Thursday, December 01, 2005

And that is what writing is for...

On day three of what looks like it will be a mind-numbing eight day work week, me and the Scorpio carve out a couple hours for ourselves.

We are sitting on the end of the bed, side by side, naked. He’s got his tequila, lemon slices and salt. I’ve got red wine. We are a very little bit drunk and a very big bit happy. We are munching Triscuits out of the box, talking.

“Do you know how many poems I wrote back then? Take a guess?” He loves it when I read to him, and wishes he hadn’t abandoned writing when he was young.

“A hundred?” I have no idea.

Three hundred. I sent them to publishers all over the place. They all came back. One publisher wrote back that he liked them, but he thought they were too risky. I wrote about revolution and sex and things like that.” His voice trails off wistfully. “I gave up,” he says.

I bolt off the bed like someone has hit my “on” switch and race to the living room book shelves.

“Stay there. Don’t move a muscle,” I yell as I’m running down the hall. I scramble for my copy of Rising Tides, a yellow-paged collection of women poets I’ve doggedly held onto since the seventies. “Listen, to this” I tell him and open the book. I read him my special favorites – Lucille Clifton’s “Miss Rosie,” and Nikki Giovanni. He is such an appreciative audience that I read with abandon, letting myself hear the poet’s voice like I’m sitting right inside her head. I read “Nikki-Rosa,” which goes:

childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
your mother
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in
and somehow when you talk about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
and though you remember
your biographers never understand
your father’s pain as he sells his stock
and another dream goes
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sisters have happy birthdays and very good
and I really hope no white person every has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll….

His hand darts out to grasp my free hand. He nods yes and smiles. His eyes are shiny with tears. For a graceful moment, we two are wrapped up and contained by the words of the poem. We hold between us, the inestimable good of the world.

I finish the very last lines…

probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy.