Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba, Gone to Glory

Thank you Miriam Makeba, for being you. You gave a little black girl in the South Bronx many external proofs of African genius and beauty,. I think of you as a personal saint and a friend. I cherish you as a hero I memorized your every inflection and every word on the three records my parents owned. You wore your hair naturally!! This was singular and revolutionary for a black American girl in the fifties, who was burnt by a hot comb. You were natural and beautiful. You were natural and commanded the stage. You were natural and accomplished. There was another way to be, to see, and to be seen, to occupy the world as a whole authentic self. To wear your hair as it is, and be a star!

You sang the songs of your people and many others. So I learned to shape my mouth in new ways trying to click with you in the Click Song, singing as you did, in other languages, becoming through your music, both a child of Africa and a citizen of the world. Now sister, Come go to glory with a me, you sang. Where did the Naughty little Flea Go, Love tastes like Strawberries, She Can't Crossover, Suliram.  Songs from the West Indies, where my grandparents came from, songs in French, Hebrew,
songs of the people from many wheres. These songs were light and joy and your voice was sustenance and comfort, beautiful and warm, Your songs informed me, taught me, shaped me.

My brother and best friend and I danced and performed your songs for our friends and neighbors Darling go home your husband is ill, is he ill well then give him a pill come my dear friend just one more dance, then ill go home to my poor old man.... ahhh how we loved you!!!!

... In my native village of Johannesburg...., you told us, and so I cared about Johannesburg and found it on the map and later, when I grew up, supported your people's struggle to end apartheid, because we were kin.

Your death reminds me of other losses, my parents who were smart and hip enough to bring your music home to us, who were open to your undeniability, who let us play you again and again and again. I am so so grateful that I got to see you live with my mommy, to connect that circle of gratitude and inspiration and love, to have been in your live physical presence and applauded.

My ears will always hold the memory of your singular voice. Your marriage and move back to the continent were further inspiration. You were making change manifest. I am so glad that you got to see hope reborn in America. I am moved that you died after performing in support of another who worked for change, for righting wrongs. Know we always held you in our hearts, where you reigned.

Thank you, Miriam Makeba, for singing truth to power, for giving us to ourselves, for a lifetime of effort and inspiration Thank you, for having been here among us.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Aide Taken Away

My aide was taken away, so now i more than intensely dislike the home health care service. This is the same ...
stupidity that i suffered in Rochester. Just when I settle into some routine or expectancy it is snatched away.

So what is the universe trying to tell me? If all is change, then change my paralysis into mobility again.

And this happens AFTEr i see her and soI must make do, go hungry and without food until the new person shows
up, because of course it is not on the day-- Monday that I usually had support. Another relationship lost, severed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


big bees busy outside the window
where they found somerthing in the unattended wood
so did woodpeckers

a first sighting next door undoing the house
or cleansing it of other things

the old poes words bring me nothing but sorrow
my father's death on Easter undid another
holiday i cant celebrate that
he arose he is gone and i want his
mellifluous voice and i want to argue
and i want his understanding his hearts embrace

he knew me he made me and i dont
want to wander unknown

he protectedd my tender and railed against it
he understood this soul struggle
the enormity of desire and our fragility
how much we wanted knowledge
the vast sun and how weak our wax wings

he was not the father who said don't fly
he's the one who said plan to be over the sea and know how to swim
you know they will melt and you must survive the fall
and rise again

howannoyed i was whenhe signed Albe
though that was what i first called him
but he was Daddy Albe and then later he would
scribble Albe, yr Daddy and i would laugh
as if i could mistake the left handed lovely script
he created as anyone else, ever ,ever
always my Daddy.


now i'm free to talk about
younger than Malcolm x i never knew
and all those things that bothered me
i forget
you're not here for me to tease and torment
i regret everything and nothing
you knew you were loved
and i remembered every birthday
and i ached when i was five and undertstood
that your world had denied you
for christ and vowed that you would
be as you were first in my heart
forgive me god thank god
this man made me and you made him
and i am still weeping for my loss
though not mother to him
still i adored him and cherished
him and reviled him and long
to always hear his voice
his hey baby

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mourning Niles

The end was horrible. He was in so much pain that the pains meds barely took the edge off. He growled with, not meowed, but growled, a low guttural cursing. In between cursing he would purr thickly as I rubbed and brushed his jaw and his head. While his tumor at the side of his neck grew back, as before surgery, it was not a source of apparent discomfort. This was shocking as wherever else the lymphoma was hitting, was not visible, but was devastating, robbing him of use of his tail and back end in a matter of days.

I had to fight, cajole to get the technician to come with the requisite forms. But as the print out had a code and line and charge for " technician home visit" yesterday's frantic search for someone to
relieve Niles of his wrenching pain was unnecessary stress. The vet hospital's resistance to my request that he be euthanized at home, because I can't bring him in, was just wrong. I knew from able-bodied friends that they had had their animals euthanized at home, and not because there were no other options. So it rankles, that I who have no other options, was initially denied a service that they clearly have and had available.

I played and sang the two Niles songs for him on the piano, and then My Romance, which he likes a lot and We'll be together again. A new ditty came to me to sing to him and this pleased me.

