Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thursday November 17, 2005 - 10:51AM

I can remember the first day i knew i could play. It was my first P.E. class in secondary school (Form 1 - the equivalent of about 6th grade). The P.E. teacher, Mr. Warner - who was also the school's varsity coach and would later be a national team coach - divided us into two teams and basically rolled the ball out onto the field. At that age, we had no sense of field spacing and passing and good defense (except standing in the path of one another), but a few of us had enough good sense, moxie and perhaps half-decent co-ordination, to not just kick the ball wildly when it came to us, but to dribble it the length of the field till something happened.

Something happened immediately and always does in a sport hungry society, when it seemed i had some rudimentary skills. Other kids treated me differently almost immediately. And that was so much more so for the really good players in my year, Sandy and Anthony Joseph, and Brenton and Kirk. Football was a proving ground in a way that cricket wasn't (though it was as important and glorious a game) and in a way that basketball and running and badminton and table tennis, couldn't.

And everywhere in Trinidad, we played. we played till the lights went out. we played in the streets. everything was predicated on the ability to get in a "sweat". we culled out enough space to scrimmage in the backs of classrooms, the school hall, with lookouts at either end watching for the principal, behind the church and ran leagues anywhere there was ground; even if it looked like the land had been furrowed.

we idolized our heroes of the time. In the high school games where folks came out and the press followed - to the same extent that college sport is followed here - we wanted to be like Clauzell and Nancoo and Lovell and our own school's heroes Buggy (who could drag the ball around you in an instant and be off towards goal before you knew what to do with it, and was so black someone once sat on him in a movie theatre) and A.D., to whom a free kick outside the 18-yard box was as sure as a penalty. and we absolutely lost our minds over the brazilian game. we valued the silky smooth skills, the ability to trap a sixty-yard pass with the outside of the boot, the samba rhythm dance and skip over the ball of Zico and Garrincha and Rivelino and the smooth long Dr. Socrates and the marvelous story-book long strikes of Eder and Falcao, Josimar and Nelinho. we worked to be that skillful to look pretty on the ball, caring less about the goal than about developing breathtaking footwork that would bring crowds to their feet and embarass defenders. Football has always been more art than sport for trinidadians.

Still, with all this attention, and though Trinidad had for many many years been the best team in the English-speaking Caribbean (we'd customarily beat Jamaica 5 or 6-0; and put double-digit drubbings on Barbados and Guyana and the Winward Islands), we never made it to the game's ultimate stage. In the 70s, we just couldn't get past Costa Rica and Mexico (though in those days, we beat the U.S. whenever we damn well pleased, believe it or not) and there were only two teams that made it from this region. Imagine then our chagrin as we get older and our players finally get the international exposure they deserve (my generation is the first one to see several scholarship offers from colleges in the U.S. to play football), and still we fall short; often just short of going to the Cup time and time again. In 1990, we were sure we were finally there, playing against the U.S. at home and only needing a tie. We lost 1-0 instead and the country's collective heart sank. After Jamaica for some years began beating us handily, i despaired of Trinidad's ever making it back to the Cup until these past few months, in which the urgency seems to have dawned on the last of my generation's stars, Yorke and Latapy; players i would have played against in amateur leagues (my mom wouldn't let me play in high school - story for another time), in small goal scrimmages in the savannah. the whole team seems to be finally realising the sort of play that our skills have promised for so many years.

so yesterday when the goal was finally scored and the final whistle sounded after some really stellar play from the boys, it was realization of something i thought i might never see. trinidad and tobago is going to the world cup in germany in 2006 and i have never been more proud or ecstatic to be trinidadian. there is no way to explain more than that what is realized in this that is captured in every asphalt square and every back lot field everytime a trinidadian boy first figures out he can feint to his right and go left quickly and beat his man or "spanner" with either foot.

it doesn't matter if we lose all our games by 10 goals. we're one of the world's 32 best teams and we'll look pretty on the ball all the way to Germany.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saturday November 12, 2005 - Chicago, IL - 2:19PM CST
I should have sent this out last week and now i'm in Chicago. Spent some time last night with the goodly Mssrs. Coval and Lansana and talked nuff tall shit. Today in a couple hours, Trinidad and Tobago's national Football team (soccer for those of you who are confused), affectionately known as the Soca Warriors, begin their final leg of qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It is a home and away series against Bahrain, today's match being in Trinidad. If we prevail in this series, we make it to the world cup for the first time ever, after having had such collosal let downs as losing to the US in Trinidad in 1990 1-0 when all we needed was a tie to make it to the Cup Finals, and in 1970 when we were outright cheated against Haiti in a match we were supposed to win. If we prevail we will also be the tiniest nation ever to send a team to the World Cup (a million and a half people on a good day when everybody isn't clamoring to be here...). So wish me luck as i sit in front of the TV and scream and laugh and throw beer at the screen and strip naked and run out in the streets when we score... all this in Marty's parents' house. It should be a hoot. I'll let y'all know how it went... Below is my account as it were of last week's stint in Providence...

