poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

July 30, 2011

5 MORE POEMS: In Memory of David Blair (1967-2011)

I’ve had insomnia since learning about the sudden death of our friend David Blair,
singer-songwriter/musician/organizer/performer and National Poetry Slam Champion. Here are some of the poems that I’ve written as a result, Blair’s parting gift, I suppose. 

1.          Denial is Always the First Stage

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Sunday, July 24, 2011, 1:00 PM 

for David Blair, 9/19/67 – 7/23/11

Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh NNNOOOOO!!!!! This cannot be happening.This cannot be true.Tell me something different.Not this.I need to hear something different.How can this be true?Why is this happening?Why did you leave us so early?

Goddamnit, WHY?

I keep hoping that

Maybe this is a case of the game “Telephone” gone bad:

You know, I watched you lead that once as an icebreaker

To entice a giggling circle of youth to craft bodacious poems,

Enjoying the whisper of words and lies unfolded.

So, you know, this could just be “Telephone” gone bad, right?

Or maybe the static between the sobs on the other end of the phone

Muffled the real truth: that you are really alive.

Maybe Jenny and the five other Detroit Summer doulas who called

Didn’t mean to say that you died in your sleep, trying to escape the heat.

Maybe they really meant to say that you were just “vacationing”, oh, I don’t know—“in Sleeping Bear Dunes? To escape the heatwave of the D?  Yeah, that’s it. That sounds much better. (You know I had wanted to take you there one day, Snap a photo and title it “Blair on the Bear”. Maybe we can still do that. Together.)

Maybe I can just call you right now to see if you pick up.

Maybe just to be able to hear the tenor and bass of your voice.

Maybe this is all just a dream;

Maybe I should go back to sleep now and

Maybe you will call early in the morning, like you usually do.

Maybe the heat is just getting to me too.

Maybe I have really lost my hearing and am hallucinating.

Maybe you were really an undercover agent, just assigned to Detroit to infiltrate the Left.

Maybe the FBI decided to just give you a new identity. I would be perfectly fine with that.

Maybe if I wander to a remote state, like I don’t know — Kansas,

Maybe I can wave a magic wand or click my heels three times and find you there,

A spectacled professor teaching African American music at a community college, or

A bearded bartender at your own saloon,

Listening to other people’s stories and writing your own.

Maybe my island blood has spent too many years bleeding in the Mitten

To even think that the most unbelievable could be true.

I mean, how am I supposed to believe that you, the one person who was so full of life,

You, who survived Michigan winters with no electricity, reading poetry by flashlight,

You, who survived the assembly line at Cry-Slur and the streets of the D,

You, the bravest, hottest man I know—died, maybe from the goddamn HEAT?

Yeah, I said it.

That just makes no goddamn sense at all.

————


2.         The Last Time I Saw You: Questions for Uncle Blair

         © by Emily P. Lawsin

Sunday, July 24, 2011, 11PM 

for David Blair, 9/19/67 – 7/23/11

The last time I saw you,

We shared a typical Detroit summer day.

You walked in your slippers to meet us in the Cass Corridor,

Kissed me on the cheek, while slyly clicking a snapshot of my jeweled sandals,

Crooning, “Look at those shoooooooes,” and

Guessing correctly: another gift from my (other) gay brother.

We ate Mexicantown’s tres leches birthday cake together, in the three sisters’ garden,

Which, until a couple of years ago was attached to an abandoned

“Blair Hair Salon”, where I had always wished we had taken your photograph.

My five-year-old daughter sat, as she always did, bouncing in your lap,

At Kibibi’s backyard barbecue-turned-impromptu-open mic,

Where you, of course, were the unannounced featured artist,

And the five year old, for the first time ever, volunteered to be your opening act.

Your jaws dropped when she sang a Glee medley of

“Lean on Me”/”Don’t Stop Believing”, a cappella.

Well, why wouldn’t she, with you as her most influential and favorite “uncle”?

Then, when you performed your signature “Detroit, While I Was Away” poem,

As a gift to everyone in the backyard dust,

Hanging your arms like slam dunks in the sky,

We all wondered if you would notice the electrocuted squirrel right above you,

Completely thawed from its assailant snowstorm, and

Dangling from the electricity line that DTE still has not yet removed!

But even that couldn’t throw you off beat:

The depths of your Ebony Eyes have seen much worse tragedies.

Before Pat and Julia broke out the plastic bags of week-old fireworks

And host Shayla and pregnant Becca stoked S’mores in the fire pit,

You took an hour to kiss everyone bye like you always did,

With the five year old trying to anchor your leg,

And exited the party before sunset.

Your Reasons for Leaving: to have family Sunday dinner at Matt and Bev’s.

