Ode to Langston Hughes (the return of the drum)

This rhythm
your vision

to begin again

my umbra

of blue. you told
me, “bear in mind that death
is a drum…calling life to come.”

in the wombiverse
rooted like
thoughts coded in the cord
that is mind, i know i’ve grown,

from a seed
to the soulflower
blooming like “tomorrow bright
before us,” calling

you to me as though a beat beyond life
still you drum the psalms
of faith, hope and love’s azure

on fire burning beneath beautiful
ones not yet born, where age

is embodied in innocence
of the sun kissing the horizon.
but for us to

drum “A World” where everyone is free
seems too perfect a dream for mother earth to conceive
still; birth and its many complications are always rough on



The Word of Bird

for Charlie Parker

as he flew, Bird blew
Trying to play clean, looking
For the pretty notes.

In the voice of the
Coolest breeze, the Apostle
Of Hipness hovers

Like a satellite
In orbit of mother earth
& the universe.



Changing of the Guard

For Amiri Baraka [who passed January 9, 2014]

The ripples of time
& space transbluesent like jazz
Interplay like night

& day, where novas
Explode amidst shadows in
Brilliant bursts of life

That open the doors
To the oneness of two eyes
Observing the light

Refracted by streams
Of consciousness curated
In the margins of

Our minds, left behind
As footnotes to changing times
For us to study.



Song of the Soul (for Nikki Giovanni, Lucille Clifton & Sonia Sanchez)

poetry is the song of the soul
that decodes
the cacophony
of the mind
finding freedom in who we are

& peace in who i am
because to be free
is to think, feel…&act
upon the words that are born
not spoken.

sometimes in the wee small hours of morning
we sit
at the PC or laptop
reeling in spirits, fighting off
demons, weighing & considering
through blood, sweat & years
the past, present & future as one
everchanging poem
in which we try to free
ourselves in the words.
& if i am able to free myself

as i hold
to the here & now, then i have hit all the notes
by playing what’s not there, saying
the very first thing that flows like air
breathed through me into you.

a poem is adrenaline
rushing, blowing the lid
off the poet.
descending into the ear of the reader
as the body leaves imprints of its soul
upon all of us
as its heart pounds like Art Blakey
neverending in its message
“that life is precious.” & our dreams—
like roads for vagabonds, are scribed
in the wandering eyes of our fate, destined
to new directions

of change, which is all
we poets wrapped in our curiosity
want anyway.



This Is Art (if you want it to be)
for Edgar Degas

“Art is not
what you see,
but what you
make others
see.” Art is
walking on the wild side
of alpha through omega.
Art is a confession
of the love
& beauty
that resides
within my
soul, waiting
to escape like a wail
of optimism in blue
the history
of our own
heartbeats reverberating as one.



 3rd Stone From The Sun

“to acoustic & electric
woman & man

…feels like years ago since i’ve felt
the warm hello of the sun…
he once wrote. yet he’s still
a living grain of sand
from the soil   right from the soul of man
sitting amongst psychedelic shadows
upon the chameleon shore, greeting
the sunrise.
never compared to GOD like clapton
jimi is the man that 1st time
i heard him
to be the next charlie christian or wes montgomery
wouldn’t be flamboyant
enough for
whose Experience america wasn’t ready for
in ’64 because he sounded
like himself & not
The Beatles or Elvis
strumming strings of a right-handed axe
turned upside down, unearthing
an electric universe
exorcising demons more evil
& spirits more schizophrenic
than those of robert
while taking us on an unabridged excursion
to where the sky cries
nothing but the blues
lives here.



Nesta Robert Marley

“Love the life you live.
Live the life you love.”

With the roar of a young
Lion of Judah, you wailed
Positive rastaman vibrations
Tellin the world to look

Within, catchin the consciousness
Of I&I a fire with the uprising
Of your soul’s own revolution

As you led the children of exile
(Wont to your wealth of wisdom)
From Babylon to Zion.

& yet you wail so very well
That the meandering
Of your musings is ineffably
Just “one love, one heart, one destiny.”



The Language of Truth
(as told thru the talking hands of time)

for the original Homeland Security
i see–said the piano man

like language
only i can comprehend
the lines drawn on my palms
from light to dark
read like an ode that flies
free as a bird
back to a history
written by those who hung
heroes we never forgot,

then swan dives
into immortality
protected by the instinct
of living
to become a legacy
as lasting as
America & the lingua franca
of jazz, improvised
time after

through the fingers of these talking hands.

