Quote Iconplease forgive my quiet.
I’ve been listening to God,
and men, and
trying to live down
each of my
days, my dreams
haven’t come ‘round
as often as nightmares have; it’s scary
when you can’t let go, and you
have more reasons to wake
up tomorrow than to
sleep tonight.
Niles Heron, Freewrite 9.15.14
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Freefragment, 8.29.14

she was like walking
up to the edge of a cliff
and letting your toes dangle
taste freedom; giving them
a chance to plume, or learn
they were always every-only human, she
was a dream on a picket fence
straddling, struggling to name
itself as either flying or
the other thing.

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freewrite 8.26.14

until I watched her at low-tide, I never
believed
she could pull water from the rocks

until I walked to the shore at dawn, and
found her moon-lonely, floating
above the empty remnants of a river once home
to a town-full of
baptisms,

until erosion turned her cheeks to
aqueducts, pouring herself back into
holy

until she looked at me and asked
if I thought they would notice that
from now on the Mississippi would be salt water,

until I looked into her eyes, hollowed and
cored and caved, and
all of the things I had drowned or orbited
in her over the years was looking back
at me

I didn’t know that running
just leads
to caught

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What Kind Of A Name Is That? (freewrite 8.20.14)

Do not be alarmed, Jim,
I know how you feel
about silence, but it’s not
what you think, we have simply
chosen to begin
counting our dead in the words
they lived, and in our own
languages; ones
built with more light
more love, more
Glory
than the ones you gave us.

We are tired of watching
pieces of ourselves ascend
to Heaven, only to have their
dispatch demand that we pay for
the opportunity to stand
closer to God.

Sincerely,

A Beautiful Night Sky,
With More Stars
Than You Have Bullets.

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What do I tell my children? Which laws are theirs?

So this video has been circulating on facebook of a man (I’m presuming white, but he could be off-white) arguing with the police about his right to bear his firearm as he walks the streets of some city called Portland (could be Maine, or Oregon, or some other land of Ports).

I’ve had a number of discussions (pre-and-post-Ferguson) about the opportunity to interact with Police, specifically as a Black Male, with contempt or combativeness BUT within the law. We are so often taught-and-reminded to prostrate ourselves before the badge in fear of the consequences that a failure to do that will produce – not that compliance with this philosophy will unilaterally produce positive outcomes (see: a list of Black men seemingly shot while laying on the ground on their stomachs).

It’s my feeling that there is a real impact that the threat of being the next Mike Brown/Rodney King/ (or the litany of lesser harassment and violations). The probability that it will happen to us as opposed to them that is an active dissuasive presence in our minds when we deal with the cops. We are never unaware of where any even routine interaction with the law can escalate.

Lots of us don’t know the law (I accept that, and more probably don’t than do for a range of reasons), but in this video — a man carrying a gun in public… If he were black, would he have been approached and spoken to calmly? Or would he have been treated as a threat, and would the interaction have been escalated as that.

Comparing anecdotes… Here we have a video of a (we presume) white man brandishing a firearm, who has been reported by the public as being a safety concern. He speaks aggressively to the Police, and is clearly combative – It’s important to note that this is after they have already seemingly peaceably disarmed him of his actual-real-life-shoot-and-kill-people weapon (the video starts after they take his pistol). He is given the opportunity to not be a threat to the police, and to argue his case on the basis of legal right/wrong. He is afforded this opportunity (I’d argue) because he is not perceived as an imminent threat (or however you’d like to describe the way “we” are so often projected/perceived).

Meanwhile, outside of Dayton, Ohio, a young man is walking around Walmart with a not real, not shoot and kill people TOY gun. He is reported as being a threat, and police arrive (to a call I’m going to assume was not a passive, oh by-the-way call, but I recognize this is an assumption influenced by my bias). He is then shot dead while trying to explain to the officers that his gun is not real, and that he is not a threat. He is not given an opportunity to say: “Officer, why is it illegal for me to hold a toy? Why are you harassing me in the country that I live in, where I have the right to proceed about my private business unmolested – I am not a disturbance, please leave me alone.” We don’t/won’t know what he might have said if discussion was an option, and are-too-often-denied-the-opportunity-to defend ourselves with rhetoric.

It is not my argument that these are comparatively the same circumstance (could be tangerines vs. oranges; I would argue the video is probably much more “dangerous” than the Walmart incident), but I think it highlights a probability and perception that influences our (peoples of color, specifically Black Americans) ability to feel as though we are allowed to interact with law enforcement with anything but the fear that anything we do will be perceived as rage and impending assault-to-be-met-with-force.

All of this begs the question. As a Black Man what am I supposed to say to the cops when they catch me with a toy gun in my hand? As a Black Man interested in having sons who will be black-and-not-by-their-choice, what do I tell them to do?

Talk to me. I’d love to know your thoughts?

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Freewrite Prayer 8.12.14

Father,
In the end if I remember anything, let
it be everything, but if my memory
of my human life is going to stay here
in my body after I leave it behind,
please help me ease into the when in which I will
remember nothing,

I pray, I ask
let me spend my last moments
not fighting, unless it is for you,
not fighting, unless it’s with you,
not fighting, unless it’s to get to her to kiss her goodnight,
I’m so tired of fighting, Father. I don’t
want to do it anymore
but I will do it forever until I know my sons
and daughters won’t have to
but whenever I lose this here
I don’t want to feel it slipping through my fingers
I don’t want to be scared anymore

I don’t want to leave my last movements as
empty grasps at the memories of their valuation,
swatting at the cold hands gripping the back of my neck,
or resisting wherever they’re trying to guide me

I don’t want to feel empty without my anger at
the silence of my friends who stood
quiet as we bled out in the streets
of the country they. call. home. too.
as they walked by and looked at us turning a color
we should not be able to turn,
and cocked their heads slightly
and said “howdy neighbor” before returning to their
text messages.
and as we hung like tire swings with natural hair from the trees
they let their kids climb like they were their own, and
said: “it’s just a tree,
you didn’t invent it.
nature is for everyone.”

