Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Report on Calabash Literary Festival - Treasure Beach, Jamaica 2005

Jake’s Resort – Treasure Beach - Jamaica

Monday May 30, 2005 – 2:30AM
I am sitting on the porch of a guest house overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The waves coming in are thunderously loud and the stars are intense and hung low as candles.

I smoke Gauloises as I have all weekend here, since I got here on Thursday afternoon, but now it is Monday at 2:30AM and the Calabash Literary Festival is over and I’m waiting for the van to come take us to the airport, so I can head for New Orleans.

If some day I have built something to which people want to return over and over again – like a poem or a reputation (good or bad), people will say that this weekend, I built a verse of it, a chapter in a story – at Calabash amongst beautiful, black West Indian people. It has been an exquisite 5 days and 4 nights.

Perhaps the greatest revelation of the whole time spent here, for me, has been the time spent with Amiri Baraka. He is a legend to me as activist and literary figure, as political icon and philosopher. He is perhaps equally loved and reviled in the public world, and it was excellent for me to spend time with him in a human context. It has been a joy to spend that time. He is ridiculously funny and uncompromisingly honest to a fault. Indeed, it is possible to argue that this is the greatest asset of his poetics over the years; the uncompromising honesty with which he expresses himself, even when those opinions represent a change in his own opinions on something. It would seem that his understanding has been distilled over the years into the pithiest of witticisms so I’m going to have to interrupt this report from time to time to offer an Amiri quote of the moment. Other than that, I’ll jump from moment to moment since the flyness of this experience is too random to offer a linear report.

Friday May 27th – sometime in the afternoon:

We get into a speedboat piloted by Captain Dennis, a thirty-something year old wiry, country-strong fisherman. The boat is called FBI Galore (I’m not kidding), so naturally, into it, pile Amiri Baraka, Amina Baraka, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Elizabeth Lund (journalist for the Christian Science Monitor), Colin Channer (Calabash organizer and author), Staceyann Chin, Kerry Jo Lin, Miles Lewis (Bronx-born author now based in Paris), Meena Alexander (Indian-American poet and memoirist extraordinaire) and Russel Banks (Adirondack based author, memoirist and poet extraordinaire). We head for The Pelican, a bar made of sticks, built on stilts on a sand-bar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Half-way there, we all start to wonder about the wisdom of heading into the middle of the ocean on a boat called FBI Galore with 90 years of activist and revolutionary thought aboard (between Baraka, Johnson and Banks alone).

The Pelican is owned by Floyd, a fisherman himself who discovered the sand bar and brought sticks there bit by bit til he had built himself a structure, out of which he then conducted business. We drank rum and Red Stripe. I listened to cricket on the radio and had a spirited discussion with Captain Dennis as to why Brian Lara was probably the game’s best batsman ever, having to score as much as he’s had to under the most pressure of any of the game’s historically best batsmen.

From there, we went up the Black River, a crocodile infested tributary that empties into the Caribbean Sea on the South Side of Jamaica. We got to see a couple of crocs, scores of white egret and some of the most fascinatingly beautiful vegetation ever.

Thursday May 26, 2005 – 5:15PM

A few hours ago, we landed at Montego Bay airport – fifteen of the writers who will be participating at the Calabash Literary Festival – and were taken by bus on three hour trip to the South Coast of the island and Treasure Beach.

So right now I’m seated on a porch overlooking the Caribbean Sea. it is about 85 degrees and sunny and waves are lapping at the foot on the rock on which our cottage is located. Staceyann Chin, Miles Lewis and myself share this cottage and we’re all already floored. In a few hours, the welcome dinner will take place, but first I will nap…

Friday May 27, 2005 – 12:40AM

“ -America, Fuck you and your atomic bomb – that’s the greatest line Ginsberg ever wrote!” So says Amiri Baraka along with a host of other wisdoms and histories as I sat by and listened to Amiri, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Russel Banks and a host of others including Roger Guenvere Smith (actor; ‘Dop the Right Thing’, ‘School Daze’ etc) argue, cajole and generally talk shit before and after dinner on the first night of the Calabash Literary Festival. It was a wonderfully eye-opening time, especially getting to hear Amiri argue with Perry Henzell (maker of ‘The Harder they Come’) about class and racism and imperialism. It was good to hear so much of Amiri’s politics as part of a larger understanding instead of as part of a soundbite. This was a learning at the feet of elders, even when Perry Henzell was trying to suggest that racism does not exist in the Caribbean like it does in America. Indeed, he suggested that racism is not something that the black West Indian had to contend with any longer.

