Missing Greatness

We’ve lost the King and now the Prince: nothing will ever be the same.

 

Most of the world is still reeling from the loss of one of the most beloved musicians – Prince. And while his death is shocking and heartbreaking for many of us, it also made me think about a conversation that a lot of us have whenever a famous person “dies too soon”: why does it feel like we never appreciate someone enough until after the person is gone?

Yesterday I saw a lot of posts about how important it is to respect and revere our legends while they’re alive, to show our support and love before it’s too late. I was reminded of similar feelings back on 2009 when Michael Jackson passed. I knew him mostly as an icon, a victim of fame’s relentless microscope, but I could only scratch the surface of his actual artistry. I’d watched a handful of his music videos, was familiar with the Jackson 5, but on the day of his death I had only two of his songs on my iPod; only two songs I could have sung along with: Thriller and Rock With You. It wasn’t until the days immediately following his death, while watching countless specials and marathons, that I developed a genuine appreciation for his talent, genius, artistry, influence, and body of work.

I find myself in a very similar situation with Prince. I know who he is, his obsession with the color purple, how he went by just a symbol, his songs Little Red Corvette and Purple Rain (I still haven’t watch the film in its entirety), the Darling Nikki controversy, and a few interviews. Now, I find myself searching for more, and there is plenty to find. Apart from naming him in the top 3 of my favorite guitarists there wasn’t much, before today, that I could tell you about the artist or the man.

It’s a bit scary, and awfully sad that we don’t always appreciate someone until they’re gone. How much we take for granted! We can stare brilliance right in the face one moment – and have no clue at all what we’re taking in. In many ways, when we see someone like Prince or David Bowie or Natalie Cole, we don’t think about them NOT being here. We just see them. And if you grow up as I did after the peak of their careers, it’s easy to view them as a staple, a part of the cultural landscape. They’ve always been there, always will be. And no matter how many “only the good die young” posts that circulate our timelines, it’s hard to grasp how rare they really are.

Media is good at desensitizing us to anything of value. Media quickly makes everything a dime a dozen, a sensationalized headline. It makes legends and…not-so-legends on the same plane of fame and talent. If you don’t search for your own experience, your own knowledge, then you quickly lose the significance. An artist, like the many we’ve lost in recent years, often becomes another big name without us understanding why the name’s important, and who the person is.

I think about the living legends we have left and the ones who are creating their legacies now, and I wouldn’t dare miss their impact on our lives. We should raise our children to recognize the artistic and cultural jewels around them. We shouldn’t have to lose something to know its importance, yet that’s where we find ourselves so many times: identifiable by the things we no longer have.

This week alone we also lost WWE great Chyna and actress Doric Roberts. Let’s take this as a lesson to admire the people in our lives and the legends who have helped shape our world. If there’s someone whose work you don’t know about or quite understand, take some time to learn about it! You don’t have to become their next fan, you don’t even have to like them, but a little knowledge won’t hurt. Pay homage to the people who have created and innovated, especially the artists who give so much of themselves to all of us.If you’ve ever bopped your head to a lyric, laughed at a clip on TV, or grooved to a song, take a moment to show your appreciation – while they are living. See a show, write a letter, share an experience with a friend. Don’t let a life end without realizing the greatness before you. 

Today is my first Free Thinking Friday, so I decided in honor of Prince, the motto for this series will be his quote:

“If you set your mind free baby, maybe you’d understand.”

 

 

Some Physical Laws

I know you’ve just been waiting shamelessly by your computers for the past 7 days just dying to hear the next line from Letters About Losing You haha. And just like every Tuesday, I promise not to disappoint, so here is a snippet from one of my favorite poems, Physical Laws, first seen in Cellar Door. Hope you enjoy it and stayed tuned for more. We are very close to launching some great details about the chapbook!

If a red

delicious married Granny Smith for her

shine, would their children grow

to manifest gravity,

or would the fruit just come out

with mixed feelings?

