Updraft @ 67

Peter J. Harris

Calendar says I’m 67 this month!

Mirror says I’m no longer the fairest of them all!

But like blood surging back into my fingertips, after I’ve slept on my hand, I’m riding an updraft @ 67!

How to describe my genuine energy, curiosity and sense of power?

How to describe my clarity, thunder and sense that I’m part of a heroic refusal to back down to extremists?

How to describe my perpetual state of arousal and desire and sense of excitement?

How to describe my resilience and imagination and sense of inspiration?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m well aware what we face from the sidewalk to the halls of power. I’m not hiding from the odious social inequities forced upon the majority.

I’m subject to downdrafts like any sane person squaring off against the persistent lies and contradictions of our accelerated world. But our resistance ain’t nothing new either:

“The study of happiness never was a luxury to be postponed until more serene, peaceful times,” writes Sissela Bok in her book Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science (2011). “…Yet it is precisely in times of high danger and turmoil that concerns about happiness are voiced most strikingly and seen as most indispensable. From earliest times, views of human happiness have been set forth against the background of suffering, poverty, disease, and the inevitability of death. … [page 5]

No doubt the ‘background’ to my wreaking happiness begins in the era of the American avatar of enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson. Since I remain a card carrying member of the Dozens Institute of Southeast D.C., Richard Pryor Division, I like to juxtapose without intimidation Jefferson’s soaring language in the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776 with the coarse and commercial text of his 1769 runaway slave ad in the Virginia Gazette for a “Mulatto slave called Sandy.”

“…Whoever conveys the said slave to me, in Albemarle, shall have 40 s. (shillings) reward, if taken up within the county, 4 l. (pounds) if elswhere within the colony, and 10 l. if in any other colony….” 

So yes, a brother’s birthday can get bittersweet:

Saudade @ 54

indigo rusting joints of a birthday
muscle car revving in neutral   cantankerous as Fred Sanford  

lingering exhale   cleansing cry


sweet and sour origami
vamp of my Ancestors’ invitation

implodes into craving for my exalted adolescence 

Trenton Avenue serenades & harmonies
when my sidewalk skin rhymed with the wind

Yet 13 years later, I’m caught in the rapture of an incorruptible joy onna move. I refuse the notion imposed on me that I only exist to make someone else happy and then die.

My presence on this earth is precious. Period. Full Stop. May I live in such a way that I’m an example of what Moms and them (including Langston Hughes and Sweet Honey in the Rock) called Dream Variations….

And I as dance whirl whirl: may you, too, feel the earth move sweetly underneath your feet – and NOT find it peculiar!

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… But it’s time to forge joy from joy, ignite happiness from happiness, to spiral inward to get to an indivisible irradiation, whose fragrance is exhaled as part of each breath we take. Want to be happy. Will be happy. Become onery about happiness. What happiness can I cultivate when I don’t have to look over my shoulder? What endorphins will I release – in my body and into the body politic – by singing of myself, singing to myself…being myself…again…? What ecstasy? For ourselves and for others we love?  .…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/

6 thoughts on “Updraft @ 67”

  1. Love this and just the escape moment needed in midst of board meetings droning on, even in backdrop of beautiful San Diego..keep it rolling bro, and your gift. Will be remembering pigeon moments at tail end of cherry blossoms next week in DC while attending National Black Trustees Alliance meeting at Natl Gallery.
    Ever hopeful, trying to hold my joy and not feel as if I betray anything by daring to still be sweet sour happy sad at the same time, living and breathing anyway. Alive.

  2. Happy beginning to your personal new year Peter J .

    Thanks for sharing this humbling – real and inspiring perspective.


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