My shoulder waits
if you need to lean,
the world too big,
the land turned brown,
from greener pastures
left to dust,
that turn your tears
into mist, woven
like scales upon
the toad, oh
lean in sister,
your song is old.

And if your shoulder
should wait for me,
while mother fades –
her memory a
ghostlike thing,
tales worn down,
the past so far
the ground is lost,
the feet stumble as
each rock impedes,
if I lean in
will you hold on?

If we lean on
each other’s pain
perhaps the earth
will heal again
and bring the redwood
from the soil up
to heaven’s door
stepping toward
the stratosphere.
Into longing each
species greets
the other likewise
holding on –
to shoulders leaning
into sound, of
holy ones, our mother
earth, and all she
loves, whether life
or dirt, the leaning
heals for what it’s worth.



Tiny acts of rebellion

It starts with Antigone –
heroine renown,
old Creon did not stop her,
respect of hallowed ground
wove through her soul
and brought death into
healing – this tragedy is
told, sorrow lends an ear
the minstrel sings the song.
Her words are words of
Biblical psalms.

Rebel, rebel
he knew the score –
harkening back to the ancestors.
Breaking chains and releasing bones
brought a noose to Mr. Turner.
Rebel, rebel,
in the land of bunk,
get your snark on,
don your funk.
Joyce Heth’s virtues
Barnum twisted
into gold.
Slavery is so old.

Take back –
hack you write
of Miss Lonelyhearts and
and Horatio Alger in disguise.
Optimism is an American virtue,
sans teeth, sans legs, sans eyes.
He realigns vision of
Dante’s hell into another
Ah justice you are a disease,
eating away at yourself.



She haunts me –
or is it he?
the slave who is not named,
and yes, I know
they mostly
existed like
a dish or
a cow, a
bit of earth,
he-she property
of human shame,
acknowledged by pride
of statue
and lineage
I can trace –
the owner is my ancestor,
the owned –
she haunts me,
or is it he?
Usually unnamed
like a plate or a
bit of earth,
lineage I can’t trace.

Were they brought from
the Cape Coast Castle
or Fort Christiansborg?
Scipeo, Jeffrey and Rose
and the one who is not named,
was their lineage lost
in time, in sea, in waves?
All I’ll ever know is that
they came –
into the jaws of depravity
they came, yes, they came –
and the one who is not named.
Say their names
again and again –
and the one who is not named.

The stealing of bodies
from African shores
is a legacy carried
by a leaky ship
where decency drowns
on a passage deep
salvaging bone and hand
and back –
but never souls.
Souls belong
to the brave alone.
Scipeo, Rose
and Jeffrey
and the one who is not named
saying their names
again and again.

The chalkboard is erased.
The shoulder flicks the dust.
The sheer chicanery
brings to life
the now that never was.
The reckoning of
the past hangs like
a shingle lost
to the rooftop nail.
How to keep poison at bay
before infection sets into the bone?
Fly on the winds of change
and say their names
say their names
and the slave who was unnamed.
Say their names.
Say their names.
Yes, one slave was unnamed.

Can we save humanity
from mankind?
The chain of compassion
will free us all. Only
in the rising of African souls
can the world be made whole.

‘Negro man named Jeffrey
Negro woman named Rose
Little Negro boy named Scipeo
4 Negroes 40 pounds’
From the will of Henry Head dated August 20, 1716 Little Compton, Rhode Island (at the time part of Massachusetts)


All hallowed eve

On all hallowed eve
the ghouls descend
from the picture perfect
walls – this graveyard
where the past is hanging
is a gallery of echoes –
pyramids of the Nile
and Alabama’s cotton fields
where souls are hijacked
by the fluidity of words –
no substance to
the language of a ghoul.

Men of straw will
vanish when the lion
roars – history
revisited when the
hunted has his word.
At last the language
gives creation its due,
blessing every living thing
from snake to toad to you.



I might find it amusing

I might find it amusing
to watch Rome fall
Ii I was a Toltec
or a visitor from Mars.
I’d smile at every
shout of greatness
as they tarry off
to hell, but then
the iter carries me
and I can only weep
for once was great society
rambunctious in their words
turned sycophant and unctuous
to dictatorial – worst
instincts on display.
The coming of the dawn
will not show us at our best
but only what could have been
mankind you bomb again.



Throw that stick

Throw that stick!
Toss that stone!
Your tweet belongs
to you alone.
The First Amendment
your right to say
whatever you please.
So publish Wolff,
and have your say-
to the death I defend it
to my dying day.


Birds of a feather

The sparrow houses young
in crevices come spring-
the constant chatter is
how he sparkles, and to
the feeder he swarms –
no fault of his own
this internment
on American shores.

The bane of farmer
and woodpecker
the starling has from Europe
brought a foreign sound
to every native thing.
The sweeping murmuration
small consolation
for the havoc he brings.

The silent swan,
sweet bird of Will
defends his property
with wings that rise,
over water he surges,
his beauty comes
along with breadth
first fall his color done.

Oh Mr. Rock you’re the
pigeon of my eye,
the white that flashes
when you flitter
can make the spirit weep,
whether you sun on
turret or wire, you are
prodigious in your breadth.

Phragmites to the left of him
phragmites to the right,
what’s a rail to do
when his home rings untrue?
Whether acclimatization
or carelessness,
the essence of the world
is altered evermore.



A poem is like a bird
as it takes off into flight,
when you think you have it down,
it reveals Aladdin’s touch.

A merlin’s turning head
transforms to peregrine,
and sometimes all you see
is a buteo sitting there.

A sparrow singing songs
is likely just to be
sitting on a tree limb
without familiar streaks.

Let us warble on
whether crown or
humble birth. We are
worthy creatures all
this ode belongs to us.


To boast or to keen

I do not know the language
of threading terror –
words that leap like
fleas upon the trusty dog.
This usage is beyond all
playground shouting,
Backroom brawling is now
in the spectator’s vision.
No scope is needed to
identify the telltale white –
underside, wing-bar, rump,
all plainly seen.

The grass in winter is
parched and bleached and
covered with snow.
The descent down this
hill of misconception is
like driving the subzero
on a salt-free road,
headlights at your rear,
the spinning and gliding,
out of control.
This is how they neutralize
you, words of venom
pretending to endear.

The greatest generation
has yet to come,
it will not be addicted
to parading or guns.
To know that formal feeling-
the settling of dirt,
the breathing of the soil
the scattering of earth,
to recognize the harrier
swooping near the field,
each dot of life is crucial,
each ember lighting joy
when all is seen as vital,
the lagniappe is our own.


The book of forgetting

It nests within carpet fibers,
that enter the room thought,
lint blows after you
when you leave, nudging at your
back –
backtrack yet again
and you wonder how soon
will you be your mother,
sitting in her chair
without the days of

This herb is for remembrance
yet it slips beyond my tongue.
Memories like chads
hang by threads.
Each of the plants that
inhabit my garden, my life,
the results of what I do –
they end in soup or a salad.
Rosemary, how can I
let you go?
Easily, it seems.

I suffer you gone
and yet you still live,
a premonition of
what will come,
not unexpected since
I am your daughter.
But it will surprise me
I am certain, like the
depth people go to
accept the unacceptable
in a world that thrives on it.
Be grateful for forgetfulness,
the litter washes away
and all that is left is a burp,
a fart, and a mother’s beautiful