A son found his mother, slumped on the floor one night, stiff, unresponsive. He picked her up, thinking she slipped and fell, maybe from a heat stroke, a stressful day, and laid her gently on her bed. Not before he put a cool towel on her forehead and kissed her cheeks as he bade her good night.

The next morning, the son went to check on his mom. He found her just as he laid her, stiff, unresponsive, only this time, life became more urgent. Not his, but for a mother who lived and slumped, as if life never meant anything, as if all it seeks is to leave you stiff, and unresponsive too.

Stroke by stroke, each hour is a gift. Piercing through life, each moment fragile. Now son buries a mother, he first saw stiff, unresponsive. A mother departs, not as she came or lived, despite giving life to sons and daughters who still live.

I am wise enough to see that this mother could be anyone who forgets first to live. So with each passing day, I beg mothers anywhere, do what makes you smile. Cherish sunsets and long walks alone. Be friends with friends who make life glorious till the last call on a Friday evening. Laugh through ice creams and daffodils. Kiss foreheads of little ones and big ones you love. Live so life never finds you stiff and unresponsive.

Lucille Clifton always had the best images of black mothers. This is one of hers I love.

When my children say your name, Lucille Clifton, I smile.

How to carry water comes to mind. How to sail through this to that too.

I often wonder how you lived. Lived even beyond your own understanding. A good woman, an ordinary woman, a woman whose voice is light too.

I’ll never forget your Black BC’s, some of the days of Everett Anderson, moments where good-byes are not enough.

I too miss my dad, through and through and the hurt is still too deep.

But then your book of light, the notion that silence of God, is God, is the grace I need to reach beyond stars.

You for whom your blackness is like a star.

If I should ever find myself lost, if I should ever find myself in a garden of regret, I will settle against the bark of trees, hide within the fierce protection of falling leaves, and begin always with you.

I listened to Lucille Clifton’s children, Sidney, Alexia and Gillian today as they reflected on their mothers legacy with the Enoch Pratt Library. It’s was on the occasion of their mom’s death as she passed away today, 12 years ago. From them, I heard these words which I have kept here for myself and you all.

With Lucille’s daughter celebrating her legacy with Enoch Pratt Library.

Freedom, creativity, courage. The world needs the spirit, the light that moved in her. The world needs Lucille. She was a wellspring of strength, a mother, an extraordinary woman with a brilliant message. That creativity and art are necessary. Normal too and an outpouring of ourselves, our humanity, our strong foundation, for the ways of the world. The flow of life, like flow of a home should begin with creativity, begin with normalizing that which we all are, creative. Let your words speak your power, whether in joy or pain, sorrow or laughter. It’s okay to be sorrowful and joyful, all of that is part of life, being resilient, honoring and accepting all these things. That and reclaiming all that was once lost so generations never forget the stories and doing everything in life with a purpose.

Lucille lives on.

I love reflecting on the lives of Black authors and poets. My favorite being Lucille Clifton always. Her ways are God’s ways to me for he used her to minister to me. I am fascinated by the way she extended and enhanced her life as a writer, a mother, and a poet. Her love for all things Black and motherhood had sheer clarity. She knew how to use words to help you live beyond yourself. She used words to reflect on the past, the present and what generations after generations in the future needed to value and treasure, beginning with themselves, their legacy too.

There is a smooth evenness and passion in the ways she used words to reclaim her sense of light, reclaim history and make all we do, domestic, motherhood, even writing, seem extraordinary. She was extraordinary. Her words help make my world today coherent. She helped me remember and recover all sorts of stories from my life through words. She helped me assert agency as a storyteller, my way, however I choose to define it even with no model. She helps me accept my life as a mother and a scholar honestly. She helps me remain mindful of my purpose, my shared struggle with others, along this journey through life. She helps me experience community, yearn for it too. A community of like-minded people on a quest to find their light through the darkness of life. Those committed to becoming extraordinary in their own way. That’s what Lucille does to me. That she died today in 2010 is another reminder that so many of our great ones are gone and we are left to pick up where they left off. Lucille would want that. I intend to celebrate her always. Something tried to kill this, and has failed terribly.

