Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Sea

Monstrous, rolling waves engulf the shore as if God himself were sailing in
The winds that carried them in seemed to fill every pore of my skin
The deceitful song of the water’s advance, a melodious lullaby
Seasoned riders knew of the lies of lullabies
Instinct signals most to flee
But that I lost in some other sea
Growing scent of adrenaline’s aroma
Sends me drifting into a salty comma
Lionous airs fill my lungs
Cool morning dew travels over my tongue
Shades of blues fade to foamy whites
Bracing myself for my favorite fight
Grind my feet into the sands
To ready a warrior’s stance
I am Poseidon
Gripping his trident
And while instinct signals others to flee
I ready myself to cut through the sea

Away in the Woods

A broad hipped, stolid, feminine frame gripped the freshly cleaned wooden threshold
The striking scent of the wood cleaner permeated throughout the room
Signaling the arrival of Saturday morning
But Friday night still loomed on his breath
She steadied her weight onto one knee
And used the beam to gain her balance
Improperly named Opal
He aint find her all that precious
I would have called her Phoenix
Routinely gathering her bearings from the ashes of his late nights and early mornings
And he loved her
Built this house just for them down that narrow, winding dirt road
That cut through the trees, pass the coy pond on the land his daddy left him
Their own little haven of matrimony in the woods
Two hours from her closest relative and three from his
To spend late nights counting the stars on their backs on a palette in the yard
And for her to sharpen her green thumb in the gardens that surrounded
And for him to commence projects that never get finished
No noisy neighbors to disrupt serenity
No nosey neighbors to interrupt his spells
For him to let her know when he is finished
For her to wrap her own broken thumps
Spend frightful nights counting the scars on her back
Two hours from the rescue of relatives
Her own little penitentiary in the woods
Through the trees, pass the coy pond on the land his daddy left him
Down that narrow, winding dirt road
He built this house just for them

A Final Drunken Kiss

Smoky skies signal ensuing rains. I’m not sure that if it was intuition or just realistic calculations. But I knew this day was looming. Mama knew she could not manage all this by herself. She never worked a full day in her life that my memory recalls. Maybe you can count all the times Tee Tee Step had to work the night shift and paid Mama to keep my cousin Jennifer. But it seemed more like Mama’s place to do so. She was going to be here keeping house anyway while daddy was out working, or whatever it was he did when he breezed out the door on those many early mornings. Me and Brian use to make candy wagers. Whoever came closest to Daddy’s arrival time without going over wins. Most times we both lost. We were under the false belief that daddies came home every night right before dinner. That’s how it happened on TV. Well, I guess those were white, middle class television families. We were far from that. But, somehow they maintained. Well, somehow Mama was able to keep this place afloat with the bare minimums Daddy provided. Even now, I am not exactly sure how Daddy earned money. But, he made it a point to keep Mama from working. She often times found herself sneaking around town baking cakes and cleaning houses for those people who live in the big houses way past downtown. There was no real need to sneak. Daddy left for days and weeks at a time. She never said it, but I’m almost positive that cakes and cleaning were the only reasons me and my brother had any concept of Christmas or Birthdays. I still don’t quite get it. It seemed the longer Daddy was gone the less money he had. As much as his presence altered her serenity, she seemed most relieved when he came home at night after a days work. This was when he contributed most, financially anyway.

I realized something was different about this departure. Mama did too. Daddy came into our rooms while we were still sleeping and kissed our foreheads, the aroma of fermented liquids lingered in the room a while after his departure. I woke just long enough to see Mama stare Daddy straight in the eyes for what seemed like eternity. Daddy couldn’t return the glare. He preferred the ambiance of the wall as opposed to the woman whose silent stare was stripping him of every ounce of manhood he so desperately cleaved to. Mama didn’t speak a word and said so much. I rolled over and tucked myself deep under the covers. He will be back.

