The Holy of Holies

The Holy of Holies
cousins would prostrate ourselves in play
Making believe in hushed tones
While above us two generations of uncles and aunts spun our lineage.

They were all swollen ankles, cracked heels,
trouser socks, and work boots.
Their voices would float
ethereal thick clouds of hymns rich with cigarette smoke
and guttural laughter and residue from midnight’s tears.
We would brush the hems of their garments careful

not to shake anointed threads.

They chronicled an uncle crouching behind a bush with a BB-gun
hunting a mean grandfather, who
journeyed by moonlight to Paris, TN for days at a time to visit
the family he had to leave behind.
Told of a sister whose dinners took too long to cook but appeared from bare cabinets like magic,
a sister who fought men like a man to protect her softness,
a sister who danced money out of wallets, the hip hypnotist.

They’d weave robes with golden thread for sharecroppers,
fasten blue ribbon to golden crowns for wanderers who’d lost their minds,
stitched ephods that sutured soldiers by reminding them of home.

They bestowed recipes like sacrement, and
hummed prophetic wisdom into our ears like poetry.

The griots burst with laughter that
quickened us from the floor into sukhasana and vajrasana.
As they chanted the names of the dead until they
conjured them from the walls, carpet, couch cushions, cabinets, and drapes.
Until the ancestors circled the room to the rhythm of the oscillating fan
GD                   Addie           James
Ruth                                                            Barker
Bertha Mae         Frankie
washing over us like anointing oil
while we played.


Bubbles rumble from her belly
tickling her nose
crinkling the corners of her eyes.
The sweetest sounding alarm,
she vibrates with squeals and coos.
She gurgles on the saliva teething brings,
shamelessly bearing pink gums
thrashing chubby arms and legs.
She wriggles drunkenly with contagious, effervescent joy.



Daily, the companionless cougar slinks past the tabby cat

that like a gargoyle waits fixed on the step for her.

Sharp green almond-shaped moonstones meet round honey ones.

A brief moment of feline solidarity

A muted magnetism

A knowing.

Tabby walks Cougar to the door and 

saunters back to some secret place in the neighborhood.

Cougar chirps to herself, pleased that when she 

rolls her eyes at Tabby, he understands that

she does so with love.

Blackberry Picking in Kentucky

Blackberry Picking in Kentucky


Ashy legs dangled 

from my grandfather’s weather-beaten flatbed,

wooden boards blanched from too many seasons of tobacco, potatoes, and corn.


A harvest of cousins, aunts, and uncles piled on with all manner of rinsed bucket

as my grandfather slowly dragged us into the woods to find wild blackberry bushes.


It was the hard red berries that gave the bushes with bruise-colored clusters away.

We — sticky with sweat

warned to watch for thorns

and snakes — 

reached into the thicket to the promised obsidian clumps.


The flesh yielded beneath our fingertips as we 

plucked and plopped the bouncy fruit into


It wasn’t a race because there were so many berries among the thorns,

and for the children

Time meant nothing.

Our voices joined the birds and frogs as we

blew on and ate a few of the more irresistible drupelets

pressing the balls of the fruit to the roof of our mouths until they were

flooded with juice sweet and tart like memories.


When all the buckets were heavy laden with fruit,

we meandered home.

With fingers stained the color of sacrifice,

We offered the buckets to my grandmother

to be made into a plethora of dark and delicious things.

Wash Day

Wash Day


Use a wide-tooth comb and warm water to part 

the mountains of black coils into manageable sections for detangling. 


Light a candle, grab a towel, spread coconut oil for good slip

Put on a movie or long-awaited series.

The mind needs an escape from the repetition of spraying, raking, unlinking, and twisting.


Run the water in the kitchen sink until it feels like blankets from the dryer against the skin.

Pour the shampoo into your palm ignoring the quarter-size suggestion on the bottle.


Rub you scalp until you are convinced that you love yourself deeply

No hurried motions. You’ve given yourself the entire day for this.


Rinse and wrap your hair in a tee-shirt to prevent tangling.

Use a wide-tooth comb and warm water to part


The mountains for black coils for deep conditioning.

Use a plastic grocery bag to trap your body heat and activate the conditioner.

Pop some popcorn and dance to your favorite songs for 30 minutes.


Run the water in the sink until it feels like blankets from the dryer against the skin.

Rinse your hair and embrace the weight of all that makes you purified.




The parent of one of my 10th grade students tagged me in a post 

about a Do-It-Yourself solution in case of an active shooter.


Supply List 1

  • Heavy duty stainless steel wire rope (with loops)
  • Stainless steel ferrule and stop
  • Stainless steel carabiner
  • Heavy duty wall mount ring
  • Power drill
  • Diamond bits


The teacher in the post said that she looked all over for something 

to keep the students and her safe.

She found her solution at Home Depot,

a business that got an F rating in 2019 for

supplying money to Congressional recipients of NRA dollars.