Can you possibly imagine a local-white Jamaican businessman saying something like this to Amiri Baraka? Among the priceless retorts from Amiri on the situation came this one “Either you stupid or you think I’m stupid; and I ain’t stupid” and after a lull in the conversation, when the argument has resumed and Henzell is reiterating again that no black person in Jamaica is held back based on color, and offering as his proof the challenge “Alright then, show me one black man in Jamaica who is held back because of color”, to which Amiri somewhere now on the outskirts of the conversation because he is becoming too irritated by it and feels – maybe correctly so – that Henzell’s arguments are disingenuous, says “who brought stupid back in the conversation?” (to which Staceyann and I fall into fits of laughter and general inappropriateness).

Saturday May 28th, 2005 – about 11:30PM

My reading has just been completed and I couldn’t be more pleased. The line-up (in this order) was Me, Staceyann Chin, Joan Andrea Hutchinson and Mutabaruka. Joan and Muta are practically Jamaican legends within the dialect/dub poetry tradition. We read to about 3000 people and if I may say so myself, I did an excellent job. One might expect that reading to a crowd of 3000, under an open-air tent with the roar of waves in the background might be difficult, but the sound system was so exquisite that one could actually whisper on the mic and be heard clearly throughout the space. I got to perform for half an hour (I’m not sure I used it all) but it felt really good to perform all the calypso work to an audience – and a huge one at that - that got all the references, and was patient enough to listen to the long pieces (like Melda’s Song). The entire reading was top flight. Staceyann too, always with a harder row to hoe in Jamaica, because so much of that audience is so violently anti-gay, delivered her usual sterling performance. Indeed, I think her performance skill has grown, become more nuanced and as a result more emotionally lush, and the crowd lapped it up. Joan is primarily a comedic writer, so after Staceyann and I, she was a marvelous change of pace, and folks were fairly rolling in the aisles. Muta is Muta and legend is legend and he did not disappoint.

Earlier, before I got to Calabash, I had spoken to Colin on the phone and he told me about how much Calabash had grown since my first performance there in 2001. At the Saturday night reading then, I performed for about 200 folks, so I figured; okay, so maybe it’s really really gotten huge and there’ll be 500 in the audience. As a result I bring with me 20 chapbooks and 20 CDs for the 3000 people. They are gone in approximately 3 minutes after the reading and folks are meeting me from then till the end of the festival and cussing me out for not being able to get my stuff. I fielded about 4 marriage proposals after my reading…

Earlier on Saturday, I’m on my way to the bar for an Appleton Rum and a Red Stripe to wash it down. Three women are sitting around a table. One of them beckons for me to join them and after some witty repartee on all our parts, I’m finally acquainted with Coleen Douglas (a local TV/Radio personality – and gorgeous to besides), Wendy Lee (co-owner of La Pluma Negra, a local clothing line that makes some excellent t-shirts among other things – and gorgeous to besides) and Scarlett Beharie (and there is no need to explain anything about a woman named Scarlett – everything you think is true; in a good way). This way I end up with my first clothing endorsement deal – two t-shirts for free, for the promise of wearing them in public. I wear one of them that night for the reading. Later we all go back to the verandah in the unit in which we’re staying. Coleen interviews me and Staceyann for the radio show she does – in the dark, on the porch. A half moon is brighter than a half-moon should ever dare to be and it glows on everyone’s skin. We’re all dog-tired so the interview feels good in a languid no-pressure sort of way. We get done and return to the night’s after-party, Calabashment. We’re all half-drunk, half tired riding the wave of the live reggae rhythms under the insistent moon…

Random Barakaism of the day:

“A European and an African are talking and the European says to the African, ‘y’all the oldest liars in the universe’ and the African says back, ‘yeah, but y’all are the best…”

Sunday May 29th

Early Morning swim with Wendy Lee and Coleen. Finally get up early enough to get breakfast too – calaloo and salt fish, with festival and blue food (ground provision).

Get to hear Dionne Branch read, return to nap, get up and hang out most of the afternoon with Kerry Jo. We decide on double shots of Appleto rum chased by Red Stripes. I run into a woman who taught my mother in high school. It is a slow motion, languid sort of a day which ends with a wrap party at a really cool villa for a movie being shot by Roger Guenvere Smith. It is interesting and odd and cool. Get to speak with Daniel Wideman (poet, author, Cave Canem fellow) for a moment.

