. She walked into the room, and in my memory I am looking at myself from over her shoulder, looking at her look at me, her hair short and African. She is clearly upset and I know I am being naughty but I am unmoveable in clarity of necessariness of action. When she asks me why I am doing that, I tell her sad and disappointed in a fact that I am clear I cannot change, that it is because I am ugly. I also recall at this time that I had begun wearing my mother’s tweed kangol hat to school in order to conceal that my hair was nappy and ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Seeing the word ugly lined up like that side by side gives a sense to how that felt like to me.

My dad laid a boat in full sail within a glass bottle, on an ocean that found a stream to a river that my five year-old self was on the bank of looking among rocks to find one that was smooth and fit-able in my hand and only my hand. The glass bottle was set to sail when I was 28, sometime in September during a staff training when I had a job in Harlem working with black angels who were made of only the finest clay and earth. I was in the garden next to the building of this job, talking to him via cell-phone and desperation. His words as usual were concisely disfiguring.

So as always there is beauty in all kinds of pain, or so I believe and have experienced. Not that the beauty heals the pain or the death, but the pain or the death highlight the dimensions and facets of the beauty. (Thank you, Goddess).

I am on the train like I said crying because I feel confirmed anciently and irreversibly, ugly and un-love-able and now according to the judgement of my father newly minted incapable of being able to know love and a miracle takes shape. It comes and sits at the seat that is directly across from my knees and leans in towards me without facing me and speaks to me. She is a woman who is brown and round and beautiful and smooth. I can tell she is named love. She tells me that she understands me, she understands the feeling, the pain. She seems to understand that it is not from a break-up or a death of a loved one or a loss of a job, the reason is not standard or obvious as to why I am losing all my own-able and sense-able shit on the Brooklyn bound A train, leaving Harlem. She recognizes the tears of ache that are ancient and in constant suppressed eruption. She tells me that she knows that sometimes you just cannot hold it in, sometimes it just has to open up and come out. She tells me that I will be okay. Not good (never that) but okay. I wanted to kiss her on the mouth with my snot and tear saturated face for such a favorable diagnosis of my condition. She was another star, when warmth does not come from your supposed sun, another star.

The end. (the beginning.)

* he is not dying, but old and sick and miserable at life. I can never remember the sayings properly or exactly, but I know this one goes something like the chickens come home to roost, or “you made your bed” or falling on your own sword.


Singin’ My life with Her Words…Ms. Lauryn Hill

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2011 at 6:04 pm

It all begins when you feel like someone gets you, truly understands and accepts you. When someone is not confounded in the witnessing of you. When the nudity of your soul, causes no comments, denials or judgement. this rarely happens with another and sometimes is even missing in the relationship with the self. Like most people I find the unconditionally accepting reflection of myself in music. When I was 11 years old I made this connection with Dizzy Gillespie. He spoke the language of my soul and played his horn into the timid places of my being.  No words, no lyrics, just horn and breathe. and again with Billie. And Nina. And Thelonious. And De La. And Smashing Pumpkins. And then in 1996, when I was 14.

OOOOHHH La La Laaaaa.

It could be cliche, yet no less poignant the way that I felt spoken to directly by her. I felt she found my letters and read. each. one. out. loud. So did everyone that year. The album spread like hot, juicy gossip, “Have you heard about ‘The Score? Have you listened to it yet? Have you got it yet?”  The Fugees second album, instant vintage. On the cover were three brown, pensive faces with Lauryn’s wise and quiet in the middle. Young and serious as hell.

On the night of her first appearance in almost 15 years at the hallowed palace of Minneapolis music, First Avenue, on an exceptionally hawkish January evening, stood hundreds of us to witness her. Ms. Lauryn Hill. That is what our tickets said and all of the posters. The Ms. a small honorific that becomes an awkward formality when referring to a woman that so many of us have spent hours wrapped up in the velvet depths of her voice, the ornate immensity of her metaphors.