I am undoing all that keeps my soul from prospering.

All that keeps me buried.

I am looking at the mirror to.

I know my soul.

I am like stars against the sky.

Like galaxies bouncing through space.

Becoming green as I pass through storms.

I know what stirs me.

I bow my heads in humility to know why.

Even all that holds my breath.

Every single thing I hold dear, seeks to rob me of my cares.

And if I fail.

If I fail to set my heart on fire or come close to deep waters.

Neither the fire nor the floods will engulf me.

Even the failure form part and not my whole story.

Contemplating your declaration that you alone know the plans, I am comforted by this calming thought: I know my soul.

Claude McKay

I am slowly making sense of writing in verse. Using my own ear and taste, turning words that come into compositions that suit my soul. And Claude McKay, the first great poet of the Harlem Renaissance is my guide today. His book Harlem Shawdows has so many short sketches that resonate with my soul. I have reflected on one of them before for a post that I called ‘if we must live.’

But this one on ‘I know my soul,’ was perfect for today. Maybe it’s his vivid brief descriptions of life. Maybe it’s his insistence on pledging no allegiance to any master. Something always keeps me yearning for more with him and it feels alright with my soul. I am drawn to how he puts ideas and feelings into words that move me. Mr. Claude McKay was quick to remind anyone that he never studied poetry in the traditional way. He refused also to use patterns, images and words that would make people stamp him as either a classicist or a modernist. He was neither. Only better. His knowledge and style suits my soul. They way he chooses melodies and rhythms by instinct or favors words and figures which flow smoothly and harmoniously is like a balm for my mind. I am also drawn to his directness, his truthfulness and naturalness of expression. In fact, he knows my soul and my soul glows in his words.

I imagine

undoing,

ending,

the woman

killing

memories

of girlhood,

in me,

unafraid,

believing,

in nothing,

just loosening,

trouble,

rustling

pain,

embracing,

love,

all buried

within,

like snow,

falling

rain,

liberating

my mind

Loving

this day,

I begin,

opening,

to you,

only you,

see

only you

can

begin this

I imagine,

undoing.

Memories of my girlhood.

The bits and pieces of my heart are slowly coming together through words. The prolific writer, bell hooks is my muse and guide through this process of undoing as well as so many other writers. But Ms. hooks speaks to my heart. I have been reading a lot about bell hooks of late. I began dancing in her words more when the pandemic began. She was the perfect salve for healing in a time of uncertainty. I buried myself deeply into everything she wrote. Her death took it to another level and well, not a day goes by these days that I am not pouring into anything she has ever written. She was a rare breed. My sister, my mother, my confidant, my friend, all in my head of course. She is the writer I long and dream to become. One unafraid to simply write. With no fear of sanctions or anything. I began reading about why she wrote her memoir “Bone Black,” which mostly focused on memories of her childhood. One thing I remember was her struggle to even begin. She once shared that when she made the decision to write about her journey to becoming a writer, there were no words.

Secrecy and silence for example, initially blocked her ability to write. To write about one’s life, to leave a trace of it, was frightening for her. Writing for her though became something to hold on to, to keep close. Writing ultimately helped her see the world clearly. These days, for me, writing has become a way of looking and seeing, a way to of undoing all that keeps holding me back from telling the stories I want to tell. I too have stared and continue to stare at blank screens, holding back for fear of breaking whatever bond, I have for keeping my thoughts hidden. Becoming bell hooks, choosing that named helped her kill Gloria Jean Watkins, her real name, and real self. To Ms. hooks, telling one’s story, even the process of telling, is tied to a longing to recover the past in such a way that one experiences both a sense of reunion and release. This longing for release compelled writing but concurrently fostered reunion, one that enabled her to write about her life in a way that allowed her to find herself. Like a living memory writing about the past can shape and inform the present, can foster self-growth and change in a practical way. One that I am truly looking forward to now that I am slowly delve into my undoing.