Closing Dinner features a random Barakaism, in response to Staceyann’s ribbing that he’s always irritated about something goes kinda like this:

“the measure of consciousness is whether or not you irritated – if you squeeze a lemon on even a one-cell organism, it’ll act up, wriggle around, get irritated. You know we know a lot of people ain’t even got one cell…”

But this perhaps is a good wisdom to end it on; in response to the idea that sometimes it seems like all our agitation and activism soles nothing. It is Russell Banks quoting someone else:

“There is no wasted love. No love, is ever wasted…”

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Monday May 23rd, 2005 – 3:30PM

I am in the Garfield Conservatory in Chicago. It is basically a plant museum, and it is awesome. This is what the world is made of sometimes; the chance of being in places like this. Kevin Coval took me to this party yesterday hosted by this Latina Theatre company. One of these women, Yadi Correa works for the Garfield Conservatory. It is a series of greenhouses, and right now I’m sitting in one that houses a number of tropical plants – a lot of the stuff I grew up seeing in my own home (my mother is an avid amateur horticulturist). So there are anthuriums and calabash and rice paper trees and a lot of other stuff that I now know belongs to a family called aroids (it would include stuff like the plants from which yuca grows, and spinach – I think – and what we call dasheen bush at home).

The pond has a selection of coy and goldfish mostly. these are some of the biggest goldfish you are likely to see. Coy are kind of in the carp family so they look sorta like catfish except they are a bright salmon or spotted white color. This particular greenhouse is very humid, to mimic the natural habitat of these plants.
So I came here this weekend for Marty’s sister’s wedding. I wont tell of all the hilarity. Some things should remain private, but I did do the blessing over dinner for the reception. Folks are running around the midwest now thinking that I must be a minister, because I, - ladies and gentlemen – apparently can bless a meal like nobody’s business.
That’s right folks; Reverend Rog is at your service.

I’m about to see about getting over to the reading at the Funk Buddha. Our kinda own Kelly Tsai is featuring there tonight, and I’m a see if I can get a little mic time in.


Now it's 2:30AM and i've had a chance to hang out with Kevin Kyle and Kelly - i'm not even joking. we went to see Kendra at Le Bouchon. Again, i'm not making this up. i should probably chill now and go to bed. my flight is at noon.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Monday May 16th 2005 - 11:09AM

In today's post:
- Roger turns 37
- Anatomy of a Slam (a moment by moment account of the day of last MOnday's finals for Roger Bonair-Agard)

but first, let's begin with a poem, shall we?

Harriet Tubman to Condoleeza Rice:

you mean to tell me,
after all dat work
ah done did

you fittin' to drag
dem folks back?!

Condoleeza to Harriet:

When i asked Big Mama where
her Pappy was, this is what she said:

When they dragged Pappy off
that day, he didn't make a sound

didn't holler, didn't call
for no God. Figured he'd go quiet

and spare the family, the town
the trouble.

They burned our house down

Hung a couple of other men
as well

I wont let pass my lips
what they did

to ole Miss Essie who lived down
by the creek...

so Harriet, i know
what you think

but i been figurin' for a long time now
that it's time

i held the rope
in my own two hands


This is brand new. i just typed it right onto the post, so feel free to pick at it.

Monday May 9th:

Awake - contemplate where in the broadcast ESPN would be. does it make sense to catch the Monday morning hour and a half broadcast two-thirds of the way through, or should i go do sit-ups and catch the next broadcast beginning at 9:30. I'm vaguely aware that the slam is tonite. i couldn't care less.

i decide on sit-ups while looking at ESPN's SportsCenter. Figure to hit the gym by 11.

Hmmm - what's that in the refrigerator?

Settle on toast with butter. midway through toasting i decide to fry two eggs.

Get to gym. Hit the bike (25 mins). Hit the treadmill (30 mins) - i feel like i have asthma. my allergies are killing me and my lungs are on vacation...

Get Back to the house. Figure i should run some poems to see if i can get my adrenaline up. I want to perform well but i can't think of any good reason i need to make the team. I run "chantuel hymns", i run "future of america..." (the still kiling the buffalo poem part 2), panic because it's not comfortably in my memory bank. i run "devil in music" and decide that i'll open with that or with "future of america", because i'll be early in the first rotation and i'll need to come hard off the blocks if i want to survive the first two rounds. Come to a realization there. tonight i'd like to read at least three poems, so i want to survive the first two rounds and at least make it to the third - still no team-making urgency.

i run "called: Eurydice". i run "Bullet Points". they'll both be off book and i want to read them both tonite. come to a new realization - i'll need "devil in music" and "future of america" to survive till round 3 and i really really want to read these two poems ("eurydice" and "bullet points") even though i'm still on-book with them so i need to survive past the third round if i'm to read them both. i need to come in 6th at least...

