“Hey” by KING: One of my favorite songs.

Sometimes, when I’m thinking about some of the best loves I’ve had in my life, and I hear this song, I get a bit teary-eyed. It’s such a beautiful song about pure, indescribable, natural love.

I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do. Listen to the words, let them wash over you. Peace.

The Gift of Life

Thyrie (pronounced “Theory”) Torie Devon Floyd, born on September 07, 2021. My youngest nephew (currently). Doesn’t he already look like he’s trying to figure out this crazy world of ours? Photo used with my brother, TJ’s permission.

For Thyrie: An Audio Poem

The Gift of Life

I keep saying I’m missing out on so much — 
I’ve lost every aspect of growth in 
front of me — I feel like I’m chasing 
after it — losing my speed. 
I’m trying . . . I swear, I am. 
My family is increasing in numbers — 
the beauty of life sheds her gifts
upon us, I am speechless.

My brothers keep me informed.
My phone is home to hundreds of
pictures of nieces and nephews 
from the beginning of their time
here on this earth. I can watch
their growth as much as I want.
I can rewind — playback — fast forward,
and stop time digitally, but in real life . . .
Nothing can be halted.

I don’t have 
that kind of power.

From the day he roared into this world,
I could tell Thyrie would be a thinker — 
an observer. I saw it in his eyes.
His soul has been here before, it isn’t
its first time. I dream of the day
I will hold him close to me, 
kiss his forehead, and sing him lullabies.

I am four hundred sixty-one miles 
away from the call of his cries,
the kindness of his giggles, and the
wonderment smoothed behind his ears.
I am so far away but so close to
him — connected by blood — linked by
history. How did I get to be an
auntie of six? How?!

There is a nation rising up in
Thyrie’s heart — he’s got a grip
on this world already. I think he 
knows what it needs — what we lack.
“There’s no pressure,” I whisper
to myself, but I can feel the intensity
of his stare. He will be infinite change — 
on loan to us for years to come.
Are we prepared?

I have lived long enough to see my
siblings form their own families;
whether big or small, and I still tear up
reminiscing about their childhood. 
When you can change a brother’s 
diaper or give a sister her bottle or 
help another brother learn how to swim,
while the youngest one watches on — 
waits for his turn, or you cook, clean, 
bathe, and rear up ones lagging behind
you in years — you gain wisdom.

In the eyes of this wondrous creation,
I see new beginnings and a world
I’m not so afraid to attack anymore.
I will call the day to me when I
will bask in his coos — be altered by his
smell. He has so much to teach me
and I am here to learn.

I am here to learn.


Originally published in The Junction via Medium.

*I wish I had more words to appropriately convey the joy I have in watching my family grow. I believe Thyrie will be another reason for me to load up my things and travel home and past home to just be with my people. Looking at him, it’s hard for me not to want to race as quickly as I can to him.

Thank you for reading and listening too.

Clover

Part VII: Soulful Legs Dance Studio has a new member.

Photo by Ratih Siubelan via Redshot

The night before my audition, I break the nail on my big toe pretty badly. It bleeds heavily on my bedroom carpet. I stand amazed at it. I don’t even feel the pain. I had been dancing for a few hours nonstop and must’ve broken it while turning. Mama notices it and shushes me repeatedly. At that moment, I had not known I was breathing hard and loud. She asks me to sit down on the bed while she gets the first aid kit. I sit. I wait. She rushes to the bathroom in the hallway, rushes back to my room, and takes out the antiseptic and some cleaning cloths.

I watch Mama clean up my toe, wrap it in gauze, then place a large bandaid over it. She is careful but she is serious. She tells me to stay off my feet for at least an hour — this applies to dancing. Then she says, “tomorrow when I come in from work, we can practice one more time before the audition.” My routine is five minutes long. Mama would have to rush home from work, hop in the shower, run through my routine with me, then we’d have to get to the studio by at least 1:50 p.m. This is what she said.

I don’t like being rushed. Mama knows this. She doesn’t like being rushed, either, but her boss had already said she could not get off thirty minutes early, so this is what we have to work with. I know my routine like the back of my hand. I can jump. I can leap. I can even do the three dances in between. But . . . it hurts so much when I come back down on my feet. My toe stings — a burning sensation runs through my entire left foot. Mama says, “dance through the pain, baby. It’s nothing big. It’ll heal.” And I guess she would know. She’s danced through a lot of pain.