As rough as the grains of garri.

As smooth as the mold of eba.

This collection of lists to keep.

A collection of cares so deep.

Unclear what I’m doing.

But doing so with clarity.

Honest, honesty.

Of life as a mother.

Life as a health researcher too.

All in a time of a pandemic.

Where our ways do not connect.

Our writings do not fulfill.

What hearts and souls need.

So I continue to continue.

Radically open to new forms of brewing.

All still as rough as grains of garri.

But slowly turning to be as smooth as the mold of eba.

Lol. This is my attempt at poetry writing. I have been expanding my writing with poetry, trying to fuse my life as a mother, as a researcher using words that connect. I long to break free from the prison science writing has kept me in for too long. I’m in the mood for my writing to move beyond the space we call science. To move beyond the limits of the journals in our field. To reach people, especially those that look like me. Those in search of ways to find healing. I’m in the spirit to reach you and teach you. That our healing is a collective experience. Ours is a journey we can begin together, begin too from a place of love, whether different or the same. I’ll rather you stay just as you are. Stay different if it pleases your soul. I have no answer. Nothing I have been taught will free us from the prison we find ourselves. So I’m in the mood of going along the journey together with you. Watching as you discover all that is in you. All that is in me too. Listening and learning because we choose this path. Holding our hands together through the struggles and triumphs. I expect the struggles and I hope you prepare for them too. But most of all I am prepared to love us and I choose this place as our starting point. Plus the light that came to Lucille. And we are not done yet. We will continue to continue. Where we have been, all our lives is where we are going. With this collection of cares, this collection for us we begin to keep with love.

My teacher through poetry is the sterling Lucille Clifton.

With Black History Month coming up, I will try my best to perfect write poems, not as luxury, but to pay homage to many beautiful, black, gifted writers, that have gone to their heavenly rest. These they all did theirs best, I am entirely grateful that their words remain for all of us to keep. The next month is dedicated to keep words from them for me, for you.

I’ll like to bear witness to 2021. To remain rooted in some way. To all the life we endured. And remind you all to note that we are still here. This year brought me to my knees. Made me wail in ways that I never knew existed. It wasn’t just the death it brought, though that was intense and difficult. It was mostly the pain, and the uncertainty that accompanied periods of pain mixed with despair. But I’m still here. We were battered. We were bruised. We cried out from the depths of our hearts for things completely out of our control. We prayed. I remember screaming out the top of my lungs that what God cannot do does not exist. Yet, there were things or prayers that went unanswered. Times that made me question whether he existed. Surely when his children cry out to him from the depths of their sorrow, he would come to their aid. His own words makes it’s known that whoever and I mean whoever goes to him for safety would say he is our God. We did. We all took turns and went and yes he did his part to keep us and protect us. And though a thousand fell dead around us, one of them was more than enough to make us question whether he remembered us. But, we are still here. And so as I look back on the year that brought so much pain mixed with so much uncertainty coupled with a never ending desire to do more with my time on earth, I am reminded by the words of Langston Hughes paraphrased for me and my family today that, “We are still here.” Langston Hughes and his poetry have been a great source of comfort to me as we close out this year. Of course the word of God is forever at my side, but reading something as eloquent as still being here, made me realize that all of the pain, all of the uncertainty, even all of the struggle with this past year was worth it, because we are still here. So in closing out this chapter, this year, let me also remind you that you are still here and to me that’s more than enough.

