Root medicine 2: Brothers

Cousin brothers
Forever children in my eyes,
these grown men
walk with me
into my self.

We talk
of love and fear
of mushrooms and Messiahs
We drink fresh fruit cocktails.
and wander the wounds
of each one’s hearts.

We build
a canopy to cover
the wearying
worrying press
into the jungles
of time, and mind,
and mothering, and
lovering,and grief.

My brothers stand guard
at the fountain gates.
While I weave nets of
flowering vines
to catch their falls.

We stay connected
in spite of all
that divides us.

Love and fear
Love and fear
Love and fear
brothers of my heart.


Revenge Song

There are places

where the killer

lives next door

afraid that you

will come for revenge.


Cowers darkly inside

his own memories

buried deep in the well

of his dread.


He has also

lost all of his family

he remembers

when his own heart

turned red.


He has seen

how the grief

becomes fury

he has heard

the blood song

of the dead.


So he knows

that you will

want to kill him.

He believes

there is no other way.


And sometimes

he wishes

you’d do it

But there is something

that stands in the way.


He knows

his own life

could have meaning.

He remembers a time

that was true


Before the madness

of grief, pain, and fury

blocked the things

that would try

to get through.


And there you sit

wrapped close

in your pain quilt

remembering the sorrows

he has caused


One more step

and you’ll find

you have killed him

without thought,

without breath,

without pause.


And so

we are trapped

in this nightmare

and Death

walks among us

each day.


And so

we are trapped

in this nightmare

and Death

walks among us

each day.


But what if

we let grief

wash through us?

And what if

we knew we were one?


And what if the songs

that the dead sing

remind us

to look at the sun?


Perhaps we could

see through the shadow

Perhaps we could

reach out our hands


Perhaps Death

would have time

to rest then.

And cease

his sad

march through

our land.


NaPoWriMo 2013 :Day 25





I can

I can be

I can be alive.


NaPoWriMo 2013: Day 20

Evolution of a Freedom Fighter

I. Victim Blaming

i can’t believe

i can’t believe this

i can’t believe this is happening

why is this happening to me?

what did i do?

what did i do wrong?

i must have done something wrong

II.  Bystander Intervention

i saw something

i saw something

i saw something bad

something bad

something bad happened

something, something, something

not right

why is he doing that?

someone should help.

someone should help.

I should help.

I should do something.

I should say something.

I should tell him to stop.


Other voices join me.


He stopped.

I did it.

We did it.

III. Consciousness Raising

why did this happen to us?

why did this happen to US?

what did we do wrong?

what could we have done wrong?

We did not do something wrong!

What happened was wrong.

How did it happen?

We will find out.

IV. More Consciousness Raising

what can i do?

i can’t do it alone?

what can we do?

they have the power.

do they have the power?

they have the power because

we give them the power

we give them the power so

we are the power

they do not have the power

unless we give it to them

V.  Social Change

We will remember that we give the power.

We will convince others to see this truth.

We will remind them that we have the power.

We will withdraw our consent to be ruled.

We will rewrite the history they tell.

We will remove our support for their ways.

We will refuse to fulfill their demands.

We will insert ourselves into their plans.

We will undo the so called “done deals”

We will create our own means to the end.

We are the power.

We are the power.

We are the power.

We Will be FREE.


NaPoWriMo  2013: Day 12

To Spring


To Spring.

We must first coil.

Curl up inside the soil.

But soon the nest becomes a tomb.

We bloom!


NaPoWriMo 2013: Day 5 (a Cinquaine)

Nightmares I remember

giant octopus

Age 4:

I am at school. It is empty in my classroom.  I walk through the long halls out to where the playground should be.  Instead there is a forest.  I see the kids and teachers hiding in the trees. I know what they are hiding from. I climb a tall oak tree with huge branches.  I hear a sound like a huge dream beating.  An enormous egg shaped purple dinosaur monster approaches me.  It says,”‘I will eat you and everyone here.  If you don’t want me to eat you, go get me some ice cream.”  I run inside the building.  I search and search and search. I find the ice cream in an old canvas magazine rack.  I carry the cold tub of Breyers chocolate out to the backyard forest.  The monster is gone.  The kids are gone. The teachers are gone.  I stand alone with the ice cream as it begins to melt. I am hungry, and it is my favorite flavor, but I will not eat it.   My stomach churns. Did I save everyone? Did I save no one? Did I save myself?

Age 16:

The sun glares off of the sand dunes.  I feel the power of the dark horse beneath me. My hair is whipped by the wind. My robes flap and flail behind me.  My people ride behind me with urgency.  We must return quickly for the ceremony.  I arrive at the longhouse.  There is trouble, famine,  war approaches. I am the clan leader. The high priest tells me that it is time.  We walk out to the side of the building.  A long iron rod sits in a bed of hot coals.  The starshaped brand will mark me forever. I I raise my bare right foot. He places the brand against my sole. I do not cry. This is the only thing I can do.