Their toddlers would be asking for you, their godfather, their “Uncle B”.

Had I known that would be the last time I saw you,

I would have agreed to more picture taking,

And clicked my own rare candid of your gap-tooth smile –

Which I told you is a sign of royalty.

Your humble self would laugh that off, then in all seriousness say,

“I don’t know if it’s a sign of royalty, or a sign that I get no royalties.”

Then share your bellowing laugh again.

Had I known that would be the last time I saw you,

In the purple and gold shimmer of Second Avenue,

I would have clenched you so much tighter and longer when we hugged goodbye,

And I would not have scolded the five year old to let go of you,

As she pulled on your hands and shirt tail, begging you to stay.

Now, just two weeks later, can you or someone please tell me:

How do I tell her the news about her favorite “Uncle” Blair?

What do I tell this child, the one who would always run to you,

Squealing your name, jumping up and down,

Even through a Crowded House, just for one of your big bear hugs?

What do I tell this little girl who adores you,

Who can sing all of your songs and poems by heart,

The brave soul who tiptoed to you on the border of one stage,

Passing you a block letter “E” colored with brown felt marker,

Just so you could tell her joke mid-set? (And you did: Do you want a brownie?)

Cue: thunderous applause.

This is the first-grader who only wants to hold

Your hand crossing these Motown streets,

Just so the two of you can sing Ease on Down the Road, together.

So I need to know:

How do I tell this child that you’re not going to be able to teach her

How to play guitar, what more, in a New York subway so she can pocket some change?

How do I tell her that we can’t have that sushi-making tea party we had planned with you?

How do I tell her that the idea for making Hurricane Popcorn while watching a

Passing Strange/The Wiz/Akeelah and the Bee movie marathon with you

Has to be cancelled, or changed?

How do I tell this child, who has never had stage fright because of you,

Who has danced at all of your shows,

Whose curled-up belly you kissed with your music, even before she was born,

How do I tell her — my heart and my soul — that

The next time we dance down the streets of Detroit,

It will never really be the same?

——-

3.            But I Loved Uncle Blair

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

For David Blair (9/19/67-7/23/11)

Today, we told our five-year-old daughter that you died.

She cried a flood of crocodile tears like I have never seen her cry before.

We cradled her like you would,

And she asked the same questions that we have: Why?

I bit my lip so hard so she wouldn’t see it quiver with tears, that it left a scar.

“But he was my favorite fake uncle”, she said,

Her own way of saying extended family.

“But I loved Uncle Blair because he always played with me,

He never got mad at me. Did he ever get mad at you, Mommy?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I said.

“How about you, Daddy?”

“Nope, he never got mad at me,” he said.

She did that hummingbird cry, rocking back and forth in our arms,

And we told her how she could remember you,

What we would do to celebrate your life:

“On Sunday, we’ll have a parade of poetry and music with all of your friends.

We are going to feel sad for a while, but that’s ok.

It’s ok to cry and let it all out.”

She repeated over and over, a scratch in a vinyl record:

“Uncle Blair died? We can never see him sing again?”

Oh yes, we can watch all of his videos and listen to his music.

We are really lucky that he gave us so many gifts of so many of his poems and so many of his songs

That we can play over and over again.

“But that’s not the same as seeing him in person.”

She ain’t never lied.

“Uncle Blair died. That makes me so sad,” she repeated more, her face crumbling.

And just when I thought I would have to do something desperate

Like let her eat all of the candy in the whole wide world — despite her four cavities —

Or buy out the whole toy store down the street – including the display window doused by her drool —

Just to make her feel better,

This brilliant child, who you have nurtured as an artist since she drew murals in my belly,

Asked with her Ebony Eyes: “Can I have a picture of Uncle Blair? One, just by himself?”

As always, your divine intervention saved us.

Do you want one of the two of you together?

“Yeah! That too. I want to color it, make it look special so I don’t forget him.”

We printed two photos that she chose from the treasure chest of your albums.

She cut them out, shaping slowly around your halo.

She folded two origami paper cups like flower pots

And placed one picture inside each like planting a seed.

She drew rainbow colored petals and wrote:

“One of my favorite uncles, Uncle Blair. I’m sad that he died.  😦  “

Then we glued a purple origami crane to its sky and a red, white, and blue kite to the front;

She drew a ribbon of bows to anchor it near your heart.

It is, by far, the most beautiful piece of art she that has ever made.

————-


4.         Spelling B Haiku

          (c) by Emily P. Lawsin

for David Blair (9/19/67 – 7/23/11)

“how do you spell ‘died’ ?”

our five-year-old asked us, clenched

crayon in bent fist.

