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32 Days of Love for Detroit:#3

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“To His Coy Mistress in Detroit”
by Michelle Brooks

Some guy in line at CVS starts
babbling about the end times, rapture,
yelling, Do you watch the news?
Do you see how everything is going
to hell? The checkers says, Fool, look
around you. The end times already
come and gone in Detroit and we still
here. I hand her the vodka that I’ve
been clutching as if it might save me,
if from myself if nothing else. End
time, the checker says. I heard that
one before. Men always saying some
shit to get you into bed, and I shake
my head and say, Don’t I know it.

***

32 Days of Love for Detroit:#2

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City Nights
by Naomi Long Madgett

My windows and doors are barred
against the intrusion of thieves.
The neighbors’ dogs howl in pain
at the screech of sirens.
There is nothing you can tell me
about the city
I do not know.

On the front porch it is cool and quiet
after the high-pitched panic passes.
The windows across the street gleam
in the dark.
There is a faint suggestion of moon shadow
above the golden street light.
The grandchildren are upstairs sleeping
and we are happy for their presence.

The conversation comes around to Grampa Henry
thrown into the Detroit River by an Indian woman
seeking to save him from the sinking ship.
(Or was he the one who was the African prince
employed to oversee the chained slave cargo,
preventing their rebellion, and for reward
set free?)
The family will never settle it; somebody lost
the history they had so carefully preserved.

Insurance rates are soaring.
It is not safe to walk the streets at night.
The news reports keep telling us the things
they need to say: The case
is hopeless.

But the front porch is cool and quiet.
The neighbors are dark and warm.
The grandchildren are upstairs dreaming
and we are happy for their presence.

The Bridge Poem

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“The Bridge Poem” by Donna Kate Rushin

I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody

Nobody
Can talk to anybody
Without me Right?

I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the Ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…

Then
I’ve got the explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it
I’m sick of it

I’m sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
Your manhood
Your human-ness

I’m sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long

I’m sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf you your better selves

I am sick
Of having to remind you
To breathe
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self

Forget it
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die

The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
Mediate
My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful (1981)

From This Bridge Called My Back
edited by: Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

Art: Forgotten Journey by Larry Brown

What It Means To Say Sally Hemings By Ashley M. Jones

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What It Means To Say Sally Hemings

Bright Girl Sally
Mulatto Sally
Well Dressed Sally
Sally With the Pretty Hair
Sally With the Irish Cotton Dress
Sally With the Smallpox Vaccine
Sally, Smelling of Clean White Soap
Sally Never Farmed A Day In Her Life
Available Sally
Nursemaid Sally
Sally, Filled with Milk
Sally Gone to Paris with Master’s Daughter
Sally in the Chamber with the President
Sally in the Chamber with the President’s Brother
Illiterate Sally
Capable Sally
Unmarried Sally
Sally, Mother of Madison, Harriet, Beverly, Eston
Sally, Mother of Eston Who Changed His Name
Sally, Mother of Eston Hemings Jefferson
Eston, Who Made Cabinets
Eston, Who Made Music
Eston, Who Moved to Wisconsin
Eston, Whose Children Were Jeffersons
Eston, Who Died A White Man
Grandmother Sally of the White Hemingses
Infamous Sally
Silent Sally
Sally, Kept at Monticello Until Jefferson’s Death
Sally, Whose Children Were Freed Without Her

Ashley M Jones

For Further Reading: Thomas Jefferson’s: Notes on the State of Virginia. He writes of his eager participation in horrible violent, evil abuse.  Jefferson believed the people he enslaved in Virginia should  be sold with animals; they didn’t experience pain like other humans; that enslaved Africans did not and could not love.