Age 23:

I stand on a sun-drenched hillside.  The bright green grass blows lazily in the breeze. There are dozens of children around me giggling joyously, at play.  A gray cloud moves across the sun and the breeze turns cold.  Over the hill crest, I notice water rising.  A bulbous form the size of a hot air balloon emerges.  The tentacles reach toward me – so many I can’t count them. They grab small bodies, lifting them into the air, squeezing them.  I fight one arm at a time. I can do it.  I free one child, and the now empty arm seeks out and plucks another child.  This will never end.

Age 36:

I sit in the driver’s seat of my old four door silver Honda civic.  My husband, my two children, my parents, my grandparents and all my kin by blood and by spirit, sit in the car with me.  I am excited to take this journey with them all.  We are taking a vacation to Ocean City, M.D.  I pull onto the bridge that crosses over the water.  I can smell the salt air,  feel the summer heat on my skin.  The radio is playing “Miss Independent” .  Then, right in front of me,  a silent wall of water, 10 stories high, appears before me.  Above me, the arching water touches the blue sky where seagulls soar.  In the car, we are all silent.  There are no words

Open Heart Surgery

Last week I had open heart surgery at the Facing Race Conference in Baltimore   I was in serious danger of having a White supremacy -related cardiac arrest. The daily stress of race related slights, ignorant remarks, and racial stereotypes in the news, on TV, and in my daughter’s classroom were taking their toll.  The unhealthy diet of  judging my beauty against the norm, of basing “good, “right”, and “true” on “White”, of wishing for a new nose, different hair, eyes, lips clogged arteries. The pressure to be a strong bridge across the racial divide was pushing the damaged muscle to its breaking point. The everyday news of injustice, inequity, and the needless suffering of people of color,  people of gender,  people of difference,  people, was sapping my will to resist the oncoming collapse.

And then I stepped in to Facing Race.  Rinku Sen, editor of Colorlines magazine and executive director of Applied Research Center (ARC), hosts of the conference, stepped on stage.  I was breathing heavy. I was walking slowly with the weight, pain radiating.

Rinku Sen was the first responder.

“Transformative is what I am after. I don’t want to reverse the racial hierarchy. I want to take it apart. I want to change the course of human evolution.”

A jolt went through me.

“We are so well equipped to do this. We are such good strategists. We know how to run campaigns. We do this work with so much heart, and so much humor. We have so much resilience. We can survive anything. We can do this. We can take the country and the world closer to a new humanity.”

The weight began to ease inside me.

“If we do our part, then our kids will do their part. And their kids will do the next part and the next kids after that will do more. I am counting on you to do this with me…Our ancestors demand it. The dead demand it. The living demand it. And we can answer them, if we stand together. We can set the path for true human liberation. We must start today. I know that together, we will get there. “

I was revived, still damaged, still in pain, but ready to live, ready to fight, ready to be healed.  There is so much more to tell.  The power of the speakers, dancers, comedians, artists, children, elders, changed me. All the faces together facing the madness that is White supremacist, patriarchal, heterosexist, ableist, classist hierarchical lifted me up.  That weekend, my chest was opened up. Years of toxins were released. New connections were built.  I was transformed. I was ready to walk the liberation path again.


Skin deep

I am driving the minivan. My four year old daughter is behind me, strapped into her booster seat. A purple balloon rises up from her wrist, a bottle filled with candy in her lap, her eyes still wet from goodbye tears, her voice twittering with excitement, exhaustion, and complete satisfaction.  We are on our way home from her “best friend”s 5th birthday at Pump it up.

A: “Kensington is my best friend mommy!”

Me:  “I know. You told me!”

I love talking to her when she is like this.  This time in the car becomes more special every day, now that I am working full time – now that she spends long days at her suburban pre-school.

A: “Kensington is 5 mommy! I am 4. But she’s my best friend! She’s in my heart.”

I melt when she says these things. What words will her 4 year old brain spin out next?  I ask a question, waiting to be dazzled or amused, to be impressed with her smarts, or chuckle at her silliness.

Me: “Why is she your best friend sweetness?”

A: “Because she has the same skin color as me. Can I have this candy tomorrow?”

My voice catches in my throat.  My brain goes blank.

Me: “Uh huh.”

Should I say something more?  Is it ok that she is choosing best friends based on skin color?  She has moved on to talking about The Wiggles, and something about flying to Mars with her baby doll.  But I am stuck. Skipping like a record.