Mama is home. She presses me to stand in front of her, look poised. We do my routine together one last time and when we’re finished, there’s a tear coming down Mama’s face. She orders me to sit down on the bed. She rushes to get the first aid kit again and she begins doctoring up my toe. Some more antiseptic, gauze, and another large bandaid are placed on my toe. She wraps it securely with an ace bandage and tells me to do the last three moves of my routine. I do them and I don’t cringe.

“There. You’re ready, baby. You’ve got this. Let’s go and show them who their next dance member will be.”

I started school this past week too! I haven’t even told you that, have I?! I’d been so excited about this audition and preparing for it that I forgot to mention my first week of school. Well, first half-week. I like the school well enough. My teachers are nice. I have one I don’t care for, but the others are pretty cool. I’ve made only one friend so far — Selena. She dances for Soulful Legs Dance Studio. She tells me all the things to spot and look out for during my audition. I listen and learn. I want to be on this squad so bad. I take all her information with me and use it to my advantage.


I nailed the routine! Two of the instructors were there and three of the senior dance members. Everyone loved it! Mama was in the crowd. I heard her “Hoot” after I was done, then I saw her shoot from her seat, jump up and down excitedly, and begin clapping. I couldn’t believe I’d finished the routine and landed every turn, every dance move, and all of my lines were straight and perfect. I also think it helped that I had three of the best songs on the radio as a mix for my routine: Craig Mack’s Flava In Ya Ear, Total’s Can’t You See, and Method Man & Mary J. Blige’s All I Need.

The instructors were dancing. The senior dancers were getting down! Mama was grooving too. I had such a great time. We didn’t have to wait long. The instructors talked for about five minutes, then called me and Mama to their side and told me I made it! I couldn’t believe it! I made it! We hurriedly drove home so we could tell Daddy and that’s where we are now — home.

We get out of the car, Mama locks everything up and we hurry inside to search for Daddy. He is sitting in the living room watching college football. I half-smile at him and Mama leans in for a kiss and says, “Guess what, Paulie!” Daddy looks over at me, smiles wide, and says, “You did it, didn’t you, Sweetpea?!” He hops out of his chair, slides toward me, and lifts me up into the air. I feel like I’m flying — like I can touch the sky. I am so incredibly happy!

And then, my toe aches. It’s a pain that reminds me I probably overdid it during my audition. I signal for Daddy to put me down and sit on the floor. I take off my shoe, remove my sock, unwrap the ace bandage, and finally the bandaid and gauze. Blood has dried over my toe and half of two of my other toes. the gauze is yucky. Mama sends Daddy for the first aid kit and she goes through the routine one more time. She orders me to take a bath and leave my left foot hanging out while I bathe.


When I am clean, we have an early dinner — it’s 5:30 p.m. Daddy made lasagna, garlic bread, fresh salad, and sweet tea & lemonade combined. Mama calls it Arnold Palmer. Why? I don’t even know. Every bite of my dinner is delicious. I forget about the pain in my toe again. I slip into the mood of the day and relax in front of the t.v. while Daddy rinses the dishes, loads the dishwasher, and Mama tidies up the kitchen.

They join me and Mama gets up, places a tape in the VCR, and my face appears. My music for the routine plays. And she throws a smile my way. She recorded the audition, but how! She looks at me as if she knows what I’m thinking and says, “Todd, the other senior member you did not see, recorded the entire thing for us. I wanted your Daddy to see what you accomplished today, baby.”

I look over at Daddy, he’s dancing in his chair, Mama pulls him up, and they begin dancing together. I stand in the same spot — stuck, but happy. Stuck, but honored. Stuck, but connected to these two beautiful parents of mine who made a very, very happy Clover.


Originally published in Hinged.Press via Medium.

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV,  Part V, and Part VI

Clover

Flash Fiction

Photo by nappy via Pexels

Hi. I’m Clover. Clover Daniels. No middle name. Who are you? Lemme guess. Mama says our family gonna be coming over soon and I’ve gotta get my act together and clean house but . . . I can spare some time to speak with you.

That’s right! I’m guessing who you are . . . Are you the guy coming to interview my daddy, Linden Tillman or something like that? I bet you are! He ain’t here right now. My daddy’s got big plans for us. We’re supposed to be moving again. This time to someplace called Hopeulikit, Georgia. You ever heard of such?

Daddy says this place is an “unincorporated community.” Of course, I didn’t know what that was so I asked him to tell me. He said they don’t have to do the census. When my mama heard this, she sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes, and said, “Great, Paulie. Another place where we won’t be counted.”

I ain’t no fool. My mama keeps me on my toes. I know I’m Black. I know I’m a girl. I know we’re poor. And I immediately know Hopeulikit, Georgia probably ain’t a place for this Black, poor girl.

