It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it – June Harris, Moms’ Mantra
Let me put my friend’s praise song into my own words:
put down your gun/pick up your baby
Listen up to her actual words:
I can trust Peter J around my children
Years later, in a dream, what saved and protected my son from a malevolent world?
embracing him, full out, flat out, actually and completely hugging him
Today on the sidewalks of my life, I bow to the swaying color of waving flowers. I acknowledge the wise impatient counsel of darting hummingbirds. I bear witness to songs of gratitude shouted to bus drivers from bus riders stepping out the back door.
Summon the tender forces of meaning in Baby Talk. They illuminate the shift of molecules, the shape of molecules, the surrender of molecules that synchs me to the power of tenderness emanating whenever we make plain our courage to reveal wholeness.
Be gone invisibility.
It was 1997 and I was hosting a circle of friends at my crooked house on a hill in northeast LA. We were celebrating fathers and daughters, during a visit by my 17- year- old daughter.
As we went around the circle, my friend VKali, poet, nurse, vegan chef, and one of my sisters from another mother, shared her praise song.
Painfully, it wouldn’t be until 2003 that Adenike disclosed what she had endured from her criminal ex stepfather.
Be gone silence. Be gone bullshit. Be gone false promises. Be gone shaking hands with the devil. Be gone dancing on the surface. Be gone half stepping on the surface. Be gone protocol. Be gone. Be gone. Be gone.
Summon courage. Summon honor. Summon honesty. Summon simplicity. Summon humanity of the richest character. Summon the sustained note of respect and protection. Summon the beautiful action. Call it down. Call it up. Call it in.
Move a motherfucker to the core with a bass line of fullness and immediate recognition. Announce unprecedented presence. Learn instantly what we need for eternity. Become eligible for enrollment in the Witness Testimony Program. Be seen. Be seen. Be seen.
Step like at an HBCU halftime. Wind like at Carnival. Spin like Salsa dancers on point. Look all around, look straight ahead, see clearly now, see all obstacles, and conjure the language of bright moments, string together bright moments into seasons worth praising.
Tenderness embraces challenge. Tenderness finds function in conflict. Tenderness summons the vulnerability of resolve. Tenderness crooks its finger in an ethical summons.
Tenderness protects tenderness against the predatory living in the folds and folks and shadows of our lives. Tenderness keeps us supple. Tenderness reminds us it aint what you say it’s how you say it!
Come on Moms! Remind me Moms!
Tenderness says what proverbs say. Tenderness says what it means and means what it says. Tenderness says BE there and don’t be gone. Tenderness says study long, study wrong.
Come on Pops! Remind me Pops!
Help me see clearly. Remind me to trust my clarity until I die.
With Our Babies
put down your gun/pick up your baby
undo your collar/open up your arms
strip off your uniform/salute to your equal
unpin your badge/reveal your rib cage
dismount your Tomahawk/hometrain your tongue
swallow your mushroom cloud/civilize your crosshairs
put down your gun/pick up your baby
we hush children with full-clip seduction
check their fever with kerosene rags
dab runny noses with knuckles polished by crocodile tears
refuse to shed dead excuses
while our youngins killed in the line of duty
at the seance we must hold in atonement
I will enter the room wearing a collage of
drive-by camisole carjacked khaki pants
a ghettobird overcoat sneakers with Rodney King laces & neon heels
from my backpack I will pull bottles of holy water distilled at room temperature
a cassette tape of toddlers giggling at the silly jokes of serious men & women a video
tape of mothers & fathers smashing 40 ounce bottles & crack vials, whitewashing
cigarette billboards & pimping through the halls of congress with rehabilitated lobbyists
my skin covered with a tatoo bearing the names of children
starved by forgetful recipients of affirmative action
my third eye a hologram with the shifting images of pie charts
comparing government welfare for citizens & corporations
in the rotunda where we must hold the seance of atonement
the voices of the despised children will rage along the curves of the circular walls
the indignant agonized sound shredding the protocol of NRA mailings interrupting the
remarks of the Senator from shadowland shattering the goblets clinked in toasts of
accomplishment challenging our satisfied laughter
I can’t just hold hands in the dark
(something is wrong with our babies)
the seance is over
(something is wrong with me)
I put down my gun
my collar is open at the throat
my uniform is a pile of cloth at my feet
my badge has been spun into piano wire
my Sam & Dave tongue bleeds the music of Earth Wind & Fire
through the crosshairs of civilization I read the stones of a kaleidoscope
when something is wrong with our babies
something is wrong with me
What is the sound of my tenderness?
What is the Baby Talk of this Black Man of Happiness?
The voice revealing the DNA of me myself and I.
The voice that came with Pops’ koshies. My godfather Mr. Scotty calling me Petey Pete without a whiff of fake intimacy and friendship. The uplifting of Virginia Aunties. Whispers I keenly miss from special rooms of intimacy. Echoes that help me trace the tenderness in my life with lovers, brothers, parents, and friends repping human configurations of all kinds.
The voice representing my fullest embrace, my most artful, my most humble rendering, of Moms’ timeless mantra.
What voices your tenderness? What voices your Baby Talk?
May it be sound that helps you realize we’re in the world, El Mundo, of one planet, La Planeta, and like Mahalia sang, demonstrated, reverberated:
We got the whole world in our hands!
BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… Junior Baby is an imaginary OG – my Jesse B. Semple, Langston Hughes’ fictional storyteller, my garrulous, poetic Mudbone, Richard Pryor’s eloquent alter ego. The Apocalypsonian … born of sperm charmed as a look of love, born of ovum perfumed as a look of love … is my jazzy, incorruptible, Inner Maroon. They walk the long and winding and dangerous road to Grooved Pavement Ahead. Junior Baby: Hmmm hmmm … What is a happy Black man? Hmph hmph hmph …! That’s a question just about make a whole country break out in a cold sweat … hmmm hmmm … that’s some pursuit of happiness for your ass right there! Bringing it on closer to home, I’d say a happy Black man works it out like family, you know. Holds court without snitching. Gets past thin skins. Stays in the game. Remembers back to the beginning of Good. Uses Good as ground rule, as Golden Rule. Knows Good in himself can rendezvous with Good in somebody else. Keeps family in his life. Blood family. Chosen family. Works at it in his own sweet way but always works it out like family. That’s a happy Black man right there. The Apocalypsonian: A happy Black man? Bold as a gigantic DJ standing between two turntables braced by the Continental Divide! Spinning Alpine Funk in all directions. Left hand weeping. Right hand avalanching. Black-lit constellations halo over my bobbing head. Lifetime of music spinning from two huge LPs. Perfection blessing custom Bose speakers suspended in swaying Ponderosa pines. Music pumping. Bass line changing the weather. Wallflowers wading up stream. Flow so hypnotizing inspire even frail aunties to remember bid whist hand from a Friday night card game in 1962.…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/