Supply List 2

  • Union dues


For this DIY project, the wire rope loops like a noose around the dummy door lever.

        (The dummy lever is one inch away from a glass panel.)

The other loop joins the carabiner that is 

hooked to the wall mount.

       (Don’t ask for permission to drill into the wall.

       You’re doing it for the kids.

       You’re doing it so that you all can make it home.)


Supply List 3

  • Belief in miracles
  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance policy
  • Anxiety medication


I looked through videos that showed what an AR-15 can do to structures.

There is a guy who shows five different types of barriers

that AR-15 bullets can penetrate.

I paid special attention to the one that looks like a wooden door and the cinder block wall.

(The trainer noted that the cinder blocks used in schools like mine were hollow.)


The bullets designed for the AR-15 are created to tumble when they make contact with flesh.

They rip at a velocity of around 3000 feet per second as they 

plunge through the soft tissue.

They destroy all of the organs in the regions they hit.

They are not the types for bullets that usually lodge in the human body like they would a wall.

They make grand exits.


Supply List 4

  • Bleach
  • Gloves
  • Heavy duty paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Trauma kit


The magazine of an AR-15 can hold 30 rounds.

The class that the parent’s child was in had 28 students in it. 

If we were in Uvalde, no one would have escaped the room alive.


Supply List 5

  • Trauma and grief counseling
  • 28 Sympathy cards
  • 28 Floral arrangements
  • Lawyer for will
  • Casket
  • Headstone


I don’t respond to the post.

Don’t know how to tell him that it will never work.

Don’t know how to tell him that I can’t save his son.

Even if I lay my body on his,

The bullets will still get through.

It won’t be enough that I tried.

It won’t be enough that I did it myself.


Ode to the Messiness of Making

Ode to the Messiness of Making


The small, the short, the delayed, the imperfect, and the pitiful are not honored nearly enough.

Watching a butterfly quietly escape its chrysalis is as magical as any show in Vegas.

Late blooms make us pause in awe just like the first buds of Spring.

Wobbly first steps will make us cheer as heartily as Olympic victories.

The lines we scratch in our journals can stir the spirit as deeply as the lines of legendary bards.


Long roads sometimes lead to dead ends. 

How else would the boundaries of the map be made?

True revelation sometimes cloaks itself in paltry epiphanies.

Small movements unlock heavy doors.

We open them and find truer versions of who we are in this world.


Today, we sing the praises of the small things.

The first drafts.

The erasure marks.

The balled up pieces of paper.

The scuffed knees.

The fender benders.

The early morning practices.

The dry chicken and burned bread.

Today, we honor the signs of trying.




I need space 

to knit together

the hardbacks that marinate

in my brain.

I need to 

unload this satchel of syrupy savory verbs,

Noun tannins swirl the bouquet like merlot,

Cluster of umami clauses.

I need to 

slice sheets of extra sharp perspective.

Craft characters and place them like olives on oak. 

This is a whole charcuterie.



For Cecilia Streett Waters, Mary D. Randolph, me, you, your mama, and your cousins too


Waiting for States to ratify any decision that would

even the playing field

Is like waiting for a snapping turtle to let go of its dinner.

There is too much money to be made in apartheid, segregation, isms, and inequity.

Corruption is profitable. 

People in power will kill before letting it go.


People who have never needed a 

separate Amendment to be included in the Constitution

always hoard rights when others 

begin to move about the country as freely as they do.

They argue that we who are beneath the boot stop wriggling

Stop biting at the ankles

Stop begging for breath.

They assume lesser evil of inaction is eventual action, but

both options are two roads that diverge in a yellow wood – both worn really about the same.


And we writhe beneath the weight of waiting.


In this swath of stolen land, we fight for the right to exist as entire humans.

100 years ago, we had to fight 


to protect the right to decide who leads us.

Today we fight 


for our very bodies.


Women have always fought in wars defending their tribes and themselves. The tapestry of American womanhood is garrisoned by women ancestors who took what was due them. By usurpers.  


We summon the energies of all of the women who inhabit the women of the USA. 


Harriet Tubman



Tomoe Gozen

We call them up from the soil. 




Buffalo Calf Road Woman


We call them out of the waters.

Queen Summuratmat

Queen Vishpala



William Brown

We call them down from the sky.

Pine Leaf

Queen Nzinga

Queen Gudit

The Amazons

The Agoji

Help us avenge us for the sake of our daughters and our daughters’ daughters. 



Keeping time requires that the listener 

overcome the awareness of his own body 

in order to sync with the 

vibrations of the whole.


It is painful to fight the waves of music

that require absorption.


There comes a point when you stop mouthing the counts.


Begin with a skip

and a trot 

and a gallup

and a turn

and a spin.

Throw your shoulders back, 

catch the air with your lungs–