A Rapid Rhyme
Who would take the bait?
It’d be an added fate to
the mix, we nix the tools we
often use, afraid to partner up with
fools who choose to disguise themselves
& place their wealth on the shelves of
life. That’s right.
Kick back, take it all in
my friend–it’s only the beginning.
Originally posted to Twitter as an experiment.
We can’t put out the fire
The drunk lady up the block slips me $20.00 to get her some Newports and a case of Budweiser. The stink on her lips follows me. I fan the stench with my right hand but it still lingers. I enter the corner store, tell Javier what I need, and ask for two Chick-O-Sticks, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and an Arizona Tea — Peach.
He moves like molasses leaving a mason jar. I summon a quicker pace from him that lets him know the drunk lady is waiting. Her money is good here. She’s a faithful customer. Everything she buys is killing her, but Javier doesn’t care. He’s got six mouths to feed.
These products have warning labels. He’s not responsible for what people do and don’t read.
“That’ll be $17.89.” He shouts at me. Spittle forms on his lips. Little white globes of foam huddle in the corners of his mouth.
I give him the $20.00, collect the change, and get back to the drunk lady on my stoop waiting for her daily vices. She is paper-thin.
Her hair is wiry wisps of auburn that doesn’t move.
She coughs and her chest rattles. She begins ranting about our rights. Her speech is slurred but I understand every word.
“He ain’t no leader. You see what he’s doing?! He’s taking everything he can from us. I haven’t seen someone try so hard to suppress the vote in all my years. This year is the first of many I refused to let slide by without my say. I registered to vote on Thursday. I gotta voice, you know. I wanna be heard.”
It’s Saturday and I hear her. Mama — on her deathbed, told me to listen to the rants of the drunkards. They’re deep within their moments of truth. So, I tolerate her. I listen. She tells me about her son who has been locked up since 2007 — a drug charge. Weed possession and over $5,000 in the side panels of his car doors.
I haven’t seen someone try so hard to suppress the vote in all my years.
“He was seventeen when they got him. Come through my backdoor, busted it down. All I could hear were shouts of ‘Freeze’ and ‘Get Down!’ Men in blue shuffled their way throughout my home. I used to tell him to stay off them corners. Corners in the hood are trouble. But he saw fast money and brotherhood. I couldn’t give him anything else. All I had was love for him. Love and heartache and tears and fear. The streets had everything else. Twenty-five years ago, I studied law. Passed the bar. Met this fly guy who promised me an escape from the slums. Tell me, why am I back here?”
Night falls. She raises her rattling body off the stoop, clutches her bag of goodies close to her, and waves goodbye. I ask her for her name. Months had passed and I never once asked, but tonight, it seems important that I do. She’s still talking about voting, inept leadership, and racist bastards, and how she meant to change the world as she wobbles down the steps.
She shouts it back to me. I catch it. I tuck it in my jeans’ pocket to reveal later. I watch her zig-zag slowly up the block. Her hair clings to her head. She pats her pockets, searches for her keys — finds them, she quickens her pace.
There is a burning in my chest as I watch Lorraine. I breathe slowly. Inhale. Exhale. I calm myself with a meditation method I learned from my boyfriend. He’s zen-like, a D-list Gandhi. I breathe and fire stings my lips.
I am swallowing the heat of this nation and Lorraine, formerly known as the drunk lady, is the only person I can think of at this moment.
Speak of the devil and he will appear. He will have anything you want and will fight you at every turn to get you to take it. “Be smart. Don’t take anyone’s shit. Everyone is a bullshitter if they try hard enough.” Mama had so many words of wisdom.
I remember them now . . . Right at this moment of my burning chest and fiery mouth. I can’t stop the burning. I can’t stop the pain. I gulp down my Arizona Tea, peach flavor sticks to my insides.
I belch out the cries of a dying nation.
Speak of the devil and he will appear.
