Year’s ending-horses still galloping

I know that the Year of the Horse will go into late January, so the galloping is not over.  We have been on a very wild ride.  The news of day has often been mysterious, horrific, terrifying or utterly silly.  Sometimes the same item can be described with all those words.  I know that it has been a wild ride for me and one that I treasure because I am breathing and too many people I love no longer breathe.

Florence Tate whom I only met in “real life” recently passed.  I knew her son Greg Tate for what seems like forever.  But his famous Mama I met via social media–she was a great presence on Facebook and intensely encouraging to me and many other writers, artists, singers, organizers, activisits and bon vivants.  The last time I saw her breathing was at the Funeral for Amiri Baraka–the kind of affair that brought his friends, enemies, former lovers, their children and just about anyone who was a who in the downtown/Black Arts Movement/literary scene to Symphony Hall in Newark.  I will also miss Galway Kinnell whose readings at Brooklyn’s Ferry Landings at the end of the Poets House Bridge Walks were so very very special.  His passion for life, for poetry for oatmeal LOL never left him. Like Baraka, Kinnell was a fighter for justice; a great teacher–they were poets who created communities and they both lived long enough to modify earlier excesses and mend some fences.

I can’t breathe #Ican’tbreathe has become a chant; an indictment; a statement of anguish and demand.  Eric Garner’s utterly unnecessary death at the hands of the NYPD and others who are here to serve people galvanized and continues to galvanize young people on top of those marching/organizing/agitating in Ferguson MO.  The parade of dead Black, Brown and occasionally White bodies at the hands of Law Enforcement (LE) has made a significant number of people who had otherwised kept their heads in the sand. look up and see that the police are more soldiers than peace officers and that much of policing has become occupation–the lastest military incursions by the Israel into Gaza serves as a kind of template, it seems to me.  These are ugly times.  Ugly times.

And yet I am writing on a chilly rainy day in Brooklyn, a piano solo-some minor league European composer’s work makes perfect background noise.  Today I went to the Museum of Modern Art to read “Lave” a poem commissioned for the catalog for One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence Migrations Series which will open in early April at MOMA.  Elizabeth Alexander has done a great job of bringing Black poets with very different poetics together to honor and respond to Lawrence’s seminal work.  I know that this was a great opportunity; a great challenge.  I hope people will respond to our response.  I also saw the Robert Gober Retrospective.  Gober is White.  He’s Gay and he’s Young and very definitely breathing and I am glad.  His sculptures defy standards of beauty; his bodies are never complete; his anguish not extinguished; his fears what should be feared–bullies, killers of the mind as well as body–the title of the exhibition is The Heart Is Not  a Metaphor and you know what it is not  Pulsating, pumping, a muscle whose only job is to keep the body upright and moving, the heart is beyond compare.  And yet even Gober allows the heart, the hearth to become symbols for the ways we attempt to stunt pulsation; to destroy intimacy, charity, erotic impulse.

At the end of this Year of Baldwin; this Year of Losses, public and private; this year of Protests and Counter Protests.  The fighting t-shirts: I can’t breathe/I can breathe  the year when too many White People found themselves in a racial quagmire of their own making with no understanding of how to get out–I for one listen to the young people who started #blacklivesmatter; who demanded to be heard in at unneeded Al Sharpton organized march; who march and chant and tweet and demand to be able to BREATHE and to have a future.  Saludos to you.  May we all get off that horse when the Year of the Horse ends, saddle sore, yes, but ready to walk on this altered/altared earth. May we find a way to breathe together in justice, in peace.

Crech, Bed-Stuy, photo by Patricia Spears Jones

Crech, Bed-Stuy, photo by Patricia Spears Jones

 

Holiday poem 2014

Feast

 

(in the back ground Otis Redding sings “Merry Christmas Baby”)

 

Oh the twinkling

Oh the twinkling lights

Each a color of delight

Morsels of sparkle, tasty fire

Feast.

Bed-Stuy Lights, Dec. 2014

Bed-Stuy Lights, Dec. 2014

Scorpion to Horse–November

November was an amazing month.  I organized and curated a literary program at Calabar Imports  in Bed-Stuy on Tompkins Avenue, which received some local press. http://www.bkmag.com/2014/11/04/crossing-border-in-the-brooklyn-literary-scene-with-poet-patricia-spears-jones/

Q&A w/ poets

Q&A w/ poets

What was great to me was that each Sunday different voices brightened an already very colorful space.  Janice Lowe and her actor friends performed a variety of pieces that she has written words or music or both for.  Uche Nduka showcased how cosmopolitan African writers often are. Michael Broder and Rachel Levitsky called their event the “queer Jewish poets” reading.  Cheryl Boyce Taylor and Jason Schneiderman opened up about grief and writing doing the Q&A and on November 30 was simply sublime.  Alexis De Veaux and Gregory Pardlo read from their new works which are brilliant and the Q&A gave great insight into their process.  I was so pleased to do this. And so grateful for their words.

 

I also read with Monica De La Torre at Pace University and Charles North’s introductions for both of us was beautifully crafted.  and I really loved being a Brooklyn Poet of the Week. http://brooklynpoets.org/poet/patricia-spears-jones/. Thanks to Jason Koo, et al.  And I led a great workshop at Poets House–one of my students is a budding rapper.

All of these great things are back drop to the the awful events in the past two weeks of November–Thanksgiving was difficult for people across the U.S.  While I did not think Darren Wilson would be indicted since it was clear that the apparatus for organized to get a non-indictment. But the lack of indictment of NYPD officers for the death of Eric Garner was even more enraging.  So with that I am so thankful for the PROTESTS that started in Ferguson and have been led by young people.  And that close to 200 protests took place after the non-indictment in Missouri and the hundreds of protests around the globe after the Staten Island decision is so powerful  #BLACKLIVESMATTER as a hashtag reminds everyone that all lives matter, but when Black lives are so easily destroyed believe you mean everyone’s life is in jeopardy.  The militarized police; the corporate character of political leadership; the refusal to legislate immigration reform; the continuing destruction of public education and the recent election of the White Privilege Party aka the Republicans will make the next two years extremely challenging.  But poets have been up to the challenge. On Facebook, Artists Against Police Brutality/Cultures of Violence have been really useful stitching together many different policies, programs, events and reportage.  In the twittersphere,much is being done.

As a Black Poet, I’ve written about the live of ordinary people for years and every once in a while an ordinary person is killed in ways that should never have happened.  Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and countless other boys, men, girls and women should be breathing.  Albert Murray would have something pithy about all of this, but one thing he would most likely agree with me:  We have much to do in this nation and “trusting” the police is not one of those things.

Albert Murray projected  photo by Patricia S. Jones

Albert Murray projected photo by Patricia S. Jones