The Score and her solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,  two albums that were almost spiritual in their thematic resonance to people of all backgrounds and experience. In the years since these albums that have rocked a generation as well as the world, it appears as though the world of Ms. Lauryn Hill had also been rocked. In ways that many have tried to understand, psychoanalyze, and judge. After becoming a legend and an icon, at the height of it all, she went away. She became a mother to five children. She stayed in her world. The world was curious at first, then not as much. She came back a couple times, transparently conflicted. So at this place we awaited her to see what she wants to share with us this time. I was on the fence as to whether I was going buy a ticket to see her for myself or responsibly pay my overdue  phone bill?

She comes on stage and she is wearing a wool fedora, a sparkling red sweater and a fur vest dwarfing her already existing slightness. I had decided I needed to go and give her love. It seemed like if anything she needed was that. Not a wanting or an expectation to be what she was or what I needed her to be. I had caught wind from reviews from her earlier dates on the tour that she had been hours late and un-apologetic of the fact. I was in an audience of youngsters who have never owned a cassette tape, let alone listened to any of Lauryn’s music on one but were curious and an older crowd who couldn’t wait to be reunited.  But here I was on my tip-toes looking on stage and seeing that she was even more beautiful then I remember.  Is it awe I feel? Yes and giddiness. It has been years. Like seeing your first crush and despite the years and all the life that has passed your stomach flips and is intrigued by the relic of your nostalgia. Here is the woman who told me it was alright to be me, a quirky, nerdy and intense black girl and understand the depth that exists within and beyond that. There she go, right up there only dozens of  feet away from me, my heart skipping beats. I was surprised to feel exactly what I felt 15 years ago when I saw her on the exact same stage, flanked by dudes and retaining a poised rambunctious edge. 

Behind her was a band that was overgrown for the modestly-sized stage. Multiple guitarists, keyboardists, bassists, back-up vocals and a drummer. The bands sound was full and tight and could ride with the depth and heavy of  Lauryn’s voice. The first song she sang was “Forever Loving Jah” by Bob Marley and the crowd began to rock in that involuntrary reggae way. To hear her sing after all of these years was spellbinding. Hearing her live and feeling the texture and emotion of her voice fill the space not only of the room, but inside of my skin.

She went through her set and played songs from the Mis-education of Lauryn Hill, but each one was newly arranged.  This created a subtle distance in that I could not automatically sing along or relate to a song that I had listened to over and over again. The crowd was silent except for applause or shouts. This resulted in a hearing of the songs for the first time after hearing it a hundred times and connecting to the lyrics in ways that I never have.  A hook  would be sped through and a lyric from a verse would be repeated like a chorus, placing new emphasis on the meaning of a song. The listening was transformed. The ad-libbing from the “ex-factor”  “Care for me, care for me, why weren’t you there for me?” became an eerie chanting that felt directed specifically to everyone in the room and to the sky and Jah herself. It was like a gift to get to hear these transformative songs and feel it in that same way I did when I was a teen and feel understood and special and  naked and open and emotional and safe.

She started opening up to the audience. Telling us she loved us, that she missed us. That she was feeling our love, that she was happy we came to see her.  That she would be back. She pointed up into the balcony to acknowledge her partner and father of her five children and her happiness that he came all the way here to surprise her. She then launched into a set of Fugees songs, which just about made me faint. Here she kept it traditional, no re-arranging or re-vising, rhyming her co-Fugees, Wyclef’s and Pras part with the nastiest of prowess. “I get mad frustrated when I rhyme!”  I began to jump and feel free and silly, singing along with every lyric that is permenantly burned in my mind. Then she sang, quietly ominously “strumming my pain with his fingers…”  holding us inside of the promise of a sure and emmininent ectasy.   She left us on her prolific rendition of “Killing me Softly” having had killed us softly, with the hope of a  rebirthing  and reclaiming of ourselves.

By:  junauda petrus



In Uncategorized on January 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

The first time I met the ocean I was 16. My mother had moved my sisters and I from Minnesota to Florida. I was not happy about the move. I had a lot that I felt I was leaving. Friends mostly and I liked my high school. I liked my life. Months prior to the actual move, while we were preparing our home to be sold and I was crying over her moving us so far away, my mother in a very clear and certain voice, looked deep into my eyes, and said “if I do not leave here, I will die.”

