When I was
Baptized by water
-JBHarris, July 2022
When I was
Baptized by water
-JBHarris, July 2022
Be content the great cloud of witnesses say.
All the mammies
But they still speak
Reaching from ancestor
Planes, with burns
On their backs,
Limps, unwhole missing
Skin, Teeth and Limb
From the word no.
It is their strength
To survive they
Provide, while warning
Us of what it
Cost them to
And yes is better.
Yes to your will
Yes to your way
Warning us in dreams
Of the 2 faces of this
Life–peace and war.
Yet we war for peace,
And for our peace those
Who value nothing
War for everything!
Be danger of your
Fire because they
Liable to beat it outcha!
Cool yuh in the dark
Of the earth
Or make you new
Branches in juniper trees
Just do what they ask ya
Like they ask,
Yessuh, juss like that
Not everyone can
But not everyone
They died for our bravery
Bc no greater love
Has no man than this
To lay down his life
For his life for his friends–
are alive and remain
And remain to be alive…
This bridge called
My back remembers
And feet made flat
To go through grass
As eyes water as the
Last memory held
Is being told not
We have counted
The cost of fire
And bravery and
Bending the tongue
Of owners and masters
With the lips given
By The Word.
If He is always speaking–
Then so will we.
So will I.
-JBHarris, July 2022
Grab a copy on Amazon! The Kindle version is coming!
One of my favorite songs is, and may always be, Next Lifetime.
There is a honesty to this song, a wondering, and a realizing that while life is changing–so are you.
This collection of poetry was written about a year ago, and started with the work Reflections From A Back Porch Swing. This poetry collection tells of how my own body is aging and betraying me at points. I talk about the new relationship I accidentally fell into, and even the shifting nature of motherhood now.
Everything is happening, and I am in the everything! In this shifting levels of amazing, there is a peace I have found in these pieces. There is more of me in this work, as a realized, happy 41-year-old woman, than I ever had before.
This lifetime, this lifetime and next lifetime, is amazing!
Writers are people. We have emotions, thoughts, biases, hangups and issues. Sometimes the hardest thing—especially now!—as the world is spinning towards the sun that we don’t know what to say. Or what to write. Being known as a writer (especially in the social media age) … Continue reading The Burden Of The Pen: “I Don’t Know What to Say…”
I am an avid lover of fruit, and trying my best to eat better and take care of myself. But, here I am hating kiwi.
I don’t like kiwi! I don’t like kiwi because it confuses me! It is brown, fuzzy, and green on the inside, only to be full of seeds! What is this, Lord?! And you want me to eat this–WHY? No, I cannot commit to eat a fruit that I cannot be sure should not be used in an ancient summoning rite?
I will stick with my strawberries.
My mother told me that “you have good genes.”
As a Black woman, I expected nothing less. No one looks at me and thinks that I am 40, soon to be 41. I drink my water, I have now committed to skin care, and a good night cream. I wear sunglasses, neither do I drink or smoke. I laugh often, and enjoy sex (it hits different after 40, trust me).
But, with all this new confidence in and at age 40, I understand that time is precious, and also because of my age, I am no longer considered young. Or youthful. And I am old enough to have a daughter 20 years younger. It’s weird though! I don’t feel old. So, I don’t know what it will be to be old.
I think that all the ‘old women’ are some of the most incredible people I have ever known! The fact that I can be discriminated against because I have lived?! That seems beyond unfair! In a culture that values everything instant, readily available and renewable–it would make sense that it doesn’t value time or age.
I am aging. I accept that–with deep sighs though! But there is that love hate relationship there! I am humble enough to know I don’t know everything, but confident in what I know because I’ve lived through some amazing nonsense! Ageism isn’t a wise believe pattern–it really isn’t.
I refuse to fault a woman (or a man for that matter!) for living…that seems dumb. Why would I fault someone for something that I, myself, do every single day–age.
I am a bibliophile.
My library is in three places–physical books, Audible books, and my Kindle. So when it comes to books, I am thinking of what it means to say “I didn’t like this book.” But if I had to define that, it would have to be Merrick by Anne Rice. The reason why I didn’t like this book is complex! I love that Anne Rice included BIPOC people in her expansive universe, but I hated that she just abandoned Merrick!
As a Black woman whom is a horror fan, for her to see ME in this universe, only to have Merrick as powerful as she was, to just GO AWAY? That is a deep hurt and injustice. With her passing away in December of 2022, I never got to ask her why.
