Seattle, WA
Poet, blogger, lawyer, educator, sista, sister, aunt, daughter, mentor, friend, dog owner, lover of music and all things gluten free... Writing about all of this and more.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Still Writing...

My outline for my "writing project" is materializing. This is a comfort. I have so many ideas about what I want to do, so many ideas that for a while the idea of actually sitting down and making some of those ideas real was a little overwhelming. I love how I am able to think myself into such a frenzy that it completely obliterates the action piece.

I have been primarily writing in an actual physical journal, hand to pen and pen to paper. It's the best way for me to write poetry. I've also been reading my old journals. I am so glad I kept them. There's some good stuff, both for comic relief and also because it's allowed me to step back in time and remember who I was. It's amazing how much of me was set in place at, say, age 9. I really had my writing voice at an early age.

This week I have off from work. I was supposed to be kickin it in NYC, but I came down with something nasty that kept me in the bed and off the plane. Because I wanted to be back home for New Years, I ended up just postponing my trip. I think it all worked out for the best, although I am terribly sad not to get to see my NY girls. I think it worked out because right now I probably just need to have an extended period of time to devote to writing, slowing my pace, and reflecting.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You don't have to eat the whole elephant in one sitting

Cross posted from TheBlueprintChronicles blog.


So November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and there's this cool website where you can sign up and set out to write to your heart's contentment, with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month.

I am thoroughly amazed/awestruck/inspired by/proud of my sister-friend, my homegirl, and one of my super duper bffs, Iquo. Like myself, she endeavored to take on the crazy NaNoWriMo project... and she did it! Knowing Iquo and what she's capable of, I know that she put it down and represented, and I'm uber excited to read the final product or one of the drafts leading thereto. It's gonna be awesome.

I, however, did not quite make it to 50,000... or even 10 percent of that. I got to a sweet little 3,700 words. But that's okay! Seriously!

I don't juxtapose Iquo to me in order to praise her and beat myself up or disparage the progress I did make. And this is why: you don't have to eat an elephant in one sitting. You can ziplock that sucker up, put it in the freezer, defrost it on setting 1, and eat it in normal, human sized servings over a reasonable course of time (sorry, vegetarians and PETA people!). I am super proud of my friend, but I'm also proud of myself: proud for moving forward in the direction of my goal.

My BPC goal, by the way, is to write a book that merges my writing passions with my personal story, some of which I've shared and other bits of which I will probably share in future posts. I want to write about identity and spirituality. I want to write about loss. I want to write about love. I also want to write about other women's/girls' stories that I find particularly moving and incorporate those in as fiction. I may even want to get some co-contributors. I mean, this thing just keeps growing and growing. That's why I am currently calling it a "writing project" rather than assigning it to any specific genre of writing in order to allow myself the freedom to figure out where it's all going.

This project may end up with me writing two books--one that I develop solo style, another that tells our collective story through multiple writers' voices. It is certainly an evolving idea. I have to shout out my BPC crew for supporting me as I have voiced a bit of frustration with not knowing exactly what it's going to look like in the end. They pointed out that sometimes writing-- just by nature of the creative process-- just takes on a life of its own, and you have to be flexible enough to allow that.

That said, I'm currently working on creating a clear action plan to help anchor all my free, pie-in-the-sky type writing into a realistic goal. I need to nail down something that I can do in a one year timeframe so that I don't find myself stuck with three elephants to eat in two days.

So, I'm working on the plan, and in the mean time, I'm writing. 30 words here, 250 there, 3,700 one month, 15,000 the next--it'll happen!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Want Ad

THROWBACK!

I wrote this a few years ago but really feel its relevance today. By that I mean I've been having a lot of conversations lately about what's really important in life--be it in the context of career, family, friendships, romantic relationships, lifestyle, etc. I guess this poem touches on that theme, "What's really important?" and answers the question as relates to me. Here she goes...

I’m looking for a walking partner
Not someone to cover mud puddles
Or push me forward
Or pull me back
Or talk my ear off w/ sweet nothings
Nothing like that
No
Just a partner to walk
Through the grass with
To sit on damp soil that soaks through back pockets
And breathe in the smell of wet, algae covered rock, bamboo, and yes, the occasional ducks’ droppings
And to laugh at how pleasant these strange things can be
When they evoke memories
Of spreading bread crumbs
And eating popsicles
And collecting dirty feathers and ugly sea shells and lake pebbles and earthworms
Someone who will point to a turtle peeking out of the water and into the world above his cool hiding place
And who will smile as if it’s the first time ever a turtle has done this
And who will smile at me as if it’s the first time ever I have sat with him
Although we sit together all the time
Whenever we walk together
Someone looking for a weather ready walking routine
Come rain or shine
Who will be all mine
Yet his own
And who will know that we are God’s even before we are each other’s
Not just anyone will do
I know there are plenty of folks who
Can walk
But I want, I need
A walking partner whose hand mine fits in perfectly

Friday, November 20, 2009

Girl Woman Soul

This is the poem that will open my book (Copyright Kia Franklin 2007):

Girl Woman Soul

Little girl
You are beautiful
You must find hope in that
Your mind is rich, your heart is deep
And yes, your skin is black

Woman-girl
You are a gem
A precious, precious, thing
Don’t lose sight of who you are
or let go of your dream

Young lady
Who did you want to be?
Don’t you know you can become it?
What happened to your innocence?
Did you lose it or run from it?

Young woman
It is now your time
To see You for yourself
To question those who question you
To own your life, your wealth

Dear soul
You are a child of God
and part of his design
Can’t you see it coming to
a clear-intentioned line?

Don’t let your fears of greatness
Leave you timid, quiet, dim,
Brighten up and do your thing
Find your strength in Him!

Be the change you want to see
Be the light you are
Be the black and midnight sky
that holds the brightest star

Little baby, little girl, young woman,
Dear sweet soul
You’re brilliant, you’re beautiful
Go let the whole world know!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

C West's new book, More on Dreams, Freestyle Poem

bought dr. cornel west's new memoir and attended his book signing tonight. i like that brother's spirit. something about him. i was reading the chapter he wrote about his father's passing and thinking about how universal certain human experiences are, and how powerful it can be to read/hear another person's account of one of those experiences if you've also been through it. well, of course no two people have the exact same experience-but it's still something when they share their perspective and you really connect at certain points. i truly think that is what i'm searching for, searching to be able to do, in my writing. i ain't no cornel west, but i think he reminded me that if i have a story to tell, i should tell it, and maybe it'll resonate with someone else.

as i mentioned before, after i opened up pandora's box and declared my willingness to just take in my dreams and let them lead me where they want me to go, i have been having all these crazy dreams. the great thing about all of it is that it has made me think back to certain formative life experiences and it has compelled me to start writing about them. so i'm just going to keep working on telling my story and writing out my dreams, and we'll see where it takes me. let's try that now with a free-write poem. work in progress, y'all. work, in, progress.