In my heart I knew my mother was near some sort of break. I have always been tuned into my mother, I can even smell it when she cries. I was feeling her sadness in my own limbs these days. She is a severe woman, born in Trinidad, her skin is black, and she wears her hair shaved low (like a warrior) and carries a wrist of silver bangles, whose jingling sound we would use to locate her throughout the world. She had four daughters and was raising them in the coldest, most whitest of places. She and our father had moved up there together and divorced when he had my younger brother and sister with a white lady. This broke something deep. She was the center of our world, and her world was crumbling. I was feeling it.

At that time she was working at a hotel as a cook. She would have to be at work by 6 a.m. She would awake at four, make coffee and get herself ready. I remember these mornings in the dead of winter. Minnesota in the winter feels like everything is underground and unmoving. Darkness and stillness. I remember hearing her stir in this unlikely world, I would smell her coffee, hear her bracelets while she bathed. She would then go outside to heat up the car, to prepare it 20 minutes before her actual departure. Eventually she taught me how to turn on the car and it would be my job to heat it up for her. She would then drive to the hotel where she would go into the windowless dungeon of a kitchen and make food for hundreds of hotel guests. She hated it.

When I was fifteen, she visited a friend of hers in Florida to escape and take some time away. Upon returning she announced that my sisters, her and I would be moving there. When a real estate agent showed up shortly thereafter to help her sell our house, I realized she wasn’t talking shit. We were moving. To Florida. Initially she did try to entice us, showing us pictures of the beach and reminding us that we would not have to deal with the snow, but it was pretty clear that we were moving whether she convinced us or not.

It took many months to sell the house, but it was sold. Keys to our home were given to someone else with new dreams. My mother cried uncontrollably as we drove from the house. She had bought it with our father so they could raise their children in it. It was a reminder of something that did not happen the way it was supposed to. She desperately wanted to be rid of it, but was sad anyway. It was done and we were moving to Florida.

I remember I noticed the air first. It was hot, sweet and wet. I had flown down in December, two months after my mother and two younger sisters had come down. I was taking college courses at the university and begged my mom to let me finish the semester and she agreed. The drive from the airport to our new home was lush and alive in comparison to the snow and ice of Minneapolis I had just left. We were renting a condominium with a man-made lake in the back. The condo also had huge windows and tile floors. There were little lizards running around outside and our neighbors had orange, lime, grapefruit and avocado trees.

The next morning I woke up and felt different. I was getting used to the air and brightness of this place, but it did not feel like home yet. I smelled my mother’s coffee and heard her bangles and found her on the back patio looking at the lake. Her still and dark. She did not have to work right away since she had some money from the sale of the house for us to live on for a while. I sat in the chair next to her and was happy to be in her silence. Today she planned for us to go to the beach.

Seeing the ocean for the firs t time to me was like a miracle. A goddess, I felt her presence before I saw her, and when I saw her I knew she was alive. I grew up in the “land of 10,000 lakes” and as a small child I would refer to them individually as the ocean since that was the body of water I often heard my parents discuss. They would correct me and say, no, that is not ocean. Right. The ocean is the ocean and when I stood in front of it, I was shy. She was so beautiful and loud and welcoming, like a long lost Caribbean aunt. She would come close to touch me and then recede back into herself to get a good look at me and then lunge at me to embrace me. She was so clear that when I swam in her I had my eyes open like I did when I swam in lakes. I burned my eyes quickly learning the differences between fresh and salt water. I was 16 and felt like a child having to learn water again, a water that could move and steal you and bring you back and leave you shells as gifts, and keep secrets.

The first month before my mother got a job and I started school, she and I would wake up early and drive to the beach and pick up shells. It was her favorite thing to do. She would pick up shells and analyze and celebrate each one. We had jars and jars of shells at our house that we had collected.

Because I did not have to go to school, I began staying up until 6 a.m. reading library books and writing poems, stories and letters to my friends. In the letters I described Florida as a paradise, where I was becoming spiritually enlightened and more attractive. Where there were dope-ass boys who were cute as well as exotically hailing from Cuba, Peru and Jamaica. I wanted my friends to be jealous and convince myself that this uprooting was benefitting me in some way, too.

