Black History Month: Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold

Guggenheim and

Black History Month: Thornton Dial

Thornton Dial

Testing for Food, 1992

Black History Month: Saul Williams

Saul Williams

Poem Therapy at 12:40 P.M. - Aya de Leon

Aya de Leon

Icon/I have a dream
Aya de Leon

Martin Luther King fought for justice, not integration
Don’t confuse the method of transportation with the destination
But history remembers our heroes distortedly
like black & white kids holding hands is all he stood for
& completely forgets his opposition to the viet-nam war
& what’s more
his ideas are intellectual property &
if Ghandi can be an icon for apple computers, then
everything in this nation is for sale
I can just imagine what advertisers would do with
King’s letter from the birmingham jail
picture this: it gets bought by corporations in the
prison industrial complex
& they take it all out of context
putting up billboards in the hood that say:
hey young black men, MLK went to jail; if you’re
lucky, you can be next>

Or imagine this one
Let’s say the NBA buys his speech at the march on
talking about I have a team
I have a team so the sons of former slaves can sweat
and toil up and down basketball courts like modern day cotton fields
for the profit & amusement of the sons of former slave owners;
it is deeply rooted in the american dream; I have a team>

Or perhaps it would be bought by developers talking about
I have a scheme.
I have a scheme that little white yuppies can live next to
little black and brown boys and girls,
digging the convenience & flavor of their hood
& when the black & brown folks get moved out
white yuppies will say in their newly acquired hipster slang
don’t trip peeps, it’s all to the good
yes, I have a scheme
still deeply rooted in the American dream
feeling like a dij` vu, except without the smallpox blankets
& then developers can go to black church testimony meetings
talking about
I’m not here to testify
I’m here to gentrify!
can I get a witness?>

Or maybe it would be bought by a multinational
pharmaceutical conglomerate
talking about I have a cream
I have a cream & even if the red hills of georgia are
nothing compared to the acne on your face, I have a cream.
A cream that guarantees that every pockmark will be
exalted and every pimple made low, I have a cream.
I have a cream that fights against itching,
anti-government bitching and encourages snitching.
I have a cream that is spermicidal, herbicidal,
pesticidal & genocidal, I have a cream today!
I have a cream that will turn little black boys into little white girls
& we sold some to michael jackson & he said
white at last, white at last, thank god almighty I'm
white at last!
yes, people, we must be very careful who we let
control our past.

Black History Month: Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong

Black History Month: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Black History Month: Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Black History Month: Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

A Field of Black

Velcrow - Jason Bergsieker

When I returned home from physical therapy yesterday, (FYI: I can now pick up four marbles!), the field behind my home was glutted with crows and appeared to be something of a black, roiling sea. I estimate there was at least one thousand crows on the ground and at least a quarter of that number in the trees.

If you're interested in wearing art instead of hanging it on the wall, click on over to Threadless for t-shirts and artwork such as Bergseieker's.

Poem Therapy at 1:20 P.M. - Cornelius Eady

Cornelius Eady

I'm a Fool to Love You
Cornelius Eady

Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father,
A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices
A young black woman faces.
Is falling in love with some man
A deal with the devil
In blue terms, the tongue we use
When we don't want nuance
To get in the way,
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
This man made my father look good,
That's how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island
In the middle of a stormy sea,
He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize
You exist in a stacked deck,
You look in a mirror at your young face,
The face my sister carries,
And you know it's the only leverage
You've got.
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
You shrug your shoulders
And agree, a girl without money
Is nothing, dust
To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this,
My father seems, briefly,
To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man's kisses
A healing.

In light of the poems that have found me this week, especially this poem in particular, I'm considering renaming Poem Therapy, Voodoo Poetry. It's a little unsettling just how close to the bone the past few poems have cut. But from the fragment of Kafka's quote I remember, poetry is supposed to be the ax that breaks apart the frozen sea within each of us.