this girl/woman/soul
closes her eyes and finds a quiet space
tells her mind to slow its race
and listen to itself for a minute

this girl/woman/soul dreams dreams
and it seems
that they're made of words, love, pain, and all types of things
things that have just been sittin here waiting
for my arms to take them in
for my mind to stop debating
to acquiesce
for me to just say yes to the true parts of me
close my eyes and blind faith leap into a future that, though hard to see,
is there
waiting for me to share this with the world
feed the soul, hug the woman, and protect the little girl
that i am
that we are

we girls/women/souls
we dream dreams and make plans and try to make ourselves whole once again
and, me, with my pen i sew stitches
mend rips and tears
with my pen i scratch itches
that agitate my creativity
and blot my tears
that open up new identities
and clot the fears that be flowin through my psyche some time
with my pen i write rhymes and gibberish
profundities and frivolities and whatever else i wish

with my pen i dream dreams
for my soul for my sanity
with my pen i reach out and touch my own humanity
uncover my own vanity, my ego, insecurities
dig it all out deep and clear out the impurities
cuz no there ain't no sureties but this i know for certain
this pen is my blanket that i snuggle when i'm hurting
when i'm workin it all out this lifetime
it helps me dream dreams and shine lights so i can find my lifeline
and keep a goin
me, this girl woman soul
that's what i'm knowin
so that's what i'm going to do
just keep dreaming and keep writing and keep being...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Excerpts from my writing project

As part of the NaNoWriMo thing, my goal is to write 50,000 words. So far I have a grand total of 1300. Yes, as in less than 3 percent of my goal at more than 30% of the way through the timeline. But also, as in more than 0 percent with more than 50% of the timeline to go... thankyouveryMUCH!

Anyway, I thought it would be cool to share little excerpts from time to time of what I'm writing, so here goes... a piece from a section I'm writing On Dreams (inspired by the strange and vivid dreams I've been having and the dream-centered conversations I keep finding myself drawn into):


Dreams from my Mothers.

My mother's mother, Gram, always said she never had any dreams. She always told me that all of her life she could never remember having one single dream. And she wished she could.

Then, one day, when I was in my early twenties and she in her early eighties, I called her to say hi and she told me that it finally happened. She had dreamt something! She spoke with such excitement in her voice, like a schoolgirl who finally got her period or had a first kiss. There was a beautiful innocence that came forth in the way she spoke, and even though I was 3,000 miles away I could see the light in her tea-colored eyes, her apple cheekbones rising high and beautiful above her smile. I could hear, alongside her melodic, slightly-Southern accented voice, the smile on her brown face.

I can't remember the details of her dream, although she did tell me. And now that she has left this world I can't ask her to recall the dream for me. But that's less important than the joy of hearing her tell it, connecting with her on such a simple, but significant level. I'll never forget how it felt to be able to share that with Gram.

My mother, she dreamed all the time. And often she would dream out loud. She told me about the beautiful house she wanted, the places she wanted to go, the things she wanted to do, her dreams for me, her dreams for my brother and his family. She told me about dreams she had as a girl, some of which she had to put on hold in order to embrace adult responsibilities. She spoke without much bitterness about dreams she'd had snatched away from her by inequities like sexism and racism--dreams deferred by life's reality.

One dream my mom always had was to go to Paris. She had wanted to go since she was a teenager. After battling cancer for seven years, obtaining her master's degree and teaching certificate, raising two children and practically raising many others, my mom finally decided that Paris could no longer wait.

It was the year 2000. I was an adult: I was 18. So in my view we were going to be two women out in the world, exploring Paris, la ville d'amour. She booked a ticket for herself and one for me. The flight was a mother-daughter slumber party in the air. We watched a ballet movie (which was perfect because she had been a dancer in her twenties), chatted, read magazines, giggled, and planned out the fabulous time we would have together.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport and people were smoking inside the building, talking loudly on cell phones, rushing around. We just looked around and clung to each other so as not to get separated. Looking back now, and after having lived in New York City, this makes me smile.

Another thing I remember was that as soon as we stepped off the plane we noticed that there were black people there from all over the world, in all types of traditional and Western dress. We marveled at this. Even though we both knew that Paris was a major metropolitain city where the African diaspora was represented in full effect, it was one thing to know it and another thing altogether to see it.

We got in a taxi and noted the fact that it, and many of the other taxis on the road, was a Benz (owning a Benz was another one of my mom's dreams, but she always complained that my dad was too cheap). We arrived at our hotel and discovered that the star system wasn't quite the same in Europe. The hotel was crappy. But it would do, because we weren't planning on sticking around our room for long. The bathtub was great, and the restaurant across the street was delicious in an unassuming, Parisian street cafe type of way, so we were happy.

The trip lived up to our expectations. It was truly one of the best memories of my life. My mom was a better storyteller than I am, so I wish she were here to tell it from her perspective. I'm sure she'd tell how she felt to see the German men hitting on her little girl. She was horrified and I found it absolutely hilarious, and of course, I didn't mind the positive feedback!

She would probably tell about our snooty waiter, who wouldn't give us what we wanted and then snatched the money out of my mom's hand, compelling me to start screaming at the top of my lungs, "Ne touche pas ma mere!" I was livid and seriously ready to go to blows with the man. But later on that night we cracked up about the whole thing.

She would also probably tell about our experience at a random nightclub, where we danced to Eminem with two men, I think they were Senegalese, and their ages were probably smack square in the middle of ours. We couldn't stop laughing at the fact that were were dancing together, to Eminem, at a nightclub, in Paris, with men who were way too young for her and way too old for me. I can still see her face and the disco lights and our purple and pink clothing. I'm smiling right now at the thought of it.

There is one moment I regret from the trip. We were walking down a crowded street. I can't recall what famous landmark we were visiting. Was it Champs-Elysees? I don't remember. But my mom reached out to grab my arm and I snatched it away from her with unnecessary force. I don't know if I felt like she was crowding me, babying me, or what. When I saw her reaction, the pure hurt on her face... if I could take that moment away I would do so in a heartbeat.

Speaking of snatching, I feel like my mom was snatched away from me. Like we were deprived of the time to dream out loud together, to live more dreams together, to make mistakes and hurt each others' feelings and then mvoe on together. When she died, I was 21. I had canceled my Paris Study Abroad plans against her wishes, because something inside me told me I needed to be close to home. Something inside me knew the cancer had returned, even though she wanted to keep this fact a secret from me. I feel like mom had more dreams to make; decades of new firsts to experience and share.

I feel cheated, but then I remember that no one is guaranteed time. I don't know when my last chance will be to strike pen against paper and write out my own dreams, revisit fond memories or imagine new realities for myself. So I really can't say that I was cheated, that I was entitled to any more time with her, that I'm entitled to tomorrow for that matter.

But my mom, sometimes I see her in my dreams. Sometimes the dreams are amazing, like when I'm soaring over ice-blue water and she's with me, although I can't see her, right by my side. And we're laughing in pure bliss. Sometimes the dreams are traumatic, like when I am transported back to the day of her death.

Dreams are a wonderful reminder that we are alive. You have one, and then you are kicked back into consciousness, and then you are able to reflect on what just happened and figure out if it applies to your reality. My mom did this both awake and asleep. That's just one lesson I've learned from her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Encouraged and motivated

Much kudos to my Aunty Sarah for finishing the manuscript for her book!!! I am reading it right now and so happy for her and proud of her. This is encouraging and inspiring!

This exciting news has come at a good time for me as I work on my own writing project. Right now I'm doing some memory-based writing because I've been having these vivid dreams that have made me realize I need to look back a little. It has been, to say the least, difficult. See this post on TBC that gives a little more detail. At the same time that I know I need to do it, the struggle involved with confronting some memories is so heavy that the result has been some serious foot-dragging on my part.

But a wise woman once said: "writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect." I think that's an important act, for the writer and the audience. I think it's worth the struggle. So, today is a holiday, and I'm sitting at home with the t.v. off, no distractions. And with this little nudge from my aunt, I'm going to do some thangs today on the writing front.