  

5.    In My Child’s Dreams

Thursday, July 28, 2011, 10:45 AM

for David Blair (9/19/67 – 7/23/11)

this morning, daughter

woke up saying she saw you

play music in dreams.

you did not say her

name or talk to her, just sang.

the other day, we

met a native owl

who said when dream bird spirits

speak your name, it is

your time to depart

this earth, soaring high above.

So thank you, brown bear,

For never naming

Names in your dream songs of love.

Rest in Peace, my friend.
 

 ———————————————————-

To read my other poem Dear Blair that I posted yesterday, see: https://divadiba.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/dearblair/  

*  *  *   

 For information on Funeral Services and how to Donate to the Memorial Fund for David Blair, please see:  www.dblair.org  

Please donate to the fund. Every bit helps. Thank you.  

* * * 

www.emilylawsin.com

October 30, 2008

POEM: Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified -For Blue Scholars

 

I wrote a “Shuffled!” article about some of my favorite Filipino American songs for today’s Boston Progress Radio, see http://www.bprlive.org. It includes a riff on songs by the Seattle hip-hop duo, Blue Scholars, and I promised to post my old “Seattle” poem here for them.  I wrote this poem six years ago, during a Free-Writing session facilitated by my sistahfriend, 2003 Detroit Slam Team poet Angela Jones. She instructed us to write about our hometown, using personification (giving inanimate objects human qualities). Here’s what I wrote in the 10-15 minute Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change workshop. Maraming Salamat/endless thanks to my pamilya and Angela for the inspiration. I wish I could perform this with Blue Scholars in Seattle someday. (Geo?) Now that would be fun. 😉

Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified

(Free-write at a Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change Workshop)

Inspired by Angela Jones, Nov. 20, 2002

© by Emily Porcincula Lawsin

“Chief Sealth”, “Sha-til”, “She-attle”, “Sea-Town”,

From the South End to Downtown – Seattle, a native part of me.

She climbs Rainier Avenue to the C.D. and the I.D.

Like a hiker on its mountain tops, raking gutters of rain

Past the Phó Noodle shops, the ghosts of Chubby & Tubby’s $4.99 Xmas Trees, and

Franklin High on an emerald night.

Her evergreen veins curl up 23rd to the heart of her hood,

Marching down MLK, formerly Empire Way,

To drum beats the FYA plays at the Black Festival, where she reigns.

She feigns summer’s SeaFair, its parade of pirates posing crooked smiles of

Thrown chocolate doubloons that couldn’t brush or floss Lake Washington clean

Despite the Hydroplane Races and Floating Bridges wrapping their legs around her,

Pushing and squeezing gas-guzzling SUVs back to their cold cul-de-sacs of suburbia.

That Queen is smart, she is.

Only giving a small hiccup during Mt. St. Helen’s violent overthrow,

Only giving a small buckle of a burp

at the quakes of the earth called Phinney Ridge.

She held that rage and anger in for 2000 years she did,

Until the Stock Market crashed, Microsoft injunctioned, Boeing went bust, and

dot.coms didn’t come no more.

The IMF brought a charade of bribes to her parade,

Trying to trade – all lies – underestimating that she knew the “WTO”

Didn’t mean “Washington’s Ticket Out”     of the rut of corporate greed.

Her strong fingers of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Avenues

Erupting in an intertwining, internationally televised spectacle

Of necessary anarchy.  Burning dumpsters –

Sweet karma for her sister city’s secret sweatshops,

Bringing Niketown to its shoeless knees.

That Emerald Queen plays smart, she is.

Hid her army of blood lines down Broadway where homophobes dread to tread,

She cruises down “The Ave” to cradle her chorale,

Whips up Wallingford to Woodland Park, setting all the zoo animals free.

Her crossed eyes of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound cries to witness the

Displacement of Asian ancestors from Jackson Street and Chinatown

For a Kingdome stadium that only ended up torn down

For damn luxury skyboxes and a retractable (read: RAINABLE) roof.

The irony of the fault lines quaking through Yesler Terrace’s Projects and

Old Skid Row streets, masquerading as Pioneer Square:

An underground over Underground Seattle.

Still, this Queen smoothes the wrinkles of her face: Aurora and Old Highway 99.

She stretches the stretch-marks of her stomach: I-5

Screeching with pride through traffic and lay-offs

Keeping the moon up all night, she dances through rocks of jazz and grunge clubs,

Holding her crown high on top of her neck of The Needle,

Standing guard on her ribcage of rusted rooftops rustling in the wind,

Claiming this green space.

This city, she is, this Queen, SHE-attle, “Sha-til”,

Seattle: my home.