Of course, I had noticed at the party. Asha and Kensington were the only non White-skinned kids there who were not members of Kensington’s family.  Both of them a golden brown tone, children of mixed parentage. Kensington’s mother African American, her father Latino.  They both played with the other kids of course. They did not band together, or isolate themselves. They did not self-segregate.

This moment is pregnant.  It has meaning for me.  We are moving to Philadelphia, exploring neighborhoods, trying them on for size, one a weekend,  our little family of four, one White, one Brown, two Golden.

Who do we belong with?  Where  do we fit? On a busy street in one neighborhood, I am the only brown skinned person I see the whole afternoon, except for the Parking attendant.  We are strangers to this town but does that mean we should feel strange?

I feel strange when I am the only brown person in the room. It’s no one’s fault. No one has to be doing something wrong. I just feel strange.  I search the room for another brown skinned person. I have done this for as long as I can remember. Then I know I am safe. I am not so strange.

Now, I know my golden-skinned girl child feels something like this too. I thank goodness for my question and her answer. I thank goodness for these moments in the car – these windows, these mirrors. I am certain now, I must find a someplace where we fit. I must find a place we all can be. Perhaps strangers together, but together, never strange.

I ride the Regional Rail

I ride the Regional Rail to work and back again, from outside to in, Center City to Marcus Hook, where the oil refinery shoots plumes of orange flame and the ladies at the diner call me hon. I watch the signs – Eddystone, Crum Lyn, “The Gas Light”.  A worn billboard, paint curled, letters faded, stands tall midway. I can just make out the hopeful plug:

“Visit our suburban city, and see what’s new in Glenolden!”

The first time I saw it, I laughed.  But the joke is too old, and too sad to be funny.  The lost luster of the suburban dream reminds me that I am not as young as I used to be.

I ride the Regional Rail from my hometown, seeing it with my 36 years old, consciousness-raised, social-science eyes.  The Chester Transportation Center speaks its truth to me.  Promises broken,  people unmade, climbing too many stairs just to wait for a train to somewhere else. University City still ten stops away.

I ride the Regional Rail to work, from outside to in,  Marcus Hook to Center City, where the fountain at LOVE park shoots plumes of purple water and the lady at the chinese food truck knows I need more hot sauce.  The sky scrapers rise up, the murals sing praise songs, and I am young once again. My pulse quickens with the beating heart of the city until it’s time to ride the Rail again.




I drew two pictures

I drew two pictures, just like the book suggested.  I was home alone, beads of sweat pooling in the crease between my thighs and the swell of my baby-filled belly.   The crayola box was covered in a thin layer of  dust.  I selected brown and red and peach and yellow, blue and gold and pink.  I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply.

Fear: I drew a dark, windowless room. I drew myself lying on a bed. My big, brown bulging form was strapped down by black wires and cords. I drew two women near me and colored their  faces peach and gave them long blond hair.  I drew word bubbles rising from their mouths. “#*?! ”  they shouted.  On my right calf muscle I drew a large red X.

Hope:  I drew myself sitting up in bed and my husband Jon next to me.  I drew a brown-skinned woman smiling nearby.  I drew a river flowing out from between my legs and a small brown baby floating atop.  In the air above the baby, I drew a star.

A few weeks later:  I sat up on a delivery room bed at Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago and  pushed.  The room was bright.   I closed my eyes and went inside myself.  I sensed the people in the room: my husband, my blond nurse, and my friend Sandhya.  My right leg spasmed and I shouted incoherent commands to this team of supporters. “You!”  I pointed frantically towards no one with my eyes closed. “Rub my leg! Up! No, down!  Left. More left.  No. Outside!!”  I felt hands on my leg, easing the cramp into a dull ache.

The nurse’s voice warned me of the next coming wave.  “Focus on your bottom!” Words you only hear in a delivery room or at the gym.  I breathed in deeply, standing somewhere inside myself in the dark, wondering who this child would be. “Do you want to feel the head?”  I reached down between my legs and felt a patch of hard skull covered by soft hair no bigger than a quarter. I wondered why my baby’s head was so very tiny.  I imagined I was pushing out a small doll. It seemed very doable.

The doctor appeared between my legs.  “Hi Aarati, I am Dr. Starr. Your baby is almost here.  Let’s get another good push.” I pushed my soul against hers, willing her into the world. I felt a sudden gush, a rush, and thrust myself against myself. “Wow! That’s a lot of water! Here she comes!”

Asha. Hope.  Kimberly. From the meadow of the royal forest.  The hope from the meadow of the royal forest was born.  All hail brown-skinned, all hail pink-skinned.  Born on water and under a star.  She is here, she is here, she is here!



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