That's it for now! Time to get to work...

Monday, November 2, 2009

A novel in a month--is you crazy?

So I'm doing the National Novel Writing Month contest. AlligatorLegs inspired me to do it, and the BluePrintChronicles project is reinforcing the importance of this decision. Like many of us, I have so much creative energy but I somehow keep finding ways to neglect it. No more. I'm writing and that's that.

I'm going to start off by going back through all the poetry and short stories and essays I have accumulated over the years. It's scary to think about it, but I literally have a decade's worth of creative writing stored and filed around me, just sitting there gathering dust. The vast majority of it may very well be patently bad writing. But I KNOW, from the rush I get from a well written or well performed poem, from the positive feedback of well-regarded peers and mentors, and from... just my core, that some of it is good and worthy of sharing with others.

Who knows what that means, to share it with others. It may be on this blog. It may just be on the NaNoWriMo website. Who knows? But God willing, I'm writing something significant in November 2009, the month and year that marks my 28th year on this planet. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Here's a little something:

I am an artist
I am and art is
A risk to take
a fist to shake at convention
Politics
Romance
Reinvention
What is art if not the heart blood?
If not the spark plug,
If not the nutrients pulled from the roots of our imagination,
If not self-discovery,
A pointing finger,
Lingering inches from the world’s third eye
Pressing and pushing,
demanding the why’s, how’s, and what’s?
What is art?
Art is what I am
I am an artist
Is art an eye, looking into the inner workings of humanity?
Is it still art if it’s profanity?
Shit, I don’t know
But why can’t it be?
Art
My alm, my balm, my psalm, my sanity
Cuz art just is and so
an Artist is me
or what I will grow to be
Some day

Saturday, October 31, 2009

art

Did you know jazz could dance?
and poetry could sing
and music could paint pictures and bring
brilliant color to a still life black and white?
Have you seen brown arms waving stories into the night
writing memories in the sky?
In my mind’s eye
It all comes together
And tastes like cinnamon and curry
Smells like mint leaves and shea butter
Feels warm, soft, strong, like an un-ripened plum
Sounds like water
Looks like beauty
It is simply and truly
Art

grief

dark waters bubble and mix
weigh bright eyes heavy
dim their fire
warm within like humid, april air in ghana
thick and uneasy
cool outside like still, stale november chills in seattle
where's my quiet warming?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the stuff of dreams

so, a group of friends and i have formed a small group to encourage each other and be resources to one another as we seek to identify and accomplish an ambitious goal. (then we created a blog about it. wanna see it? here it goes.)

at the time of posting this, the front page of that blueprint chronicles blog has my most recent contribution. writing that post took forever. i was whizzing on through, writing about dreams and dreaming and dreaminess, all of that good stuff, when all of a sudden i came upon the part where i had to write about my own darn dreams, and that's where it all seemed to come to a stand still.

for one thing, in that post i opened up about the fact that i've been having these dreams lately in which i see my parents. either i'm interacting with them or they are away from me and i just see them from afar, or something. this is a very weird experience for me, seeing them in my dreams and then waking up to the reality of their absence. i won't get into all of that too much more. that post can be read here.

all this talk of dreams has me re-reading robin d g kelley's book, freedom dreams: the black radical imagination. it also has me looking back at old journal entries in which i recorded my dreams. boy, i tell you, some of them are pretty heavy. but since i've already done heavy for the day (or maybe the week), here's something lighter: a poem i wrote after meeting someone who ended up being in my life for a while. he and i had a 6-hour-long conversation sitting outside my dorm room at howard u., in the middle of the night. i walked into my room, saw that the sun was up, sat down, and wrote this, among a few other pieces:


last night i sat awake and dreamed
that i could capture my feelings into a sweet pill
enrapture you in the sweet thrill of my emotions
i dreamed i made a potion for you to drink
that would anchor your heart and sink it
to the bottom of your shoe
weighing you in love for me
could this be?


it's a little cheesy maybe, but aw, i think that's sweet. i wrote it september 28 2001... over 8 years ago! wow, time is something else. i hope my friend is doing well these days.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

poetry, oh how i miss thee (and other random things)

so this is a very random post, but i haven't been posting lately so i thought i'd just jump on in. i have also neglected poetry lately, and plan to return home tomorrow by either a) spending some quality time with a pen and pad, b) spending some quality time at the spitfire spoken word/open mic joint, or c) both. will follow up on the blog about that afterwards.

so here are some updates. first, i started working a new gig, something i really like and will discuss in further detail in the near future, God willing. i also took on a new personal project with some girlfriends--a goals/support group that involves doing big things and chronicling our process of goal-achievement. it's pretty dern awesome, 'f I do say so mu'self. check that out at The Blueprint Chronicles Blog. we just got started a few days ago so you have time to catch up. it's sure to be a heck of a ride. i will be blogging tomorrow at noon, pacific time, fyi.

and what else is going on? well, i'm preparing for what is traditionally a tough portion of the year for me--november. my birthday is the 4th, and i usually am very intentional about celebrating life and giving thanks for it on that day, but i also always miss my mom, and now my dad, on that day. also november marks the 7th anniversary of my mom's passing away and thanksgiving, a holiday for which family is the centerpiece. i put all of this out there not for sympathy, but more for prayers, and also as a way to acknowledge the challenges to come but remind myself that that's all they are: inevitable challenges that i'll get through and be ok afterward. we all have those.

somehow it all goes back to the garden, lately. it's like this: i planted some bulbs the other day, beating the fall frost by just a few days. anticipating the days where i'll potentially be hit by grief, acknowledging that, and deciding to look ahead to the days afterward is kind of like that. i know better stuff will come along in the future. and i also don't know just how frosty the frost will be. who knows? maybe seattle will see a little taste of some more warm weather before we jump into the cold and rain that makes us appreciate our beautiful summers so much. either way, there shall be tulips this march. and there will be poetry tomorrow. and there will be sleep tonight!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Birthday CJ!


Happy birthday to Clarence in Africa! Love and miss you! You are my brother from another mother. Speaking of which, I stole your phone number from your mom :) Be blessed today. Hugs.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Diaspora Man

This is something I wrote about 5 years ago after a seriously eye opening conversation with someone who ended up becoming a good friend of mine. Although clearly I was crushing on him a little at the time I wrote this! This is the first half of the poem. I gotta board my flight back home, will finish up when I return. But I wanted to put something out there after my extended absence from the blogosphere. Peace!

Warm brother smothers me with poetry like prose
His locks, his cloths, his whole being just flows with music
And I could listen to it intro to bonus track
A creative opus that got me leaning my head back

Diaspora man can I touch foreign lands with you?
Speaking of travel, could I maybe hold hands with you?
In other words, fly me to the moon
Where we'll sing songs of revolution set to the jazzy tune of my heart
In other words, their in the tune of this art form
Sung smooth and low so they slowly make my heart warm

Like ripe mango on African fruit stands and loving smiles
Like a lazy afternoon that got me Dizzy runnin Miles from my cares
Of all the pairs of eyes I've met this lifetime
I've never seen two so different and yet so like mine...