Physical Laws

Letters About Losing You Sneak Peek

lilies

It’s our second week of reveal and I’m ecstatic to share another preview of Letters About Losing You! In case you missed it, I’m releasing brief snippets of poems from the chapbook every Tuesday until the release date (looking at May, but stay tuned!). This month has been a busy submissions month for me with already a bit of good news and tons of “bad” news blowing up my inbox. It’s all part of the process and I hope you enjoy each sneak peek that comes your way. Don’t forget to share your favorite lines on social media in the coming weeks and use the hashtag #LALY. Love to hear what you think. 🙂

We stood on our tip toes and peered

over the white lace lining the wood

to see if someone—anyone—

was wedged between the soft sides

and grandpa George.

– Two People Can Fit in a Casket

Baby Girl You’re Star

Sharing a poem with you all today for Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s or Single’s Awareness, whichever you prefer) and a classic video from NC native J. Cole to commemorate Black History Month and remind you to “love yourself or nobody will.” Enjoy!

Compensation

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 18721906

Because I had loved so deeply,
Because I had loved so long,
God in His great compassion
Gave me the gift of song.

Because I have loved so vainly,
And sung with such faltering breath,
The Master in infinite mercy
Offers the boon of Death.

LeBron James: The Real Dark Knight

Lebron-James-witness LeBron James is Batman. Great, now I have your attention. By now, everyone has heard the story rocking the National Basketball Association and affecting almost every trade in the league: LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is acutely a basketball story but it’s poignant not because it’s about sports but because it’s about home. It’s quite refreshing to see that James’ connection to his hometown is so strong, and considering Northeast Ohio’s many struggles, it is a connection that is not tied to superficial qualities like fame, wealth and snazzy events. It’s simply love. The type of love you leave and just have to come back to. The kind of love founded on sincere concern for the well-being of a community: a “community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get” (James’ essay). Call it what you want and say whatever you want to say, but LeBron has something a lot of people don’t have the chance to experience. He has a deeply rooted connection to his hometown. And it’s heartachingly wonderful to see him coming back. Yes there is lots of business, politics and sports involved. Yes there were mistakes by a lot of people. Loyalty was tested. The man who came so close to saving a city quickly became a villian, but this man has never given up on his city and its potential. His dreams aren’t just for himself. Sometimes we have to do something for ourselves, become better people, so we can do that thing we were born to do. This isn’t just another contract or hyped news story. This is a kid who grabbed the attention of the nation’s biggest sports stars before he even had a high school diploma. This is a kid who worked his tail off for his hometown team and experienced heartbreaking defeat. This is a kid who left his city, endured all the wrath, disappointment, and abandonment that came with that decision, and found success. Now that kid is a man. He has forgiven the past and returned to his first love, to the place where everything started, to the original dream that has not died. Could you have written something so beautiful? Yes, there is indeed unfinished business in Cleveland. And a heck of a story to finish writing.

NOTHING WAS THE SAME

nwts

In college we have these things called “hell weeks,” which are basically a period of 7 days where you have more things due than there are hours in a day to finish them all. Over my past two years I have called them everything from hell week to strength tests, to stress week, to busy week, but now I’m convinced it’s just “college.”

Last week and this week have been one of those times. Between papers, quizzes, lab, extracurriculars, work, and an exam I’ve been fortunate enough to find the time to eat. Even now I’m writing this in protest of studying (just kidding, it’s more of a creative study break).  That being said it’s certainly my family, friends, and prayer that get me through such tough times in my life. And music.

So, I wanted to take a moment to dedicate this post to a new album dropping today – Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. I’ve been low-key obsessed with it since it leaked last Sunday but for much different reasons than you might think. Sure there are great beats and quotable lines on the album (you know me, I’m struck by great words) but when I encounter excellence in creativity I am easily inspired to keep improving my own work.

If I could tell you anything about the new album it’s that the production on it is tremendous. Each song is a work of art that was clearly molded over time and infused with emotion, sensitivity, and drama. As an artist, especially lyrically, Drake has improved tenfold. Everything great art should be.

Therefore, I hope this week is a productive one for you. Stay positive, motivated, and inspired. Despite the work, at the end of the day I’m just trying to make my life “a completed checklist.” Deep down we’ve all had experiences that changed us, and we all hope to leave an indelible mark during our life – which is the very essence of the album. One of the most emotional things in life is looking back on a memory and knowing since then nothing was the same.

No News Is Good News

Since I haven’t posted in awhile I thought I would share the first poem I wrote for my intermediate poetry class this semester. The assignment was to write a persona poem, a poem from the perspective of someone you know. We had to tell 4 lies and a secret/emotion that could be felt but not explicitly stated. Talk about a tall order!