Full panic sets in. Fuck!! the finals are tonite!!!

what do i wear tonight? i want something special; to make me feel like i'm dressed up and i haven't bought anything new. i decide on my brown jacket, waiscoat, and red tie over a brown striped shirt...

Hit the Showers

The train gets stuck on the way to teaching my after-school class. someone pulls the emergency brake on that bad boy and it gets stuck. the jamaican woman next to me proclaims loudly after 15 minutes "well dem need to open de door, mek we get ah nex train fi go werk!" i explain gently that the doors can't be opened. she is unimpressed... "ah foolishness dat!" she says.

Finally get to my class. another teacher who is teaching the kids how to make flip-books is getting joshua to do them, but getting mad lip from him at the same time. Joshua is about 5 foot tall and is sitting next to Giovanni who is 6 foot 4 (they're both 13) or sump'n. Joshua decides he'd be better at the poetry thing so i teach him how to write a tonka, then show him how to turn the tonka into a flip-book, so he can make a "movie" so to speak of his poem building itself letter by letter. he really digs this idea...

I have no memory in my head of a slam. Giovanni is the funniest 1 year old you'll ever meet and Joshua is trying to start beef with Shirley. Shirley takes no shorts so i'm telling Shirley she better not come sit next to Joshua cuz it'll probably end badly. I'm doing this i think more for Joshua's sake than Shirley's. In another corner i'm trying to get Shirley and Kimberly to write letter poems. There stories are rough public school poor folk stories but i like talking to Joshua and Giovanni and Kimberly and Shirley. They're the realest people i've vibed with so far today.

Class Over

Get to Bar 13. I'm tense. The house is packed. i feel like i'm going to hyper-ventilate. i consider taking a hit of marty's inhaler but i decide to wait. i get myself some vodka instead.

we draw for order. i'm third.

Slam Begins.

Samantha pulls 1 and starts off well. She gets a 28.8 which would be a scintillating first round first poem score any other time any other slam, but Mo Brown sticks her landing with a 29.4 and i (jitters for the entire first poem on stage. i swear folks can see my legs shake)land a 29.5. the score creep has officially crept folks!

basically, the scores never really come back down. For the rest of the first round there is a 29.3, a 29.1, a 29.7, a 29.8 a 29.0. and sump'n else. it's tite!

2nd round more of same. i'm a little more comfortable now. i've had something with tequila in it. i stay up in the 29s and i'm comfortably somewhere in third place to this point.

Round 3 is clean slate. you can't fuck up here. Cirelli is 7th after the first two rounds. Samantha and Fish are the ones who don't survive the first two. Cirelli hits for a 28.9 in the third round and again, it's not the night to fall off even slightly. Cirelli is out after the scores launch again into the 29.4s and 5s. i get a 29.7 i think and we head to the fourth round.

At this point, T'ai is killing it. Rachel is killing it. Carlos is killing it and i'm thinking that the overall winner will come from these three. Round Four, folks still feel me reading off paper and i get a 29.6 or sump'n. The energy in the room (which is over 150 strong) is lunatic and every nuance of every performance is becoming important. After round 4, Jive Poetic, who has asked me which poem i think he should do, completely leap frogs a bunch of folks and it knocks Mahogany out. The team is set. T'ai Freedom Ford, Rachel McKibbens, Carlos Andres Gomez, Jive Poetic and myself. Just one more round now to decide the overall champion. i'm last in order in the last round. And it's one of those nights that whomever gets the last word in will probably take it. Still, T'ai and Rachel make it so that i need a 29.7 to win outright. i still have chantuel hymns in my pocket. i am most comfortable with this. it is three tequila broder crossings later. it's all good. i'm on the team. i don't really care what happens now except that i owe the room my all for one more poem tonite. Midway through my first stanza, i'm hearing crazy high-pitched feedback, so i go off-mic. i'm the last poet of the night and so, i can do no wrong. i get a 29.8 (i think), and i win outright. it's a good night and i've read some new poems and all poems that i really really like.