(More to continue... thanks for reading!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Black Boy

Yo, n*gga
Your swing's too slow, n*gga
You got to grow bigger
You can do much better than that

I know you...
I know your sweet smile that reveals a shy, ashy kneed, one-tooth missing, cotton-haired, mischievous, sun-brown, giggly, bike-riding, rock-throwing, ledge-hopping, elbow-skinning, eye-shifting, brave acting, book reading, dream having, love needing, pretend playing boy you

Dream, homie
Rip at them seams, show me
You got the steam, go be
That man you're destined to be

Live your potential
Live out what your mother saw when she first held the little you, kissed your face, your little feet, grinned at the fire in your eyes
What you imagined for yourself before
Before you were told that having dreams was square or soft or unrealistic or pointless or comical or for white boys or treason or reason to get your black ass shot

Go, baby
And break that mold, maybe
You'll find that gold, crazy
is you not taking the shot

Take it
Don't ask for it, it's yours; your life
Forget what people tell you about staying in place or on track or quiet or put or home when you need to roam, when you need to own your place in this world, in this big vast world of yours

Fight, soldier
Against the night, hold your
hands up, fists tight, don't you
dare think you're yet done for this world

You're not done til God says so
So when you want to stop make sure your heart says no,
No to giving up, or settling, or believing the false stories about you, your worth, your values,
No to anything but you living relentlessly, fighting unrepentantly, be aggressive about your right to give yourselve to yourself and see a beautiful return on that investment

Yes, spirit
Refuse to let fear get
it's way, just press near it
Whatever your finish line is

I'm standing on the other end, holding my breath, then cheering, cuz I know you, your determined eyes that reveal, like a flash of brilliance, the beautiful struggle you've been through to reach this moment, reaach your hands up, reach your goal, reach beyond what was set before you

My brother
I see you smile, hover,
and then you fly over
Soar above those artificial limits

Those fake boundaries, some you build yourself
that say you can only be x or y and not q
that say you ain't even part of the equation
But there you are, blazing past those limitation like a
lion-eagle-warrior you
And you're happy now, cause your swing ain't slow and your wings they throw themselves straight out, cutting the wind and lifting you higher, higher, higher than anyone thought you could ever, ever fly

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seeds

So... I have always had a passion for working with youth. I love the kids! All ages, but especially teenagers, adults in training trying to figure it all out, learning to accept who they are, who they are becoming, and learning to question who they are told to be. But along with that love comes soooo much frustration: frustration with seeing their immense potential and wanting them to see it too, to stop fighting against it, to let go of the fear, or wanting them to stop taking it for granted. Sometimes it's frustration with knowing that for some kids this will never happen. Sometimes it's frustration with seeing kids who've been burned for so long that when positive people come into their lives they push them away. Okay, I'm getting all worked up just thinking about it... Deep breath and sigh. Mmm. Well, I wrote a poem about it. Wanna hear it? Here it goes:

Seeds
Our seeds choke off weed smoke,
speed, coke, we bleed broke
greed smote us
we don’t know who we are so we just blow dust into our own eyes
and disguise our insecurities behind puffed chests
and what’s left of ourselves we quietly lay to rest
burying our potential in a legacy of neglect
cloaking over what we know about the strength we possess
we turn to distorted images and pretend to respect
what they want us to believe we’ve become:
kings turned pimps, thugs, victims and chimps
who catch a glimpse of our purpose and run the other way
but as they say, monkey see- monkey do
as for me, i can do much more than what i see
can you see, black?
do you know?
what you can do, who you can be if you would just see past all this?
but ignorance is bliss
so just piss on my parade and tell me it's rain
and tell me not to complain that my seeds need water
our seeds need water
and their reign is our slaughter
and our daughters find their only solace in our sons’ wicked remarks
and our sons find no solace beyond the spliff that they spark
and the sh*t that they bark out to each other
standing in gutters in the darkness cuz don’t nobody want to
acknowledge the work we got to undo
the truth we need to come to together
it looks like cloudy weather
and from low down dirt
our seeds can’t see their worth
so instead they soak in these lies
no dreaming of fly blue skies
no my seeds, our seeds find a high
in that weed smoke
and our seeds choke
and we still bleed broke


Copyright Kia Franklin, 2002

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

green thumb, soul tongue

here's that aforementioned diary entry:

july 1 2007

my mother dear
(my dad's mom) had a very green thumb. she loved plants and her spirit was so naturally gentle it had a nurturing, regenerative quality that induced growth and inspired living. no wonder her mint leaves were so wonderfully sweet and green that at age seven i preferred them to bubble yum! no wonder her collard greens practically cooked themselves. no wonder her tiny two bedroom house in the projects had such an air of beauty, all dressed up with colorful, joyous flowers and fruit that i didn't even realize it was the projects til i was too old and too proud of it to consider whether that even mattered anyway. no wonder she herself was such a flower. a lily. lillian.

my creative impulse, my soul tongue, is as natural to me as mother dear's green thumb was to her. by nature, i can only plant my words down in an attempt to connect to other souls. i can only pour my emotions into those words, feeding them until they take on their own spirit and meaning, blossom into something that's part of me, product of me, but no longer just mine, now something to share with others. i want to surround my dwelling place with the soul of my words like mother dear surrounded hers with the green of her nurturing hands.

Monday, September 7, 2009

in my garden...

this week my horoscope tells me:

"let's take inventory of your harvest, scorpio. what blossomed for you these past months? which of the seeds you planted last march and april sprouted into ripe, succulent blossoms? which seeds grew into hard, spiky clumps? and what about weeds, pests, and predators? were you tireless about keeping them away from your beauties? finally, what did you learn about growing things that could give you a green thumb when you cultivate your seeds in the next cycle?"

this is so relevant right now for many reasons. for one thing, for the past month or so i've been really meaning to write a post or series of posts on the things i've learned in my garden. my garden is very small--three tomato plants, a bell pepper plant, and some spearmint. i also have some flowers growing, the names of which i could not tell you. all i know is "the purple ones, those pink guys, the grassy looking stuff, etc." while i don't yet know the names of all the plants or even have a knack for growing, starting this little garden has been a learning experience. it has given me lots of time to reflect on life.

one time, while pruning, i had some revelations about a loved one who is going through some tough times. i realized that sometimes people need pruning--need to cut off the bad stuff in order to grow bigger and stronger. but i also realized that her parents, and not i, were the proper pruners. my role could be more akin to that of water, or sun, or even of the person who talks to the plants and encourages them to grow. it gave me insight into how i could be supportive of her without overstepping my bounds or taking on too much responsibility.

another time, while watching the progress of my snap peas, i feel like i was being told, by myself, God, or both, to mimic this plant in its attempt to stretch toward the sunlight. funny thing, i later transplanted it into too much sun and it died. so there too is a lesson about over exposure, isn't it?

anyway, there are other little insights i gain while gardening, and maybe i'll share more from time to time as the seasons change and show me new things. but the broader insight i learned is that life is constantly providing you with lessons--we just have to quiet ourselves and open our eyes long enough to take in the information and process it.

the horoscope also reminds me of something i wrote in a journal entry a couple of years ago. i was describing my Mother Dear's (my dad's mom's) beautiful garden and her green thumb. i'll post the full entry next. at the end of the entry, i wrote:

"my creative impulse is as natural to me as mother dear's green thumb was to her. by nature, i can only plant my words down in an attempt to connect to other souls. i can only pour my emotions into those words, feeding them until they take on their own spirit and meaning, blossom into something that's part of me, product of me, but no longer just mine, now something to share with others. i want to surround my dwelling place with the soul of my words like mother dear surrounded hers with the green of her nurturing hands."

if this is something i want to do then like my horoscope says i've got to take inventory of my harvest. my renewed focus on my creativity has been an act of planting. and it has created a pretty good crop so far. but i know that i'm definitely still working out many kinks in the process. this can only make next cycle yield an even more abundant harvest.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Coffee Shop Series, pt 2

More from the Coffee Shop Series. Excuse the entirely unoriginal poem titles.