Native Son

for Langston Hughes
James Baldwin
Allen Ginsberg
Public Enemy
& Richard Wright

since your advent
it occurs to me
& has immeasurably

(since before the dawn of your democracy)

that I too, am
homo sapien
& a native son
just like you;

yet, more than just
a denizen, I am a citizen
considered an outcast
in the skin I’m in

from a vacated American
dream, that still exploits us
“in God we trust,”

as we dwell within a struggle

that leaves no room
for the sin of omission
on the road seldom
traveled by the multitude.


Twilight Sounds of Summer Madness

“seems like nighttime brings the breezes…”
–David Henderson

with reckless abandon–

i mutter
to myself
as i tiptoe
up the spiral stairway
to the stars
shout bright back at me, of yearning
to hear
the tones technicoloring the blackground of Night–
taking flight through foreshadows of tomorrow
closing in on
forever, closer than we
could ever be to free.
traveling in and out of her nocturnal world
through her auguries
and incantations
with rhythm as the passport to where life plays
by ear…
just listen,
as Night hums
after hour antidotes
of summer madness
through the bass
and the drum.
just listen,
to Miles with Bill Evans,
Cannonball Adderly
& Trane ad lib “Kind of Blue”
breezes of a magnum
opus called jazz, riffing
wherever the heat of Night
dares them to go.
but, wailing blues mere words
will never show.
just listen,
as Night becomes
the slow grind
of bodies to a crawl.
just listen,

with reckless abandon.

Orange Was The Color of Her Dress


for Charles Mingus


As indian summer lingers, with
Its autumn forest flowers
Aglow, the burnt embers of
The amber sunset
Erupt from the sky in a montage
Of molten stardust
Diffusing the third stone from the sun.

Orange is the umbra of impulse instilling life

Into darkness like mother nature
Extemperaneously exposing
Her forsakened love
Of her own chromatic fantasy
As the aria of her aura
Vibes in the sunsplashed soul of her dress.

Songs for My Father


for Daddy (& inspired by Horace Silver)


the session began
strictly instrumental
or so i thought
till the tandem
of Jefferson
& Taylor arrived
followed by a menagerie
of midnight marauders
masquerading as righteous reeds
around a crescent moon
that dances like a burning boomerang
of amani na mapenzi
sending smoke signals
from the soul station
in panacean
patterns of aural alchemy
falling like summer soft
contusions of one shine
playing ping pong
off of my brain.
(in Swahili, amani na mapenzi means peace and love.]


 Bridge Over Troubled Water

(or: down in the univearth)
for Mama T.L.C.

on the day i was born
there was no way
for mama to know
that twelve days shy of my first birthday
my father would die
& leave her a widow.
nonetheless, about a year earlier
i decided to arrive
9:35 at night, looked
up at the doctor,
smiled then proceeded
to piss on him
as if to say, “hello…& thanks”
for rescuing me from the darkness
& bringing me into the light
of the elaborate labyrinth of life
whose song ends to begin again:
improvising rivers that have tuned
my ears to the children
of reason, emulating the seasons
in breaths of sweet hurt
stirring up the dust of dusk dawn
down in the univearth.

on the day i was born
there was no way
for me, myself or i
to see that three years into college academia
i’d say forget these equations…
i prefer climbing the poet tree.
that’s just to say
i rather write words
right out of my heart, &
call it art that lives
on a tightrope
or rides the wind
in flights of fancy above the laws
of convention & conformity, forging
urban haikus with parallactic views
of nature mothered by the majesty
of the blues, whose voice paints
irreplaceable tone poems of forever
at the eternal juncture
of YesterNow, where all my dreams
keep moving forward & ease my mind
“like a bridge over troubled water”
down in the univearth.

 All Or None (The Question of Tomorrow)

 “In our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand…”

— JamesBaldwin

for Emmett Till & Trayvon Martin

with rivers
to cross
& crosses
to bear:

will our predilection
to indelible dreams
riding tides of tomorrow
keeping us afloat
just above the undertow

ever be forged
in justice for us
ALL, not just some?
(& if not all…then NONE).

Immortal Fusion (or: this Life wedded to death)

 “When a griot dies, it is as if a library
has burned to the ground.”
— Alex Haley

the end
is where we


the question.