A book that I love is by Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother To Give Birth. I love this book because of it’s honesty, and the crafting that Shire gives in her poetry. There is a power to a poet who can do this–I see this in Sunni Patterson’s work as well. Being able to draw you in, keep you there, remind you that you never need to leave.
I love this book because Warsan’s honesty is as melodic as it is beautiful. As a Black woman, that is always needed and necessary.
Ah, my other passion: tattoos.
I am a big believer that writers have ink in their blood, and is demonstrated by tattoos. But, my ink is as follows:
Current piece: Lower right quadrant of my back, 3 Japanese kanji that say “Phoenix” in Japanese. This is a crucial piece for me because (1) my sister speaks Japanese, and it was through her confirmation that I got this tattoo (I didn’t want this to say what it didn’t truly say); it is a reminder that I am resilience, beautiful, and (3) my alter ego is still Jean Grey.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions I haven’t gotten the other three pieces. But, they are planned down to placement and color.
Future piece #1: Left ankle. This piece I have thought about for 6 years, but never had time and money together to do. I have the budget for it and time finally. This piece is going to be 3 magnolias (white, pink, violet), because magnolias are one of my favorite flowers and also the state flower of Mississippi. It is a nod to my grandmothers. It is a nod to the women who helped to make me who I am, as well as a reminder that I am tougher than what the world thinks. Also with the quote from the Shakespeare play, Antony & Cleopatra: “Give me my crown, put on my robe, I have immortal longings in me.” YES.
Future piece #2: Right hand/wrist. This piece would be the word Griot–which is a nod to my storytelling propensity, with Psalms 45:1 under it. In a delicate script. I can over with with a sleeve or a makeup.
Future piece #3: Left forearm. a Monarch butterfly with Doc’s Girl in script under it, and Joshua 1:9 over it. Again, this can be covered by a shirt–I am in Corporate America, after all. It’s a nod to my Dad, and that he’s always with me.
Future piece #4: Right shoulder. The name Merrique–in honor of Merrick Mayfair. Merrique is the French spelling of this character’s name. Read Merrick and then Blackwood Farm.
Future piece #5: Left/Right shoulder. The handprint of my spouse. I nod to our connection, this love and he will be with me…until we can be together again. Don’t worry…I’m taking my time with this. I’m a romantic, not a sadist.
I decided to believe in myself, and this series enough to make this a book of essays. Look for this book of the same name in May 2022. -JBH
I am a lover and a fighter. I am a silk hand in an iron glove. I am the same woman that can house love and fury, which do sometimes intersect in my linguistic acrobatics.
For that reason, I won’t give up on love. That emotion is too powerful to abandon, and love to great a reward to forsake. Yet, there are still so many things in the world that need to be changed, realized, and can be, will only be changed through love.
I am learning that love is three fold: power, acknowledgement and resolve. Love is never something weak, to be looked at as if it were something weak. Yet, even as it relates to writing, this is still a work of love. A record that someone in the world saw, lived, and left a record of someone whom strived to do better. To love a little better, a little wider, and to protect a little more. But, by heart–and I feel much like the Apostle Paul this way! The desire in me to change the world is so great, and also there are days where I want to leave the world to burn by the timber and fuel of its on ignorance! But I am reminded of my own heart, that ability to love, right?
In that own inner wisdom, I have said, “We fight, because we cannot afford to die.” This, too, is love.
There is a writer girlfriend of mine, Jessie Sandoval, who said this: “St. Louis will either make you a warrior, or a poet.” Being one whom is a native of this town, this is absolutely correct.
In being raised in a city that is blatantly racist, that operates in systemic oppression where #FergusonIsEverywhere, writing was always my outlet. It was always my weapon, my tool, and my way out. The fact that I happened to write a good love poem every now and then, didn’t mean that my desire to burn down every oppressive tool and idol in Missouri went away!
At this point in time, I realize that both portions of my creativity are needed. With the most essential thing being that my heart needs to stay soft. That is the most revolutionary thing that happens to activists, and it feels like a magic trick! You have to be prepared to fight, and at the same time, protect your heart enough to see what is wrong around you to not become cyclic or apathetic!
That is what I am doing, dear ones. I am sure you may have heard the term “the iron fist in the silk glove”. I believe this applies to me more than I thought it would! I am learning that I have to be soft enough to draw in the people I need to protect, to love, and to serve, and strong enough to protect them.
I know I won’t get it right all the time, but I can’t quit. There is entirely too much at stake. James Baldwin reminds all writers to do their work so that, “When I am needed, I will be there.” This iron fist in a silk glove is just part of that work.