Starbuck#3
I got this itch that only my pen can scratch
I got this itch that only my pen can scratch
only my pen can scratch rough over smooth paper
and spill out words the way the
hot coffee spills down my throat
warm reaching and healing weariness

Starbuck#4
Poetry
it’s so in me I could live without blood first
clinging to my spirit both a blessing and a curse
searching through my mind to find the perfect line or the next verse
to give birth to what’s felt but what’s unsaid and unrehearsed.

Starbuck#5

Closed eyes and open mind
Trying to find solace in words
But I lose myself in cloudy blurbs of the absurd
Like birds my verbs are fly
My imagination high,
A blue canvas ready to paint an open sky
I’m hopin my
Spoken cry
Can tell truths the shy me won’t admit to
All the shit I been through
Too sick for you to sift through
I sit blue and black in gray and white surroundings
My voice slips through sidewalk cracks,
Melted colors confounding
The muted chaos of my mind.

(c) Copyright Kia C. Franklin, 2003

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sister Girl (2003)

This poem is dedicated to Iquo, one of my best girlfriends and the author of Alligator Legs. She is an amazing singer and when I wrote this back in college I think she was my inspiration for it. Thinking back to that period of my life, to what she and I were both going through at the time, I can now remember sitting down to write this poem, and thinking of Iquo. Love ya girl! Although we were just womangirls at the time, I think it's best to file this poem under woman.

Sister girl sits and
sips her hot tea,
Thoughtfully making plans for revolution
And in her confusion
She went on a search for a solution
And found her voice
And made the choice to let it be heard
Breathing life-breath into every single word of encouragement she shared through her song
It’s been a looooong, long time comin, and I know change gon’ come
Sister sang
She sang of hunger pangs
And freedom trains
She sang of labor pains and that love thang
She sang and freedom rang and she maintained her song
Through the rain which fell to the earth like a drumbeat
Went with her song like the beating of a drum
It’s been a looooong, long time comin, and I know change gon’ come(hmmmm)
Like a slave hum
Like a slaves’ hum she stays one with herself through the song
It keeps her strong and when her world sounds wrong
My sister lifts her voice and sings of harmonies to come
Smiles through her raindrum
Praises the Son for his glory
Raises the Sun til it warms me
And sings
And brings hope to the helpless
And brings life to the breathless
Rest to the wary
Her song resounds clearly
She sings to God in praises
And compels us to raise our voices and sing with her
My sister
My sister she gives a gift to us by sharing her very spirit
She gives her precious gift as an offering to all who hear it
So draw near it and digest it
Think of the love invested in creating this gift
That has sustained us since back when all we had was our voice
Laugh, sing and rejoice in
the songs of struggle, love, and sisterhood

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Waitin for C, C-Train Series, pt 2

Waitin for the train and I'm waitin for that change
Trying to rearrange the priorities I claim for myself
Trying to reclaim my mental health
To reacquaint who I am with who it is I felt I'd become
Meanwhile waitin for that change to come
And I'm trying to decide if I'm brilliantly stubborn, or dumb?
Or if I'm just somewhere in between
If I'm really too nice or if this world is just too effin mean?
I mean, I'm trying to move past how things seem
to see them as they are so I can clarify my dream
I've been through nightmares, heartaches, producing tear-sourced streams
leaving lines in my eyes that age this face, it's obscene
But through these eyes seems like I've seen
that I'm going somewhere, where I'll meet who I'm growing to be...


My train came before I could finish this train of thought-poetry. But I like where it was going. Maybe I'll finish it someday. If not, it is what it is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Coffee Shop Series, pt 1

I am a coffee shop bum these days. In the past year, I've probably spent nearly 30 hours a week in a coffee shop (usually Cafe Vita, sometimes Bauhaus, rarely Starbucks) because I worked from home yet needed a place to go where there was no t.v., no phone ringing, no distractions. Kinda pitiful? Probably. Haha. But, truth be told this coffee shop-hopping started long before last year. In law school, Bus Boys and Poets was my library, my senior year of college, Starbucks and The CoHo were my LSAT prep and thesis writing offices, and in my year off between college and law school, Starbucks was my place to sit and write poetry.

So. That was my long-winded way of introducing the Coffee Shop Series: poems I scrawled on napkins sometimes because I didn't go in to the coffee shop planning to sit and write, yet found myself needing to write once I sat. It's nice to look back at these and remember how I felt at the time--even the painful ones. For my first installment here is Strbk #1.

Strbk#1

Starbuck number one,
cuz I never done that coffee shop napkin thing
so cliché
But the words replay in my mind
and force themselves out in splurts and puffs like the espresso machine behind me
Like chatter mixed by rainfall and Christmas music and cell phones ringing
Words blur,
flinging themselves against each other
until one becomes another becomes nonsense becomes thought becomes poetry
So let’s see where it takes us
Right now I’m taken nowhere, everything is black
Next I’m taken aback by the quietness of my soul in its loneliness
My friend I sorely miss
But this ain’t no love thang the way you might think
It’s a love so deep I can’t understand it
So profound it’s on the brink of supernatural
I try to catch it all
in words but they succeed in failing me
This comforts me
who wants to find mere words to say what’s ailing me?
The pain of losing one’s life-giver?
Not me
Mommy:
a memory of love and triumph
You told me once you go, not to stop living
But life just ain't the same without your laughter
My tears cloud my sight from any happily ever after
that is absent from you
You said you’d be in a better place but I can’t erase the look on your face
When you slipped away
I miss you
I wish you
Could have had more time
I wish I could have taken your pain and made it mine
I wish I could climb up to heaven and just give you one last hug.

Starbuck#2
A poet without words I am
I spit out blurbs
and stumble over verbs
this seems so damn absurd
for me, the poet
friends say it’s writers’ block
but I know it aint just that
you see my flow it
usually flows like
rivers, like an ocean of emotions
and as I frustrate and stutter with my pen
I watch folks laugh and think epitaphs I feel uncomfortable in
is it sin to not express
when feelings buried in your chest
rest stagnant, spoiling
wasting away all that’s fresh?
nothing left to write
my creativity fights my confusion
giving birth to stillborn disillusionment
just reflections
no direction but in the search for clarity
change is life but I’d just like to find constant lies somewhere in me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

work in progress

this poem is both actually a work in progress and entitled "work in progress." here she goes:

while searching for my new thing
i sift through my old self
finding unrefined gems in dark spaces
secrets i’ve forgotten and traces
of malnourished dreams
it seems i’ve got a lot of work to do
or undo
i come to a dim corner
a crack in the wall allows light to trickle in quietly, softly
the light moistens a shadowy figure
it is still
it is small
it is meek
it is me
and i seek to converse with myself but am having trouble knowing my language
so instead i smile at me whose smile reveals her anguish
quietly, softly
a heart that has vanquished, sunken down to a lesser thing
but eyes that yet sing
so i bring me to a place of honesty and tap the wellspring of her heart
find it brims with art
and so i start to understand that that is what i am
we pray together in search for answers
and this is what we say:
i am thinking and praying and asking who i am
and finding that the answer is a word
that's always been
a word that is, that means, comes from within
i am finding that i am soul
i am learning i am whole
so i can't be bought or sold
and i'm worth much more than gold
oh, truly, there's so much more to me
the average just don't suit me
no, i'm groovy, i am grown
and i truly am at home in my own skin
i'm that shy, thin, fly kin, brown skinned, down when
i need to
be down for my people
but trust me i see through
them tricks you ain't think i would know
but i do, they ain't new
and i told you i'm soul
so i got that old wisdom
hear God's voice and listen
i cracks any system
my bredren, my sistren
my brothers, my sisters
i'm callouses, blisters,
on arthritic, cotton picking hands, and
i'm black feet, red clay, cool sand, and
i'm dressed with press and curl at black and tan, and
i'm Mommy, Pops, Mother Dear, Gram, and
i'm praise the Lord, that's my word, damn, and
i am soul
i am so
much more than black activist, poet, and catalyst for change
funky boho afro solo girl with the smile
my flow be thick like molasses that don't break for miles
and deep like the love between mother and child
and in me cuz i been doin this for a while
for so long that it's gone to my bones
world travelin yet my path again leads home
where my heart is
where my art is
where it's hardest
to avoid the truth
and the truth is
i am soul...
searching for my new thing
i sift through my old self
put my fears away on the shelf
and find that with some spitshine i'll be fine

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mother

She is a dancer
Arms and legs stretching out for miles of lean brown music
Feet slender, pretty
Hands as delicate as strong
She is long
and her body, a song

She is a dancer
Her eyes sparkle with kind, mischievous strength
Her smile is the width and the length of love
She dances to her own laughter
No camera could capture her beautiful fluidity

She would dance for me as I sat, little,
in wonder of her mastery of herself
She would dance to keep her health
To keep her sense of self

When she could no longer walk
she would dance in her talk
rhythmic, poetic,
conveying the thoughts she’d never give words to
til one day, as birds do
She took flight
And I cried at the sight of my future without her
But I’ll never doubt her love

Now with bright loving eyes
Her limbs survey the skies
a heavenly dance
Her spirit flies and she, it is my hope,
smiles down on the child she used to dance for
The child she’ll dance with again
some day

Copyright Kia Franklin 12/14/02

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

haiku: the tide

our names in the sand
the tide washed us clean away
from one another

Monday, August 10, 2009

On Creativity

What is creativity?

It is communication with the soul, an experience that the whole can feel separately together. My creativity is best expressed, I think, through poetry. Whether it be a song or a word or a movement, creativity should speak to people.

If I were a poem, what would I say to your soul?

I’d say hold on.

I’d scream and point accusatorily, demanding explanation from you. Why haven’t we moved farther, why has it taken us so long to get here, so far from our end goal?

I would comfort you and encourage you and love you.

I would ask you questions that would make you blush, point out things about yourself that you hate, that you love, and that you’ve never examined.

I am just a person; one of many, trying to find my creativity and nestle up in a warm, soft corner of it just long enough to get my energy back, and then it’s back to work. But I can’t help but think, wouldn’t it be great if that were my work?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

the c train series, part 1: travelin miles

i wrote a lot of poems on the notepad in my phone while sitting on new york city's c train. so i call those poems my "c train series." this one i wrote during the weird transition period when i was kind of bi-coastal, alternating between here in seattle and new york, depending on the month. this is a spoken word piece although i've never performed it. perhaps at the next seattle slam. to me, this piece only reads well when you read it out loud.

travelin' miles

all God's children got travelin shoes
i've been places,
discovered traces of myself, and paid dues
in each dwelling space
i've slowed my race to taste the freedom
of looking myself face to face
to see what i've become
an artist on the warpath
fighting battles with my pen
don't know how it happened but in Seattle once again
and then back to brooklyn
but either way i'm writin
the songs, struggles, thoughts
with words both coasts can delight in
and i'm always seekin my in
to have this low song sung heard
soul tongue offered
at the altar reverently
with art that alters everything
so we can see life newly,
truly, that's my duty
yes, that is why i do the
work i do,
the work i do, see
i been through the darkness
came out and saw i was an artist
finally had clarity of mind to see my charge is
to keep doing what God says
there's no choosing and no choice
yet and still i find the will to rejoice
to rejoice in the bondage i was called to
God's voice it was all too familiar
He said translate it for the people shout it til you're
hoarse
speak it soflty sing it dance it
and of course
make sure it's spoken, word
unbroken, heard with force
that can be felt
from coast to coast to coast

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Don't miss out on the moments

The sun set at 8:23pm today. I missed much of it, despite the amazing view I have from the upstairs at Bauhaus, a popular cafe here in Seattle. I looked up, and from my seat I saw the Space Needle in all its glory, the tangerine sun kissing its neck like a phat topaz necklace. I noted the beauty of that moment, the beauty of this city, was taking it all in, and then... my phone buzzed.

A text message. I attended to the text. Oh, I remembered, I need to send that e-mail right now.

A few more minutes of getting side tracked, and the next thing I know, I look up to see that the sun had arched its way across the cloud-dusted pink and lavender sky. It was now curving its way back down, preparing to disappear behind the Olympic mountains. I watched as it waned from plump tangerine to sweet mandarin slice, then to topaz fleck, then orange christmas-light, then nothing as it was swallowed by the Olympics.

Hmm. Too bad. A beautiful moment passed and I missed it by allowing myself to get side-tracked by... stuff and things and whatnot.

I don't want that to be my life. I don't want to miss out on the beautiful moments and then look back and be like, wait, what? How did that happen? I want to look at the sunsets every chance I get, and do all the other equivalent things that I need to do so that when the last gold fleck turns day into night I don't feel like I missed out.

Perhaps I'm thinking about this stuff so much because right now I am supposed to be allowing myself to get my head back on straight after a rough couple of years-- a time that has been peppered with loss, grief, and other craziness. During this time (which conveniently coincides with my job search) I'm supposed to be journaling, writing poetry, performing spoken word, reading, putting together scrap books, traveling, doing all this kind of reflective, soul-nurturing stuff. Instead, with the exception of some writing here and there, I have found myself totally distracted and side-tracked by lots of day to day nothingness. Some of it is other people's drama, some of it is self-created drama. Not good.

Thank God for this blog. It's my accountability buddy. Thank God for the beautiful Seattle sunset. It was a timely reminder.

i fought the law and the law won? no, it didn't.

so i'm back on the job market and really getting excited about jobs that touch on education-- ed policy, advocacy, educational counseling. i'm excited to jump in, and i'm doing some volunteer things on the side that only confirm for me that this is, indeed, one of my true passions. so i know it will work out in due time and that is a beautiful thing. but that's not why i'm writing this post. all this thinking about careers has me thinking back to the experience of being in law school. then two poems i wrote back in law school popped in my mind and i thought i'd share them.

i didn't exactly do cartwheels through law school. that doesn't make me unique. a lot of people go in thinking it's going to be one way and are quite surprised to find that they're dead wrong. such is life. the first poem was probably written while i studied constitutional law and learned about civil rights struggles through the courts, and how cold and inflexible and alienating the process was for folks fighting for basic rights. the second one is pretty self explanatory.

i fought the law and the law won
if feels to me
and seems to be
that the law is white
but my black ass mind don't want to assimilate
don't want to translate my soul into slate
my love into hate
my hurry up into wait
ain't takin the bait
no, i'm shaking the gate
in hopes that the floodwaters wash us all clean


the law won? no it didn't.
Despite your efforts to muffle the sounds
My heart yet resounds
I am!
Creative
I am!
A poet
I am!
Intelligent
I am!
Effecting change
I am!
And I will not rearrange my priorities for your sake
I will not take those lessons to heart
And start to internalize the coldness
I will stand firm with boldness
In my difference
In my dissonance
In my interest in self preservation
I will not be molded into another abomination
Another science experiment gone wrong
I will continue to sing freedom’s song
So long as you are here, I am here to question you
And know that you’re not in me although I am in you
And know that while it’s true that I’ll make time to do your beckoning
I will also make some time for me, constantly correcting
The mistakes I make, won’t take too much from the
Black letter
Golden fetter
No matter whether
Public interest or firm track
I will not be backed into a corner
I will not forget the former me who was and is before you came to be
I will stay true to that girl who was untamed, to she
Who was innocently idealistic
Don’t worry about me, I’m absurdly optimistic
I will make it through this maze
Unfazed, stronger, bolder, brighter, more powerful,
A tool for my people
A force to make equal
The playing field you’ve mangled over time
No, don’t worry, dear law school,
I will be just fine.


