Stop fighting against
The brightening light
Surrender all to love
© 2019 Jim Davis
A friend asked me
how to be a writer.
I wanted to say,
lock yourself in a room,
scream until you have
a poem and no voice.
Open your veins and bleed
until you know that your bones
are pure words and sorrow.
Act as if you slit your own throat
and all you can bleed
are your own regrets
and all of the darkness
you boxed up for inspiration.
Write your mom a letter,
tell her you're leaving
and you won't be back for awhile
Because being a writer is traveling
through all seven layers of Hell
and denying anything is wrong.
Forget loving yourself
when all you have is a pen and paper
fused to your wrist
and Jesus is tapping at your skull
saying turn back now.
Warn the neighbors that if they smell burning
It's just your soul
clawing at the front door trying to get in.
Learn how to be alone.
Learn how to lose everything you have
in order to feel release,
learn how to only feel deceased
from now on.
A friend asked me
how to be a writer.
All I said was
The edge of our bed was a wide grid
where your fifteen-year-old daughter was hanging
gut-sprung on police wheels
a cablegram nailed to the wood
next to a map of the Western Reserve
I could not return with you to bury the body
reconstruct your nightly cardboards
against the seeping Transvaal cold
I could not plant the other limpet mine
against a wall at the railroad station
nor carry either of your souls back from the river
so I bought you a ticket to Durban
on my American Express
and we lay together
in the first light of a new season.
Now clearing roughage from my autumn garden
cow sorrel overgrown rocket gone to seed
I reach for the taste of today
the New York Times finally mentions your country
a half-page story
of the first white south african killed in the "unrest"
Not of Black children massacred at Sebokeng
six-year-olds imprisoned for threatening the state
not of Thabo Sibeko, first grader, in his own blood
on his grandmother's parlor floor
Joyce, nine, trying to crawl to him
******* through her navel
not of a three-week-old infant, nameless
lost under the burned beds of Tembisa
my hand comes down like a brown vise over the marigolds
reckless through despair
we were two Black women touching our flame
and we left our dead behind us
I hovered you rose the last ritual of healing
"It is spring," you whispered
"I sold the ticket for guns and sulfa
I leave for home tomorrow"
and wherever I touch you
I lick cold from my fingers
like salt from the lips of a woman
who has killed too often to forget
and carries each death in her eyes
your mouth a parting orchid
"Someday you will come to my country
and we will fight side by side?"
Keys jingle in the door ajar threatening
whatever is coming belongs here
I reach for your sweetness
but silence explodes like a pregnant belly
into my face
a ***** of nevers.
Mmanthatisi turns away from the cloth
her daughters-in-law are dyeing
the baby drools milk from her breast
she hands him half-asleep to his sister
dresses again for war
knowing the men will follow.
In the intricate Maseru twilights
quick sad vital
she maps the next day's battle
dreams of Durban sometimes
visions the deep wry song of beach pebbles
running after the sea.
There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as ***
and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.
Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
where the restless oceans pound.
I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon's new fury
with all your wide futures
and not white.
However the image enters
its force remains within
rockstrewn caves where dragonfish evolve
wild for life, relentless and acquisitive
learning to survive
where there is no food
my eyes are always hungry
however the image enters
its force remains.
A white woman stands bereft and empty
a black boy hacked into a murderous lesson
recalled in me forever
like a lurch of earth on the edge of sleep
etched into my visions
food for dragonfish that learn
to live upon whatever they must eat
fused images beneath my pain.
The Pearl River floods through the streets of Jackson
A Mississippi summer televised.
Trapped houses kneel like sinners in the rain
a white woman climbs from her roof to a passing boat
her fingers tarry for a moment on the chimney
tearless and no longer young, she holds
a tattered baby's blanket in her arms.
In a flickering afterimage of the nightmare rain
****** up against her flat bewildered words
"we jest come from the bank yestiddy
borrowing money to pay the income tax
now everything's gone. I never knew
it could be so hard."
Despair weighs down her voice like Pearl River mud
caked around the edges
her pale eyes scanning the camera for help or explanation
she shifts her search across the watered street, dry-eyed
"hard, but not this hard."
Two tow-headed children hurl themselves against her
hanging upon her coat like mirrors
until a man with ham-like hands pulls her aside
snarling "She ain't got nothing more to say!"
and that lie hangs in his mouth
like a shred of rotting meat.