Eventually my mother found a job cooking for another hotel and was paid even less and hated it more. I was finally enrolled into Hollywood Hills High School. My sister Oniika had already started classes there and was underwhelmed. She found herself in detention frequently. In those days we both wore skater, grunge clothing, and listened to alternative music. I had also begun wrapping my head like an African Princess of Zamunda. We stood out. We did start to make friends. Oniika was befriended by a lesbian, Goth, white girl who was on the chunky side, and gave her someone to sit by during lunch. I became friends with the nerdy poetry writing kids and a Swiss foreign exchange student, named Barbara. Barbara’s host family was trying to lure their teenage son out of homosexuality by having her live with them for a year. She and him had to share a room and a bed. Fortunately for her he was in fact irreversibly gay and a beautiful friend to her. Life for us there was starting to crystallize. The academics of the school were mediocre, our grades were excellent and we had friends!

On weekends our mom would take us to the beach, to be with the ocean, The Goddess. My mom would grill vegetables and fry chicken and make potato salad and buy orange soda and pack it up. We would drive to the beach and eat the food and lay by the water and pose for pictures and collect shells and look at people and look at cruise ships and tease one another and be too shy to swim and read books quietly and think of Minneapolis and not think of Minneapolis and decide to walk into the water to our ankles and then swim and smile and wait for the sun to set and look at the stars and pack it all up and take it home. The salt and sand following us into the house.

Our dad came to visit us once while we were there. My mother, sisters and I treated him like a king out of habit and customary to our West Indian-ness. I was also able to however make room in my heart to resent him. I was mad that he was being allowed in our Florida world after he betrayed us.

We lived in Florida for less then a year before my mother decided to move us back to Minneapolis. My sisters and I were devastated by this, Florida had become home to us and we did not want to leave it. My mother was starting to feel the pressure of providing for us on child-support and a minimum-wage paycheck. She was with us alone and that was becoming harder. Although she had found the need to leave Minneapolis, it was our home. She had known it longer then Trinidad. She had also started to feel guilty that we did not have anyone but her down there. Not our father, aunts, uncles nobody. She needed them too.

My mother and I have talked about the experience of Florida years later. She shared with me how much hurt she would feel being in a grocery store and see a woman walking around with children fathered by her husband. To have to wake up in darkness work all day and then return in darkness. To her my father seemed free and to be living the life that he wanted. She was dying.

I think initially when we moved back, she felt like a failure. While she got back on her feet looking for work and a place for us to live, she slept on her sister’s and friend’s couches, while we had to live with our father whose house I was literally allergic to. We were back in Minneapolis, homeless and dependent after such a grandiose adventure.

The whole experience had taught me a lot. To know when to escape in order to save yourself, the tender piece of you that belongs to you and only you. It was like an extended vacation where you got to reinvent yourself and be free from outdated pain. My mother got to be a beach-dwelling shell collecting queen for a couple of months. We got to be cool new kids and bask in the sunshine and have our mother’s undivided attention in away we never experienced before. We got to meet the ocean and fall in love.

by junauda petrus

i ain’t going to let you go that easy…

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 7:09 pm

It is the end of the year and I am feeling hopeful. It is December, I am living back home in Minnesota which is having a particularly snowy and cold winter. Yet we have just passed the longest night of the year and the moon eclipsed and heightened the power of the absolute darkness.

The night of the solstice I was in my bed early. I hear a knock on my door. “Junauda, are you awake? There is a lunar eclipse?” It was my sister, Hosana,  who is amused and stirred by very little. In this moment she is excited and remarking on the way the sky’s light is so strange. I notice that the sky is overcast and lavender and thick with clouds promising more snow, but filled with some kind of magical significance. After she leaves my room, I lay back in my bed and start to move through my mind, awake dreaming.

In my heart lingered all of my yammering anxiety.  About money, what I am doing with my life, my desires for me in this lifetime. Am I failing? Am I going to fulfill any of what I want for myself. Am I ridiculous and/or crazy and/or weak-willed and/or repressed? (and a little too fat and raggedily dressed?) Can I follow through on the shit that I say I want to do? (do i ever finish shit? follow through on my ideas? is that what I do? come up with good ideas and let them rot in my journal, in other people’s ears, in the back of mind?) (aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh) (fuck!)