Daddy’s got people who left some land to him in Bulloch County so the move there is supposed to be a significant shift in our current status, but I’m not convinced. Mama says ain’t no amount of land worth moving to if you’re gonna be invisible.

My daddy’s a dreamer. Always has been — thinks he’s gonna build that land into something amazing; something that’ll cause the world to recognize who we are and what we can do. I wanna have faith in him. He looks so happy when he talks about his plans.


I’m his good luck charm. That’s what he says. Daddy named me Clover because I brought him luck. When I was kicking in my mama’s womb, my daddy got a promotion at his job down at Amtrak. I don’t know much about the ins and outs of money and what’s good or bad but he said he went from making $8.50 an hour to $12.00 an hour.

His whole face lit up; from his eyes to the corners of his mouth. He told me about his boss — about the day the offer came his way and how he and Mama were invited to his boss’s home for dinner. He gave me every little detail, including the sound the chandeliers made when the front door opened or closed.

I wish you could’ve seen him tell me this story. It was like . . . It was like some newfound energy snuck into his heart and lifted him outta sadness.

My mama’s a shopkeeper — has her own boutique with fancy-schmancy antique jewelry, clothing, shoes, and the like. It’s called “Clara’s Place: Antiques for the Soul.” I like going to the shop with her on the weekends. I help her open the store and sometimes she lets me greet the customers.

Business was booming five years ago, now . . . Mama can barely make $300.00 a day. And my daddy thinks us moving hundreds of miles away to a place tucked behind tick marks on a map is going to shift our luck.


Mama is tired. At this point, the complaints fall on deaf ears. My daddy’s mind is made up and that’s that. She’ll go along with this new venture because she loves him — because she knew she married a dreamer passionate enough to follow his dreams and well . . . “You’ll never know unless you try” rings just behind her ears. It’s what Daddy says every time something new to do circles around in his head.

Mama’s thinking about using a portion of that land for a garden: tomatoes, collard & mustard greens, cabbage, squash, and potatoes. She sees a future with us being completely farm fresh without having to depend on anyone else for our growth. Daddy loves the sound of this — loves to hear Mama thinking positively.

You listening? I see you jotting down what I’m saying from time to time but are you listening? This move could make or break us as a family. I can tell. I sense it. If it doesn’t work out maybe Daddy and Mama won’t anymore either and I just can’t stomach that.

I look around at all the cardboard boxes we’ve got stacked up and I know a change is coming that’ll call my girlhood into question. I’m just ready to see what this place offers. If Daddy is so hooked on it, something about it has to be right.


“Clover, baby. Who are you talking to?”

That’s Mama. She’s gonna ask you if I’ve bent your ear too much. It’ll be nice if you’ll let her know I didn’t, please.

Clara glides from the kitchen to the foyer of their home where Mr. Tullis and Clover are standing. She slides by some of the packed cardboard boxes in the hallway — casually making her way closer to him. She extends her hand for a brief introduction.

“Oh, you must be Mr. Tullis? I’m Clara. Paul should be home shortly. I see you’ve met Clover. Has she disturbed you any?”

She doesn’t wait for a response.

“Please, come right on in and have a seat. I’ll bring out the refreshments.”

Mr. Tullis nods his head with approval at the mention of refreshments and takes the advice from Clara and makes himself at home.

Mr. Tullis, you’re all right with me. Thanks for not telling on me. I like to talk is all — love people. I like to observe people. You know, you can learn a lot about a person by watching them read a book. Have you ever done that?

You’re here to survey this house, right? See what it’s worth . . . See if we’ve been keeping it up and if it’s good enough to sell? Listen, the best spot in this house is the attic. There is a treasure trove up there you wouldn’t believe but Mama doesn’t like me up there playing around so I don’t go up there as much as I’d like. And she’d have a conniption if I went up there now — there are boxes everywhere! Our lives follow us around in those boxes.

But, back to details of the attic . . . It can be anything. A hide-and-seek space, a guest room, a studio . . . You name it! You got kids? If you do, I bet you five nickels your kids would love it up there too! Oh! I think I hear my daddy’s truck pulling up. You’re gonna like him. You will. You’ll see.


“Clover! Come on in here and give me a hand, baby girl.”

Clover gathers herself hurriedly, shakes Mr. Tullis’ hand, and wanders off into the kitchen to her mother.

I gotta go now, Mr. Tullis. Remember what I said about the attic — it’s the sweet spot.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.