Thursday, January 27, 2011

Poems for a Thursday

I once said I'd start reading more poetry. And now that I've started, I'm also sharing. I didn't write any of these, so follow the links to read the poems in their entirety.

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were it bore not beauty's name:
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame

every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him

you get yours
and i'll get mine
if i learn
to sit and wait
you got yours
i want mine
and i'm gonna get it
cause i gotta get it
cause i need to get it
if i learn how

Is it my turn to hold you by your hands
Tell you I love you and you hear me
Is it my turn to totally understand
To watch you walk out of my life
And not do a damn thing

Monday, January 24, 2011

My First Wedding

There was a time when I was terribly young and terribly cute, which meant I wanted to be neither. My mother liked to put me in frilly dresses, despite the fact that I lived in an all boy environment, which meant that I needed to dig up worms and play with GIJoes in order to get any street cred. She fought as hard as she could, putting me in ballet, tap and even baton lessons, while I was content to sit in my Wranglers and watch Dukes of Hazzard with my cousins.

In one of these battles for girlishness, I became a flower girl. The Bride and Groom were were more like a surrogate aunt and uncle. She was a petite, perky professional cheerleader with gorgeous high cheekbones. He was a handsome weatherman and we all liked to brag that we knew him whenever he was on television. I wasn’t happy on their wedding day, because I was suffocating in layers and layers of flowers and frilly misery. The only thing I remember about the wedding was the Bride telling me I looked nice. When I frowned, she said “you might as well get used to it, because people are gonna tell you that all day.”

Fast forward many decades and mom and I moved away. I grew up and even though I was not a so-called Girly Girl, I was not the militant tomboy I once was. I decided to attend college in another state and dabble in journalism. I liked my first class, but I was concerned about my professor and the way I’d catch him eyeing me. Then he’d interrupt my class questions with inquiries of his own, like “where are you from, originally?” Eventually, he stopped me before class and revealed himself as The Weatherman aka The Groom that I’d known so many years before. He and The Bride were doing well, had two young boys and lived in a suburb near the college.

I transferred to another college, but The Groom and his family became active participants in my life. We both were involved in the same professional organization, and I’d see the Bride and Groom at various summer getaways that the organization hosted. And if I didn’t run into them, they were sure to find me. I was young and na├»ve back then, so I was grateful to have The Groom’s career advice and The Bride’s efforts to steer me away from the Dirty Old Men that tended to dwell at these affairs.

Life went on, and my pockets started to thin. I could no longer afford these getaways around the country, but I’d always drop a note to the Bride and Groom come summertime. There was an event in California that I couldn’t attend, and neither could they. The Groom explained that it was because the Bride had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing treatments. He mentioned this in his normal upbeat way and I said I’d keep them in my prayers.

That was the last time we spoke. The organization’s summer event seems like it could be in my financial future this year, so I looked forward to catching up to the Bride and Groom and their kids. I was on Facebook the other night and saw that an aunt seemed to be thinking about them as well and posted several 1980s era pictures of the happy couple. I clicked on a particularly stunning picture of The Bride, one where her cheekbones were at their finest, and saw several comments of “rest in peace” and “my deepest condolences.” Online investigator that I am, I learned that The Bride was undergoing brain surgery to remove tumors that were a result of the cancer when she suddenly died.

To say that I am sad about it would be the understatement of the year. But sometime soon I’ll get it together enough to send my own condolences and figure out the funeral arrangements. Then maybe, just maybe, I will go to the summertime getaway and remember the good ole days.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Don't Ask My Neighbor

I was going to the gym in the cover of darkness when I hear this whisper, “Strength, can I talk to you for a minute?” It was my buddy Jen, my exercise partner in crime. We talk all the time, but this time I was concerned about the cryptic nature of our conversation. Did she want to sell me drugs? If so, was she giving me a good deal? But then she pulled me aside and asked me if I was seeing anyone. Then she told me that someone at the gym is interested in me.

And this where I get into what is becoming a pet peeve of mine. If you are interested in me, could you let me know? Don’t leave notes on my desk and don’t send a third party. That was good and fine in high school, but that is a time I put behind me long ago. When I’m approached this way it makes me uncomfortable for a number of reasons, including the fact that I now have this third party involved in aspects of my life that I’d rather not put him/her.

At first, I thought Jen was sent just to test the waters, to see if I was in a relationship, and then this guy would approach me himself. But no. Jen identifed the guy to me, then asked for my number to pass it to him. Odd. And the guy in question is someone I’ve seen quite often at the gym and we’ve had several face to face conversations, so he is not a complete stranger. But no, I’m not interested. So now I have to find a polite way to tell Jen that I’m in a deep sleep having my little dreams, this guy's face is not the one that hovers above me even in my most absurd fantasies. And trust, dude is MUCH too old to be playing the he say/she say phone number game. The fact that he reminds me of my uncle doesn't help, especially since there's a possibility that he could even be a distant relative. I hemmed and I hawed, then I just told Jen something about how I'm just taking a break from men and therefore I'm not going to give him my phone number.

She said she understood and planned to pass that message on to him. And who do I see as I'm leaving the gym? Dude. We spoke and that was it. I told some folks about the situation and they said dude did that because I'm intimidating. Seriously? Interesting. Anyway, it made me think of this old school song. I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The DNA Detective

Growing up I always looked forward to those times when Grandpop would visit. He always watched the Muppets with me and enjoyed playing with my pet parakeets. He often told me about the parakeet he once had – Pretty Boy – and how he was so well trained that he was allowed to roam freely around the house. His life was a mystery. I knew he was an amazing piano player, but I didn’t know why nobody in the family took up lessons from him. He and my grandma married and had five kids together, but I didn’t know why he lived on one end of town and he on another, and both had significant others.