Friday November 4, 2005 – Leaving Providence, RI – 10:42AM

So last night I featured at the Providence Slam at AS220, run by the inimitable Jared Paul. It was an excellent time with quite a good selection of good poems/poets. By far the night’s highlight was Max who came to the stage bareback and proceeded to lambaste everyone in the Providence scene. It was a rant of brilliantly epic proportions. He impugned everyone’s character and called everyone (by name – no clever allusions to individuals here) on his/her bullshit. He even dissed the DJ. It was about 7 minutes long and everytime you thought well enough of that he dropped a brilliant genius level type line like the one about everyone’s self-doubt swirling in the air (and) don’t you wish it would alight on the shoulders of the stupid. All of this delivered in Iggy Pop-esque craziness and abandon with his pants hanging off his ass to reveal his boxers and crawling across stage reading from pieces of paper that he’d dropped on the floor; all of this at ear-shattering decibels. There was also the poem about dating a woman whose mom you thought was hot and it was well-enough written that it didn’t seem disgusting at any point and I was like, well… I think it was just a matter of time before poetry slam spawned a MILF poem.

So after a couple beverages and hanging out with Nicole Bazelais and Jared’s friends back at the house had pissed on the pumpkin (don’t ask – I got back to the house and a bunch of folks were running arund the house and in the street and folks were wondering who got the piss pumpkin; I just walked into the house and got myself some camomile tea. I couldn’t handle all the implications of the piss pumpkin at midnight) I’m on amtrak heading back. I wasn’t feeling the Greyhound 5 hour drama either so I’m going with the comfortable picturesque route.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wednesday November 2, 2005 - 5:15AM

so thank God for Republicans in general and Trent Lott in particular because them bitches jes keep me in poems or at least stuff to write about. by now you all have probably heard his latest pronouncement (well it's in the title of the poem below). as always feel free to critique the thing. i'm dealing with the insomnia ebola again, but i'll post halloween pictures in a day or two. there are some god ones there.

okay time to google and find out other dumb things Republicans in particular (but certainly not limited to them) say just to get things to write about. actually, i probably couldn't sustain the focus to just google and do that (i'm looking into an intern who'll do that stuff for me).

see y'all later...

part 2 / electric boogaloo / song for Trent Lott (again) who said “…I want the president to look across the country and find the best man, woman or minority that he can find, …a strict constructionist -- yes, a conservative… I suspect there are a lot of really good, qualified women and minorities and men in America that could step up to this job.” / a sermon and some prayers

(for Amiri Baraka and Martin Espada)

this is the hardest poem
to write
I’d believed we’d agreed
on at least one thing
the fundamental human-ness
of us all

even your beloved Strom
(see my first song for you)
entertaining his black daughter’s
twice annual visits
(for checks for college and her silence)
I imagine
at this (less foot-in-the-mouth
than deep-seated hate)

through bus boycotts and Martin’s sermon
on the mount
through apartheid’s fall
and the revelations of Sally Hemmings
through Muhammed Ali and Clarence
and Malcolm and Condoleeza
three-fifths is still enough
math for you to divide
man from minority

from Mississippi King Cotton’s bleeding
fingers to Harriet
even after Thurgood and Rosa
your rhetoric still
a white supremacist Nazi salute
to a nation that will excuse you

while it condemns Angela
and Amiri and Mumia and Assata
you pulpit for man or minority
a strict constructionist (spell revisionist)
to people the people’s highest court

so dig it

On this Halloween
may the spirits of 2 million
drowned-at-sea Africans
drag you to their graves
demanding a meeting

May the souls of men
- men I say – railroaded North
by Harriet pick the scabs
of their foot-blisters
over the soup
during your evening meal

May Nat Turner show up
naked and grinning
and covered in the blood
of plantation owners
in your daughter’s room

May you hallucinate
Martin’s little black children
and little white / little black
children and little white / little
black children and little white
children till all your grandkids
turn brown

May every black maid
you’ve ever coveted
show up nine months pregnant
in labor and deliver on the steps
of the capitol babies all of whom
have your eyes

This is the hardest poem
I never thought I’d have to prove
human again
though I’ve come to expect
to prove worthy
to prove non-threatening
to prove intelligent
to prove not hip-hop
to prove I won’t rob you
to prove English speaking
to prove innocent after being assumed guilty
but never human Trent
never human

What do you expect to prove
when you awake on mornings
how do you a Christian man (you say)
expect the spirits the saints
Jesus any just God
to let you get away
with all those bodies
all those hanging bodies
all those burnt bodies
all those scarred bodies
all those bottom of the Tallahachee bodies
and Amadou’s body
and Biko’s body
and my grandfather’s body
and Fred Hampton’s body
and Fred Hampton, Jr.’s body
and Jimi and Emmett and Medgar
and the invisible man who stole
Susan Smith’s kids
and all those boys shot dead in East New York
and Little Rock and Watts
and everywhere people know
the meaning of colonialism
and pre-emptive war
and first-strike option

how do you expect to get away
from your conscience
from all them black babies
born of all them colored people
all them orphaned Iraqi babies
all them orphaned AIDS babies
and children of disappeared Latin American
activists for the people Trent
from all them Bloods Crips
and Latin Kings from all them vatos
and re-incarnated of badass Indian and
runaway slave gun-toting
in the streets of America niggas Trent

you keep talking and we’ll keep coming
showing up in your dreams
every Halloween in every revolution’s age
here’re a sermon and some prayers for you
what heaven do you think waits for you?
what hell are you living in right now?