Saturday, January 13, 2007

Voices Rising...

Later this year, the second volume of my criticism comes out (as I’ve already noted many times) but I’m almost as excited just to be part of the new Voices Rising anthology. I don’t even have words to express how honored I am to be in the same collection as folks like Staceyann Chin, Samuel R. Delany, Jewelle Gomez, Tim’m West, sharon bridgforth, Bil Wright, Samiya Bashir, Thomas Glave, Lisa C. Moore, G. Winston James, Pamela Sneed and Marvin K. White. (Speaking of Marvin, the former Pomo Afro Homo has a new collection of poetry coming out later this year that is fucking amazing. Truly some old-school meets next-level writing. He and I share a publisher and when she read me some of the poems a while ago, I was too full of awe to even make room for jealousy.)
      I have three pieces in Voices, two poems (“Shopping List,” “Blood, Prayer & Tears: 2002 A.D.”) and a short story (“Curtis.”) I’m not sure how well they work being separated from the larger poetry/fiction/whatever manuscript I’m working on but here is the full “Shopping List” poem, and just an excerpt from “Curtis”:

Shopping List

Don’t bring me hardcore. Don’t bring me street. Don’t bring me ghetto. Don’t bring me keepin’-it-real performances. Don’t bring me steely Ph.Ds, academic jism or intellectual jargon. Be radical. Be revolutionary: Bring me tenderness. Bring me blood-riddled, tearstained insights. Bring me strength beyond a pose. Be who you really are. Be the you beneath protective covering. Strip away conditioning. Strip away posturing. Strip away all the bullshit that you’ve learned. I don’t want words you’ve memorized. I don’t want record collection validation or bookshelf credentials. I want fragments synthesized. I want the wisdom you’ve earned through sweat and unshed tears. I don’t care about technique; I don’t care if you’re tone deaf. Miss a note / fuck a note. Just sing your song. Don’t wave platinum credit cards. Don’t flash bank account statements. Don’t wield diamonds wrought from African blood. Just lay your head near mine, press your heart against mine, and promise to be good. Swear to do your best. And just be your best. Then let the rest fall away. Let the rest just fall away. Then let the rest fall away. Just let the rest fall away…


      On the morning I woke up with the clarity to know I could never be in a love thang with an ofay… On the morning after the night that a friend pointedly told me Dorothy Dandridge once said, “Some people commit suicide by booze, guns or drugs. I did it by marrying a white man.” (I don’t know if she ever really said this, but I know in my bones that she felt it...)
      On that morning, I ran into Curtis after two years of not seeing him. He was wearing designer knock-off sunglasses and dark blue, baggy-nylon sweatpants. An azure, short-sleeved cotton t-shirt (folded lengthwise) was tucked into his waistband, dangling like a sash. His upper body was exposed and gleaming, like truth at the root of cliché. Passersby snatched glances.
      His naturally wavy, almost-straight brown hair was sun-streaked with blonde highlights and sculpted into baby-twists. He’d been tanned to a nice golden-brown, and smelled of beer and eau de crack. It was a new fragrance for him: pungent / acrid / bitter. His previous scent was never any stronger than a dab of weed & ‘forty, wafting gently from his pores as he read his poetry.
      His gestures were more flamboyant, more queeny than before. Gone were the sturdy lines of hetero-mulatto, surfer-boy machismo that had been girding him when we first met. Gone, too, was the baby-fat that had once padded his face. The crack, in a perverse but familiar twist, was razoring his beauty into high relief before destroying it altogether. Showing what could have been before cruelly wasting it away.
      There was a hardness to him, now. The melancholy that had hung from him when I first met him – melancholy made all the more potent by the childlike optimism that struggled to sustain itself within him (he wanted to be an important writer) – had coarsened into a bitter, palpable sadness.
      After hugs and small talk, he slipped on his shirt and we walked back to my place, talking of agents and writing, New York vs. L.A., porno and poetry, and what he grimly grinned and called his, “long, dark descent into self-annihilation” before he said, harshly, “Can we talk about something else? Thinking about writing only makes me depressed and angry.”
      He paused.
      “It’s so funny,” he began again. “Last night, I told myself that today would be the day that I seriously thought about this shit, about my writing and my life. Then I woke up this morning and didn’t want to.” He looked at me. “Funny running into you, again. It’s like an omen or something.”
      He told me that he and his girl D_____ had spent the morning drinking forties and getting high. He’d been on his way to Benito’s Taco Shop when I ran into him standing at the bus stop on the corner of Santa Monica and Western. Now, he was going back to my place with me.
      When we got to my apartment, I put Lewis Taylor in the CD player (“Whoever is the love in your life, he got a hard time ahead of him…”) and opened a window. A breeze blew over his chest as he sat on my sofa, absent-mindedly fingering his twists. “I gotta put some bee’s wax on my shit when I get home,” he said softly. “I haven’t been home for days.”
      “Where are you staying now?” I asked.
      “With my sister. Or, I guess I should say, brother. No... sister.” He smiled. “My brother’s a pre-op transexual, now. Stays up on DeLongpre and Vine. I love my sister. She’s so cool... so fucking cool. She’s always making me laugh. She just knows shit, you know?”
      I sat next to him and he slid down on the sofa until his head rested on my shoulder. I put my arm around him. He took off his sunglasses and looked up at me with glassy blue-gray eyes. We talked about the low-end modeling gigs he’d been working...
      “That’s not my thing at all,” he said with disgust. “People always trip off how I look. I hate that shit. This photographer I know is always telling me how I could have a big career. Based on my fucking looks. Nothing to do with talent. Nothing to do with substance. My fucking looks.”
      …about the porno he was tempted to do, and the minor-celeb porn stars (men, women, and all points in-between) that he’d been fucking since I last saw him.
      “I’m not a writer, I’m not a poet. I’m nothing, okay?” he said suddenly, looking me square in the eyes. “I’m just another fuckin’ Hollywood waste. A pathetic excuse for a human being. Don’t think of me as anything other than that, okay? I’m serious. That’s all I am.”
      He inched closer to me and I kissed him.

For more info on the book, go here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

like the smoke signalling new pope, like the blown weed's charge missing my mouth and gettin' ancestors high, your voice(s) rise. proud to be learning how to write from you. your bro, marvin.