How to Write a Found Word Poem

Construction paper
Glue sticks

Cut out 30-35 interesting words that appeal to you
Arrange and rearrange words until
they communicate a theme, image, meaning
Glue them to paper

I loved the idea of conflating myth with place in the title of my found poem. I constructed this found poem years ago, so it's time I revise and see if I can create a decent poem or flash piece. When I do, I'll post it. Until then I've posted the text of my found poem below:

Icarus Street

Contemporary human dove
Nature's designated mistake
Whose mutilated pigeon arms arms are futiley
The Traditional Victorian artist
The tell-tale confetti of disaster

We make our time
Gathering around the ocean
And beyond the planet
Searching for modern roots
Only to plunge
Into dazzling white bliss

Black History Month: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

I remember watching Ali and Howard Cosell verbally spar on television when I was a kid and it wasn't until I was older that I realized that it was an act, that they actually liked each other.

I am a closet boxing fan. It's embarassing to admit to enjoying watching grown men pound the light out of each other. I will admit that since Tyson reinvented himself as boxing's grindhouse Gorgon and went completely off the grid, I haven't been interested in the sweet science. I'd have to google the current heavyweight champion. Instead of watching live boxing, I watch documentaries and films about boxing.

For me, Ali is still the boxer at the center of the sport.

Ali is still the most recognizable man on the planet. Check out the website to see for yourself the man, the boxer, the legend still worthy of being considered The Greatest of all Time

Here's an excerpt from Google books The Soul of a Butterfly : Reflections on Life's Journey

If you haven't seen Ali yet, get it for this weekend.

Check out the history of boxing in America and in Ancient Greece.

Black History Month: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Read an excerpt from the Minneapolis-St.Paul's Star Tribune series: Purple Hibiscus

Read an excerpt from The New York Times "First Chapters" feature: Half of a Yellow Sun

Check out her latest book, a collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck

Listen to an interview from New American Media on Nigerian in America

Search Adichie's website for novel, poetry, short story, and essay excerpts, interviews, and more

Poem Therapy at 12:45 P.M. - Yusef Komunyakaa

Yusef Komunyakaa

Facing It
Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

Today. 2:15.

Poem Therapy at 8:23 P.M. - Harryette Mullen

Harryette Mullen

Shedding Skin
Harryette Mullen

Pulling out of the old scarred skin
(old rough thing I don't need now
I strip off
slip out of
leave behind)

I slough off deadscales
flick skinflakes to the ground

Shedding toughness
peeling layers down
to vulnerable stuff

And I'm blinking off old eyelids
for a new way of seeing

By the rock I rub against
I'm going to be tender again

Poem Therapy has become very much like searching for treasure at a vintage or thrift store: I get a feeling that treasure awaits discovery and then I am drawn, and often stumble upon the very thing I've been searching for, even if I wasn't aware I was looking for it.

Mullen's Shedding Skin is the exact treasure I needed at this very moment to articulate what is happening this year, so far. I think the universe is the horde of barbarians at the gate, battering the stone wall I've spent decades building, stone by rough hewn stone. My fortress has served me well, but, armaments eventually crumble to ruin. It's time to drop the gate, jump the moat and sprint headlong into the wilderness that waits.

I will be tender again.

Rest in Peace: Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton

Lucile Clifton

who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be

beautiful who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals

that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin

sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls clicking

their bony fingers
they have heard me beseeching

as i whispered into my own
cupped hands enough not me again

but who can distinguish
one human voice

amid such choruses
of desire

Poet Lucille Clifton died February 13, 2010. She was 73.

This is the first I've read this poem. It is true that each of us falls in love with our own sorrow, that we hold sorrow like precious relics within the reliquaries of our bodies, make pilgrimages and offerings.

If you'd like to read more of Clifton's poems and biographical information, or lose yourself for an hour or two in the site's archives, search Poetry Foundation.

