Poems

I was named Charleston, SC's first Poet Laureate in 2016. (Click here for more info). Buy my books from my official online store and check out some of my poetry videos. My new poetry book is The Birth of All Things.

Give Yourself Some Flowers.

A new poem, focusing on joy. and in the beginning, God gave your body a checklist: keep your heart on beat and your lungs dancing with oxygen, not passive to air. make sure the path of your blood slows down for checkpoints and avoids bumps in the road. train your nerves to keep a balanced […]

Dandruff

On a head full of hair, there will always be weak strands. Knots on the brain are also knots in the stomach. Itch buildup. Gut-touched twists too tight on the scalp. Don’t cut them off or wish for an unraveling. Instead, be thankful that dry skin can still wear a crown. Be aware of the […]

Frances & Betty & Cicely & the Others

(a poem about Miles Davis) As if the ability to blow into a horn is more important than the ego balloon it took to suck the air out of a woman’s voice. As if Sketches of Spain is anything but a masterpiece. As if calling yourself “the prince of darkness” is something to be proud […]

The America I Know Could Use a Good Cry

I met America at a neighborhood bar. He offered me a shot of rum and I reminded him that Captain Morgan was a slave owner, so the bartender awkwardly slipped another liquid lie down my throat. I ordered another drink and was channeled by dark spirits. The courage of black ghosts who haunt American dreams. […]

What It’s Like to Walk Under Shadows

written with Asiah Mae. Commissioned by Mayor John J. Tecklenburg for the removal of the Calhoun monument in Charleston, SC. I. There is a shadow that no one talks about We allow it to reside among us in our supermarkets In our schools At festivals where willing ignorant laughter topples over the chatter of my […]

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,”

they say. As if sleeping is a switch easily turned on. Especially when all of your mind’s power is being used for the electricity of fatherhood. Especially when you know that a dad could be a God, but you are a feminist. Especially when your daughter’s breathing could brush the quiet off of a cloud, […]

Retelling and the remembering

composed for the Anderson Slave Dwelling Preservation Fund Black spirits can not be absent from anything. Especially in South Carolina, where every open, abandoned space holds a family’s erased echo, and racism is embedded in every memory. We, the living, have the privilege of being restful ghosts. We haunt material things, and hold our history […]

Hope is in the listening

2020 Charleston Mayoral Inauguration poem. Read about it here. City as sorcerer and storyteller, sharp-eyed observant, holy grandmother. She’s survived 350 years because the longevity of the Lowcountry requires a special kind of magic. Today, we are witnesses to that witchcraft. Citizens of its charm. Today, she is the voice connecting her family: The tourist […]

Reflector

When will I stop seeing tired eyes after waking up next to mirrors? Why do I call the cracks on my face fault lines? How does the earth hold so much weight, so much anxiousness? When will I stop messing with my hair? When will I break free from vanity’s repetition: Look for natural light. […]

the colossal

depression and anxiety, you are not just the elephant in the room, you are the weight that holds the animal, the air shared with its shadow, the zoo that won’t release a caged mind. depression and anxiety, you are not just the elephant in the room, you are the ceiling below the sky, the mosquito […]

BLACK NUMEROLOGY (a poem for Walter Scott)

Walter Scott, I’ve watched your death hundreds of times. Recently, I counted the steps it took before the eighth shot grounded you: 13. you took 13 paces, running for your life, inline and online, the warrior stride of a 50-year-old body that died too soon. I wonder how many impressions your feet made before that […]

ambient noise

written for the Homeless to Hope Benefit Concert at sunrise, street sweepers silence the ringing filth of a late night’s vibrato. in the sneaky hours of the morning, empty bottles and parking spaces form a hushed choir, a privileged quiet, a soundtrack to the aftermath of the discord that comes with alcohol. before noon, the […]

COPY/PASTE (a spoken word poem)

… A poem about being the only black person in many spaces in Charleston. I wrote this after walking down King Street to attend a Spoleto event. I. i have always been the thing that’s not like the other – the analogue touch through digital screens, the bougie drink at a neighborhood dive, the black […]

The rain.