I feel better, but it doesn’t last. The burning, it’ll come again. It always does. Black people stand in pits of fire — not merely of our own doing. Some of us are thrown there. Others are planted there at birth and expected to find our way to safety unscathed while more obstacles pop up at every turn. Lorraine was planted there. She’s still scraping. Still attempting to reach the top. Still struggling to find her way out. I owe it to her to listen. I owe it to her to fan the flames away from her direction. But even after all of this . . .
The burning will never stop and no one can put out the fire.
Originally published via Medium.
A dime for your time?
If you enjoy my work and you're able to, here's a place for some change.
Firstly, I would be amiss if I did not state how honored I was to be asked to review this wondrous work by Devika Mathur. From what I have come to know of the writer, she is steadfast in her talent, dives into the raw and gritty surfaces of her feelings, and has no trouble sharing them with the world. With a style not akin to many writers I have read, Devika expresses herself with poetically sound language and a definite strength in her prose.
The aptly titled debut book, Crimson Skins, begins with “Olive Skin” which is a surefire opener, with power-packed phrases such as “My mother has a concave slippery mouth, untouchable with the slick tunes of time” and “She stitches her concrete bun as a belt of Ganges.”
The first section of poetry gets even better as the writer continues to deeply express herself using a style I like to call “raw surrealism.” “A fixation” is a good example of this. Two lines I found myself reading multiple times because I loved them that much are: “I have seen the postcards of vintage ink our lotus bodies sinking like air” and “You step on to my body, peeling layers of SCARS.” She is no stranger to poignant line breaks and metaphorical stanzas. Many of her poems, from what I have learned, are meant to be absorbed slowly–savored. It would not be wise to rush through them. And really, why would you want to?
“A swan of longing” is another favorite poem of mine. Devika uses a few nature images in this piece, however, the raw and gritty feel is still alive. “Climb up my knuckles, rest on the mount of flaky skin” says so much while not using many words. It’s succinct and compact yet still sends a punch straight to the gut. Another line that held my attention is, “Sew and move up. Climb to my cheekbones, now”–the imagery is intense and active. Reading it took me to another place, one where I would not mind venturing to more often.
Crimson Skins has a variety of work any reader will enjoy. The book isn’t basic and will be able to go the extra mile for years to come. I will be so bold as to say many of the pieces featured in it has the staying power of words by a few greats such as Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, and Virginia Woolf. It ends just as it began, with an intense piece of writing showcasing the writer’s talent.
“The art of silence” is placed exactly where it needs to be–the best for last. “Quietness, comes to me like sex, wild hum in the lost arid air” caught me off guard and I doubled-back to make sure I read the opening line correctly. I did and it is perfect in every way. The ending lines are as follows: “Cities often collapse while searching another one, and here is my tombstone, polished gold grave, beneath twigs of moth.” I read those lines and I know what poetry is. I feel what poetry is. I will remember what poetry is.
Crimson Skins comes as no shocker to me with its high caliber of writing and a plethora of poems and prose to choose from on which to connect. Devika Mathur shows that she is no novice to the world of writing. I look forward to its debut in June of 2020 and will be one of the first to purchase my copy. If you are a lover of poetry and writing that seeps into your skin and rattles your bones, then you should too.
I will be purchasing the Kindle version before the weekend is out, however, I also am going to purchase the paperback version when it is available too. I had the grand opportunity of diving into this work of art prior to its publication and I assure you, it’s worth every accolade it will amass within the first few weeks. Let’s support a fellow WordPress writer, shall we?
pretty, gifted girls
sweet and sexy things,
little Johnny from Price & 5th
ogles at their curves in
fitted jeans and we stand
as one, waiting for him to
pass us by.
“he’s nasty, with his old self.”
claudia is the first to mouth
her disgust with little Johnny.
I wave in his direction, shout
at him to get in front of us
and stay off our block.
he knows the crew from around-the-way
will slice him up good for
even blinking at us or
crowding our space.
word on the street is, he’s had his
tongue butchered for whistling
at donnicka five years ago.
“he better get on around that
corner if he knows what’s good for him.”
we form a line, kick our
kicks up on the stoop, and
throw our wishes up
to the sun.
we wait for God to
make our dreams come true.