Christmas in America 

 

 

I know you know 

about God‘s beloved 

shivering on the floor

Wondering how hope turned into terror 

Upon arrival in the promised land 

 

I know you know 

about swaddled babies 

ripped from their mothers 

born at the wrong time 

in the wrong place 

in the wrong skin 

 

I know you know 

about free flu shots 

waiting idle in boxes 

while the cough begins to spread

Among the Other 

Waiting idle in boxes

 

I know you know 

about the human crossing borders 

binding people into suffering

instead of protecting them from fear 

 

I know you know 

about our old lady 

Standing with the lamp 

Waiting for tired huddled masses 

yearning to be free 

needing to be White 

 

I know you know

about the stable 

Home to donkeys 

A new family 

And earthly bribes 

For a heavenly gift

 

I know you know 

about sanctuary in Egypt

A fearsome flight 

For first time parents 

hiding the light of the world

in Ill fitting clothes 

begging him to stay quiet

hoping for one more miracle 

 

I know you know 

Whether Mary would be safe 

In your care 

Or if you’d remind her 

That Jews don’t belong here 

Without looking into her eyes 

 

I know you know 

This is Christmas in America 

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2019

A poem by Franklin Oliver

 

 

 

From the Garden

Maybe we learned

The pleasure of sin

From Adam, not Eve

.

Maybe we learned 

The power of sex

From Adam, not Eve

.

Maybe Cain learned

That Abel could die

From Adam, not Eve

.

Maybe we learned

The earth could be tamed

From Adam, not Eve

.

Maybe we learned 

That wars could be ‘won’

From Adam, not Eve

.

Maybe 

.

© Gayle Force Press 2011

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

She’s Gone

I have lots of favorite days every year.

Rachel’s birthday, my first Drunk Day during summer break, 46118 Christmas… Those are all beautiful days for me every year.

Today is always the worst.

My mom died on October 1, 2005.

Rachel and I bought a car that day. It’s the first and only new car either of us have ever owned. We drove to my parents’ house where Rachel, my dad and I talked about the car, discussed the first six weeks of my new life as a high school teacher and had as normal a conversation as is possible when someone is dying of cancer in the big bedroom.

Dad and I spent part of the afternoon in that bedroom talking about our plans for the next stage of Mom’s care. We came to some helpful decisions and made sure Mom was warm; we shared lots of laughs and more than a handful of tears and rubbed Mom’s feet and arms; we talked about how well we could continue making good choices for her and discussed how we could take care of each other.

A couple hours after I left, Dad called to tell me Mom was dead.

My initial thought was confusion; I didn’t know what he meant. When he repeated himself (Even now I am sooo sorry I asked him to say it a second time…), I squealed. I groaned. I uttered a primal, urgent sound that I’ve never heard before or since. It was the sound of my soul being sucked out of my body.

Apparently I was on autopilot as I started driving back to Mills Road. I sped like I believed I could somehow manage to hold on to something of my mother if I just arrived quickly enough.

The last thing I clearly remember from that entire day was thinking how mad Mom would be if I killed myself driving recklessly on 465.

I think I slowed down.

In these fifteen years since, I’ve lived a wonderful life. I have been blessed beyond measure by gifts of love I didn’t quite know existed before they came into my life. And even the heartbreaks of continued living have reminded me how much I continue to love the people in my life. Those in the present and in the past.

And every single day, I miss my mommy.

Today is always the worst.

Stephen A on Steve Nash

This take was fascinating for me to see, especially from Stephen A.
 
 
I love that the world of sports has worked so hard in the past few months to lift up inequality but this just isn’t one of the moments that applies. At least not in the way SAS suggests. Not in the NBA.
 
The same basic situation (getting a head coaching gig with no coaching experience) has happened for lots of Black coaches. Most recently it was probably Jason Kidd. The best and most prominent Black coach in the NBA is Doc Rivers and he had the same kind of job handed to him as did Steve Kerr, the most successful coach in the last decade.
 
I appreciate that we’re having the conversation but this focus may mean we’re still missing the actual core reason BIPoC usually *do* miss out on opportunities. This hire is about the privilege of relationship, not Whiteness. It’s not quite nepotism but it is about access. Nash and the Nets GM Marks are longtime friends. (That friendship was probably furthered by them both being White non-Americans on their Suns teams so race keeps showing up. It almost always shows up.) People tend to favor those they already know. Decision makers are still usually White and the people they know best are usually White. There’s nothing nefarious but this insular cycle is very real and incredibly powerful.
 