Days turned to weeks and weeks to a month. The first time I asked Mama when she thought my Daddy would be home was the first time I heard her drop the f-bomb. “I don’t give a fuck when he decides to come back here,” she said while washing dishes with a furiousness I had never witnessed. She paused for a second. Turned as if she wanted to look at me to apologize and recanted with, “Baby I don’t know when he will be back. But, we will be just fine,” she assured me.

From the Heart of a Babe

When people ask me why I desire to teach, I usually counter with a quick practiced response saying, "I like to see those light bulbs sparkle in the minds of children." If you have never seen the face of a child light up when they have finally mastered a tedious concept, then you have not lived a fulfilled life. I discovered a passion for enhancing the enlightenment of others while tutoring at my church. I will never forget that thin framed, ebony young man who ignited a fire for education I never knew I possessed. Jacob was maybe ten or eleven when I was active in Mount Hebron's tutoring program. Oddly enough, I vividly remember the pure white hue of the whites of his bold brown eyes. Eyes unmarred by social, economic and chemical ills that plague the masses of the young men just a few years his senior. Unlike the whites of my eyes that had seen the beginning brunt of life’s harsh truth. Truths I did not have ample opportunity to digest because they are also accompanied by restlessness. Young Jacob still possessed that joyful innocence that the world prematurely strips from our youth.

He was a child I would love to create from my own loins. Unscarred, flawless, ebony skinned, adolescent brother caring limbs to which he had not yet grown accustomed. His face housed big, almost excessively dramatic, brown eyes that pierced my soul. Large pearly white teeth, which he was just catching up with, mastered a smile that seemed to radiate through my very being. He was full of life. But, I saw all that fade when his mother or her significant other came to pick him up. I could never make out whether that was his father or not. It felt as if his aura had been snatched up and bottled, only to be released outside the presence of his household.

Our time together was always tedious to say the least. He was more interested in wrestling, cartoons and computer games than homework. It was obvious that he needed a little more practice and repetition than I did at that age. He did not grasp concepts as quickly as I might have; a quality I have always taken for granted. Not a slow individual by any stretch of the imagination, but he was easily and heavily distracted by the smallest un-conducive things. This was amplified by the fact that the tutoring program was held in a computer lab with several other kids scrapping for the time of only two or three tutors. Although unfounded, I concluded that he had to exude all of him before his mother arrived for pick up. This meant he had to have all the fun he could in a small window. Least common denominators are not exactly pillars of excitement. So I had to work diligently to maintain his full attention.

Through all of that I was able to breakthrough his youthful quirks and hold successful tutoring sessions. However, he was doing more tutoring, teaching, and revelation revealing than he knew he was even capable of performing. It did not take long before I witnessed that first light bulb. His eyes widened and even his dark cheeks seemed to blush with excitement as he quietly yelled, “I think I got it!” He looked over at me and I wanted to counter with, “I think I got something too!” What I had gotten I could not explain. It was radiating warmth in a frigid place. I was piecing together parts of a blank puzzle. It was the catharsis of uncertain emotions. Boy, what the hell did you just do to me? This uncertain feeling was something I wanted all the time. I could not allow it to escape me. So I went back weekly to those Tuesday tutoring sessions, in that crowded computer lab, on the upper level of my church to search out that feeling. I had not yet discovered that I was actually searching out self. So on the second level of Mount Hebron Church Ministries, in that crowded computer lab, on a random Tuesday evening, in the Fall of 2006, I found my passion for education.

I wonder where Jacob is now four years later. His voice is likely deeper. The appearance of peach fuzz is probably driving him and some lil’ pissy tale girl wild. I wonder if he continued our routine of repetition. I wonder if he has grown too old to run up to me after eleven o’clock service to give me that bright eyed, brief run down of his presently most pressing academic issue. I wonder how he interpreted the world. Did he let it get to him? Or, did he get to it. Did I teach him anything he really needed? How many temptations can you ward off with least common denominators? He probably has no idea what he has done for me. I have to make sure I let him know.