I wonder if they pray like this.

I hope
the last thing I see might be of you,
or of her,
of someone who’s love has not given me pause
of someone who has already given their life to the kind
of love worth dying for.

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freewrite 8.6.14

i don’t know how to
comfort humans, I don’t
always understand them, us, we
don’t find history or truth
to be gentle, respectful of the sweet,
the way we prefer
our medicine; our neighbors don’t
lend out even spoonfuls of sugar like
they used to, and all the gates and triple-locked
doors make the transition from momma’s house
to the warden’s all the easier,

i wouldn’t have known how to
tell him his momma wasn’t coming
she was going to find out about this from
a phone call from a doctor
who wouldn’t pronounce his name
right, no familiar hands were
going to help carry him into his chariot

but when he was laying on
the cement, having been dragged
out of the car that flipped twice
by people who were “basically
paramedics, and knew they
didn’t have to stabilize his spine before
moving him,” who were basically just
used to paramedics not showing up
when they called, when he was
laying on the cement, he never called for his
mother or father or sister or
any one else who might have found a way to leave him, he
just screamed out
at
or
for
God,

and either way, I just kept mumbling
“preach.”

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(IV) Notes on Loving a Homeless Man

IV

The hesitation that you hear in my voice is just that I’m used to alarms going off when I’m near doorways. I’m used to police approaching a crowd, and somehow always asking me what I’m doing there before they ask anyone else. I’m used to them asking me to leave, and leaving others to their business.

I’m just more comfortable standing outside. I feel more like things happen the way they are supposed to out here. Did you know that you have to be inside to die of a stray bullet, or in a house fire, or of a heart attack while you’re laying in your bed next to a woman who calls your heart her heart, and doesn’t sleep as well when you’re not there? No one ever burns to death in a house fire under a freeway overpass.

I’ve learned that jail is more likely than electrocution. I don’t often find myself living by natural trees, and lightning only strikes telephone poles in movies with time-traveling cars. I’ve learned that thunderstorms are unavoidable and aren’t all that bad.

I’ve learned that thunder is only dangerous when it’s the echo of a gunshot.

I’ve learned that stray bullets always hit who they were aimed at. I’ve learned that stray bullets are aimed at “everyone.” I’ve learned that they will only call them stray bullets if they kill children. They only get called stray bullets when they are found lodged in or near someone who has a name… Someone who will be missed.

If a bullet tumbles through a concrete forest — if it hits a man most humans couldn’t say wasn’t a tree square in the chest — does his life make a sound as it falls off his tongue?

I’ve learned that the only deaths here are murders, and overdoses, and hypothermia, and starvation. The only deaths here are ‘of natural causes.

I want so badly to die of natural causes. And so I’m standing outside. I don’t want you to miss me, but I want to be worth missing. If I never create space in your life to fit myself in, I will never create a void in your life when I leave.

I will leave.

I don’t want to go. But I don’t know what staying feels like. And so I’m standing outside. And wondering if alarms will go off when I walk through the door, or police will tell me to 'move along, if I know what's good for me,' or if you might make me the type of man who can die in his sleep, who could have an early death — who could die unnaturally — the type of man who could give a name to a stray bullet — the type of man who was expected to live.

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(III) … Notes on Loving a Homeless Man

III

It will be pulling teeth with salad tongs.

It will be digging a grave with a Gerber baby spoon.

It will be showing up to an unmarked door, on an unmarked building, on an unmarked street, with windows that seem to be perpetually dark — there is a car parked out front that has 3 flat tires and a missing side-view mirror — and you’re knocking — and knocking — and knocking — and never turning to hide your face as the people walking past look at you strangely, or maybe sadly, or maybe lofting some other kind of pity at you as they walk past en route to more inhabitable property.

You will feel ill-suited for the tasks dripping from your hands.

It will be convincing me that we can each halve this and each still hold the whole of us together. It will be convincing me that a home is something I can have at all. It will be showing me that my hands can carry things and not break them or break myself or break yourself. That not everything in the world is sharp edged, and that if you expect everything to cut you, you either get great at bleeding or great at dropping things, and neither of those are good qualities in a husband or a carpenter.

I don’t quite remember the last time homes were something, anything, other than otherthings to be dreamt of while you wonder about whether morning will keep the streak alive, or decide that it’s already got the Guiness for “most consistent thing in the universe not called to noon and evening, and hey whatever, bro, I was here first," and call out sick today. I’m still not sure where dreams and prayers and cautionary tales intersect and diverge, or how to tell which is which when they all take turns playing the carrot on the end of a stick, a maybe hanging just out of reach, just intriguing enough to lunge for; It’s not that I ever thought I would catch it, but that I’ve seen so many beautiful things in the life I’ve spent chasing it — I didn’t have a reason to stop and just be hungry.

I’ve become accustomed to falling in love with the “almost” of it all. To the point that actually having it sounds like heartbreak. When you wake up every morning for a decade telling yourself that the “point of it all is the journey, and not the destination,” you won’t know what to do when it comes time to stop moving, so you’ll keep walking — through every room of the house — and if you’re not careful — if you don’t stop me — I will walk right back out of the front door, because destiny doesn’t happen to men like me.