Category: Just me

Christmas Crossing

 

It’s Christmas Eve and my wife is napping

At the other end of the couch

Dreaming in a Santa hat

 

Tonight when she wakes

And after tomorrow’s presents

I’ll try my best to remind her

That my life is more complete

Better and more real

Than I could have imagined for myself

 

Her presence animates my life

Not in a slavish sense of duty

But through the constant commitment of love

Densely defined and elaborate

Telling as the Rubicon,

broad as the Nile

 

I have fully crossed over

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2006

 

Justified Use of Force

 

This summer I told a friend that I couldn't write any more poems about police brutality. So here's an old one. Again. I initially wrote this poem in 2002 and when performing it in public through the years have changed/updated the names. Mike Brown  Eric Garner is only the most recent addition to the litany of blood.

 

 

Justified Use of Force

   

Every month there’s a new one

A Diallo, Bell, Brown

Ford, Garner, Rice or me

 

Clamoring loudly

Broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

But no one’s forced to answer

 

With sympathy’s short half-life

Soon most are hoping for the noise to stop

And the questions to disappear once again

 

Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2014

  

 

Ferguson and Jake 11.30.14

Thanks to Michele Norris for mentioning this post in conjunction with her ongoing program The Race Card Project. There are so many powerful testimonies there, it's worth a close look.

 

FDO

 

 

Today, I'm glad my son is White.

 

That’s a phrase I never thought I’d write. In part, that’s because I identify so much with Black culture and Black history. It’s also in part because, as a Black man, raising a White boy is extremely complicated.

 

Please understand, life at home is as simple as can be expected with a teenager. I’m incredibly fortunate that Jake is a wonderful young man. But life out in the world is filled with constant reminders that our family is jarring to others.

 

We’re jarring to servers who felt they needed to ask ‘everything on one check?’ even when Jake was in elementary school. We’re jarring at the bank when the teller needs ‘help from a manager’ to authorize Jake cashing a birthday check from a grandparent. We’ve been jarring at the mall, convenience store, park or any of the other dozen times I wondered if someone were ready to put out an Amber alert, fearing for Jake’s safety because he was with me. We were jarring the time I got pulled over and very aggressively harassed because a cop saw Jake sitting in my backseat while we drove through a White neighborhood.  Jake’s Whiteness has been a consistent hassle.

 

In one important respect though, Jake’s Whiteness has been a real blessing: I've never given him THE TALK. Of course we've had the sex talk because I’m the responsible dad of a teen. But we've never had the cop talk. Some of you know about the cop talk. That’s the one when young people of color learn the dos and don’ts of interacting with the police. They learn what kinds of behaviors to change, which places should be avoided and what poses to assume. My son doesn’t need to know any of that. If anything, I would say that Jake is wary of the police because of how they've treated me but he doesn't live in any real fear of the cops. And I'm so glad he doesn't have to.

 

Jake will get the automatic benefit of the doubt when it comes to cops. That reality makes a huge difference in my life and the last few days in Ferguson has made that more clear than ever. His inherent (wait for it…) White privilege means that when I'm worried for my son’s safety it's about driving or alcohol or sex. At root, I worry about Jake having a problem based on something of his own doing, having trouble because of a choice he makes. I worry just because he’s my kid.  

 

But I don’t have to worry about Jake being in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong skin. I don’t have to worry that he’ll be Mike Brown or Tamir Rice or Ezell Ford or Eric Garner or Sean Bell or any of the murdered others. I don’t have to worry that someone with a badge might decide to kill my son.

 

Today, I'm glad my son is White.

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2014

 

 

 

 

Carole’s Songs

 

I’ve been listening to Carole King

Singing about love and loss

But mostly life

 

Although I know she’s not singing to me

She must be singing about me

 

Since so many of my fears

find breath through her sighs

And all my hopes take wing

with her hoarse cries of possibility

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2004

 

 

Blackface

 

The face in the mirror

Is black

Not brown or cocoa

Or anything else

The too nice people

Might try to tell me

Since it’s about opposition

And the power of whiteness

The power they validate

By denying it exists

Comes only because I am

And must continue to be

Black

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2003

Ferguson Takeaways 11.26

 

Right now, my main takeaway from the many enlightening ‪#‎Ferguson‬conversations happening right now is still this combination:

 

A) Darren Wilson will never have to risk jail for his decision to shoot and kill Michael Brown while Brown was unarmed

 

B) the lack of an indictment doesn't really shock anyone and

 

C) I CANNOT IMAGINE those realities being true if Wilson were Black and Brown were White.

 

 

The gulf between White and Black America is still vast, systemic and clear. I want to feel confident that #Ferguson will be a catalyst for deep, difficult conversations that lead to long lasting changes.

 

If that happens, Michael Brown will be this generation's Emmett Till. If not, we will have failed him, ourselves and our children as our parents have failed us.

 

God bless us. Every one.

 

 

FDO

Justified Use of Force

 

This summer I told a friend that I couldn't write any more poems about police brutality. So here's an old one.

 

I wrote this initially in 2002 and when performing in public through the years have changed/updated the names. Mike Brown is only the most recent addition to the litany of blood.

 

 

Justified Use of Force

 

  

Every year there’s a new one

A Diallo, Bell, Brown or me

Clamoring loudly

Broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

But no one’s forced to answer

 

With sympathy’s short half-life

Soon most are hoping for the noise to stop

And the questions to disappear once again

Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2014

  

 

Kitchen

  

I walked from the kitchen

Slowly stopped and turned around

The gentle bubble of pots on the stove

Sounded warm and beautiful

Inviting, so I went back in

 

Watching the lid dance over my soup

I noticed the dry, hot smell

Of cumin drowning in the sweet

Black juice of the beans

 

I felt the smile on my face

And wondered how many times

My granddad stood smiling in his kitchen

With the cornbread beginning to brown

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2002

 

 

 

 

Just Past Middle

 

This isn't the best poem I've ever written about my mother but it's the one I can share today.

 

 

Black female

Just past middle

Age weight height

Okay not height

 

She’s lived through

And fought so much

More than I know

 

Saving me from what life

Might, but never

Would, have been

 

Because she is

My mother

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2003

 

 

Starting Anew

 

Today was the first day of a new school year. Well, kinda. It was my first day back but kids don’t return till Tuesday[i]. Returning always elicits lots of different reactions but for me the core element is a sense of opportunity. I get another chance to do things better.

 

With each new year, I get another chance to try entirely new things in the classroom. I get another chance to learn from my students and colleagues. I get another chance to live a better life in a meaningful way doing meaningful work. It sounds hokey but it's true.  

 

That truth is the reason that every time I get nervous about paying bills or (not really) saving for college or driving a car that’s almost old enough to drive itself, my wife Rachel reminds me what my work life really means. And somehow, that’s more than enough. Always.

 

Even on the first day of school.

 

FDO
 


[i] Keep it down now, voices carry.