& life never shutters an eye
on the panorama
of paradox

as seen through
the rearview mirror:

with ourselves
listening to red,
black & green

drum voices still
dream, manifesting
the sound of our

own background

as soliloquies
of syncopated grace
suspended in vers libre

in the tradition
of Amiri.

comes revelations
of a quiet


echoing history’s
heartbeat in the ethos of heroes
evoking oral epitaphs

dedicated to memory
of those godsent
from the foreshadows

of Sol*. with earthtones,
we are the curators of consciousness
preservers of progress:


in the present tense
liberating the shades
of indigenous skin

we are in, enveloped
by a sea of love greater than
the sum of its parts.

we are orators
from the original poet/tree:

of antidotal
anecdotes scrolled away in places
of personal oasis

where freedom
is an idiom

as the refuge
of reflection tripping
the life fantastic

through tunnel revisions.

*Sol is latin for the sun. (my main reason for using Sol in place of just plain old sun is to play off of it sounding just like soul.)

this poem is based on a Ralph Ellison quote from his book, The Invisible Man (in which the protagonist says his invisibility is due to the refusal of others to see him as he would like to be seen, not just as a Black man but as a Human Being). it is as follows: “The end is the beginning and lies far ahead.” from my point of view and my beliefs, the quote means that neither life nor death is final or absolute, because every end is a new beginning, and one never absolutely knows what’s going to happen but can Hope. to me, it is very analogous to a work by world-renowned street artist, Banksy, that says, “Every Exit Is An Entrance Somewhere Else.”  in retrospect, this poem has been revised numerous times, but i’ve always meant it to be like a personal homage to Black History.

Bird’s Flight

[Ode to the Pyrotechnics of Charlie Parker]

“You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.”
-Miles Davis
what Charlie Parker brought
from Kansas City
 to 52nd Street
was the pyrotechnics
 he used to school the world
in his own Ornithology
 & the blues.
he was the sole songbird
of his kind, whirring
with his wings wrapped tight
’round the neck of his alto sax
 through choruses
& holes in the wall of night
like the hum of the wind
rustling through leaves, playing
pretty notes
that seem so perfectly placed, reprising
himself in a pastiche
of optimistic
pandemonium, when every note was
an experiment
in experience
 in anthems

of his alter echo taking flight.

For My Father, James Saunders
(who passed before I could remember him)

one day
like a mighty oak tree

with your roots stretching
throughout the house
of my ego’s union with eternity

(where today will be tomorrow was yesterday
&        all that connects me to you is a seed)

i’ll stand tall before thee
reciting the leaves of poetry
that adorn me

now, as i try
to recall you.

The Free Association of Woodshedding [or: “we are the musicmakers.”]

v. To lock oneself away with a musical instrument and practice, either a particular piece or in general, until the player has improved greatly or can perfectly play the piece he has been practicing.
as if
i were published
i cram the contents
of my cranium
on random receipts
& slivers of cardboard
riffing on rapture
alive & well
within the walls of the woodshed

as if
 i were a virtuoso
soloing in the native tongue
of the versaphone
singing of lady soul
within me
(because she is my queen
my everything)
searching for my purpose within truth
discovering the truth within beauty
carving a brand new nuance of meaning
on the tabula rasa of expression
this is my story
         my song
    of what
                was the blues
then & now
catapulted from the canon
of recollection
            into the crucible of identity
            onto the canvas of individuality
conforming only to the persistence of memory
never giving up the ghost of yesterday
winning at the end of the way
wisdom wont
(even in the grasp of death)
to life
which wills the lungs
inside me
expanding & expending
every breath
into a souliloquy that sighs:
ain’t never been free.
but must i die…
to become a legend
rescued from oblivion?
    as if
           i could see forever’s
                      through the maze
                                  of my vagabond eyes
           this world
           all too wary
           of its own shadow
                     appears before me
                 in streams of ultraviolet
scaling the heights of the horizon on breaths of air
that summon sundry silhouettes
of once slippery memories
skating their way into the immortal
fusion of life & death
stirring up the sound
of far off drums
from the distant past, in the jazz
of our kissing bodies
conceiving another universe in the womb of mother earth
as she scores love (…the only song there is)
into the porous pulse playing within our passion.
making music
that dreams


for William Blake

there are no shortcuts to places worth going.

i follow a path
(& anything i do
though it would be
to become a gypsy
i regard as urgent)

down the road of excess to the palace of wisdom,
like a kid, more
curious than ever
about the sky,
whose life
is like a journeyman
who must be at home somewhere
before he can feel at home everywhere,
climbing the branches
of an everlasting
that sings rites & riots, living
the language of the unheard, unafraid of dying,
but, like baldwin said,
everything now…is in our hands.
& when alone
i walk
room to room, agonizing
over shadows, myself
but one of them, cast
on the walls
of this sometimes
lonely sanctuary,
where these words
make music
of my thoughts
necessarily spontaneous
without conforming
to the mainstream
& where love will be
no matter what (WAR)
we think we should
go looking for
& where if i forget
the music will remember then remind me:

a stereotype is the last thing i wanna be.