Speaking of the law, congrats to Sonya Sotomayor! First Latina Supreme Court Justice confirmed today! Awesome.

Good Grief

I had my appendix out when I was 22. It sucked. It hurt to sit up. It hurt to lay down. It hurt to use the bathroom. It hurt to walk. It just hurt. And all I wanted to do was enjoy the simple pleasure of kneeling over to tie my shoe without buckling over in pain.

Imagine if I had ignored my reality and just tried to jump back into normal life right after surgery. Not realistic. Funny how this is obvious when it comes to the loss of one's appendix, but not so much when you think about facing the loss of a loved one.

To come face to face with grief-- to really see it and understand what it means for your life, and then to treat yourself accordingly-- I imagine this is like what it would be to remain awake through surgery. To which I reply, "Stick that i.v. in me, son!"

But eventually the drugs and the laughing gas wear off and you do have to rehabilitate yourself. You gotta treat yourself gently and accept the fact that you are wounded. You shouldn't just jump back up and resume building houses, running marathons, climbing the sides of mountains, and stuff. You have to face reality or it will smack you in the face.

It did that to me. About two years back my grief counselor told me that if you don't pay attention to grief it'll just sit there quietly waiting for you. If you kick it out of your house, you'll find it sitting patiently at your front door. You gotta confront it. I have allowed lots of things to distract me from grief: school, work, relationships... and just stuff. But every time the distraction goes away, guess what is waiting for me at my door? That's right.

I think writing the tribute to my dad got the wheels greased for me to start facing my grief more openly. The machine is now in motion after so much time sitting stagnant, wanting to write but unable to find words. I am open now. This is a good thing, because I've been meaning to do this for a while.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

hey... a quarter!

i like finding old poems i wrote. for me it's kind of like when you find money in those jeans you haven't worn in months--it just feels cool to "rediscover" it. here are two poems i wrote after listening to amiri baraka perform, probably in november 2007, i'd guess.

note to the (non-cliche) spoken word scene
damn i love this scene
it's just my thing
the poetry is so in me it's bursting out my seams
and oozing out my dreams
fluttering like reams of paper
word of mouth on wings
dancing ideas on high beams got me thinking fly things

note to amiri baraka
elder baraka
we've got to
thank you
for the shock of conscience and soul
that got this whole
group in baffled silence
the violence of truth kills our delusions


i like that last line! hm.

Monday, August 3, 2009

dark boy

aw, wow, this is a throw back from way way back. so, you know how this blog is called Girl Woman Soul? this poem definitely can be filed under "Girl". i was 16 when I wrote it.

dark boy with bright eyes and shining clean smile
low, rhythmic voice
sweet, tickling laugh
strong black shoulders and arms
your feet and hips move to the music
my body moves to your feet and hips
those arms encircle this waist
closer we stand, swaying
my eyelids close and my cheeks burn warm
your face nears mine
i hear your smile
as my eyelids brush the side of your jaw
soft warm lips share a secret with my mouth
only the night sky and the music know

Sunday, August 2, 2009

me and Him

found this poem last night, something i wrote back in the day-day. File this one under Soul, but since I wrote it when I was about 16, you can definitely also file it under Girl.

me and Him

when light pierces through the dark curtain of night
sending pinks and blues dancing across the skyline
and the scent of dew-spritzed grass and newness is carried by fresh cool winds, which whisper for the world to awaken
He kisses my face with the tenderness only He can possess
and wakes me

i smile and breathe the first conscious breath He has given me for the day
and swallow it with thankfulness and awe at the opportunity begotten me
my small brown arms stretch far, far, far, in imitation of His greatness
i look upward because that is the direction in which He has guided me to travel
i prepare for the day, for He has decided that there is much to do in His name

and when the sky is blotted with dark ink and sprinkled with heaven's dust
and the cool yellow moon takes her seat on the sky, watching as the people go
and the winds settle back into their homes
and the grass stiffens as cold sets in
i, in my bed, lay talking to Him, giving thanks and apology and telling Him my fears

He sings a song to my soul, sweeter than even the music of angels
more soothing than even the warm sun
and sends me to rest and reflect in preparation for a new day
for He has a plan for me

Copyright Kia C. Franklin, 1998

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pops

Yesterday my dear friend Iquo wrote this great piece calling for a National Day of Mourning, charging that Americans simply do not know how to mourn. She's so right. And she followed up with this thoughtful blogpost about her own experience coping with the loss of her mother.

I'm inspired by her. So to claim my right to mourn my own way, and to commemorate what would have been my dad's 58th birthday, this blogpost is about dad. This is the first post here where I'm cutting my heart open a little bit and exposing some of what's been going on underneath my sometimes too-thick skin. Not easy, not fun. But if we don't acknowledge the pain we are going through, how can we heal?

Today, August 1st, is my dad’s birthday. He would be 58. It has been just over a year since he died and the wound is so fresh that sometimes it feels like he died last week. I’m listening to Al Green. Every time I listen to Al Green I think of my dad, and every time I hear the song “I’m so tired of being alone,” I cry. Not because of the lyrics, which actually are pretty heart wrenching. But because when I think of this song, I recall one of my favorite memories of my dad: listening to him sing this song (quite badly), perhaps when he thought no one was listening.

One of my dad's favorite activities was to sit at the computer and listen to sirius radio--gospel (The Blind Boys of Alabama), soul (Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield), hip hop (TuPac was one of his favorites), jazz (Hot Lips Page, Coltrane). For some reason Al Green is who I think of most immediately when I think about my dad quietly singing out bits and pieces of the songs he listened to with the headphones on. He sang it like he had a secret he was bursting to tell. Every now and then you’d just hear him leak out part of the song, then it was back to whispers again, then nothing, then another audible word sung off key, then he was quiet again. And he would snap his fingers so loud I could hear it from downstairs. His voice was… truly not good. I would crack up at his singing voice. But I would mainly laugh because it was so endearing and it filled me with love to hear him. He was being himself. His guard was down. He was home, with me, with no judgments and no critical eyes/ears.

I have met my fair share of brilliant minds, both in academia and in "the real world", but I am completely confident in saying that my dad was one of the most intellectually gifted people I've ever met and spoken with. He was a sponge when it came to data. Music, politics, technology, history, food, pop culture, trivia--he could discuss it all, and make you feel like you need to spend a couple of hours in the library. He was deep. And back in the day, I'm told, he was also an amazing poet.