In this moment, we should also recognize the power of the NBA athlete. As much as Marks loves Nash, the most important people in the Nets organization are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They both have positive relationships with Nash too. Without their input, there’s no chance Nash would have this job.
 
Again, the theme is not race, but connection. I’d love to see us spend energy figuring out how more of us can connect. Especially for those of us to whom access to power is usually unavailable. 
 
 

Over the Ohio

 

 

The water is wide

Littered with empty bodies

Once young old weak and strong

Mingled with fish and sledge

Along with the memories of those

Who made it over the Ohio

 

To a new home of hope

No land but how brave

Promising to remain 

North of the river

Away from pattyrollers 

Somehow, finally free

 

Their lucky descendant

Starts driving faster

As I take a bridge

One of several I’ll cross

Just hoping for fun tonight

In Cincy or Louisville

 

Leaving Kentucky for Ohio

Trading South for North 

Simply signs on the highway

Beneath the shining images  

Pointing me to a downtown

Or a floating casino

 

Nothing calls to attention

The history or the bodies

Still and real below me

Trapped in the Ohio

Permanently, without memories

Somehow, finally free

 

© Gayle Force Press 2012

A poem by Franklin Oliver

 

 

My Blackness 

 

 

I wear My Blackness like a cape

Like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman 

No, she doesn’t always wear a cape.

Her daily life isn’t a special occasion I guess. 

 

I wear My Blackness like a cape

Like Hawkgirl, Thor, Spiderman

Except no he doesn’t wear one

’cause he’s always caught up in a web

Like I am

But he creates his own webs

While I get stuck in someone else’s

With My Blackness flying all around me 

 

I wear My Blackness like a cape

’cause Ric flair is the greatest of all time

But he’s also the Nature Boy and his robe tells you it’s true.

Same as I’m telling you about my life

and this heavy fucking cape around my neck 

 

See, I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because that weight makes me stronger and braver and prouder and bolder

than you could ever understand.  

 

I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because It reminds me that on any

Tuesday night or Friday morning

I might need a cape to protect me from the rest of the human race. 

 

I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because some folks still pretend that they just don’t see

The very first thing they notice about me. 

 

I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because It helps define me for me.

Because It contains multitudes.

And because I love it. 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2020

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

 

 

Justified Use of Force (for DaDon)

 

Every year there are

Untold more of us

An Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean,

Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or me

 

Then a loud clamor

Our broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

That no one’s forced to answer

 

With sympathy’s short half-life

Most just wait for the noise to stop

So the questions

Can disappear once again

 

Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2020

A poem by Franklin Oliver

Survivors

 

 

Hunted and sought

Captured then bought 

Still we do survive 

 

Shackled and chained

Whipped to be trained

Still we do survive 

 

Raped and abused

Scarred, misused 

Still we do survive 

 

Worked just like dogs

Fed worse than hogs

Still we do survive 

 

Freed then discarded 

Our progress retarded

Still we do survive 

 

Separate but equal 

Slavery’s sequel 

Still we do survive 

 

The Movement fights

For basic rights

Still we do survive 

 

A change from the past 

With “Free At Last”

Still we do survive 

 

Dreams still deferred

Our consciences stirred 

Still we do survive 

 

The POTUS is Black

So racists fight back 

Still we do survive 

 

A Movement anew

Now what will we do

 

More than just survive 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2019

A poem by Franklin Oliver

April’s Last

 

 

Soon will be May again

That darling month of poems, flowers,

Gaiety and holidays

Till then though, 

April will hold fast

To its power to sway

The fragile moods of humans

With wind, sun, buds and storms

Performing their spontaneously choreographed dance

Raw and intemperate

In full, unceasing view of us all

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2012

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

 

 

 

Our Budding Spring

 

Bony trees flex

Their pubescent arms skyward

In obvious prayer

As they ask for more light

More life

More time for their quickly growing branches

Presenting the beautiful colors we admire

While we point

Our failing eyes skyward

No obvious prayers

As we ask for more light

More life

More time for our quickly growing branches

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2011