*     *     *

“Joe Metro” – Song by Blue Scholars

AND because I love it and in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the Blue Scholars’ MTV video of their song “Joe Metro”. That Pinay sitting in the back could be me. And the elders could be my mom and dad. MAKIBAKA, Geo & Saba! Check it:

http://www.mtv.com/videos/blue-scholars/189605/joe-metro.jhtml#artist=1918439

Homesick.

Watch “Back Home” by Blue Scholars’ too:

http://www.mtv.com/videos/blue-scholars/166934/back-home.jhtml#artist=1918439This video brings tears to my eyes. Bring the troops home. Peace.

 

Click HERE to READ and LISTEN to my Shuffle! of my top Filipino American songs on Boston Progress Radio.

 

Click HERE to read my previous blog post: REMEMBERING UNCLE SAM BALUCAS + POEM.

 

September 20, 2008

P.S: A LOVE LETTER FOR INVINCIBLE

OMG! YOU KNOW INVINCIBLE?

P.S. TO ALL MY DETROIT SUMMER FAMILY:

A LOVE LETTER FOR ILANA FROM BOSTON

The BEST part of Friday night’s show at Boston Progress Arts Collective’s East Meets West Bookstore happened when we were locking up the joint. One MC (who I don’t want to name because I’m not trying to embarrass him) started jumpin’ up and down when he found out I know Invincible. Seriously.

He said, “Hey, you’re from Detroit. Do you know Invincible?”

“Yes, of course I do. She’s a good friend of ours. She’s Anak’s Auntie Ilana.”

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, she knows Invincible! She knows Invincible!” he screamed, jumping and grabbing all the hip hop heads. Pretty soon they were all around me starry-eyed saying, “We LOVE Invincible. We LOVE Shapeshifters. Do you have her new album Shapeshifters?

“Of course I do, we’re investors.” (Partner later told me that we’re actually not “financial” investors, but I told him we should be.) Anyway, I don’t know what they would’ve done if I told them Ilana gave us the rough cut of the CD too. 

The fans continued, “Oh my god, we were waiting and waiting for years for Invincible to come out with her own album, and then when she came out with Shapeshifters this year, we were so happy!

“So happy. It is off the hook!” another said.

“Oh my god, you know Invincible. We are such big fans of Invincible. Wait, wait, how do you know her?”

“We were all volunteers with this intergenerational youth program called Detroit Summer–“

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah! We know Detroit Summer. From her song ‘Locusts‘.

Die-hards!

“Do you have the L.A.M.P. CD? They came out with a CD,” I said.

“Oh yeah, the L.A.M.P. CD, so cool. Oh my god, she knows Invincible. I can’t believe it.”

I don’t know what they would’ve done if I told them we gave Ilana half of our household items when we left Detroit (all of which are embarrassingly described in last month’s incredible Metro Times cover story, here).

“Wait, how did you guys discover Invincible?” I asked.

“We heard her track years ago on this group — the Platinum Pied Pipers CD and we loved it.”

Yes, Detroit Winter: “if you can’t take the winter, you don’t deserve the summer.” I think these fans might have a heart attack if I show them the pictures on my computer of PPP’s live show (with Invincible) from Detroit’s Taste Fest ’05.

Invincible performs with Platinum Pied Pipers at Detroit Taste Fest, July 4, 2005. (c) Photo by Scott Kurashige.

Invincible performs with Platinum Pied Pipers at Detroit Taste Fest, July 4, 2005. (c) Photo by Scott Kurashige.

“Oh my god. She knows Invincible. We would love to meet her.”

“Hey, if you guys want to bring her out here for a show, she can stay with us, no problem. Just let me know. We can call her right now.”

“That would be so dope. We should do that,” they said.

SO SISTAHFRIEND ILANA:

I think you’re way overdue for a Boston show.

And Anak would love to see you too!!! 🙂

Now, I tell this story because it was so heartwarming to see that these young bloods all the way in Boston love Invincible just as much as those of us in Detroit do. They recognize her true gift with words and music. After all her years of struggle and serving our community, she deserves recognition and success, especially with her new album. Shapeshifters.

If you don’t have one yet, get yours today at http://www.emergencemusic.net/store .

And tell Mike I sent you. 😛

I also tell this story because it shows how really small this world is. AND that if you find the radical/progressive artists in any city, they are going to know YOU/your radical/progressive artist friends too.

I mean, if you are currently an artist-activist from Detroit and you don’t know Invincible, then you are either:

  • a) not really an artist,
  • b) not really a community activist, or
  • c) not really from Detroit.

Seriously.

Minamahal/Much love to Ilana for giving me some street cred!!! 🙂

As we all told Grace during Conversations in Maine,

“Detroit is a part of us. It is always in our hearts. We will take Detroit wherever we go.”

Yes.

Miss you all much.  xoxox  ;-*

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