What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do Parneshia Jones Dawn oversees percolating coffee and the new wreckage of the world. I stand before my routine reflection, button up my sanity, brush weary strands of hair with pomade and seal cracked lips of distrust with cocoa butter and matte rouge. I ready myself once again for morning and mortify. Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack; I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there).

What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do

by Parneshia Jones

Dawn oversees percolating coffee and the new wreckage of the world. I stand before my routine reflection, button up my sanity, brush weary strands of hair with pomade and seal cracked lips of distrust with cocoa butter and matte rouge. I ready myself once again for morning and mortify. Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack; I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there). For a moment, I stand with ghosts and the framed ancestors surrounding me. I call out, hoping she can hear me over the day-breaking sirens— hoping she’s not far away, or right down the street, praying over another dead black boy. How will we make it through this, Ms. Brooks? Hold On. When she held a body, she saw much worse than this. I know she was earshot and fingertip close to oppression. She saw how hateful hate could be. She raised babies, taught Stone Rangers, grew a natural and wrote around critics. She won a Pulitzer in the dark. She justified our kitchenette dreams, and held on. She held on to all of us. Hold On, she whispers. Another day, when I have to tip-toe around the police and passive-aggressive emails from people who sit only a few feet away from me. Another day of fractured humans who decide how I will live and die, and I have to act like I like it so I can keep a job; be a team player, pay taxes on it; I have to act like I’m happy to be slammed, severed, and swindled. Otherwise, I’m just part of the problem— a rebel rouser and rude. They want me to like it, or at least pretend, so the pretty veils that blanket who we really are— this complicated history, can stay pretty and veiled like some desert belly dancer who must be seen but not heard. Hold On. We are a world of lesions. Human has become hindrance. We must be stamped and have papers, and still, it’s not enough. Ignorance has become powerful. The dice that rolls our futures is platinum but hollow inside. Did you see that, Ms. Brooks? Do you see what we’ve become? They are skinning our histories, deporting our roots, detonating our very right to tell the truth. We are one step closer to annihilation. Hold On, she says, two million light years away. She’s right. Hold On everybody. Hold On because the poets are still alive—and writing. Hold On to the last of the disappearing bees and that Great Barrier Reef. Hold On to the one sitting next to you, not masked behind some keyboard. The one right next to you. The ones who live and love right next to you. Hold On to them. And when we bury another grandmother, or another black boy; when we stand in front of a pipeline, pour another glass of dirty drinking water and put it on the dining room table, next to the kreplach, bratwurst, tamales, collards, and dumplings that our foremothers and fathers—immigrants, brought with them so we all knew that we came from somewhere; somewhere that mattered. When we kneel on the rubbled mosques, sit in massacred prayer circles, Holding On is what gets us through. We must remember who we are. We are worth fighting for. We’ve seen beauty. We’ve birthed babies who’ve only known a black President. We’ve tasted empathy and paid it forward. We’ve Go-Funded from wrong to right. We’ve marched and made love. We haven’t forgotten—even if they have—Karma is keeping watch. Hold On. Hold On everybody. Even if all you have left is that middle finger around your God-given right to be free, to be heard, to be loved, and remembered…Hold On, and keep Holding.

(apologies for the fucked up line breaks)

When I’m Mute, It’s Not That I Don’t Have Something to Say or From the Trenches

It’s because I have too much to say. Or because I don’t want to say it.  Too many problems have stacked up. Shit, this isn’t even fun.  My “v” key is stuck from the too-much diatomaceous earth (DE) I sprinkled on my laptop, because I have fucking some sort of the-doctors-aren’t-certain bugs.

It took me 5 nutty hours to get out of the house this morning. A lot of the time was spent picking up dark specks of matter I needed to look at more closely, even though they say a scabies mite is too small to see with the naked eye.  I think I got them from a guitar I inherited from my dealer last week, after he killed himself. I was so happy to get it that I left it in my living room, even knowing he was a hoarder. I took it out of the case, I played a few cords, I got scabies, or lice or what the fuck ever.