Go to PeterDressel.com/slam for the pictures. He's a fabulous photographer. Some day i'll figure out hoe to post the pictures on the blog myself

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Saturday May 7th, 2005 – 2:35PM

At the top of a snow-capped mountain, there is a lake which the Indians called a long time ago, Teardrop of a Cloud. This is where in the heights of the Adirondack mountains that Hudson River begins.

Not far from here last night I had three Pain Killers (two kinds of rum, some sort of coconut liquer and fruit juice) and two shots of Black Seal rum at an establishment that calls itself Caribbean Cowboy. I headed back to my hotel room after that to drink some warm beer and giggle at Three’s Company until 2AM.

Earlier I did a workshop with 35 students from 7 different high schools in the surrounding area. I also read at the Ray Brook Penitentiary, a medium-security federal prison up here. The prison industry is big business and the prison dorms were originally built as dorms for the Winter Olympics back in 1980. The story is that the dorms were built with the intention of having them converted into either a university or a prison after the olympics. Of course, we chose… Prison. As a result though, this prison is far less intense feeling than any other prisons I’ve ever been to. There aren’t huge metal doors with bars that make that huge clanging sound that rings with such finality and the prisoners here say they “like” it much more than any other prisons they’ve been to. The warden insists that all prisoners be addressed as Mr. So-and-so by the staff, the guards and by one another. It is one small step towards promoting real rehabilitation by making respect a more routine pat of their daily lives. Apparently this prison is also really big on the idea of providing programs for the inmates.

Still, it is a prison. Still, it is filled with more than 90 percent folks of black and latino descent, and staffed with mostly working-class white folks, so the sad ironies still apply. What folks don’t seem to understand is that more educational opportunities not only means less crime and less prisons but also less need for jobs such as corrections officer. All poor people – black and white come off better in the long run.

The guys stayed the whole way through, milking every last second of our time together with questions and requests for more poems. Even in the depression of being in a prison, it was a calming feeling to know that what I do offers at some junture a real sense of hope and escape for people in this predicament. One guy asked why I would decide to come in there and read for them, folks who have nothing to offer back, the “scum-of-the-earth” (his words). I only figure that from time to time, one has to “show and prove”. While I think my “purpose” as I understand it, is toward my poetry, the closing of the gao between the person I am and the person I would ideally be dictates work like this - it dictates a whole bunch of other stuff as well, but it definitely dictates work such as this; so I go. Jerry Quickley took his ass all the way to Baghdad for chrissakes.

From time to time I feel bad that I don’t do stuff like this more regularly. I’ve done programs like this on a weekly basis before at Rikers Island, for instance, nut io can never keep it up because the emotional drainage of spending three hours every week in prison becomes too much for me to handle. But, I feel stupid saying this when there are folks who have to spend large sections of their lives in there, so whenever I can I have to ‘man-up’ and do some real work.

So, now I get to writing some poems (or one poem) and see if I can make the return trip a little more productive than just sitting up in the café car drinking neat whiskeys till I see the projects in the Bronx loom up from the train window.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday May 6th, 2005 – 1:52AM

So we’ll see in a moment if this Best Western in Saranac Lake, NY is telling the truth about its wireless connection in the room. I’m yet to find evidence of it and I don’t feel like calling front desk at 2 in the morning. Besides, I’m in a hotel in Lyme Disease territory in the middle of the night and I fell asleep somewhere around 10PM, so I’ve got energy and nothing in particular to do, so a fast paced internet connection will just be too much power to wield right now.

Last weekend, we (LouderARTS Project) held another or our salon propaganda evenings. We attempted to talk about artistic movements; whether or not we were part of one, and how it was defined what defined it and whether or not we should to attempt to define the moevement of which we are (or aren’t) a part. Spirited conversation all of it, but I joined in late because I was trying to be helpful to Mahogany in the kitchen with the fried catfish. At the base of it, that was a good enough reason for folks to get together and it was really good to see folks like Jeff McDaniel, Peter Dressel, Frances Chewning, Halle Hobson, Rob Neill et al in a space discussing art in some sort of conceptual way outside of the creation of art itself.