Of course, kids can’t ask these kinds of things without being brushed off or being told to stop being grown. So I just relied on my instincts to piece things together. Grandma never cracked a smile when he was around. My mom treated him as politely as she would any guest. My aunts and uncle smirked whenever he told one of his stories. And then my older cousin – who often played the role of Evil Older Brother in my life – told me that no one liked Grandpop and that half of the stories he told were lies. I told him to shut up, which was pretty much all I had to say to him in those days.

Years went by and I saw Grandpop less and less. When I did see him, he was the same happy man, just smaller and older. It was easier to distinguish his tall tales from the truth. The whisperings among my mom’s siblings got louder. I concluded that Grandpop had a way with the ladies. He left a trail of broken hearts, and in some cases, he also left babies.

So, I wasn’t surprised when my aunt got a phone call alerting her to an adult brother who lives down south. She confronted Grandpop, who admitted this guy was his son. Then auntie noticed a picture of a young woman with our trademark nose. Grandpop reluctantly admitted that was her sister. She stormed off. Another cousin visited Grandpop and he was in full confession mode, with his version of the truth. From that, we learned that there is another daughter in the Midwest.

And now the plot thickens. There are three camps. Camp A is through with Grandpa and his rollin’ stone ways. Camp B doesn’t see how this is different from anything else he’s done and learning about these other siblings doesn’t take them by surprise. And then there’s me and the next generation who are in Camp C. We’d like to know how many other children there are, their ages (new uncle is only four years older than me) and their current location. I’m tempted to go over to Grandpop’s with a map and have him tell me all the places he visited. I will dispatch all of my cousins to each location and have them be on the lookout for anyone who could be family. I’m trying to prevent incest before it happens. That is not a good look for the 21st century.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

She's Baaaack

I mentioned before how I’d been avoiding my good friend “Sheila”, because all of our outings tend to revolve around me sitting in on various kid-friendly events. Yes it may sound cruel from the outside, but picture yourself as a single, 30 something eager to spend time with a friend who only invites you to Chuck E Cheese and kindergarten singalongs. This was not a good look for me in the 21st century.

While I didn’t let go of our friendship, but I scaled it back to ‘see as needed’ levels. I must admit, the last time we hung out, she made every attempt to make things adult. We decided to go to dinner, so she picked me up. Somehow, our plans evolved into going to a restaurant where her friend was having a “party.” It was in this restaurant’s tiny room where I endured 67 minutes of the most boring, foodless pyramid scheme I had ever endured. My stomach growled so loud that it sounded like a cell phone with a dying battery. When they finally unveiled the food, it was a bunch of teeny-tiny appetizers, not even enough to feed everyone who gathered there. I remember leaving there a bitter, hungry wretch, then racing home to eat everything in sight.

Sheila and I exchanged a few halfhearted emails and texts after that. I’ve been keeping up with her from a distance. Her older child – the attitudinal daughter – has gone off to college. Her younger son – my road dog, who has the best dimples I’ve ever seen – is in all sorts of activities and is often on the honor roll. And this week I had the pleasure of receiving a message from her, inviting me to her birthday party next month. I hope her definition of “party” has changed since the last time we hung out. **FINGERS CROSSED**
Photo from

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Catching Up 2011

Happy new year! I, for one, am happy to give 2010 a big ole kiss goodbye. The year started out wonderfully, then it got a little bad, then it got ugly, and then things started to turn around. So its onward and upward for 2011, and I’m looking forward to it. Here’s a few things that have been going on.

-Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? My new uncle, that’s who. It’s never been a secret that my granddaddy got around (my grandparents’ marriage was null and void a loooong time ago), and there were rumors of other children circulating for YEARS. So some of us weren’t so surprised when my auntie got a call saying she had an adult brother living in another state who would like to meet the family and get to know us. Said uncle is about four years older than me. Gramps, you got some ‘splaining to do.

-Whip My Hair Back and Forth. In 2010, I decided I needed to make a few changes in my life. One of those changes was getting rid of my locs. I sat in my aunt/hairdresser/therapist’s chair and watched with dry eyes as she cut off my nearly butt length hair. I kept going back repeatedly as she combed and conditioned then press n curled me into someone I hadn’t seen in about five years. I was calm as I placed one of my locs in a plastic baggie and inserted it into my diary. My resolve started to break as I tried to get back in the routine of maintaining my own hair. I did NOT miss the burnt smell of curling irons and flat irons, constantly freaking out every time it rains and keeping a ponytail holder nearby in case of emergencies. Then there was a day I was sitting at my desk listening to Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’ and I ran to the bathroom in tears. Oh, how I miss my dreads.

-Hey, Young World. Because 2010 has been so challenging for me, I decided to relaign the universe by making it better for other people. Well, just my younger cousin. I mentioned before how I wanted to fix him up with a girl at my gym. I eventually told him about her, but I was worried about how he would react. I imagined a variety of responses: “Stay outta my business.” “Why should I trust you?” “Does she have a big booty?” But he gave me a simple, three word answer. “Hook it up.” I worked my magic, did a little Facebook picture exchange and now they are flirting in the social networking realm. I hope they name their first child after me.

-Goals. I don’t have any New Year’s traditions, but writer Tayari Jones gave me a cool idea. So I took a sheet of paper and listed 10 things from 2010 that I’m letting out of my life, and 10 things that I’m letting in for 2011. Some of the left behinds include self doubt, depressing people and negative thoughts. I’m trading those in for an effort to surround myself with positive people, running a 5K, re-commit to guitar, and completion of novel #2.

That’s about it. I wish you a well 2011. I hope to return to a more normal blogging schedule very soon.