Poetry Should Ride The Bus

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Poetry Should Ride the Bus By Ruth Forman

poetry should hopscotch in a polka dot dress

wheel cartwheels

n hold your hand

when you walk past the yellow crack house

poetry should wear bright red lipstick

n practice kisses in the mirror

for all the fine young men with fades

shootin craps around the corner

poetry should dress in fine plum linen suits

n not be so educated that it don’t stop in

every now n then to sit on the porch

and talk about the comins and goins of the world

poetry should ride the bus

in a fat woman’s Safeway bag

between the greens n chicken wings

to be served with tuesday’s dinner

poetry should drop by a sweet potato pie

ask about the grandchildren

n sit through a whole photo album

on an orange plastic covered lazyboy with no place to go

poetry should sing red revolution love songs

that massage your scalp

and bring hope to your blood

when you think you’re too old to fight

yeah

poetry should whisper electric blue magic

all the years of your life

never forgettin to look you in the soul

every once in a while

n smile

From We Are The Young Magicians by Ruth Forman which was published in 1993 by Beacon Press.

By Karen Flett from Winnipeg

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This unnamed poem is from the book All Our Sisters: Stories of Homeless Women in Canada By Susan Scott

If you are going to help me
Please be patient while I decide
I can trust you
Let me tell you my story
The whole story in my own way
Please accept that whatever I may do
Is the best I can offer and
Seemed right at the time
I am not just a person
I am this person unique and special
Don’t judge me as right or wrong
Bad or good I am what I am
And that’s all I got
Don’t assume that your knowledge
Is more accurate than mine.
You only know what I have
Told you that small part of me
Don’t ever think that you know what
I should do you don’t I may be
Confused but I’m still the expert about me
Don’t place me in a position
Of living up to your expectations
I have enough trouble with mine
Please hear my feelings not just
My words accept all of them
If you can’t how can I?
I can do it myself I know
I knew enough to ask for help didn’t I?
Help me to help myself

Karen  Frett

Alone

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Alone

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Maya Angelou

I Am Writing This by Elaine Shelly

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“I Am Writing This” by Elaine Shelly

because I stand among too many
dead bodies – black women dead of AIDS, black women
dead
of breast cancer, black women dead of being black women.
I am writing because I see too many of us wounded;
huddled into corners waiting for the next slap, the next
morsel
of love, the next affirmation that we are only the living dead.

I am writing because it is still too easy to call us
crazy bitches – a danger to ourselves and others, mostly
others.
I am writing this because we have learned to laugh at
ourselves too easily.
We laugh while cameras, for the sake of entertainment,
show us being dumped
into trash bins and highlight our butts and breasts
instead of our faces.
I am writing this because this is the third day and with it
has come the resurrection
of the skinny black model who slinks around in a leopard
skin.

I am writing this because I will not be conveniently
dismissed
as a cripple who must suffer because of my sins.
I am writing this because I do not hate my body.
I am writing this because I love myself and other black
women too damn much.

Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas

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“Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom”

Then all the children of Cocoa Bottom went to see Mr. Samuel’s electric lights.
They camped on the grass bank outside his house,
their lamps filled with oil,external image electricity
waiting for the sunset,
watching the sky turn yellow, orange.
Grannie Patterson across the road
peeped through the crack in her porch door.
The cable was drawn like a pencil line across thee sun.
The fireflies waited in the shadows,
their lanterns off.
The kling-klings swooped in from the hills
congregating in the orange trees.
A breeze coming home from the sea held its breath;
bamboo lining in the dirt road stopped its swaying,
and evening came as soft as chiffon curtains:
Closing. Closing.

Light!
Mr. Samuel smiling on the verandah –
a silhouette against the yellow shimmer behind him –
and there arising such a gasp,
such a fluttering of wings,
tweet-a-whit,
such a swaying, swaying.
Light! Marvelous light!
And then the breeze rose up from above the trees,
swelling and swelling into a wind
such that then long grass bent forward
stretching across the bank like so many bowed heads.
And a voice in the wind whispered:
Is there one among us to record this moment?
But there was none –

no one (except for a few warm rocks
hidden among the mongoose ferns) even heard a sound.
Already the children of Cocoa Bottom
had lit their lamps for the bark journey home,
and it was too late –
the moment had passed.

Marcia Douglas

Diagnosis by Sharon Olds

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“Diagnosis”

By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face—
he held me, and conversed with me,
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has
is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.

“Diagnosis” by Sharon Olds, from One Secret Thing. © Random House, Inc., 2009.

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