Overwhelmed, I picked up the self-help book laying near my bed and started reading it. This book that has been holding my head up lately. A sweet and gooey read that reminds me to forgive and love myself. Accept myself. Trust myself.


My mind wandered into an idea that I must set my intentions. Speak my heart to the universe. The Moon was in a powerful state. I read that while it eclipses it magnifies its power three-fold. And the vibration felt like it. In my spirit I saw a fertile ground before me, dark and rich.
I am there alone in my lavender, moon-filled room and I start having this conversation with me asking myself, not just what do I want, But what the FUCK do I want? I mean come on Junauda? You afraid to tell me? Who are you hiding from?

It all starts pouring out, these little pieces of me all over the room. all up in the piles of laundry on the floor, in the stack of books everywhere, in the dusty and abandoned alter, in the wine glass with the 3 day-old congealed, crimson libations, my half-written letters and postcards, my journals. I poured my heart out and I realized how grateful I am for my existence. I realize I am ready. Shit. I am ready. My life is beautiful and full and dope and magical. I live a very miraculous and magic existence.

portuguese love


I ain’going to let you go that easy. You got to say you love me too. I ain’t going to let you go that easy, i am about to give it all too you…

My mother visited me in Brooklyn in 2008. It was the only time I have had my mother to myself. I have always had to share her, It felt like that. This was important to me, I got to be with her alone and we were both women. In fact she was staying in my home with me, which felt so GROWN. So one night after being out all day at the Met and drinking wine and walking through Central Park, she asked me if I would put Fire and Desire by Rick James and Teena Marie on her Ipod, a device that she seldom uses or even 100% understands how to use. I step into the other room and shortly I hear a voice that is heavenly in shear passion if not in key and pitch, soaring clumsily towards Teena’s gut-wrenching riffs..”you turned on, you tuuuurrned on, you turrrneeeed on, My fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire!!!!!!!!” I came into the room to see my mother curled up in my futon, head set in ears having a moment with Teena. It was so deep to see my mom, feeling the music like that.

Teena Marie was a genius and her voice invoked so much sweetness and fun and soul. I am glad she was able to share her gift with the planet, my mother and me.

Rest in Power,

Teena Marie.


by junauda petrus

earth blood

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I am spending greater attention to my mother these days. How her breathe feels like when it is flying all over my skin , touching me all over and feeling so good. The smell of her tears, I prepare to go inside my house and go inside myself and be at one with she. Or I am outside and I just let her soak me in the wetness and remind me that this is needed for a healing. Everything becomes still and sacred in her tears.  Yesterday after speeding around the world being me, being her daughter I sat on my stoop and allowed myself to look under her dress and see the perfection of an unwet sea and feel the warmth of divine light emanating from her. I was still and connected and wanted to be picked up by her and rocked just a little. Sometimes I feel like I do not listen to her enough, like I can be so distant and rude. So caught up in my own worlds of what is important, when she is who has loved me so deeply, so accurately.

A couple of weeks ago there was an oil spill off the coast of New Orleans and Texas. They were digging deep under the ocean and pumping oil when, what they had control over, or thought they had control over became out of control and all of this oil, gallons and gallons are pumping into the sea. And man is learning that he is only man and cannot control contort and pimp Mother. All of these methods so that the world can be run on and in her, not WITH her or of her wisdom, her knowledge her love.  I am frustrated that my life is wrapped up in this rape, this stealing of my mother’s blood runs the life I lead.  If you see how her dark deep blood is know involved with the sea and how all of the fish are swimming into its dark stickiness and dying, how the birds while searching for fish wings get saturated and they look like little children abused and betrayed, paralyzed by the dark sticky of a theft from nature.  I wanna see it though. See IT though. How does the ocean and sea look like when integrated with her blood? They say the air is smelling different. They are countless people whose lives have been destroyed by this. All of these fishermen and women are devastated. Seeing a part of them that was here before them and is now being destroyed in a moment, in a pop, in a break underneath the sea, underneath their world.

