Day 27 of 30

I know some of you are wondering why I keep writing these poems. Easy answer: because I have to.


In 1997 scientist Philippe Kahn
jury-rigged a camera to his phone
to for the first time
capture and share
through the internet
the birth of his daughter

She is now eighteen

Her life was the impetus
for the camera phone
Her birth was the dropped
pebble in the water
world of waves
rippling and rippling
wider through the years
until eventually reaching
the shaky hand of a
neighborhood newscaster
also eighteen
filming someone else’s death
or almost death
for the
third time
this week
to capture and share
with the internet
in case of another kind
of jury-rig

Day 26 of 30


all i want is to be able
to saw them in half
to sever them down the middle
separate legs from body
hands from holsters
thought from action
pull a fresh funeral bouquet
from one sleeve
a dove from the other
and a white cloth
long enough to circle the world
and soft enough to dab the tears
of us all
from around my neck

Day 25 of 30

RIOT (for Baltimore)

when a trash can
shatters a car window
in my neighborhood
when a brick
finds a new home in a
closed grocery store
when street signs
are exhumed like bodies
and used like battle axes
and used to bang the ground
to gong out to God
it hurts me
it hurts me more
that you don’t

let me ask you
did you not break
your own toys
during the times
you couldn’t cry away
the anger?

Day 24 of 30


Mama used to always say
Son keep your shoes pristine and tied
For even if the soles decay
At least you’ve walked with class and pride

Spit and scrub and buff ’em clean
The bottom stripped of thread and wood
Son be aware the road is mean
But you must make the walk look good


From an incredible high school teacher in Milwaukee:


The bell is about to ring for another American Studies Block–that is the class that you met a week and a day ago in Milwaukee.  
We miss you.  
The energy and wisdom you gave these young people has been contagious.  Other students have come to talk with them about “that guy sitting in the commons.”  They’ve had critical conversations about who they are as scholars, what they want to tell the world about, how many more songs they need to write, what their beginning and their ending chapter should look like.  They have even started to find out much more about Queen Latifah.
I now am learning much more, too, about Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” since they seem to see quite a few connections to his new work and your words.  Whew.
I have hit my 20th year of teaching.  In some moments, I wonder if I can reach another year, but then I see them in a room listening to a master craftsman like you and I know that I have found my own place in the world.
Thank you for the gift of your time and your spirit.  You have given us a piece of you that will not break against any harshness in this world.
I can’t begin to express how grateful and how fortunate I am to have received such a message, and to have shared time with such incredible people — young, old, and everything in between — not just in Milwaukee, but all over this country. Let’s keep working together.

Day 23 of 30


If for some reason my old face
a magazine cover should grace
I feel the need to make this one thing known

Don’t photoshop my eyes and teeth
Don’t try to blur what lies beneath
Don’t change one nap upon my heath
just leave it all alone

It’s not that I don’t want to seem
like some absurd desired dream
my fragile ego’s made that very clear

But to wash each scar and bruise
To change my skin to different hues
Each person looking then would lose
just how I made it here