You’re Not White.

to secure his pockets

he told you that you were in a race

so you started running

for a fictitious finish line

developed

by capitalistic

masterminds.

and centuries later,

you’re still running.

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Dichotomy

I was told once that I am a dichotomy. Ok, perhaps I wasn’t told so much as a website dedicated to analyzing ones stars calculated my birthday and gave me the statement. Dichotomy. And I grabbed onto this flimsy web-generated statement and really tried to wrap my mind around the fact that this may be the best way to describe my in-definitive self.

I am a dichotomy in all that I do –

In dress I am both bohemian and urban, in reading I am high fantasy and southern African-American Lit, and in writing I am both a prose writer as well as a poet. In life I am an artist, but I am also a teacher.

Believing all of these elements to be beautiful isn’t my problem. My problem is balance. I often allow one part to take-over while the other lies dormant. It’s as if I force all of these elements to become individual personalities and never allow them to co-exist. When I am a writer I find myself renouncing education, hating the tedious tasks of taking attendance and writing lesson plans. When I am a teacher, I allow myself no time to create. I keep myself divided by locking up all of my components into tiny compartments and releasing one at a time. But that’s yet another flaw of mine I am realizing, and reinventing.

Do you also have a time and a place for specific parts of you? The Church you vs. the work you, the quirky you vs. the refined? I suggest we all break down these barriers and stop categorizing the things we are comprised of so that we can comfortable be all of ourselves all of the time.

 

Salaam 1653680_10104231765849163_927721284_n

What I should have said…

I am at a doubtful time in my life. I doubt whether or not I will ever be a wife and mother – something I’ve wanted since I was three. I doubt I’ll ever be able to set aside teaching and write full time. I doubt I have the ability to write full time. Hell, I doubt the sun rise in the morning, truth be told. So in this doubtful period, I – master of linguistics – have a hard time speaking. Really. I stumble, repeat myself and leave important things out.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting two of the most inspiring writers of our time – Nikki Giovanni and Junot Diaz. Needless to say, I didn’t get the right words out. As I floated around Ms. Giovanni while she was attempting to make it to her signing post, I was beside myself with the want to tell her everything. So of course, I told her nothing. I got some words out about her being my biggest muse (why do you think I go by Nikki the Muse?), told her my father introduced me to her stuff and some mumbo jumbo about my being a poet who gets off track into the world of fiction and well – hell- i don’t even know what I said and I could tell by her “I’m-too-sweet-to-tell-you-to-piss-off-you-no-sense-making-fool-of-a-girl-face” that I was talking too much. I took my signed book – which, in retrospect, I may have too comfortably placed in her hands to sign, and moped off.

Then I spotted Junot Diaz. Maaaaaaaan he so cool I forgot to tell him how cool he was. We had a brief chuckle over the fact that I was Black and Korean with a Pinoy name – Miami life – and he was super cordial and warm and gave me a hug and kiss, but I didn’t get a word to him.

As I sit at this laptop, at my desk in my classroom feeling that the walls are closing in on me, feeling as if I don’t write something and get published soon I’ll implode, I realize that though I didn’t want to say “hey, read my stuff” I did want to say the right thing.

WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID:

Nikki, I mean, Ms. Giovanni,

I breathe your work. When I fall in the dream of love or find myself stirring as I wake from love it is your poetry that becomes my soundtrack. When I was 14 I read your stuff for the first time and thought, man oh man this is a Queen. I respect you, revere you even, for all that you are – militant, vibrant, and all that you are not – dull, conformed, and I have looked up to you like you are some dead white male writer – which, in the world of “respectable literature”, means a lot. I have dreamed of meeting you so often that they feel the reality, and this the fantasy. You showed me that a woman can be, hell, should be, sexy, strong, articulate, intelligent but not condescending and real – earth shatteringly real. And I love you for all you have given the world.

Meeting Junot Diaz at Miami Book Fair International

Meeting Junot Diaz at Miami Book Fair International

Junot, – I won’t say mister ’cause you seem like one of my boys –

You fly. You so fly. We can go down the colonial languages’ dictionary and find many, many words whose denotative definition can describe you but I’ll choose fly because we know that it’s a colloquialism that can hold so much more power than any fifteen syllable compliment. I regret not having read your stuff sooner, but I am a fan. Through and through, and I am inspired – not just to be a better writer, but more intelligent, informed. I love how you see yourself and by offering such a clear image, allow others to use you as a mirror when defining themselves. You are what Tupac calls a rose, one that grew from concrete of course. Thank you.

Alas, why is it that we only think of this stuff later?

Pretty

Blonde stepford mothers

keep me in the kitchen questioning my country

while daughters snigger

fuckin nigger

but no, the mother’s say she’s got to be part

jap, or chink, or malay

her eyes are so

pretty

sister so and so slices me a sliver of rum cake, spiced

and tugs my mane like it wont come off

this your grandbaby?

yank

well, her hair is so

pretty

my name on a foreign tongue

taste like the tango but truth be told it’s

just a jig

you just give it accents where my daddy ain’t see none.

yeah, i’ll repeat it for you.

and you say, it’s

pretty.

ajumah in her market

markedly assessing my make-up

genetic

happy for eomma

not too dark

so she deems me epudah

pretty

society is so ugly