P O E T I C --- P A I N T I N G S

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen" -- da Vinci

To write poetry, you must read and, read some more -- Me

Feb 26, 2008


When it's done,

all that's left is what

I've carried.

I'm one of those, over-looked

forgotten browns


when you need me

you find me


maybe at Krogers or,

a State Liquor store buried

at the end of the check-out line

smooth and flat.

My progenitors have been

dead for hundreds of years,

but, I'm still here,

wasteful, wasted

dead as they are,

dead as you.

I'm sure you don't remember me,

or the many times you've unfolded

my creases, stuffed

me with fifths of E & J or cans of 211

then, after I'd carry

them to a back alley,

you'd throw me away.

Times during renaissance

I'd earn respect

from fraternities and sororities

with my colorism tests.

But now, you can find me

under the Canal street bridge tenting

a man in the middle of winter,

or emptied, crumbled,

and plastering myself

against a neighbor's fence.

[my newest poem]

The Tropics of New York by Claude McKay

Claude McKay

Bananas ripe and green, and ginger root

Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,

And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,

Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Sat in the window, bringing memories

of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,

And dewy dawns, and mystical skies

In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grow dim, and I could no more gaze:

A wave of longing through my body swept,

And, hungry for the old, familiar ways

I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

From the Archives of Claude McKay.

[ Personal Note: Claude McKay was a Harlem Renaissance writer. Admired by many of the young black poets of that time, including Langston Hughes. I'm not not crazy about rhyming poetry but, I found this poem to have wonderful metaphors and rhythm. I do understand stand how some of the young black poets of the time admired him. Read more about Claude McKay]

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Feb 24, 2008

Ballad by Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez

forgive me if i laugh
you are so sure of love
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

the rain exploding
in the air is love
the grass excreting her
green wax is love
and stones remembering
past steps is love,
but you. you are too young
for love
and i too old.

once. what does it matter
when or who, i knew
of love.
i fixed my body
under his and went
to sleep in love
all trace of me
was wiped away

forgive me if i smile
young heiress of a naked dreams
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

From Homegirls & Handgrenades by Sonia Sanchez. Copyright 2007

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Feb 22, 2008

Providence by Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey

What's left is footage: the hours before
Camille 1969 -- hurricane
parties, palm trees leaning
in the wind,
fronds blown back,

a woman's hair. Then after:
the vacant lots,
boats washed ashore, a swamp
where graves had been. I recall

how we huddled all night in our small house,
moving between rooms,
emptying pots filled with rain.

The next day, our house --
on its cinderblocks -- seemed to float

in the flooded yard: no foundation

beneath us, nothing I could see
tying us to the land.

In the water, our reflection
trembled, disappeared

when I bent to touch it.

From Native Guard: Poems by Natasha Trethewey. Copyright 2006

Feb 20, 2008

Blues by Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world.
I sleep during the day when I want to,
'til my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot.

I eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.

Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it.

Many days I do not exercise, only consider it,
then rub my curdy belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy.

I use syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go for pages.

And yesterday, for example, I did not work at all!

I got in my car and drove to
factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five
and on Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.

To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job moths in advance.

Work hard and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.

There is no sin but sloth.
Burn to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up dead.

In sleep I am looking for poems
in the shape of open V's
of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.

From Body of Life by Elizabeth Alexander, pulbished by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright 1996 by Elizabeth Alexander.

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Feb 18, 2008

wishes for sons by Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.

i wish them a strange town

and the last tampon.

I wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early

and wearing a white skirt.

i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes

and clots like you

wouldn't believe. let the

flashes come when they

meet someone special.

let the clots come

when they want to.

let them think they have accepted

arrogance in the universe,

then bring them to gynecologists

not unlike themselves.

Copyright ©1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted from Quilting: Poems 1987-1990

Lady Day [My tribute to Billie Holiday]

(Billie Holiday 1915-1959)

Momma was thirteen
when I passed through
the delta of her thighs

tho' I never played
with baby dolls -- I sho'
could crank sad
melodic sighs.

My songs mourned
strange fruits hang'n
from south'n trees,

they pleaded
that smack take
his damn hands off me.

me, Ella and Sarah
we'd shine, shine, shine
I wuz melancholy's silk
in twelve bar time.

My name's Lady Day
tho' some called me Bill

if I wuz with y'all

blue, so blue
ma blues be'd

-- still.

Feb 16, 2008

Still I Rise by Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.

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Feb 15, 2008

Quilts by Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni

(for Sally Sellers)

Like a fading piece of cloth

I am a failure

No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter

My seams are frayed my hems falling my strength no longer able

To hold the hot and cold

I wish for those first days

When just woven I could keep water

From seeping through

Repelled stains with the tightness of my weave

Dazzled the sunlight with my


I grow old though pleased with my memories

The tasks I can no longer complete

Are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past

I offer no apology only

this plea:

When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end

Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt

That might keep some child warm

And some old person with no one else to talk to

Will hear my whispers

And cuddle


Feb 13, 2008

Can You, Dear Laureate

What would you think,
Mr. Laureate, if you were reading
this over my shoulder,
capturing each word
as I typed.

Would you sigh to yourself
in exasperation, and mumble
in profane versified disgust.

Would you throw your arms
into a tree stance and grimace

toward the god of poetry
explaining to him
why this writer couldn't possibly
scribble a masterpiece --

none like
Collins, who can ask a reader
to water ski the surface of a poem

or Angelou who somehow
manages to rise from poetic dust.

Would you understand,
that sometimes my muse is bronzed,

a frozen Rodin's Thinker
and that this petrification

has me hunched in this chair
waiting for words to stop
by in pigeon droppings.

Can you, dear laureate,
understand that sometimes,
my measured meters

of emotion are lopsided
antique pillows,

packed with shreds of simile stuffing
sewn together with cliched thread.

Would you agree --

[that, my window watching the world
go by

brooks that talk to much

or homage to canicule's
sweet magnolia scents

are repetitive]

-- with my goldfish
(yes, I have one too, you know)

as he rounds and rounds
his bowl,

silently watching me
from across the room,
with his hypnotic stare

would you too, [then] quietly
why, why, why.