Claim To Fame: Why I Breathe Fire

Reflection:

The same thing I am praised for, is the same thing people try to snatch me for—this thing I do with these 26 letters.

In the face of abject crazy which is the current world, I would be remiss in my duties as a writer not to speak or record it. When I decided to lean into writing, being a writer as a career, I knew what I was getting into—what it would cost, and what I aimed to do in it.

This is the thing I love, communication and the art of word play. It’s what I do. It’s legit what I do. And for the love of it, I happen to write down my imagination to sell to people. I keep pens on hand, my desk is covered in papers and my laptops are always running out of space.

This, indeed, is my sweet spot.

Love and blessings,

JBHarris

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From The Crates: Black Writer Poem (August 2022)

They would’ve killed me for what I do now.

the knowledge of the Bible

read, both in person

and on paper

with ink being

the same color as blood

before the fire of oxygen

hits it–

They would’ve killed me for what I do now.

Tongue cut out

hung from trees

as a warning–

as the barbaric English forced

On my ancestors

but demands your English

Be my first language.

When I first was able

to communicate pain

Or how I call my mother

how I wait for my father

it is always been words

that have kept me,

Yet at the same time

I have kept them–

I have grasp them

hold them tightly in

my dominant right hand–

subduing the same language

which has always yielded

strange fruit.

They would have killed me for what I do now.

-JBHarris, August 2022

From The Crates-Thanksgiving 2015

This is Thanksgiving.

As a young girl, the thrill of the holiday was never the food…but the sounds. I was excited because I would get to hear and see all these people that I hadn’t seen all year, or not often enough. I would get to hear stories, hear dialects and Englishes, and ruckus laughter. There was always laughter at Thanksgiving.

In my 34th fall, this is the first holiday that have not cooked and incorporated my own family into the greater of my family at large. As I wrote in the effigy at my grandmother Arceal Williams’s funeral, I wrote that her home was a place you “gathered strength and peace and prepare for war, before going back into the wide, wide world.” Her house was a focal point, my steady place, my rock when all else seemed questionable.

I visited this same place not even two weeks ago, and it was akin to a cemetery. There were relics, dust—the ashes of love—everywhere. There was a quiet there I had not known until that moment. It was the stillness one could only see and on the other side of the grass where eyes to be opened in soil. There was no stove, no fridge, no evidence of the life which was there, the lives grown there like same soil of her garden inundated with vines now.

On this day of Thanks,I am thankful for being able to be a part of the greater, to become the greater, to relay the greater. I am thankful for being able to see on THIS side of the grass. I am thankful for the amalgum that is my family…it is beyond blood now–I have been adopted, redopted and engrafted all before this time. I am thankful for this legacy that I now call love and family.May we all continue to laugh.

-Jenn Harris, age 34

Read. Black & Woman.

This is the essay which will be in the anthology STORIES OF THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE to be published by the St. Louis County Public Library. -JBH

            I am a Black woman.

I am a Black woman whose grandparents were enslaved, sharecroppers, and whose parents are college educated.  The American Experience for me is based around words, narratives, and oral traditions—it is no wonder I am a writer.

            With this artistic designation, I am aware the thing which I am good at, have gotten accolades for, recognition regarding—would have gotten me murdered 159 years ago! For the desire of learning, for my natural inclination and proclivity for language, would have gotten me murdered.

            When I reconcile the American Experience with my cultural and personal history, I am forced to admit the same thing which has freed me, killed my ancestors. The dexterity of language, my verbal acrobatics, and my slick mouth would have made me a ‘woman most unruly’…if I was White. Since I have no hope of whiteness, as a Black woman, I would have been the mare needing to be broken under field work, whips, or tree limbs.

            I reconcile that history, that most American ancestry for the enslaved, and I determine to say everything that my grandparents could never say. I make it an effort put pen to paper, letters on screen for visibility.

Or spite. Either will do.

Nikki Giovanni says, “Rage is to writers what water is to fish.” Indeed, Nikki. It is that rage I seek to understand, to source, and which fuels the things which need to be said! I grab it, dig it up, and put fiction, prose, or poem to it.

My way has been paid for me, through time and sorrow. There is a need in me now to express, critique, submit and record. From there, I am a dragon of my own making; my Phoenix tattoo substantiates that. So, indeed let the rage be the fuel.

 

I breathe fire. I will leave a mark. I must! The generation coming depends on it.

-JBHarris, September 2022

Bonus Piece: Fast Girl Epilogue (NSFW)

While this piece was not included in this printed work, it was too good not to share.

When I asked you

to be my first,

I meant that

first—

last

The everything

first time

my legs would shake

on your shoulders.