Poem Therapy at 1:46 P.M. - Sapphire


Breaking Karma #5


It is like a scene in a play.
His bald spot shines upward between dark tufts of hair.
We are sitting in a pool of light on the plastic
covered couch, Ernestine, his last live-in,
ended up with. But that is the end.
We are sitting in the beginning of our lives now
looking at our father upright in his black
reclining chair. It's four of us then, children,
new to Los Angeles--drugs, sex, Watts burning,
Aretha, Michael Jackson, the murder of King,
haven't happened yet.
He is explaining how things will be--
Which one will cook, which one will clean.
"Your mama," he announces, "is not coming."
Two thousand miles away in the yellow
linoleum light of her kitchen, my mother
is sitting in the easy tan-colored man's lap.
Kissing him. Her perfect legs golden like
whiskey, his white shirt rolled up arms that
surround her like the smell of cake baking.
"Forget about her," my father's voice drops like
a curtain, "she doesn't want you. She never did."


Holding the photograph by its serrated edges, staring,
I know the dark grey of her lips is "Jubilee Red"
her face brown silk. I start with the slick
corner of the photograph, put it in my mouth like it's
pizza or something. I close my eyes, chew, swallow.

"Breaking Karma #6"

I'm in the movies now playing the part
of the girl who broke my heart.
My mouth, strobe-light pink, bounces off blue sequins.
Behind me the Stones sing "Miss You," hollering,
"There's some Puerto Rican girls around the corner
just dying to meet chu."
In the wings a white boy in a wheelchair moans,
"Oh operator please get straight."
SHE takes the stage now. Big yella gal.
Daddy was a wop. Mama was a nigger.
She's a singer. With a voice hot semi-liquid rock.
Her heels are hills, cobalt blue melting like
her dress into the firm breasts, fat hips & belly
of Black Los Angeles.
"Let's burn down the corn field," SHE wails.
It's 1968. Tito, Michael, Randy & Cato
are dancing down rows of rainbow colored corn
when a voice comes over the loud speaker:
There will be no ambulances tonight.
"We'll make love, we'll make love while it burns,"
SHE screams like Howlin' Wolf, like Jay Hawkins,
like Hank Williams, like Van Gogh's windmill,
like the severed ear of black wind in a plate
of pigtails & pink beans,

like that bridge in Connecticut that collapsed
under the center of air shaking like
change in a cup.
SHE stands like the big legs of a nuclear plant
cracked at the base melting down a room full
of $3/hr assembly line workers who hear her
& shout, "Honey Hush!" & the crack in their
mother's back becomes a sidewalk, then a road
leading to a peach tree in "Georgy"
or a pear tree in Florida.
I'm eating popcorn & watching a Mexican
dump a drunk paraplegic BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
in the desert his granddad rolled over
a century ago killing for gold.
At the side of the road an Okie girl,
selling peanuts & semiprecious gems,
hands me three pieces of black obsidian,
called "Apache Tears," the Okie girl drawls,
"'cause after the cavalry massacred their men,
the Native women cried so hard
their tears turned black, then to stone."
Inside the theater the screen fills up
with a fat half breed burning, gasoline
in a blue dress. SHE picks up a

microphone & in a book she hasn't read yet
a white boy in a rented room puts
his eyes out with lye. "I rather!" SHE shouts.
"Tell it!" the audience shouts back. "Umm hmm,"
like the wind trapped in a slave castle SHE moans,
"I rather go blind," the screen melts white
drips down her face & disappears,
"than see you--"

I read Sapphire's Black Wings & Blind Angels: Poems when it came out in 2000. Reading this collection is like driving past a terrible accident where you can't help slowing down to look, (yes, a tired analogy). I couldn't look away from the pages, and after reading each poem I swore I couldn't read another, that I couldn't take it. I read every single poem.

You may be more familiar with Sapphire's fiction, especially Push,now the film Precious.