We were exiled by my inexplicable paralysis, at first from each other, for four agonizing months while I was hospitalized and then in rehab. And then finally together in a small apartment in another city while home was being made accessible. I am so grateful to him for hanging in there with me. He was used to space --an upstairs, a basement, a yard, a neighborhood to roam and that time in that awful apartment was hard for all of us, but we became closer. He was an aloof kitty who barely tolerated hugs. He changed into a cat who slept by my bed, talked to me, sought and gave affection. He helped me make it through the pain and loss. He helped us make it home again.

Returning home, he unfurled himself. He was large, handsome and in charge, facing down threats and intruders. It just hurts so much that he didn't have more years to munch his particular grasses, roam
the neighborhood, tell me which tunes he liked.

Obi, slender pointy cat, returned home when the technicians arrived. He stayed while Niles, big fluffy
cat, growled and hissed with pain, calmed, groaned, relented, sighed, died. Then Obi went back outside.

I am so grateful to have had such a sweet and funny companion and friend.

R. I. P. Niles 8 years, 1 month, 11 days

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Two Songs

As a nonparent, I guess I run into this less frequently than most.
As my first niece attends my alma mater, I am reminded
of my parents sending me off. The song Letting
Go by Suzy Boggus sung beautifully and with more
restraint than i would, aired today on a Prarie Home Companion. Sunday is often crying day as it was my day to call the parents
the day of rest, I can reflect and remember. REjoice and yearn for them.

Another song reminded me of them, in the weirdest sweetest way
Waiting on a Woman,by Brad Paisley with Andy Griffith as an old codger
talking about his ever tardy Beloved. That was my
mother, always late and yes, when she was ready, she was gorgeous.
She was a woman in a way that I've known few of. She was
this fullness, this wholeness, fierce, dryly funny, sophisticated..

The son g references 1952, only now do i realize that they got married today!!!
September 7, 1952, and I was born 6 days short of 9 months later. Dear Parents
thank you for loving each other, and making me and loving me.
Thank you. I miss you so much. I told you I would. Happy anniversary
Hope and Albert. I love you. O

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bernie Mac

I resisted loving him and having newly and finally arrived at that embrace, that ownership, that pride and joy, how I felt him speak THROUGH the inanity and perversity of silliness on his show to always always always arrive at LOVE
LOVE LOVE in that uniquely black american way I mean the character, a version of him is a triumph and he is triumphant presenting himself, not his whole self but so much of himself that yes, the poets weep for such

all those lessons worked in while we laugh and maybe cringe or even yell in recognition

The sister whose children he tends in this show, whose hearts he woos and pursues whose souls he frets over is this not our best and worst story how we overcome and how we must reach back and how it hurts and how it glories?

He is a success in that he has not just a career, but a woman. And the sly story is that he is not complete until the children come. His marital life forever changed but still he is erotic with her... o we see black love so seldom on the screen. this sweet playful intimacy he has with the TV wife

and my baby sister loved this show and i didn't and then i came to love it and appreciate him for these lessons he was feeding America and lord! to hear he had been asking how he could heal his city that shortly before his death there was a something he wanted to do to end the violence

and i dug looking at his shiny darkness, his round face and Chicago accent, a kind of twang to the slang and slant to the stance to my New York ears a street and a church in there

I say thank you Bernie Mac for raising up as you set it down for being the best of clown, who makes us laugh and see the truth of ourselves and dream ourselves better. Bless you Bless you Bless you and yours

Thank you.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Even his Shadow

though he was a shadow of himself
he was warmth
though what spoke was only a portion
I felt how wide wide how vast he was
because I could still drink
from him and with him
we could still make merry without strain
we could walk together in his light and could
hear him smile and sometimes he would cry
and it wasn't yet goodbye
because even as he grasped at straws
there were logs even though
self was frayed the cloth still held
and what leaked out was more love

more love
o father!

Friday, July 18, 2008


On Foyle's war, I am suddenly struck by the sharp hat of the detective. So dapper. The kind of hat my father used to wear, when memories were made of him. A hat wearer. Even into the waning years for hate-wearing in the culture
he was always, capped, or hatted, or covered, be the occasion casual or formal, there was a hat to meet the level of formality or informality.

I think of him always consulting my mother on his dress, yet in his youth, his dapperness seemed such his own doing.

i saw them change across time, meld together, bond, I guess. The i guess is because at some point it stops it is frozen the mind summarizes the relationship as its culmination or maturity but I was a child and they argued passionately and he kissed her passionately and she would be angry at him and he would use his wiles, while when they aged he just cooed and comforted and stroked her and rubbed her feet, in public and ducked his head shyly and awww that love that love that love just painted everything gold and whole and happy and miss them with my whole being and i don't want to grieve so and tie them to this plane but neither do i not want to honor the greatness of my loss. i lost light and clarity in losing them. I lost balance and sanity. I lost safety. I lost Hope. I lost Albert
my dynamic duo, my ancestral pair, my parents, my creators, my friends

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What to do with the ache

What to do with the ache
what to do with the loss
what to do with the absence
what to do with the gone
what to do with the abject absolute lack

what to do for the gone
how to reach the departed
to hold them close and let them go

How to remain and find meaning
when who made meaning
has died how to live in
a now without the loving ground
that held you up without your gravity