You are still here. Still here. You may have struggled. Your lives may have trembled. Beneath waves that crushed. But, you are still here. Still here. You may have been exhausted. The pandemic keeps soaring. Numbers keep rising. Heaviness and burnout on your shoulders. But you are still here. Still here. You may have dreamed dreams. Flung your arms wide as you dreamed dreams that disappeared in the morning. But you are still here. Still here. You may have failed. Your toils may have been excruciating. With a failure that endlessly echo. But you are still here. Still here. You may have sown a seed. On grounds that did not sprout. All you labor may seem useless but you are still here. Still here. You may have been heartbroken. Love may have given up on you. All it’s patience, faith and hope may have failed you. But you are still here. Still here. You may have stopped laughing. You may have passed through life like shadows across the earth with no joy. But you are still here. Still here. You may have grieved. The death of a child, a partner, a loved one. Life in disarray for an end that came too soon, too painful to put to words. But despite this, you are still here. Still here. You may have fallen into despair. Fallen into the darkest and deepest pit. That you were close to death. Yet, you are still here. Still here. You may have even died. All your strength may have been gone. That you felt abandoned like the dead lying in their graves. I want you to know that you are still here. You are and it matters to me. That you keep knowing that you are still here. And for so many others, for you, the light that came to you. This light may have furiously knocked. Furiously insisted to remain. Furiously lighting up everything. Even in the midst of all the darkness around. Thank you for opening the door. Thank you for carrying your light as you showed us all how to still be here despite all the life you endured. Thank you for still being here. And I pray that 2022 will be more than you hoped for. May blessings be with you and may you find success in all you do.

Danielle Doby has a beautiful book worth keeping. It’s simple invitation, ‘come as you are’ is quite simply sterling. I am coming. I am coming into a space that allows me to choose in the name of my heart. I am all for a space in praise of my younger self’s quest for life’s light. I long for the tender infinite living within me and I thank Danielle for using words to help me greet my younger self with power. I embrace spaces that remind me not to skip the struggle. I am also in love with knowing that the light in me cannot always see and honor the light in you. Still we can find steady breath in our unknown light. We find lessons worth learning and relearning simply because nothing is meant to be done alone. Not even our light. And even when this season of discovery becomes closed off to others, I welcome the gift of light that continues to pour itself in dark places that surround me.

This is the gift of Danielle. The gift of being consumed by love. The gift of love in its fullest circle is worth finding, worth knowing, worth loving. It’s for this reason that I remain thankful for her reminder to keep being drawn to the light in others. It is how we know that we are not alone. Her book is a perfect guide on how to become seekers of light, how to let our stories exist so others can see for themselves the power of pain, the power of struggle, the power of stunning resilience and belonging that is also theirs to make as they choose. The sun was with Danielle as she wrote her book. I am thankful that my eyes opened and my mind choose to rest in the warmth of her embrace. I am still learning what it means to belong to myself in light for here and now and with other seekers of light. I love my sisters keeper and it’s sweet appeal to surround yourself with other women who show up and own their independence unapologetically but still believe in the collective’s success. I also forgot to remind you all to do as she noted and do what ignites worlds within you. She shared how we should all let our work and everything we create be a direct extension of our hearts space. Now more than ever, the world needs more of your light. All I can say is thank you for using your words to gift me light.

There is so much to love about this little book that ask you to keep I am her tribe. It will inspire you to reach deeply for the light within you, for your sun.

Nikki Giovanni has a poem called quilts. I read it in her poems and prose book ‘Make me Rain.’ The title first of all is a blessing in disguise, for those hungry to let words flow like raindrops on a cloudy day. Quilts as described by Ms Giovanni to me is like a fast-flowing river. Nothing seems to get in its way. Not the source which begins a river or the path through which it flows. All of it are connected to make a river flow. So too are quilts. Every single piece used to make a quilt is sewn together by design, is put together with love, lots of love too.

I have been thinking lately about the quilts that make me whole, every single piece that comes together to create all that I become. My life quilt is also like a river, with every single piece, a source of energy that shapes and form, all that I become. These pieces connect at a point, connect through hard hurdles and constant strife to tell our story. In the middle where we connect, in the middle where we intersect over tiny threads that meander back and forth, back and forth, through more hard hurdles, and painful strifes, in that middle, our greatest strides are taken, our greatest acts, created, as we become all that makes quilts precious. These unseen component of our connections, the untold stories of our flow, may very well be the reason we are built like rivers. And like rivers, may we continue to flow in love, grow in love, one piece at a time, one quilt at a time. Keep flowing like rivers, loving like quilts.