The first time

I will ever feel a

spread in my hips

to the point every chakra

would realign to

ruin me for

any other man

that would dare

look at me

knowing that I was yours

deeper than senses

longer than love

quicker than Lightning flashes –

that kind of belonging

you can’t buy…

that kind of power—

you can’t mimic

when I asked you

into my body

to be the first

to explore

to awaken

to erupt everything in me

that was meant for you

I meant that.

I meant that,

like God is real

admitting all I held

for you—

would belong to you,

which means there

was a lock on the inside

of me with

your name on it—

If you thought my

mouth was slick,

You’ll find out

What else already is

A lock that

no one could find

but you—

Just like they put

names on hollow point

bullets so that the soul

will be captured,

I wanted to be

captured—

to be held

to be found

by you and none but you.

Knowing the caliber of love

and love making,

Relentless exploration

that the kids call fucking

you would give to me

—and only me —

because I asked

it of you.

when I asked you

to be my first

I meant for you

to be the last

because how often

do you get to

touch the sun

and live to tell about it?

-JBHarris, October 2022

New Book: Sweethearts & Love Notes

To grab this book on Amazon or Kindle, click here.

I have written fast before, but this? This book poured out of me.

Through the lack of social media, and the uncanny nature of my own life, I have found my childhood sweetheart. For respect, I won’t give his name here, but he knows this book exists.

If you know you know.

I have not seen him in 21 years, and yet he remembers the last thing I wore, and I saw him before he saw me.

I all but ran to him. Hugged him. And the world fell away. No, that is not an exaggeration.

For those feelings, for the power of that connection, I wrote! In being transparent, this was the man I thought I would marry.

There are attributes of this connection I have looked for in other relationships–to this day (I mean #ForeverBae plays Poker AND Chess!)!

This chap book is a reminder to me that…maybe I am still a love poet after all. As and maybe (just maybe) this is a reminder to younger me that I wasn’t crazy–and neither was he.

The butterflies were real and still are.

Favorite pieces:

Love Note #3

Hymnals

When Beale Street Talks

To The First Work

Being a love poet, during social change is interesting. As you confront things around you which need, love, accountability, and justice… There is something in you that is overjoyed when you can be reconciled to that first work: love.

Knowing people that you care for sale in the world, that they are well, and that life has treated them well so far. Perhaps that is the justice of being a love poet… Love will always be your light, heat, and smoke. 

-JBH, November 2022

My Mom Texted Me At 5 AM To Go Vote

My mother doesn’t sleep—

and now with her being

the proud owner

of an empty nest,

she makes her rounds

every morning to make sure

all baby eaglets

with nest of their own

are fine—

but with the approaching

wildfire season, she touched

her wing to the head of her

Oldest Babybird

to remind her

it is her turn to go save the world.

-JBHarris, November 2022 (US Midterms 2022)

Elegy For A Dean Girl

His voice sounds
like how whiskey tastes
dark and hot
making you forget
all your problems
with one look
or one sip
should you be
gracious enough
to handle what comes
with no chaser—
what girl wouldn’t
want the guy
who was able to
chase the monsters away,
being able to see
what fear looks like
and towards it
in something that
is all American muscle
because as we know:

“Driver picks the music
passenger shuts his cakehole…”

Brother.
Father.
Lover.
Demon.

the embodiment of
wishes and dreams,
In leather jackets
And glass green eyes
Hiding more
Than the mouth will
Ever say

given to us
over and over again
through John and Mary,
big brother to Sam, Cass, Jack & Adam
And the vessel of the
most fearsome Michael—
it is to him that we
owe restless nights
and quiet mornings
and to know that
whatever is in the closet
under the bed
Or watching
From outside
he’s got to go
through him first.

Rest well Dean.

-JBHarris, October 2022

A Poet Is A Prophet Is A Poet

It is our job to take rage and give hope.

The job a prophet is tell the truth in love. There is a prophet in every poet and a poet, in every prophet.

Truth must be revealed no matter what is going on.

Hope must be given, despite the grief and circumstances!

I believe more poets are like Jeremiah: knowing the truth and no one‘s going to believe until all of law be fulfilled.

For the prophet, poetry is the vehicle we deliver truth, love, and fire.

There must be something we leave, we retain, that we reckon to remember—poets are the guardians of conscience, culture and circumstances. At the fall of the human will, when the soul is in despair—there we will be amongst the wreckage and rubble of suffering.

You must leave hope and do your work. Trust and believe it is worth it! To leave hope in the—world is to pick are the lock on Pandora’s box through the intention of all things.

At all times and all in all places and spaces.

We still must be able to leave hope.

-JBHarris, October 2022