Enter into life maimed.
This is a hostile environment for artists.
They want grind, production, grueling rules. You must present a deliverable.
I’m not much in contention because systems need to operate.
Yet I see how we all inadvertently influence each other.
We market the production.
We produce the market.
And where does the artist rest?
We are feeble, selfless, misplaced.
We are outcasts * orators
hurt with oil * watercolor * acrylic.
We categorized it under
“Arts & Entertainment”
“ *** & Recreation”
meaning, “secondary…..later, later, and after.”
But we are threads in this fabric, too!
Raw and unwoven, offensively textured
We come in yellow silk, yarn neon green
And gray from the bass of a humming cello.
Artist need not fight for their place in society.
We already / merely reflect it.
I didn’t know that I could see in
Your sketches: torrential rain and fusion upbringing
Through paint strokes and finger-smudged corners
The clarity from adoption
Puckered through the wholeness of a mural.
It was new to me that I could sense
The rage and indulgence from your
Sobering peek at motherhood.
And here is your art.
Amongst pencils, canvases, spray cans and a foolish yet purposeful
Douse of glitter.
I am so proud of you, Sister.
This beautiful piece you have drawn.
When I wrote poems in October
You kissed my fingers
With permission to write
And all such verses formed their allegiance to you
With those poems in October
Not once did I stutter
The blurbs and ramblings of uneasiness
Nor did you hear stories of when
My senses went mute and numb
And brown eyes and skin tear into a revelation
Your stillness suffocates pulse called “togetherness”
After those poems in October, the rains followed.
If July could be romantic,
With radio of medley and preoccupation
And disturbance and defeat
Instead, you compose with chalk of new
Erotic lullaby of visits
Drenched in July
Thrusts swallowed on vanilla tea tenderness
Pepper our time with futures pure
Blinded by glares of sunrise and confession, singed
From hostile observation
Remedy your tension
With ginger kisses
And blend violet forgiveness
I wish I could hold on to this feeling
With knowing and youthfulness
Forced impishly into a jar
When I start to fret and demand answers with abrasive conclusiveness
I will dip my fingers into that jar
Smooth on reassurance
Let it tingle like aloe or cotton
Sting like witch hazel and assign the astringent of confidence
Air out the cuts and gashes of misdirected angst
Engage in the refreshing ritual
I will sign the heat in July
Dress my penmanship with the rains of October
And I will love you
With calendared devotion
All the months of the year
I was standing in line at a Filipino fast-food restaurant. In front of me was a young couple, perhaps slightly younger than I. She was Filipina and he was black. Okay, so far, I could relate.
She was asking him what he wanted from the menu. To show that he was familiar with the food (more so to everyone else), he asked a clarifying question if the entrée was fried or boiled. Because, clearly, he knew the difference and he had a preference.
I don’t know what it is about men when it’s time to order food. They seem to think it’s their cue to put on a show. It doesn’t matter if it’s the drive-thru or a restaurant. It’s like the little hamster took out his testosterone bullhorn and, in military shout, set off the performance genes, saying, “Go! Go! Go!”
Mr. Familiar starts pointing at things in the restaurant, as if to physically assert that he knew what that was and what this was. Okay, dude, we get it. You had it before. Look, WE don’t even know what’s in it, all right? We just eat the shit coz we grew up on it. Now it’s a staple.
I think the most impressive moment was when he start throwin’ phrases in Tagalog, turning to his girlfriend, revealing, “Aww, pstkk, hindi naman krispee.” At that point, yea, I was impressed. I wanted to pat dude on the back and say, “You even speak it! Biggups on blending.”
I stared a little longer at her blonde highlights and shoulder tattoo and lace-back tank top. And I realized, I turned out to be the same type of girls I talked about in high school. I didn’t understand why they got green contacts, dyed their hair and drove loud cars. I used to think they were fake, pretentious and unsure of their identity.
Like I had to wave a reminder at them, “Hellooo! We’re BROWN!”
I realized it isn’t uncertainty of identity. Those girls were comfortable. If you’ve been here long enough, you start to feel okay to change. A little color here. A little skin there. Piercing. Tattoo. You start to feel at home. You start experimenting with things and situations that you wouldn’t normally have back home. Or it’s because we’re NOT home that we take advantage of these personal freedoms.
But I can’t help but take inventory of my highlighted hair, my Islander daughter, my full legal name on my resident card, my credit score, my Starbucks coffee and ask, “Is this really who I am?”
Then I see my Bible, my notebooks, my blueprints for business, my poetry, my sandals and small rice cooker. Yes.
Yes, it is.