Walking the beach. Listening to Ashford and Simpson. I found a cure!
A stunning realization flooded my spirit as I danced like nobody was watching on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, as I dipped in time to the elegant duo’s dance-floor bass line and the calming echo of undulating waves.
This F-bomb dropping, poetry-loving, gray-haired grandfather walks a round-the-way illuminated path!
I’ve been on this path since walking the sidewalks of my youth in Southeast D.C.!
I was set on this path of right living by the marching orders of anonymous men and women of dignity, hard-working guardians confident in the facts of their urban lives built on rural gumption, governed by truths elemental as proverbs, consecrated by a foundational truth forged from their tribulations:
As long as you alive, keep your eyes on the prize, your shoulder to the wheel, do what you gotta do until you get what you want, sing, dance, gather, argue, own up, show up, show out, but remember one humbling and magisterial article of faith:
He May Not Come When YOU Want Him, But The Lord IS ALWAYS RIGHT ON TIME!
I can smell Daddy’s roses. Planted in the small rectangle of earth beside the walkway to our crib on 5th Street, where we moved when I was 16. It was my parent’s first house after years renting apartments.
Each petal carpeting our walk way honored … Vintage mothers who lived aloe vera lives. Timeless fathers who blazed trails smell like eucalyptus. Neighbors who lined their footsteps with salve. Baby sitters whose touch promised salvation. Teachers who squirted nourishment from their larynx.
From that strip of concrete, I stepped into my future with history as my homeboy, grounded by the wisdom and fragrance of flowers hand-tended without chemicals. I sought what’s sacred, hoped for what’s sacred.
My journey still beckons, so I can only hope my work will forge a rep that releases wisdom and fragrance from my cocoon of anonymity.
But wherever my round-the-way illuminated path takes me, whatsoever I run up on, I know it’s got to be funky!
And for sure it will represent a truth elemental as a proverb: I talk like I’m from somewhere (you know) … I talk like I’m from somewhere.
Like I’m From Somewhere
I don’t mind you hearing
the echo of oceans when I speak
surf droning/offshore misting/grit itching
years of California
will do that to a voice
I don’t mind you wondering
if I got the South caked on my palate
Virginia swaying/Maryland grinning/Florida thickening
Atlantic Seaboard bloodlines
will dictate to a sensitive tongue like that
I don’t mind you debating professors
etched their philosophies on my wisdom teeth
Howard pledging/U.C. trembling/FAMU stepping
walking different yards
can make footnotes slant down
the ramp of my mouth like that
but I don’t want you confused
cocking your ear & asking me
“repeat that please”
cause I’m speaking like maybe I haven’t tasted
pork rinds & TruAde sodas or sugarjones apple cobbler
or spent time in the kitchen of a rural Baptist church
while my aunts & sister cousins turned
fresh produce & dead meat
into meals for fall revivals
I don’t want you taking me for some
sandpapered college graduate chose booklearning
over the cornbread-filled story telling
float into the shade trees covering the mouths
of men & women who never did migrate
up D.C. up Baltimore up Philly or
points higher on the compass
I want you to know I been somewhere
that I got some sense in my head
but somewhere I got sent with the blessings
of chicken fryers/truck drivers/automotive magicians/
grizzled rabbit farmers/factory-line men/lullaby-fingered
babysitters & other Christian relatives
always had my back
even when they didn’t know my particular zipcode
at a particular time or whether I was quoting somebody
after clearing my throat or telling my own Anacostia
story at family reunions held under laughing green leaves
I want you to know I been somewhere
but I want you to know
I aint never really left either
I talk like I’m from somewhere (you know)
I talk like I’m from somewhere
BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right’: “…During my last visit with Pops, in the 93 Christmas/Kwanzaa season, he glowed because I was home, along with my teenaged son and daughter. When it came time for that December 25th meal, he was overjoyed…. As folk laughingly fixed plates from the buffet, daddy sat beside me on the sofa. I could smell that he’d been tasting the corn liquor his older brother supplied from our family’s rural Stomping Grounds in Powhatan, Virginia. I resisted my gut reaction to dis him for drinking, because it conjured arguments, inappropriate sexual innuendo, and a smell I associate with unhealthiness. Instead, with a deep breath centering me in the holiday sprit, I affectionately palmed the back of his head, put my arm around his shoulders, and waited for my turn at the table.
“Peter,” he said, his voice slurred more with emotion than the liquor, “I’m so happy that everybody could be here.”
Then he said to me under his breath, his voice this time slurred more with the liquor than emotion:
“Look at that ham! Just look at it! Hacked to pieces! Goddamn it! Can’t nobody never carve it right.”
I had forgotten this pet peeve of his; after all, I been a vegetarian since 79. But as long as I’d known him, he really did get pissed, his country-boy chef’s eye really was violated, the elegance of his holiday table really was ruined, if you chopped chunks, rather than cut slices, off a ham or turkey. Especially if he’d been tasting!
But this wasn’t the time nor place for his Gemini-ass to trip off into his growling, evil twin.
“It ain’t nothing but dead meat, no way,” I cracked, playfully punching his shoulder. “Go head over there and cut it up right, if it’s messing with you so much.”
“Naw, naw, it’s too late now. It’s already been fucked up. I’m leaving it alone.”
He gazed once more at the sacrificial ham. Checked out his loved ones enjoying themselves and settled back into the sofa with an expression of simmering contentment. In the end, the pull of our ritual was irresistible. He was satisfied with having spoken his peace — which was only right, according to the psychic Man of the House Manual by which he lived. But finally he was, I believe, glad to just groove on the sounds of enjoyment after a life of work and raising a family. Sitting pretty for a country boy with no formal education and nothing saditty about him. He would reach 69 the hard way — one anonymous day at a time. He was happy….” www.blackmanofhappiness.com/shop