I Used To Take Walks With My Father

I used to take walks with my father.

It was an uninterrupted time.
Before emails and cell phones and separation.
Before complicated conversations, more than 3,000miles apart
About how next year is a better time to come and visit.

He would hold my hand, around the block.
Cherry Street, where it curves, and we pass by the neighbor’s home with the high gate.
The dogs hear us chatting and they’d bark
Then my soul felt like it was in danger.
Because I was six.

I would keep walking with my father
Who held my hand and kept his stride.
He’d walk me past the gate, with the barking dogs
And talk to me through the noise.
Sometimes I couldn’t understand him
But I always knew his voice was there.

Our conversation would change after the gate.
After the barking dogs, we had to talk about something new.
Tangent and unrelated, but still very important.
I would hear the crickets again
Singing from the thickness of the untamed grass
Those sounds could only reach my ears a certain way
Because I was at the height and age to listen.

He smoked in the evenings
With cigarette in farthest hand
I can’t remember if the smoke ever reached me
Anything on the other side of him
Couldn’t hurt me
He might have even paused on his answers, to exhale
But it’s hard to notice that when you’re next to a moving tower.

It was easier to love my father because
He didn’t correct me.
I didn’t have to grow up under his rules
Our only restriction was distance, occasional pride and politics
Would my decisions have been different
If we walked a few more times
And I told him new stories
Through the noise of dogs in my adolescence?

Maybe it is better we fell short
That I don’t have opportunity to outgrow the evening walks
Avoiding the charge-off, that it was a waste of time and breath
And step and wisdom
I’d rather have memories cut off at six
Than extend them with images of my trying to escape his presence at sixteen.

Now that I’m older
Walks are still special
Uninterrupted talking time
To stay close to the ground, every step a clearing experience.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Virgo or some earth sign explanation.
Maybe because it’s a time I can talk to God
And still feel like I’m going somewhere.
I mold this to my understanding
That this fragmented memoir
Is infused with love and acceptance

Because I am at the strength and age to write it.

“My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Psalm 45:1

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“If I Were A Beat” and “Change Your Clothes” – Slam Poetry Performance

Kadan Martial Arts Studio – Garden Grove, CA

Watch the performance here. 
Change your clothes, Baby Sister
You can’t go out like that!
People will notice the hurt on your sleeve
And the wilted flowers on your hat
Your top’s too low
That skirt’s too high!
While you’re walking,
They’ll call you a flirt
I know you already gave in a few times
But clean your face now
You gotta stay pretty,
Even if you’re hurt

Change your clothes, Baby Brother
You’re all covered with mud
I hear superheroes eat their vegetables
And soldiers wash off their blood
Wear the clothes that fit a young man
Uncle already told you
You go through more than one spurt
And watch your words you throw at your brother!
He’s bigger than you,
And he got here first.

Change your clothes, Uncle Sideline
I’ve heard you coaching me from there
When I went to that party anyway
You bailed me out of that high school dare
Roll up your sleeve of decision
Tighten the belt with quiet pride
We won’t know just how much you went through
So your nephews don’t need to “stand to the side”

Change your clothes, Aunty Careful
You stay longer against your will
Always picking up other women’s messes
And they still won’t get on the pill!
You got a stressful job
Wrap around that scarf of straightenin’
You walk tired but you’re clean now,
It’s no wonder you did a little drinkin’

Change your clothes, Daddy Absent
Hang up your jacket
We haven’t seen you in a while
It doesn’t really matter what kept you from us
What we need most is order, Daddy-style.
Dust off that guilt and distance
Clean out your pockets to lay down the law
Those support payments will be current soon
Your boots of fatherhood will stomp on strong.

Change your clothes, Spouse of Spirit
You’re what I really need to put on
Throw out those drab garments of arguing
And I’ll show you my black, lace thong!
Don’t our outfits go together?
See how the colors match our love?
Your reassurance is my warmest blanket
Your fidelity is my custom-glove

Change your clothes, Cousin Progress             
We’re tryin’ to keep up with you
All that bling and online chatter
What do your gadgets really add up to?
Your beeps and blips become our underwear
Feels like we put those on, first thing
We treat accessories like essentials
Interrupt our quality time when our phone rings
Now I understand it’s a way of doing things faster
These websites are the “new way to share”
Just make sure your intent is in line with your pace
And never forget the basic use of prayer

Is that everybody?
Mama..?
Mama, get ready.
Change your clothes, Mama!
You gotta look nice too
You pull back your hair in humility
And wear your sweater of strength and solitude
You were probably up late last night
Mending the holes in your children’s choices
Stitch of forgiveness and a button of hope
With a song to drown out the world’s cruel voices
Let me see what you’re wearing, Mama
Your dress is wrinkled with sacrifice
Iron it out, working lady
Because thanks to you
This family is dressed real nice.