Black History Month: Jean Michel Basquiat

Jean Michele Basquiat - December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988

I think I saw the "pugilist" poster for the Warhol-Basquiat exhibition plastered on a wall when I was was in New York City, back when I was twenty-five and visiting my (now ex) husband's family. Truthfully, I think this may be an appropriated memory. I do know for certain there was a man singing into a Mister Microphone calling souls to "come unto Jessuhs Kaliiist" and another man with his underwear on the outside of his pants.

I will admit that it was the film Basquiat that brought this incredible artist into my awareness.

Black History Month: Toni Morrison

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison


124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old--as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny band prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods: the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed. No. Each one fled at once--the moment the house committed what was for him the one insult not to be borne or witnessed a second time. Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn't have a number then, because Cincinnati didn't stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them.

Toni Morrison is my favorite author, and Beloved is my favorite book. It is a book that grabs you by the neck and shakes you. Hard.

The book's dedication is for "the sixty million and more" who perished in the institution of slavery. The book is far more than a polemic on the evils of slavery. Beloved haunts us with the certain knowledge the past may be forgotten, but it is not dead.

Black History Month: 1619 to 2010

Slavery - 1619-1789

Advertsement - May 6, 1700's

Emancipation Proclamation - January 1, 1863

15th Ammendment - February 3, 1870

Civil Rights Act - July 2,1964

President Barack Obama - 2010

Black History Month 2010

Martin Luther King Jr.

Check out and for links to almost every imaginable topic on black history.

Poem Therapy at 8:32 A.M. - Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein

A light in the moon the only light is on Sunday. What was the sensible decision. The sensible decision was that notwithstanding many declarations and more music, not even notwithstanding the choice and a torch and a collection, notwithstanding the celebrating hat and a vacation and even more noise than cutting, notwithstanding Europe and Asia and being overbearing, not even notwithstanding an elephant and a strict occasion, not even withstanding more cultivation and some seasoning, not even with drowning and with the ocean being encircling, not even with more likeness and any cloud, not even with terrific sacrifice of pedestrianism and a special resolution, not even more likely to be pleasing. The care with which the rain is wrong and the green is wrong and the white is wrong, the care with which there is a chair and plenty of breathing. The care with which there is incredible justice and likeness, all this makes a magnificent asparagus, and also a fountain.

There are days when every conversation, every activity, every moment is a non sequiter. Today is such a day. Woke at 3:00 A.M. from yet another dream of packing. I never have trouble sleeping. The dogs were still asleep, no sign of anything amiss, so of course I've decided it's an omen, especially now that I know my daughter also woke at this hour. I also knew it would be a mishmash day.

Almost every line from Getrude Stein's poem reads like a non sequiter until you read it aloud, eyes closed, and listen to the sound of the words, visualizing the disparate images and their assiciations.

About five years ago I wrote a short story about a Southern Utah family suffering in variuos stages from thyroid cancer. The father died years ago, and the mother is in the last stage of her life. Both sons were killed in Vietnam and the last remaining child, a daughter has returned home to care for her mother and to regroup after being fired from her adjunct teaching job after her affair with the dean, a famous poet, is discovered. The mother spends the majority of her time reciting Stein's poetry, much to the dismay of her estranged daughter. The daughter has juat learned that she too has cancer. She has also uncovered the family secret: that her great-grandfather was directly involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

The heart of the story is the mother's belief that death gives you your truest desire: On his deathbed her husband hears the angel Moroni's trumpet call heralding the second coming; on her deathbed it is her sons, alive and vibrant who burst into the house calling her name.

When I began searching for a guiding image for this story, I decided on Stein's Light in the Moon as an oblique allusion to the atomic bomb, the downwind fallout, the senselessness of testing, and the ultimate devastation on the local population for generations to come.

