A Celebration of the Life of Brenda Connor-Bey

Close Love — A Bop
               For Fahja

She felt my heart long after I left her womb
This was unspoken but felt by us both. When I
was eight, while she slept on the beach, the song of
salt air, ocean music and voices pulled me away from her.
Even with her eyes closed, she scanned supine
tanning bodies, found me before tears slid from my center of fear.

Sometimes close can be a burden
Sometimes, a blessing in disguise

Bonds linked so closely create a tortured
route for teenaged lies. Hard to sidestep
a mother like this. Crooked words slid down glass.
Questions darkened greasy walls.
My lies traveled nowhere. I gave up.
Why bother? She looked and turned away.
Like me, she’d had enough.
I felt her heart struggling to breathe.

Sometimes close can be a burden
Sometimes, a blessing in disguise

Distance smoothes rough edges, gives you space to grow.
Old connections begin to make sense. Phone calls happen,
her voice whispers on summer breezes. Her belief in
the rightness of life gives my heart wings to soar with God’s angels.
But sometimes I crave those moments when she spooned
her body around mine protecting me from the cold.

Sometimes close can be a burden
Sometimes, a blessing in disguise


 

FLOWERS III – PANAMA FISHING MAN

I remember you made me hear laughter
instead of loud crying songs
Showed me Caribbean beats as you
placed my small feet on top of yours
dancing the meringue in a kitchen
warm with baking gingerbread

You told me
loose women feel apart
because they lost their senses

You said:
“Let me teach you how
to smell the rain, girl
know when it’s coming
gonna show you what a man really like I’ll show you the ocean
make you hear the songs in the waves
You got to know dis chile
‘cause every man want a woman
who know how to fish good!”


 

Midnight Moon
                    For Marc Bumathi Joseph
This story has been told many times; how the faceless,
nameless Haitian wooed a milk-white, blue-eyed black woman,
loved her till she swole up, bursting with sparkling chimes,
tumbled into life on a moonless autumn night. That child
was blessed with who she would become — Grace.

The story thread, knotted in three-finger
lengths, frayed beyond repair and glued where
its final breath whined before jumping
like water on a hot pan, gathered remnants from last words,
replaced with phrases or scenarios, tickling imaginations of
listeners, making the speaker look good.

My version of this tale landed in a poem.
Images burst through a darkened New England winter
while I dreamed this story. I could see his face;
imagined his tobacco and bay rum smell, knew the feel of
an always-present sun beneath his skin. But I try not to lean
into that dream too long. My inward search
for this nameless man produces a centuries’-old yearning,
something that goes deeper than the soul.

This pain hollows out interiors. It is too great to contain.
It is that yearning pushed aside where links are erased, making wholeness possible. I seek something to quiet
the shatter shatter of an invisible mirror. It is only an ache,
one that can be healed. This is my reminder everytime
I feel the slipping downward pull of loss and wonder.

How do I say, yes, my grandfather was Haitian?
No, I do not know his name?
No, I do not know which part of the country his family came from?
No, I do not know his name…?

This story lives in the air I breathe.
It travels in bloodlines.
Blood always finds its way home.


 

Willie Ten Spade
After Whitfield Lovell’s Rounds VIII & Rounds XXV, 2006-2007

We whispered “Willie 10 Spade”
after his scent of Old Spice, Lucky Strikes and
sweet and brilliantine hair cream were
left hanging in the air

Could have been that strange cut of hair he wore
Shaved back hairline
shaped his face into a high yella spade
Kinfolk say he was tryin’ to show
off the plains of Indian blood running thru his veins

me and my friends
say he just wanted
us to see
all of him, that’s all!

We all know spades s’pposed to mean
no luck, but Willie was a hard playing
Boston bid whist man
never lost a game in his life
that’s how the story went
when liquor was flowing
and all lies matched the easy down
of sparkling amber liquid

Willie played his cards
played both women and men
but never messed with anyone
always left alone because he
waited for that 4b light to shine
before making his move

Every woman on our block wanted
to be that 9 diamonds dancing lady in 4b
that took his mustard yellow eyes
and purring cat’s voice away from
our imaginings
Us dancing, his wide pant legs
blowing in the wind
but you know the dreams of young girls
We’d wait Saturday afternoons
when Willie walked to 7th Avenue
to get her some chicken and waffles

We’d stand back
Take a deep breath
And dream a little more


Woman in the Woods
After Enock Placide’s painting

When I first saw her
I was young enough to believe
the artist erased her face on purpose
a cloth taken to still-wet canvas
brown acrylic smudged gently
erasing her smile
Laughter caught mid air

I imagined where he began
Her dark eyes, doorway to her soul
Was this knowing woman being swallowed whole
by muslin balled up tightly
floating above dappled, muted greens and
browns of the forest in this painting?
Or was her breath snatched away
with a quick wipe of sponge?
Did her nose leave her face the same way?
Or was she in the act of seeking the flowery
pink bursting spores exploding on canvas?
Placide, the Haitian visionary
whispered in moods shifting
between the faceless woman and I

As I grew older, even though still faceless, this
woman in white speaks to me of futures and pasts
Seeks my counsel as the soggy floor on which I stand
disappears, sending me into a downward spiral
until I land at the beginning of my thoughts
once again allowing myself to be led there
where the question of erasure comes and goes
Trusting that, even without a face
she knows what she saw

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