Stairway to Heaven

Once, I envisioned the sweetest stairway to heaven in a slow drag – dancing close, in a mutual dip, breath steaming up the room, singing lyrics into her ear in an intimate whisper, feeling her arms tighten around my shoulders in response, as the O’Jays sang the roadmap to paradise.

Now my first heavenly step tends to be when I find myself intimate with unexpected exhilaration.

Meeting someone whose silken intelligence humbles me and ignites curiosity. Accepting an invitation to collaborate in a way that allows me to infuse imagination into an otherwise linear admin experience. Observing a public display of generosity or service. Witnessing and savoring well-wrought creativity – onstage, at the open mic, in the movie house.

When I experience my daily living as if I were on a constant adventure, then I know I’m walking the stairway to heaven. When I smell fragrance from the stressful frictions of my life, when I feel supple despite the stresses in my life, when I keep my mind clear, my analyses sober, then I know I’m walking the stairway to heaven.

When I earn respect across borders, when I respect diligent ethical work by folks different from me, when I find the words of a timeless praise song, then I know I’m walking the stairway to heaven.

5th Street Sky

for Richard Fulton

in the 5th Street sky

white clouds drift over a bandstand of raining sighs
brighten after hours with storms proclaiming my my my
steaming away wrinkles in once sprawling lives

under the 5th Street sky

grown men cradle horns
float solos full of caffeine & whipped cream
sweeten melody with aroma of their high-hat wisdom
return time’s meaning for twitching family members
once slumped on sidewalks cackling with pain
now bowing into music with no shame

… sacred gone ground found …

summoning us into forgiveness
praise of dishonored angels
on the black & white walls

beneath 5th Street Dick’s baby blue ceiling

we find shelter from sticks & stones
bad days & broken bones
bottles & bubbles
sour drink & endless troubles

look how light falls on the humid faces turned up
as old timers tip toe into Harlem Dip & Central Avenue Stroll
stride past the curve of a sizzling piano
finger snaps shooting sparks through the air
old school medicine sipped & savored by hip hop heads
igniting language incinerating diction like lindy hopping dragonflies
homing in on a kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies
to conjugate fantastic murals across dazzling 5th Street sky

who remembers the dawn when our cherished OG waved goodbye?
I will never forget the dawn when our cherished OG waved goodbye

In their song, the O’Jays ask in the fever of ecstasy: ‘don’t you wanna go, don’t you wanna go!’

And even in the midst of a slow drag I’m reminded to answer:

Yes yes yes, I do want to sense and trace the dimensions of life; yes yes yes, I will cultivate the aurora borealis within and around myself; yes yes yes, I will tap my self discipline, I will peep and avoid the humble’s promise of easy street, I will refuse the siren song of the political con; yes yes yes, I will network with subsonic harmonics of human living; and, yes yes yes, I will sync my future with a lifetime of precious memories.

Until, yes yes yes, I ring in harmony with my own exhilaration and my own Amazing Grace.

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “….  In the next few days, I came down with the worst case of what I now call the flu and the Blues. Fever. Sweats. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Breathlessness. Chest pains. Depression. Hallucinations.  Including one hallucination in which I saw myself as a helpless human pendulum swinging between the temperaments of my two older brothers, whom I’d always idolized for their radically different ways of being men. My oldest brother’s style? Think Old Faithful, the geyser, whose profanity-laced rants were sonic masterpieces as beautiful and riveting as Pete Townsend solos. My second oldest brother’s style? Think Agent 00 Soul…. I felt raging within my body these unhealthy extremes.  And my last hallucination plunged me into the healing sounds of hundreds of Black men singing from a core of wholeness, of vulnerability, of vision, to face whatever was ugly inside us, to celebrate an awesome faith in love and a faithful participation in love.  Listen … it’s no question, and I understood this even in my 20s, that great singing, great music, is an ineffable emotional aphrodisiac under any circumstances.  I am definitely not saying I had to lip synch Rose Royce (“…I’m going down …”) in order for pop ballads to become 4-minute mantras of metamorphoses.  But I have come to discern that this unbidden, flu-ridden, rite of passage was a genuine Round the Way Initiation.  I had a 20-something revelation that I could face what scared me, what scarred me, what stymied me, but only if I invested in my own genius and established my own elemental endowment.  I sensed I had discovered a sensual and regenerative operating system for the rest of my life, to deal with my drama, to activate my potential, to consolidate my triumphs .…”

3 thoughts on “Stairway to Heaven”

  1. Wow, Peter. Every line, every sentence crackles with vivacity, vibrance, sensory networks bristling and buzzing with your iron focus on moments–little moments, intimate moments, introspective moments, evolving moments. Your laser focus is our gain. You open our eyes and our minds. Thank you for injecting your energy into us. Thanks for all you teach us and share with us, always opening our eyes wider.

    Best wishes,

  2. On our trip home, Stairway to heaven came on and my son and I just stopped our ‘car karaoke’ and just listened to the melodic OGs remind us of what might or could be! It was a beautiful moment!
    Asante Sana for the reminders!


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