Today, if my dad were alive, we wouldn't do much for his birthday. He'd be going to work at 4pm, so we'd probably just go to Starbucks in the morning, and he'd order a decaf short mocha, no whip, and I'd get a tall skim chai. We might go to Geraldine's Counter, a nearby diner, and he'd get a cobb salad and maybe some iced tea and I'd get sweet potato fries and chili. Or his girlfriend Kathy would come with her daughter Kelly, and we'd go to a Caribbean restaurant and he'd get oxtail or curry goat and a mango lemonade.

He would not want a cake or ice cream because he wasn't into sweets. And he never wanted gifts. Sometimes I'd just get him something small although I would usually just get him a card. But if I had one more chance to celebrate his birthday, I'd get him a fly cowboy hat in a beautiful wood box. Or a plane ticket to Indonesia to practice Pentjak Silat, the martial art in which he earned a black belt. Or a fishing pole and a trip to British Columbia or the San Juan Islands where he could go fishing.

I miss my dad for his humility, his complex and fascinating mind, his advice, his cooking, his laugh, his strength, his character, his hug. I miss the protective covering that he was for me, even well into my adulthood. I miss the security that I felt sitting in the room with him.

I feel cheated. From my wedding dance, from the chance to see him look my first child in the eye, from the chance to see him as an old man. It makes me so angry I feel physically warmer thinking about this. So I usually don't. But Iquo is right. We don't take the time to deal with our grief and we don't figure out how to deal with it. Then an anniversary or a birthday happens and we are knocked in the face with the grief we've been ignoring.

So as much as I'd like to hit "pause" and stop everything until I'm ready to move forward, I know that I can't do that. My dad, a very practical man, would not want this for me. He lost his father at age 10--totally had to uproot his life because of it--but he moved forward and lived a good, although in my opinion short life. My mom lost her father when she was 26, the same age I was, and she moved forward and lived a good, but again short life. I have to move forward too, and appreciate every day I am given by making the most of it. If I don't, what does that say about the love my parents gave me, the dreams they had for me, the sacrifices they made for me? I have to do it.

So I'm glad for today, my dad's birthday. It is a reminder of the importance of taking a little time to breathe, reflect, remember, and hopefully recover from deep loss. I know I'll never be the same, and after only one year without my dad, I know I've got quite a process ahead of me. But I'm going to face it unafraid, because dad would want me to.

Friday, July 31, 2009

the journey--by mary oliver

my law school clinic professor just hipped me to this poem. i love it. SO applicable to me and my life right now. i'm sure others can relate. here it is.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Sunday, July 12, 2009

cj

my brother uttering smothering almost mothering words
sending my heart fluttering like butterflies tumbling down to absurd
depths then taking flight
rooftop starry nights and the startling heights of flying eagles remind me i'm still free
and fresh mountain air in my lungs remind me i can still breathe
though i may drown
cuz you be way down deep in who i'm is
like from since back when we were little ashy knee'd grinning kids
so much a part of me that you're like my heart to me
or maybe a twin soul, living whole and apart from me
but still connected...
and don't you forget it

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ah, the sting...

ah, the sting, the angst of the first love. it took me years to get over mine. this was a poem i wrote when i was in the thick of the getting over of him:

you look at me and my heart is a dried butterfly wing in a windstorm
and my mind says i've known you since i been born
but i've also known pain forever
so any clever
retorts or reassurances may fail to temper the weather
and please know that whether
or not it does doesn't matter 'cause
it ain't cool, ain't breezy
and loving you ain't easy
no, it's a serious hardship

is it supposed to be? you ask, smiling and my heart is stone warmed in sun
and my mind says oh no, it's once more begun
but it's also already ended
so don't be offended
or put off if i fail to convincingly pretend it
were all good or suspend it,
my reality long enough to think it was, 'cause
it ain't warm, ain't sunny
and loving you ain't funny,
no, it's a serious tragedy

Friday, July 3, 2009

My re-entry into performance poetry

So last week I finally read at the Seattle Slam poetry night.

I've been going for a few months now, and lovin' it like no one's business. Pretty much everyone I've met has been super down to earth, crazy creative, and interesting.

After a positive experience reading my first piece a week and a half ago (which I'll write about a bit later), a few days ago I read another piece about music and my love for the drum. The drum just moves me in a different way than any other instrument does.

Performing the poem was great. But even better, afterward a young lady who is a drummer asked me if she could have a copy of the piece so she can put it in her studio. I was touched and inspired by this request. Even if just one person digs what I have done, writing and performing this stuff is a great opportunity to share it. So in that spirit, here is an excerpt from that poem:

the sax’s swoon sways me
the piano ticklish-ly plays on my ears,
the bass vibrates my spine down to my feet,
but my heart is only moved by the beat of the drum.

soft tings, bold bing bat,
that thing that the drum beat does.
i guess ‘cause it always was

since before we had ivory keys
and horse tail strings
and wind through pipes
making metal sing

we had that beat that we groove to
that moves, ooh, that soothes you
that moves through the flute winds
and flows thru oboes
and makes the soul slow down and smell the sweet
feel the completeness of beauty as simplicity
it gets to me
that maternal, eternal drum...


Copyright Kia Franklin March 1, 2005

Here we go!

Welcome to my new blog! I know, I know, everyone has a blog. But I begin this with very realistic expectations and, more importantly, an open mind about how this forum will evolve over time. This is not something I'm doing for any reason beside exploring myself, my art, my passions, and how to be true to these things as I navigate life. I hope that as others read it they will be able to glean some bits and pieces that are helpful to them. I also hope that I can get some good feedback on my creative pieces. But whatever the case may be, this is just a way I can hold myself accountable to writing and reflecting on a regular basis.

This first blogpost marks the beginning of a journey for me, off the paved road and into something unknown. For someone who has always done the "safe thing" and the "sensible thing," walking into a new space for myself where I give myself the leeway to explore what I want to do in hopes that I can discover what I'm here for, is a bit daunting. But it's exciting. And a blessing. And timely. Much more to this as I go. But for starters I thought I'd kick this blog off with a poem, actually the poem that inspired this blog's name. The piece itself is a work in progress, which is fitting, because it's about self-definition, and if that ain't a work in progress then I don't know what is. It's meant to be a spoken piece.

i am thinking and praying and asking who i am
and finding that the answer is a word
that's always been
since before beat machines or the record's spin
a word that is, that means, comes from within
i am finding that i am soul
i am learning i am whole
so i can't be bought or sold
and i'm worth much more than gold
oh, truly, there's so much more to me
the average just don't suit me
no, i'm groovy, i am grown
and i truly am at home in my own skin
i'm that shy, thin, fly kin, brown skinned, down when
i need to
be down for my people
but trust me i see through
them tricks you ain't think i would know
but i do, they ain't new
and i told you i'm soul
so i got that old wisdom
hear God's voice and listen
i cracks any system
my bredren, my sistren
my brothers, my sisters
i'm callouses, blisters,
on arthritic, cotton picking hands, and
i'm black feet, red clay, cool sand, and
i'm dressed with press and curl at black and tan, and
i'm Mommy, Pops, Mother Dear, Gram, and
i'm praise the Lord, that's my word, damn, and
i am soul
i am so
much more than black activist, poet, and catalyst for change
funky boho afro solo girl with the smile
my flow be thick like molasses that don't break for miles
and deep like the love between mother and child
and in me cuz i been doin this for a while
for so long that it's gone to my bones
world travelin yet my path again leads home
where my heart is
where my art is
where it's hardest
to avoid the truth
and the truth is
i am soul

Copyright 2007 by Kia Franklin