The city joyful. They city traditional. The city holding on

La Casita LCOD

La Casita, a happy little girl.






Grace Note

There is a little girl happy at La Casita

See her compose her dance as the band

Launches a jibaro tune from Old San Juan

Watch her smile rise and her little legs

Loop before the stage’s apron.  She’s

The grace note, the sweet dream of

Manny Vega’s phantasmagorical temple

To community: the laughter, the dominoes

The courting couples, the elders resting

The garden fertile with peppers, squash

And greens from around the globe.

–Patricia Spears Jones

I wrote this poem after performing at La Casita, the annual summer celebration of community, poetry, music and dance resulting from Manny Vega (the artist) and his friend’s celebration of the gardens and meeting places that seemed to spontaneously develop in Puerto Rican neighborhoods throughout New York City–the little house, la casita was a place where the old and young could talk and sing and play dominoes and bond.  Each year the curators pull together poets and musicians and performers to present work and this year I had the honor of reading in Hearst Plaza at Lincoln Center.  And that little girl who danced her 2-3 year old girl’s dance represented for all the audience. She is a reminder that there is joy in this city; that children are loved; that artists make new and important work; that the sun shines for the artists on a day when rain was threatened.  I was not well enough to hear all of the performers, but I left as Persian music (including poems by Rumi) was being performed by Haleh.  It comes from a great tradition as did the Puerto Rican music the little girl so loved and its spirits helps me, all of us hold on.

Band performing La Casita

Haleh-Persians singing Rumi, et al

Item 65 poem and image

Sometimes you take the plunge when there is no water

here the divers-three divers on a board rise up out of sand

then fall into a blue day, made bluer by the cleansing

winds from the Caribbean.  We are witness to the falling

to the divers 3 in the sands of Coney Island.  John Ahearn

bids us greetings and farewells, sunsets and sunsets.

Sometimes you take the plunge when the water is not near.

Poem by Patricia Spears Jones–art by John Ahearn

Atmosphere by Coney Island,  July 2016

divers by John Ahearn, Coney Island

divers by John Ahearn, Coney Island

The day after May Day thank you Jacob Lawrence with event link!

03311520130501152026a03301519020330151954a If I could say that someone waved a magic wand around me, I would say it is because of Jacob Lawrence, an important artist whose work continues to refresh the imagination to this day.  I first saw half of the Migrations Series in the 1970s at the Philllips Collection in D.C.  I think because of Richard J. (Rick) Powell, who was then a artist/scholar/curator kind of guy.  I was stunned.  These little paintings told stories about the South and the very real reasons that Black people left-had to leave.  The next time I saw the panels was at the Whitney I think along with other series, The Builders, etc.  Again, the stories in colors vivid and bold lines–the generosity towards Black folks, the pride of Black folks, the folk of Black folks–his painting allowed the narrative to sing through.

So when Elizabeth Alexander  (she’s the very tall imposing diva next to moi) asked me to create a poem in response to the Series, I was both excited and terrified.  How to do justice to this work?  How not imitate in words what he had already done in paint?  How to add to the discourse on the Black Migration?  How.  Last August when I was the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, I re-looked at each of the panels and realized that Panel 57 was what I returned to.  She’s the only single female figure in the entire series.  She’s wearing white.  There’s a cross in the picture.  I thought of my cousin Hassie, who was head Usher at the Baptist church she attended.  I thought of the aunts who came down from Chicago and Detroit looking fly.  I thought of the harsh beauty of the south and the hard heartedness of southern white leadership.  And then I realize that the best way into the poem was through scent.  If you get the catalog you can read “Lave”.  If you attend the exhibition, up till September 7, you can hear me and the other poems read our work in one of exhibition room.   You can hear great music in other rooms (I am in a picture with the great opera singer, Kevin Maynard)  On May 1, May Day, International Worker’s Day, we read at the Museum of Modern Art.

Hopefully, this link will take to what was one of my proudest moments as a poet and a Black woman who has lived long enough to know the harsh beauty remains in the South as does menace towards Black people, poor people–but I also know that the struggles have moved North, have taken a more complicated hard heartedness.  But like our ancestors, we keep moving and when needed like the laundress, we find work, we do the work, we stand on whatever ground we can.

Again, I thank Elizabeth Alexander.  Leah Dickerman, Sarah Kennedy, Jennifer Harris and a great crew at MOMA; the film studio guys, the really nice guards, the wait staff for any and all dinners, the whole sense of conviviality.  Because ultimately, Lawrence shows how Black people embrace life in all of its complications from loving to loss; from brutality to struggles for justice.  We really do keep on keeping on.  And if you cannot embrace that simple thought you are starved of humanity.  Praises to the Ancestors.  Praises to the poets.

The reading was live streamed on youtube, here is the link.


La vida de la poet

One of the things about writing poems is to take risk or to use unlikely sources.  On my birthday I share this poem selected by The AshberyHomeSchool organized by Adam Fitzgerald and Emily Skillings.  Many years ago, I took Thulani Davis to see Belle Du Jour for her birthday.  We felt oh so sophisticated.  That seems like a century ago and indeed it was in the last century of the last millennium. Years later I thought about the film, but also more about what is marriage since it has been on everyone’s mind-gay marriage; divorce rates; why get married; why men are happier married, etc. etc. etc.     I am not married, but probably would have made an interesting wife had I been married.  But who knows.  I do not.  But the film gave a look at how marriage represses women.  And the ways in which she “liberates”  or does not “liberate” herself is at the heart of the film.  Of course it’s a film by the great Spanish director Bunel and given his misogyny, the liberation focuses on her use of sex.  Of course women liberate ourselves in a range of ways and that is a good thing.   We need more liberty.  We need to think about what marriage or not marriage is.  We need to find language that allows our full selves to be claimed by our full selves.  As a poet who is living her life as best she can, I know that it is not easy to live one’s full life.  But I urged each of us to do so as best we can.

At MOMA, with Jacob Lawrence catalog, January 2015

At MOMA, with Jacob Lawrence catalog, January 2015