I used to buy pain meds for broken and weirdly healed vertebra, plus the occasional klonopin because hey, a drink in a pill, no hang-over – yay.  Anyway, finally I crow-barred my ass out to my car and drove to Bartells to pick up my script for estrogen. Plus, I needed sugar. Some kind of sugar, like ice-cream, or cookies, or you know, sugar.  I strolled down the seasonal isle, and loaded up on dark chocolate-covered hearts with a coconut creme filling. Brach’s makes them, I think.  And I grabbed a bag of peppermint patties because hey, more. And I needed to get out of the house, get away from just turning circles in the middle of the room, hating my life.

As soon as I was safely in my car I tore open a chocolate heart, took a bite, and aaaah… Heaven. I felt great, with only a tiny twinge of shame for satisfying the craving of the food addict that I am. Also, I saw this nice-looking, driving a nice car Asian woman passing me in the parking-lot who also couldn’t wait to get home to eat whatever she was eating and I took comfort in that.

I really want to get drunk. For just one day. Take the edge off. But I tried yesterday and the most I could manage was two Coronas. They tasted gross and I switched back to tea. I’m sleeping a lot.

Have you ever had a kid come home with head lice? This is that, except worse because you can’t see the little bastards. I am not a relaxed person right now. I’m poor, on limited income, and doing laundry in the machines downstairs is breaking me. It’s a laundry-room with three washers and three dryers that in this public housing building serve about 82 people. I could just have easily caught these whatever bugs they are from the laundry room because barring me of course, the people here are fucked up (or old) and aren’t the most clean people on the planet. This feels like my life now – battling to keep ahead of grossness.

Shit, I just scratched. Now I’ve probably gone and buggified the chair at my writing desk I smothered in DE to get disinfected. It’s not that I haven’t had the cream, and the pill – it’s that the doctors didn’t think to give me the follow-up dose of cream a week after the first that’s needed to eradicate that bastards. Now I have to wait until Feb.9 to get the new prescription.

And I bagged up my stuff only to find a few days later that the bugs had chewed through the trash bags. So I headed back to Home Depot and bought contractor’s bags, thick ones. And picked up another can of aerosol permethrin, to be used only on clothes, or outside in the garden, but certainly not on the body. But screw it, maybe I’d fall over and flop around a little – anything’s better than this state of affairs. I’m here typing this, so…  Also DON’T DO WHAT I DID.

I’m signed up on Coursera taking a poetry class and a short-story writing class that is part of a series (I’ve done Craft of Plot and am on Craft of Character). The directions for the first assignment feels out of my league. I think I’m going to take it the next time it comes around, but then I wonder, What are you, a big baby afraid of a little work? And that makes me feel like a big living in poverty piece of nothing shit.

I just turned 58. I’m too old for this shit, any of this shit, all of this shit.

The only people I read on here anymore are Flash365, and atypicalfemme. Sorry to the rest, though I’m sure you won’t notice me gone with all the Followers you have. I just don’t care enough to focus on other blogs. I mean my attention is just not there, sorry. I eat sugar, and clean and stare into space, and read Longreads one after another and/or watch shit tv right now.

I’m not giving up, like my friend/dealer did. I’m just taking a break.

PS Apologies for lack of links.

2 Painters. A Love Poem.

Two Painters

I loved a man for hours

last night, talking.

Listening, catching every

nuance. He held my eyes long

and often, and we laughed

about the same things.

Listening.

It was hard

 

at first, chipping

flint against stone

but we slow danced to some

old George Strait and I found

I couldn’t leave.

 

At one time I hadn’t seen

my father in 30 years, I said.

Why, was your father so awful?

No, I said, he’s a good man.

How, he asked? I held my breath and said,

Because he’s capable

of change.

And  ran out

of the room

to smoke.

This is what it means

to be torn in two.

 

At 3am it took three

tries matching key

to lock.

I poured a shot of espresso

to calm my nerves

as my heart started up

its old refrain

of no

no no no no.

 

I should have pressed

that one of his students

won for cover

of the New Yorker.

Not him.

But why didn’t you apprentice

with him, learn all you could?

Because I’m not a painter,

I said.

 

I watched myself get out

of bed, twice

to write this down.