Thoughts on the King and I

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2010 at 1:12 pm

He was a black man. Struggling for understanding and peace and hope. You see those young brothers on the block the ones that wear their pants in the way you disapprove of, whose eyes you want to look into a little bit longer, whose smiles you want to pour directly onto your skin? The ones that feel like a dream personified and electric, flying and sacred. The ones who are the center of wrapped arms, the receiver of copious kisses and the holders of pain and sadness that no one could release? That Black man that belongs to us? Yes that is Michael. I imagine that he was like any other black man. And he was ours.

Who cares if you are rich and famous? You are still where you are from and who you are never changes. Not that it was blackness that was intended to be over-rided, but maybe so, maybe the heavy. We had to witness our condition as a people through him. Despite his talent, recognition and wealth he was a man who suffered with demons that are endemic of being black and being oppressed. He was a symbol of us in a very true way, and ultimately in ways that were becoming harder to watch and accept.

Here you have a beautiful Black man who is more famous then the Pope, enacting fantasies of whiteness and femininity that were mine as a child.  In our faces mind you, in public. He could not evade it (Damn, even he could not evade it.)  He had the money and the access to do something about the desire inside to not be who he was. While a majority of those who were discontented with our darkness had to stop at blonde-colored weaves and blue-eyed contacts, he could erase all traces of himself right before our eyes. The barter was that we would accept him if he did it on our behalf, did it so we wouldn’t have to. In some ways we got to see the folly in our self-hating beliefs because he enacted it to the extreme. We accepted him too, because through his physical transformations he still offered us his divine self generously through his music and dance. He made his freshness so irresistible to refuse that even when he started to look more like a stranger we accepted it and he fulfilled the fantasy of our own self-hatred.

It is interesting to me how on the media when his life is reviewed it is told with the same amount of distance that all journalistic endeavors are, when he was in fact a member of our family if not the very personification of the collective black psyche. In the retelling of it, you would think his joys and demons were for him alone to claim and not for us to take responsibility for on any level. What did we take from him that he realized could not and would not be returned to him?

I am sure that there was a time of pleasure and joy on his part, but in little spaces, probably somewhere deep inside.  I have been looking at footage of his performances and I am amazed at his ability to be a conduit in a way that seemed transcendent of human capacity. There is a dance clip where he is spinning to the point where he looks like he is creating a cocoon of light around him.  Although this apart of a routine for the entertainment of others, I see a secret there, somewhere. The creation of a world, within that is hidden.


In Uncategorized on September 2, 2010 at 11:40 am


I wrapped my arms around his waist to prepare for the picture. His body felt so bony and fragile and I held him realizing that this man has held my heart up with the heaviness of his voice and has shook me into an essence of myself that had been avoided. We faced into the lense as he spoke and rambled thoughts and observations of the moment, narrating life the way elders do.

When we first stopped him as he was rushing out the building on to the elevator, he was kind and relaxed. You never know what to expect from anyone you meet and he seemed like he was from somewhere where people’s souls stay buried, grounded in the earth they from. They leave but they soul just stay covered a couple inches down in the dirt to remind them where they from and where they will return. Remember.  An example of this is he took off his shades and explained that something had gotten in his eye earlier and to clarify that he was not trying “to be too cool.” That moment was something I take with me in a special kind of way. The weight placed on connection and realness.

I believe him, like he could never lie. Incapable of it. That when you have seen enough and experienced enough and felt enough you cannot lie about life. It all must be revealed. This man feels so deep and real, I do not know him, but to have your deep voice crack and be angry and feel sadness and tell stories and avoid escape and thrust yourself into the scary place that you hold in your heart, where there can be no rescue.  In the heart there can only be acceptance and then flight.

There is this one song of his where he is harmonizing with a group of brothers in a way that makes me understand the optimism of pain. Something about the way their voices all rub against each other’s harmonizing to convey the sharedness of a collective hurt that is the rite of life. It is sad in a way that feels good. Like being in the middle of a downpour and not bracing yourself, just feeling cold, wet and alone.  Yes. It is here that I am. I am here, I do not resist my experience of being of bones flesh and soul. Of being a vibration a truth and a lie to be of the ALL and of the NOTHING. So this song when I listen to it I sip tea and feel the tension between myself and all that is not myself and hold on to my cup and am still.