Humanity In Action Senior Fellows Network dinner 2012

performance, poetry December 1, 2012

You miss the directions
and end up in another era.
A watch is watched
as the chimes of the clock
tell what time it is.
We’re here to address the past
not as boulders that block passages
but as sand found
in eyes
carried through veins
found in pockets

even after clothes
have been washed and hung
out to dry.
We’re left hanging
when we push stories
that aren’t shoved down throats.
Shared tongues split
syllables until embraces
put us in the crosshairs
of circles with hands
that reach out.

Zarayda stands up
and i wonder when we’ll have
a female referee in the football world.
The rules are told
and the game begins
with the first course.
Beet roll on tonuges
and nuts hit teeth.
Smiles are uncorked
and conversations find their way
unto folded linen.

Sounds light up the room
as clothing is critically inspected.
Would Africans not be wearing dashikis
or djellabas?
Even in our imaginations
Europe remains the center
around which the self revolves.
History needs to be liberated
and not left to be silenced
by those who would rather
have the other be at the margins.

Throats are cleared
and lungs are filled.
Air recognized gives rise to chests
beaten into paragraphs,
pages, book, studies, libraries, armies.
Pens are mightier than the sword
for they can kill more than one
with a single stroke.
Wiped from existence
only to appear in salty tears
that stream once told you are
less, lesser, least able to be complete.

Pillars gave way
as if Samson himself
was among us.
But the hair is on a chin
as hands are put
in a blazer pocket
while an accented voice
shifts the world
with a bounce in his step.
He rocks back and forth
plays hide and seek
with technologies of humanity.
Expensive tools of the trade

meet candle light
as sounds of hearts
in throats beating words
into bodies become apparent.
Feet move
arms gather
as shoulders hit doors
telling stories not to jump
from balconies
or table tops
without parachutes.

I hear Kunta
tell the meaning behind ‘neger’
and find myself remembering
the state and the capital.
The center of the country
turned into a metaphor of money
in pockets of few
who define the worth of many.
And I hear a man
talk about what makes a woman
conscious and worthwhile.
Who’s defining who now?

I’m reminded of that
which i can never forget
as the marker leaks
onto my hand.
My skin color jumps out at me
as if caught in an unheimlich realization.
With reales in hand
Brazilian stories reach me
and I wonder about the love
that brought my Danish great great grand dad
to my yu di Korsou great great grand ma.

I’m caught
in between choosing
orange and purple carrots.
Nationalism and naturalism
are found on the tips of shoes
and tongues that kick and
spit and buts on seats
that face or turn
and trigger a change of sight.
A black body is not a commodity
a costume to be co-opted.
My body is not somebody’s property.

As I’m speeding towards
self realization
I look up to see some ladies
whisper and shake their heads.
How I wish
that I could read their lips
as Kunta talks about schools
and omission of existences.
The politician next to her
joins the conversation
and hands make circular movements
while I catch a yawn
caught before release with a smile.

I smile to see my seat filled
and hear a question about belonging
I thought I longer belonged
until Marie told me to pull up
a seat
and taste coffee and chocolate.
Sitting in a house
built with money and now
filling my stomach with products
brought to us by slavery and colonialism
like pepernoten.

But a hand stretches out
and a warm hart is shown
through the flight of words
that bring us to Surinam and understanding.
Wisdom through personal experience
not a blanket statement
of red or black numbers
stops and gaps
but humanity recognized
and translated into arms
and legs that stopped leading
leaving, leafing through books

and acted upon
the sounds that came
from mouths whose
tongues, tonsils, throats
were recognized as primary,
not secondary or tertiary,
from fingers, palms, wrists
that tell stories that came from
elbows, shoulders, necks.
The bodies must be seen
to exist beyond the grasp,
beyond the words,
beyond the sights,
and in the here
and now.