Daily Prayer

Many are the names of God and infinite the forms through which He may be approached. 
                                                        – Ramakrishna
Slowly their chants gain momentum, their
monolithic voice growing louder, filling
the small bookstore that sits hidden behind
a faded green wooden storefront.
They pause, slow down and then rush
ahead. Backward and forward, their rhythms
shift rapidly. One voice pulls another and they
cascade onward.

Some worshippers
rock their heads. Some swivel slightly
from their crouch positions on carpets
set out for the night’s prayer service
on the well-worn wooden floors
that are remains of once busy days
when the building was
a neighborhood department store.
  From strings of words, they come down to One…
And they chant the word again
and again and again, stretching it out, hammering
at it in a discordant chorus of voices.

Piano Grand

(or: ode to the the tone poets who tickle the ivories)


let’s face the music:

i remember

                   all the things you are

like a tint of blue in green


             to the souliloquy my heart strings




                                  too marvelous for words.

Manchild in the Promised Land

for Yusuf Hawkins, Trayvon Martin & Michael Brown (& inspired by Claude Brown)

does one
run…when he
is already in
the promised land?” ain’t hard to tell
that we’ve adapted & are here until Judgment Day

even though
po-po in a position
of authority
are allowed to patrol & control
& shoot to kill at will, as if
they were overseers of a peculiar institution
situated in a land stolen
from its natives by upholders of our so-called Manifest Destiny, back
when it was commonplace to see strange fruit
hanging from a tree. yet
America still insists her dream is for everybody

“How can that be?” when you so easily extinguish
the fire in young black men’s eyes, as
though you were reaping
dreams in your
no black




for Cameron Je’Mar, my nephew, born 5/4/92

a            baby
with his
xperiencedreams, sometimes

Meeting of the Minds

for Duke Ellington & Coleman Hawkins

session over, farewells
outside in the evening
sun, full of admiration:

“After 400 years, well worth the wait!”
Hawkins riffs as Ellington replies,
“Now never getting together would’ve been too late.”

The Kingdom Within Us


(within the realms

of our dreams

we who are not

as others

would like us to be

are utterly free.)


speak from the spirit, sounding off

like soul-writers: remembrancers

of the past forecasting the future

with surreal logic

of an urban mystic with second sight

envisioning the tree

of our kindred family

of souls moving heaven & earth

to chase tomorrow

through detours of bohemian eyes

reading the mind of God to end

from origin, while heeding the muse

of youth in all its hues

imbued by the infinite

fountain of fervor

overflowing with the blood, sweat & tears

conscious of the kingdom within us

in lieu of becoming

a paradox of paradise lost in translation.

Legacy {aka The Alphabet Poem, version #2}

for Cameron Je’Mar

a            baby
yarns of youthful


maybe i was drunk
but i coulda swore
this mornin i heard
Coltrane roar:

“…only one I’m
angry at is myself
when I don’t make what
I’m trying to play.”

in restlessly gentle
ascending relentlessly
in outcries of ferocious
harmony, he was
the guru gifted with the voice
of his angry tenor
delivering piercing
layers of sound.

& Om, he said, is “the first

that sound, that spirit
that sets everything
else into being.”

as i listen to him,
like a disciple
of a brand new creed
heeding the discourse
of his tenor saxophone
in incomplete replicas
that breathe some but not all
the emotion of being there in the flesh,
i hear the unselfish compassion
of a meandering maestro and his soul’s ascent
beyond the limits of his outstretched horn
that spawns the spirit
of the cosmos as he knows
it to be, like him
still pursuing
the promise
of A Love Supreme.

Mr. Piano Man

for Billy Joel

play me
a memory
Mr. Piano Man
as though the melody had ears
to hear

play on & on
across the tuniverse
fading in, fading out & back


If I
Were a song, I’d
Be a MilesLike, blue in
Green dolphin street jazz kinda thing,
In a

Of suite coolness,
Cuz “good music is good,
No matter what kind of music
It is.”