How to Make a Collage Art Journal

front cover

back cover

inside cover

1 sheet 8x14 cardstock paper (for cover)
10 pieces 8x14 paper (for journal)
blunt tapestry needle
bone burnisher
18 inches string, DMC emrboidery floss, or ribbon
Laminate paper (Kinkos will laminate for a nominal fee)

1. Cut images and words from magazines
2. Affix images to both sides of the cover cardstock
3. Laminate cover
4. Fold in half and burnish flat with bone burnisher (or spoon)
5. Trim one half inch from one side of the ten pieces of 8x14 journal paper
6. Fold in half and burnish flat
7. Place journal paper inside cover
8. Pierce two holes through the journal and cover with the awl
9. Thread needle and insert through cover and paper, then insert up through the other hole
10. Tie the thread together in a secure knot, then trim excess

A Murder of Crows

Winter Crow - Nora Reid

The past two weeks I've come home to hundreds of crows in the fields behind my house and in my oak and poplar trees, (oddly, not one has perched in my corkscrew willow). I have no idea what these visitations portend. I love crows, so I see their visit as a good sign. This past weekend I stood out on my deck and watched them fly overhead. I've learned a few calls, but corvids are far too intelligent to be fooled by my caws. This is the first year in memory that there have been so many. Did you know that crows have a longer lifespan than humans? Okay, the truth is that the longest living crow made it to 29.5 years, but, some legends and crow freaks believe crows sometimes live as long three centuries. Don't you like the legend better?

Crows signify change, and like the song says, "A change will do you good."

I found this etching by Glasgow artist Nora Reid surfing during lunch. To view more of Nora's art check out her website,
blog,exhibition The Royal Scottish Academy, or etsy shop.

If you're in the mood for a poem, check out Wallace Steven's Thirteen Ways ofLooking at a Blackbird.

Poem Therapy at 10:14 P.M. - Jack Gilbert

Failing and Flying
Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

I love this poem. It's beautiful and terrifying, bleak and yet, ultimately optimistic. Every time I read it the voice I hear is a man's. I discovered Gilbert's poem over a year ago and I've read and reread it countless times. I've yet to ferret all its secrets, but under the pain, and despite the loss, or perhaps because of it, there is tenderness and love still lingers. Icarus fell, yes, but the important detail of his story is that he flew.

There is a fine line between flying and falling, (and failing),until you hit the ground. When I was a child, I was convinced I could fly. I was quickly disabused of this when I leaped off the couch and impaled myself on the family room metal magazine rack.I still have flying dreams occasionally. The last flying dream I remember, I woke up laughing.

Groundhog Day

Roomscape Groundhog collage - Melissa Gable
Limited edition artist print signed and numbered.

What does a groundhog have to do to get some peace? Obviously, leave the den and prognostications to Punxutawney Phil, and head for the sprawling subburbs.

I found Meliisa Gable's fabulous collage over at Etsy's Groundhog Day feature. Check out her etsy site at onecreative girl, blog, or website.

If you haven't seen the film, Groundhog Day, you'll want to check your cable schedule or head to the last remaining video store on the planet to rent this. The film stars Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Here's what wiki has to say:

Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to reexamine his life and priorities. In 2006, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

I can't imagine getting stuck on the hampster wheel of one day, no matter how fantastic it was, (yes, I am mixing my animal metaphors). Sometimes, it feels like some weeks, even years are simply a carbon copy of the last, (do you even know what a carbon copy is?), but eventually you jump off that damned wheel and climb on to another. Hopefully, you find a little joy, forgiveness, and redemption, like Phil Connors ultimately did.

Dan Turns Eighty-two

Four score and two years ago, (1928, for those unwilling to channel Abraham Lincoln's syntax), my father was born in the very room that is now his bedroom.

The entire family, and a few friends, gathered to help celebrate his birthday. I think we counted at least fifty relatives eating birthday cake.

As you can see, I just got around to posting, nearly a month later. It's an understatement to say that it has been an "eventful" first month of the year.

January 3, 2010. Dan & Ann.

Front row: Dan, Ann. Back row: Mary, Scott, Jamie, Pat, Chris, Danna, Alison.