In my opinion, this piece is nowhere near finished because the story is so complicated — by far one of the hardest and most personal things I have ever written about. However, my class seemed to enjoy it and my professor said it was “powerful, surprising, and possessed inherent human drama.” I don’t know if it’s completely at that point, but any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

 
My children say I don’t call enough.
They claim my phone number changes faster than the weather.
 555-2468, it’s been that way for years, but they say it’s been months.
Heck, I’m lucky if I know where I’m sleeping tonight.
You know I was busy dodging bullets in my car – the car I’ve been
living in since Irene kicked me from her bed and sometimes when
I drive pass 7th Street I can smell her beside me—Elizabeth Taylor
and old brown leather…mmm.  
But I only show my feelings on Friday nights and
shoot back flashbacks at the pool table.
 
My children think I’m missing. I’m just working. It was
my hustling of bands of dead presidents that bought them ten speeds
and gold rings and hot clothes and
trips to Mississippi that I thought they wanted to go on because
how was I supposed to ask otherwise? I told them
“You know you have three brothers and two sisters who live across the river.
I couldn’t bring them over because your mother never liked surprises.”
She was always good at food, clothing, shelter. It was my job to hide the broke holidays.
 
It’s not like I don’t remember—I still see you dribbling one-handed
when I watch little boys play outside.
It’s not like I don’t remember—I still feel your hugs when I see little
Black girls skipping down the sidewalk.
It’s not like I don’t remember—I still hear your laugh when I drive by the
racetrack to pick up my brother.
 
I see my eyes in my grandchildren
and when I see them I drown out the sound of the elephant in the room
with the laughter of my jokes and
for the moment things are as society says they should be. For the moment.
But I was born a city boy.
I count numbers instead of my sins and pray wins me redemption.
The money I rolled under my bed is now with the Feds
so I have to keep driving. 

The Rebel

The Rebel

Perhaps the lover is the outlaw in ourselves

 we don’t quite have the nerve to claim.

– Rosemary Sullivan

The first time I saw water more vast than Superior, water more

vast than my town, water migrating more intensely than my father worked

I learned that God was real.

The first time I saw trees that had endured generations, trees that

extended to Venus, trees that grew slower than a turtle crawls

I learned that God made things bigger than me.

The first time I saw a mother give life, the mother thoroughbred naked in the field,

my mother screaming and pushing, screaming and pushing in room 409,

I learned that God made us with purpose.

When I first saw you my cells rumbled, the surface of my skin reached for air,

my internal organs grabbed my bones for stability, you asked me for—of all things—

directions and I loved you instantly.

I guess opposites do attract, because you certainly defied my beliefs. It was not my intention

to confront the convictions that reared me; I had always been taught to follow my heart.

And if I seemed lost forgive me—I never learned in school what to do once I met you.

After this climactic turn in my journey to knowledge I searched for more natural signs

of the Divine to restore my mind: Water. Tree. Thoroughbred.

Instead, I found myself seeing God in your eyes, your hands, your heart—

proof I had chosen a love not given but made.

Your Hands

The first thing I noticed was your hands.
My eyes traced your fingers, your nails, the smoothness of your palms
drawing a mental heart around the only part of you that had yet to touch me.
I knew I would never feel the same way about anything
because you can’t undo the kind of tracing my mind did
when I repeated every word you spoke,
meticulously taking note of every line of your body.
 
And when I heard your voice, the chains and gates around
my heart – meant to protect me from Cupid’s shots – fell faster than
a flash of lightning and I melted from your flame in spite of myself.
Now, all I keep thinking about is your name, your name, your name. Continue reading

Untitled

A new poem

 
I am everything but what he needed me to be.
I am partially what I wanted to be.
I am the kid that played in the mud too long
and got stains on my hands.
I am that phrase you keep saying to yourself
when no one is there to talk to.
The words that roll off your tongue so easily when
you are alone
but are impossible to speak when
I am there.
This is not really about me, it’s about you.
Doing the thing that someone should do when
these feelings exist.
Walking up to that person and saying the
words that you play in your head
so eloquently, so right, so right,
so well. Continue reading