One Love (the dilemma of H.I.P.H.O.P.)

for Tricia Rose

“Holy Integrated People, Having Omnipresent Power
The watchman’s in the tower…” – KRS-ONE

by all means, defend your
system of survival; & hope
that the affirmation of love
unconditional meets the necessity
of its own transformation
somewhere in the middle; or else,
H.I.P.H.O.P. will cease. but, won’t
be no rest in peace.

Section, or in four parts (for John Coltrane)


In four parts
In his faith in God
The music moves
In & out of sync
With the mantra
Of its meaning.
From acknowledgement
To resolution
To pursuance
Comes Psalm.
& from one thought
Comes ripples
Of untold
One note at a time
…A love supreme,
Love supreme,

Sermon [Ode to the Word]

“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God”:
ingrained in the ecology of the poet tree, echoing from its myriad
of rings, through its ageless roots & enduring branches.

& God, the wordsmith of wordsmiths, made the Word flesh
to dwell among us & blow riffs of tradition through us, the leaves
of forever soloing on the indigenous versaphone…

as we with an ear to the ground, search for purpose within
truth, discovering truth within beauty, carving a brand new nuance
of meaning from the beauty of our own expression…

as we with the winged thoughts of our angel eyes take flight
through another long day’s journey into night, to where
our deeds, begotten in births of cool winds blown

everywhere all at once, return as reflections
in the kaleidoscopic urn of ubiquity
breathing life eternal into our words.



“An artist of ability may lead
you down paths…where many
things can happen.”
– John Coltrane

Ruby, My Dear
Ruby, My Dear
Ruby, My Dear
give ear
to dis here
ode to T. Sphere.

1st interlude:
sittin here
just soakin in the mists
of the high priest of bop
in all his mystery,
it’s ‘Round Midnight and i
cannot help but think about
the shrewd man
ticklin the ivories
strokin the black keys
givin it to us Straight,
No Chaser.
with a relaxed but
flowin pulse, he did
his own thang.

the lure of his verve
leads me back to Minton’s
with peculiar pearls of
fingerspun wisdom,
in pulses
from his nature;
Monk’s Mood is his music,
resonatin thru each solo.

last interlude:
sittin here groovin
in the ultraviolet vertigo
of his hypnotic melodies,
i can feel the energy emanatin from his
fingers as i write. i can hear him
singin in the privacy of his own skull as his fingers
i hear the unconventions of his
essential weirdness, voiced in an atonal idiolect
so meaningfully simple and
densely spare. his quirks and jerks are
abundant as air. but it works.

postlude (opus fore score):
fifths of fury
pourin down
like acid rain.
out staggers
Simpletonius Drunk
babblin, “Ruby, My Dear
I can tickle the ivories
like Thelonious Monk,”
as she replies
with a melodious thunk,
“yeah, okay.
and someday
I’ll sing
like Lady Day.”


For James Baldwin, The Beatles, and Billie Holiday

Saw through the scattered
Flight of eternity
Into the spectrum of spirits
That spawned me.

Woke the slumbering giant
Within me
Where art is found in the sounds
& silences
Like a patchwork prosody
Spoken in spontaneous combustion
Burning out of control.

Became a verse, free
From the frame of earth
& its imagined corners, sketched
& stretched upon the daze & gaze
Of this curly-headed daydreamer
Submerged in selected silence
Waking to the dream of tomorrows
With newfound rivers to cross
& crosses to bear.

Found time to listen
To the silence
Between the words
Filling in the rest
With the pieces of me
Wanting to be
Anywhere but here

Till I dethroned the loneliness
of despair
In a game
Of truth or dare
In which luck had no say

In the labors of  a love consummated
Beneath the beacon
by the shatters of life
And its stained-glass soul.

Pulled the wool from our eyes
As ignorance reared its ugly head
In the form of a constitution
Polluted & prostituted
By politicians
Compromising posterity
For prosperity
Selling their souls for dead presidents
& the sake of the machine
That could care less about truth
& the American dream.

Yesterday took refuge in a daze
Of delusion
Then found disillusion
In recollections of strange fruit
& the peculiar institution
Ingrained in the rein
Of our reflections
On the impossible
Which Baldwin made us understand
Is “the least that one can demand.”

Forged freedom
On the fated road of faith
That landed us
Here at the crossroads
Of our unsung stories
Written on the soles of our feet.

Fell asleep
To the TV watching me
Every time
I woke from dreaming.


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