I inherited Jackson, Mississippi.
For my majority it gave me Emmett Till
his 15 years puffed out like bruises
on plump boy-cheeks
his only Mississippi summer
whistling a 21 gun salute to Dixie
as a white girl passed him in the street
and he was baptized my son forever
in the midnight waters of the Pearl.
His broken body is the afterimage of my 21st year
when I walked through a northern summer
my eyes averted
from each corner's photographies
newspapers protest posters magazines
Police Story, Confidential, True
the avid insistence of detail
pretending insight or information
the length of **** across the dead boy's *****
his grieving mother's lamentation
the severed lips, how many burns
his gouged out eyes
sewed shut upon the screaming covers
louder than life
the veiled warning, the secret relish
of a black child's mutilated body
fingered by street-corner eyes
bruise upon livid bruise
and wherever I looked that summer
I learned to be at home with children's blood
with savored violence
with pictures of black broken flesh
used, crumpled, and discarded
lying amid the sidewalk refuse
like a ***** woman's face.
A black boy from Chicago
whistled on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi
testing what he'd been taught was a manly thing to do
ripped his eyes out his *** his tongue
and flung him to the Pearl weighted with stone
in th e name of white womanhood
they took their aroused honor
back to Jackson
and celebrated in a *******
the double ritual of white manhood
"If earth and air and water do not judge them who are
we to refuse a crust of bread?"
Emmett Till rides the crest of the Pearl, whistling
24 years his ghost lay like the shade of a ***** woman
and a white girl has grown older in costly honor
(what did she pay to never know its price?)
now the Pearl River speaks its muddy judgment
and I can withhold my pity and my bread.
"Hard, but not this hard."
Her face is flat with resignation and despair
with ancient and familiar sorrows
a woman surveying her crumpled future
as the white girl besmirched by Emmett's whistle
never allowed her own tongue
without power or conclusion
she stands adrift in the ruins of her honor
and a man with an executioner's face
pulls her away.
Within my eyes
the flickering afterimages of a nightmare rain
a woman wrings her hands
beneath the weight of agonies remembered
I wade through summer ghosts
betrayed by vision
hers and my own
becoming dragonfish to survive
the horrors we are living
with tortured lungs
adapting to breathe blood.
A woman measures her life's damage
my eyes are caves, chunks of etched rock
tied to the ghost of a black boy
crying and frightened
her tow-headed children cluster
like little mirrors of despair
their father's hands upon them
a woman begins to weep.
My mother had two faces and a frying ***
where she cooked up her daughters
before she fixed our dinner.
My mother had two faces
and a broken ***
where she hid out a perfect daughter
who was not me
I am the sun and moon and forever hungry
for her eyes.
I bear two women upon my back
one dark and rich and hidden
in the ivory hungers of the other
pale as a witch
yet steady and familiar
brings me bread and terror
in my sleep
her ******* are huge exciting anchors
in the midnight storm.
All this has been
in my mother's bed
time has no sense
I have no brothers
and my sisters are cruel.
Mother I need
mother I need
mother I need your blackness now
as the august earth needs rain.
the sun and moon and forever hungry
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall meet
and not be
if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.
if you’re going to try, go all the
way. this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.
go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
it could mean freezing on a
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
how much you really want to
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
and it will be better than
you can imagine.
if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the
and the nights will flame with
do it, do it, do it.
all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
it’s the only good fight
"--you know, I've either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
I've sold my house, I've found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
for the first time in my life I'm going to have a place and
the time to
no baby, if you're going to create
you're going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you're going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you're on
you're going to create with part of your mind and your
you're going to create blind
you're going to create with a cat crawling up your
the whole city trembles in earthquakes, bombardment,
flood and fire.
baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don't create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
Whether a comma, or colon:
Punctuation slows my rolling
I need no period. When I end
no Capitalization when I begin
Rulelessly I flow my art
Not a single!
Are you not the one
Where a question mark
No longer goes
Warp the structure
Bend the lines
Put in repeat
Let emotion unwind
Your poetry's the best
Be your own ruler
Pass your own test
Take your own road
Where ever it leads
Lover or hater
It's all poetry!
No matter who you are
You have my deepest respect!
All is vanity
The meanings of passion
The aesthetic expression
The lines we draw and stay within
Even love is beyond intent
Flowing from our pens
And so we breathe again