Lights, Macon Street, Brooklyn 2016

Two days ago I wrote this on FB: I live in a city where Arabic music plays on “new sounds”. where sirens rove the night air. where friends chat on sidewalks or take weeks to meet for 2 hours in a bar. i live in a city often characterized as cold and dark and and expensive and lonely and terror ridden. and for some this city lives up to these negatives. but i live in a city where i have a tea for my girlfriends. where i find beauty in unlikely places. where music good or bad is played on the subway platforms. where at times you can see real stars. and those stars are twinkling this night, so many talented people who lived in, danced in, made love in, laughed in and gave of their considerable gifts to this city left this plane for what is that higher realm. but the city has their traces and i live in the city where those traces surround me. I am thankful to be part of stardust.
Poet Patricia Spears Jones says farewell to 2016

but of course, there is more.  I am grateful for the many opportunities I had to share my work and collaborate with fellow poets and artists.  I traveled three times to California and read in places where my work was heard and honored.  I talked with young people and old people and many folks in between.  I wrote poems that grew from hanging out in Coney Island to ones dealing with the hangover of the Presidential Election.  I kissed and hugged and dreamed and dared to do things differently.  Sometimes it worked.  Sometimes it did not.  Many good people I know and love are gone.  But many remain.  And new ones are coming.  What was it that Laura Nyro sang:  “and when I die/there’ll be one child born to carry on.  So for Vertamae and Monica and Laurie and countless others, I hear those infants’ wailing.


Christmas dinner, East Village, 2016


2016 a year of departures

We all need solace.  We all need to say farewell to many who have meant so much–personal friends, family, celebrated artists who help make our lives comprehensible.  Yesterday, the announcement that Laurie Carlos, performer, director, teacher, world-class provocateur finally succumbed to illness and only a few days after the sudden passing of Monica Hand, a fine poet and artist.  But also after the passing many friends’ parents, siblings.  And it is three years since my Mother departed and nine since my brother’s eldest was lost to us on Christmas Day.  Yes, we need solace.  I go to church.  I pray.  I hope that I live as well as I can by Christ’s commandment to love others as one loves oneself.  In this day, these times, that can almost seem impossible. But I try.  And faith was something that George Michael seemed to struggle with–unlike Leonard Cohen and David Bowie and Prince, his was not the music that inspired me, but that song worked.

We are at a cosmic crossroads–the planet literally in danger from humans greed, stupidity and lassitude.  Our nation will have what may be one of the worst Presidents in its history–making this globe less safe.  Prayer and protest may help as part of resistance to policies that will make poor people poorer and endanger water, land and air.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I think of the artists I’ve known who have said farewell this and other years as returning to the stars from whence we came.  As Joni Mitchell sang: “we are stardust/we are golden and we got to get back to the garden.”


Early December, light leaving, hope coming

Today I asked for prayers for Monica Hand, a wonderful poet who took her obsession  with Nina Simone and produced a wonderful debut collection me and Nina five years ago. She’s been working on a Ph.D the past few years.  She is not the only Black woman artist I know who is facing medical crisis and who has very little money.  We are mortal-a fact that I am reminded of daily as I wake with aches and pains that were not there 30 years ago–but more importantly because I can go into my address books and find people’s names/addresses/numbers who are no longer alive.  It pains me and many of my friends.  We see the generation ahead of us leaving and we are next and we know that.  But then there are the times when someone younger goes–no matter, it’s difficult.  It is sad.

It’s December.  A month of bright chilly days in which the light leaves bit by bit until the Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  It is also the month of Advent.  A month of prophesy and expectation–Oh come expected Jesus is one of the Advent hymns.  Prophesy and expectation are vastly different experiences.  As a poet, I find myself trying to bring these different experiences together–not in harmony, but at least in complement.

And so this past weekend I sat with fellow poets to plan programs that we all think are needed in these awful times.  We know that the best version of America is not expressed right now.  We know that men and a few women of great wealth who are joining the Trump administration have little regard to poor and working people. Most artists are poor, working people.  We know that the light is leaving bit by bit.  That “winter of discontent” is not a cliche this year.  From the marches in the street or the buying and selling of just about everything to imbibing many a spirit (bourbon, rye, whiskey, gin, vodka, tequila) we are all dis contented.  That our friends are ill; that our friends are burying their mothers, their grandmothers makes this December so much more difficult.  We know that little in our national experiment will benefit us over the next few years.

One of things that found interesting about reading John Glenn’s obituary that when he took is cosmic flight, he saw three sunsets and three sunrises.  So it seems great to remember about the Solstice is that once that short day is done, the light begins to return.  The sun will grow brighter even in dark days of January and February.  The light grows.  So I hope, our capacity to love, to live, to be good people despite the political era to come, will grow and shine much light.

lights in December

lights in December