The day before I was coming off the most massive case of insomnia yet. I didn’t get to sleep at all on Thursday night – ever; and I had to get going at 4AM on Friday in order to get to Piscataway High School at 6:45AM. When it was clear to me (around 2AM) that I wasn’t going to be falling asleep I decided to lie there and keep my eyex closed so that I’d still be rested some sort of way. I got up at 4AM, did sit-ups, and squats (to get endorphins up and working) and headed out the door after a shower. Once in New Jersey, I did six sessions for the day! (four assemblies and 2 classroom workshops) and I really don’t know how I got through it except that Maureen Berzok (the teacher responsible for getting me there) was a joy. She was enthusiastic and funny and had done so much preparation with the hundreds of students I appeared in front of that day, that it made my job significantly easier than it could otherwise have been. Students had been given a little packet with a bio and a couple of poems, and potential study questions for one of the poems. The questions (for the poem “what the water gave me”) were very insightful, though I doubt if I could have answered many of them myself.

In one performance “essay” I’ve done, I suggest that folks try to get into an analysis of their own poems, so as to generate the kind of questions that will uncover the multiple layers of emotion and motive at work in their poems, so as to more successfully put them to work in the performance of the poem. It dawned of me that many of the question asked of the students about that poem might be questions that would do just that and do it in a way that we might not think to ask of our own poems, ourselves. What this probably means is that we (poets) should all attempt to make friends with teachers (even if we are teachers ourselves), silly as that sounds, because someone else could unearth for us the questions that need to be asked of our poems better than we could. It is a worthwhile exercise at least and I’m going to attempt to get that done in the coming weeks with some of my work and see what I’d answer and how it can potentially affect my performance of those things. I’ll keep you posted.

Cave Canem workshop is moving on apace. Folks are writing some really interesting stuff and I’m getting more writing exercises to work with than I can swing a dead cat, at. I’m not working nearly hard enough at writing; and again I feel like I spend too much time tending to the business of making a living as a writer than I do actually writing. Some days it’s enough to make me think about getting a regular ole job… but not really.

Masquerade is on tap again for July 23rd, so I’m getting that publicity effort begun and I’m hoping to buckledown and do some serious revision of some of the poems in it. My plan is to have that revision done by the end of May so that I can start memorizing and rehearsing the entire piece. I’ve already started on the duet with Lynne and already it feels like it’s tightening up. I should go try to get some more sleep now. I have to teach a group of thirty-odd Adirondack Mountain high school students in the morning; and I need to have enough energy left to visit the prison in the evening to perform my work. it always takes me a lot of emotional energy to do prison work because visiting a prison makes real the social injustice of which we are a part – especially upstate, where the prison industry means that every county has several prisons peopled almost exclusively with blacks and latinos and manned almost exclusively with working-class whites. No-one ever seems to be able to hear the obvious connection between lack of educational opportunities and the need for these prisons (as opposed to football/olympic/baseball stadia), between the fact that I teach children who don’t have access to computers and are expected to compete with the kids in Hanover, NH; and the incarceration rates in those kids meighborhoods (the kids I teach). It usually takes a good cry before I can get rid of what I accumulate after I visit a prison. Fortunately, there is a Mexican joint right nest to the hotel I’m stayin in and I found out earlier that their margaritas are stellar! we should be able to git ‘er done! Here’s an unfinished poem created from a cave Canem workshop exercise. Feel free to say what’s missing or where you think it should go.

on the eve of my 95th birthday

Take the money for a casket
and shove it all into the jukebox
at 18 songs for $10
so there is music all night long
Pat Benatar and Jimmy Hendrix and
Bob Marley and Prince

Burn my body in a bonfire
on the beach in Coney Island
and stash the ashes in a styrofoam cup
on the corner of the bar for the night

And cry not because I died
but because you didn’t
kiss me hot and hard
one more time on my death-bed
as my laughter curdled
into my death-rattle

There is a van double-parked
in front of the flower shop
up from the block
where I once lived
and out of the back is coming
the most ferocious meringue
and this is how it should be

but there are four huge funeral arrangements
on their way to my funeral
meant for my grave
anthuriums, lilies, ladies of the night
headed for a parlor
and this is wrong
because I never wanted flowers

I want my friends (what’s left of them)
who count me worthy of celebration
my two daughters
Kali and Nyasha
my one best friend with the audacity
to outlive me
to pool the money they would have spent on flowers
and go to the Spring Lounge

The meringue coming out the back of the van
is old-school 4/4 timing
and the driver is surly
and this is right
and I love him for it
but tear the flower petals off
and feed them to the same
NewYork spring wind that made me
laugh when I was 25
the same Carnival Tuesday
Port-of-Spain Savannah dust
that made me want to fuck
my first real girlfriend at 17
because the dust blew hot red
horse-track sand grass and one
Ti-Marie petal onto my cheek