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.

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.