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  • Cousin JJW

                                       (Fly, sister fly!)

     

    Shopping for fabric in Beijing, baby-

     

    Sitting in D.C., catching world-class

     

    Jazz in jazz corners of the world—

     

    Fly, sister, fly!

     
     

    Kickin’ it with friends, every continent,

     

    Time zone, currency, black pinheads

     

    Populating her den map represent—

     

    Fly, sister, fly!

     
     

    Peepin’ more mountain peaks piercing

     

    Cumulus clouds, logging more miles than

     

    The Harlem Globetrotters, rockin’ and

     

    Rollin’ more turbulence than the Rolling

     

    Stones, seeing more seat belt signs than

     

    Boeing, saying more “Return tray tables

     

    To their upright and locked positions” than

     

    Hail Marys in a Catholic church, hearing

     

    More 37,000 feet-90-proof confessions than

     

    The Pope—Senior Mama, magna cum laude—

     

    Fly, sister, fly!

     
     

    Fancy flights making Queen Bess proud as

     

    Africans with Sycamore models, anticipating

     

    Flight two millenniums ago; she’s the one

     

    The Wright Brothers dreamed of, flying

     

    Featherless birds at Kitty Hawk—kindred

     

    Spirit, tasting flight, forever walking with

     

    Eyes cast skyward—

     

    Fly, sister, fly!

     
     

    And, when life gets busy bumping us and

     

    Our carry-ons are tears, she’s there, calmly

     

    Clicking seatbelts taut, pouring Champagne,

     

    Preparing to toast us… at cruising altitude—

     
     

    Fly, sister, fly!

    Fly, sister, fly!

     

     

     

    Raymond Nat Turner © 2009 All Rights Reserved

     

    ***

    Fire From My Mother

     

     

    Fire spirit…

    Fire heart…

    Fire breath…

    Breathing in,

    Nostrils flared,

    Out, lips pursed,

    Hearing echoes of you

    I am never alone

    You are here when

    I’m breathing fire,

    From this world,

    Never alone, breathing

    Fire from my belly

    Infused with embers

    Of your eyes, hearth of

    Your heart, umbilical cord

    Connecting us once like deep

    Sea diver to oxygen tank,

    Sunlight to life, vitamin D

     

    I breathe in fire breath

    You feed me, like the eagle

    Feeding her weak fledgling—

    “Every crow thinks her crows

    Are blackest,” you said…

     

    I breathe in fire, like a bellows

    In sweaty blacksmith palms

    Breathes in air, I breathe in

    Fire, healers breathe, shamans

    Breathe, warriors, witch doctors

    Dancing ‘round leaping

    Red fingers of flame, breathe

    I breathe in breaths of fire

    From flames you ignited…

     

    ***

    Meeting Mr. Inniss

     

    I met Mr. Inniss in the gym.

    He’d escaped his mechanical

    overseers.

     

    His black boxing gloves

    looked deadly serious. But

    I knew I’d rob him. Rob him

    the way Steve, my younger

    brother, and I’ve robbed

    Elders since we were boys.

     

    We wouldn’t shout commands:

    “Hands up, gimme your time

    and the knowledge we need!”

    We’d simply fire question after

    Question after question after

    Question…

    And just like that, we’d strong-

    Arm ourselves yet another mentor!

     

    Mr. Inniss’s wiry frame and

    backend of his‘70s gait didn’t

    Deceive my baaaaad dude

    Detector. It reigned fully charged

    and calibrated and sounded off in

    my boisterous belly laugh…

     

    Mr. Inniss spoke in understated

    tones about the young wannabe

    baaad hooligan he left crumpled

    at turnstiles of a Brooklyn train.

    Mr. wannabe baaad invaded Mr.

    Inniss’s space, dissing, threatening,

    “You gotta get outta my way,

    Pops!”

     

     “Shit!” boomed an MTA booth mic

    as Mr. Inniss dropped and stepped

    Over the thug-in-training

    and on to his express train.

     

     Now, that’s gray nuance I love

    That’s the complication

    Caffie taught me as a toddler by

    Reading over and over the fairytales

    and nursery rhymes, and singing the

    Lullabies I loved

     

    Mr. Inniss jabs, slides, saying he’d be

    too impatient to teach me; he ducks and

    Uppercuts, escapes my clinch saying he’s 92—

    that year between—

    when Caffie and Uncle James checked out.

     

    ***

     

    NYC Morn

     

    I love NYC Heavy Metal mornings,

    Salsa afternoons and Jazzy evenings—

    bandmates gracefully weaving in and

    Out of charts, dissonant chords on faces

    Tethered to Jobs Strange Fruit, dis-

    connected from the orchestra’s others

     

    I love NYC Heavy Metal mornings,

    Salsa afternoons and Jazzy evenings—

    Occupy guest conductors bringing

    Bands back, same measure, same

    signature, same breath—struggling

    Eric Garners, Michael Browns,

    Sandra Blands; black notes matter

    on whole pages of…

    Rests: November circus medleys,

    Transmogrifying: looped bugles,

    Bugles, bugles, bugles, bugles…

     

     

    Raymond Nat Turner © 2015 All Rights Reserved

     

     

     

    About The Author

    Photo credit:  Debra St. John

    Raymond Nat Turner

    Raymond, poet, spoken word artist/performer, and vocal musician was privileged to have read at the Harriet Tubman Centennial Symposium. As artistic director of the stalwart JazzPoetry Ensemble, UpSurge!, he has appeared at numerous festivals and venues including the 2015 Berkeley Art Festival, as well as at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and Panafest in Ghana West Africa. Raised in Los Angeles and currently residing in Harlem, NY, Turner is a quintessential New York City poet. He is poet-in-residence at Black Agenda Report, and a frequent contributor to Dissident Voice, and Struggle magazine. He is also a steering committee member of the New York chapter of the National Writers Union. Raymond has opened for such people as James Baldwin, People’s Advocate Cynthia McKinney, radical sportswriter Dave Zirin and California Congresswoman Barbara Lee following her lone vote against attacking Afghanistan. Raymond Nat Turner has performed for aaduna fundraisers in Harlem (2014) and Auburn, NY (2015.) See www.upsurgejazz.com for more information on Turner.  (Photo Credit:  Debra St. John)