Written for a collaboration with Chicago composer Shawn Okpebholo and baritone Will Liverman. Their version, including pianist Paul Sanchez, is on the album Dreams of a New Day. It’s also included in my book, The Birth of All Things. When the reality of racism returns, all joy treads water in oceans of buried emotion. Charleston […]

the language we learn

I. masculinity doesn’t have to be toxic, but some men choose to put poison on their tongue. foaming at the mouth before flinging unholy thoughts into action. hungry for prey, licking their lips as biting words draw blood. women do nothing to feed this venom. porn and pop culture evolved from paper cuts to pixels […]

a divine feminine (wine + food 2019 poem)

if you believe superheroes didn’t exist, then you never knew Georgia Mae Jones. My grandmother. she could have saved the world with her poundcake – it had just the right amount of sugar to defeat any evil inside of you, it could turn a sour weakness into sweetness, take your tastebuds to hyperspace, and awaken […]

The United States of Anxiety (a spoken word poem)

Welcome to the United States of Addiction. In this country, your smart phone holds more meaningful moments than your memory. Here, social media is social justice and history is a hashtag for broken screens to get their fix. Here, fame doesn’t lead to fortune – just first-world problems. Echo chambers for people at war with […]

when falling into fear is easier than falling asleep.

my cat doesn’t like car rides. an otherwise fierce feline becomes a furry bundle of fear, rapid-fire breathing and foaming at the mouth, every second is suffocation, every bump in the road is permission for each hard breath to be a puke premonition on my feet, my lap, the back seat. but she paws her […]

antenna

cover my skin in sorrow, lay my body down with feathered tears. help me sleep with the dreams of friends who are having conversations with ghosts so that i can wake with their pain. a shared depression, a thread among empaths. give me the compassion and emotional power to be strong when needed.

let’s talk about the weather

light follows us wherever we go, no matter how shadowed the mind. but darkness has a sneaky way of taking us over at night and sometimes its sleepy residue remains in the day in spite of the sun’s warm personality and efficient, persistent glow. we sleep through hot nightmares when the only cool air is […]

Movement’s mother

(inspired by Septima Clark, on what would have been her 120th birthday. Written for the dedication of her historical marker) I. There are spirits among us – ghosts of grassroots movements echoing through our soil. Charleston’s poinsettia was a warrior woman who blossomed despite an unholy city’s unsettled winds. She was light through dark matter, […]

empath (bones)

(a poem about lynchings) If the Angel Oak tree could talk, she’d tell us stories we don’t want to hear. Her family has been roped into being the backdrop of racism’s roots, her friends had no choice but to stand, stoic through storms that bore strange fruit. She’d tell you about the relentless weight of […]

the spider (a love poem)

I remember when love was an elusive spider – an intruder that kept trying to creep into my life, crawling between the cracks of hardwood floors before disappearing into the shadows of sleepless nightmares. I spent restless years trapped by distraction, haunted by a thing I could not catch, but secretly wanting a tarantula to […]

strange roots (the digging)

I. deep down, i know that you can’t take away my shine. it’s been perfected over generations of mining. my ancestors spent years digging through dirt for any sign of a gem, any treasure that can peek through parasites. but the past is so dirty and deep-rooted that sometimes i am too tired to dig […]

selfie

have you ever taken a photo of a mountain? a screen never quite captures the magic. to reduce a massive, complex miracle to pixels is criminal. it’s too simple. we do the same to ourselves.

Stagnation (a letter 2 America)

America has built too many monuments to war. Man-made maladies mounted on Mother Earth. I’ve seen scars on the skin of our country’s landscape – blood-stained band aids covering exposed bones; a pain that has not healed. We hold hatred high on pedestals in the name of history. Birds are perched on the shoulders of […]

womanhood

(for tim and elise hussey, on the birth of their first child) in the blurry confusion of your first breath, you will open your eyes and instantly focus on love. arms will wrap you in wonder, your mother will bask in the miracle of womanhood, your father will paint colorful creations on blank canvases and […]

BLACK MAGIC, BLACK MUSE (a poem 4 Prince)

alone, on your last night alive with your voice unamplified, did you speak in perfect pitch like you sang, one week prior – 57 and flawless. fans, hanging on every word, melodies triggering memories, a Prince with a piano and microphone … alone, on your last night alive did you have the same confidence you […]

calloused hands

(inspired by Dave the Potter) what history will we carve with our hands? will it be an unfiltered truth as written word, tattooed on the body of pottery when reading and writing were revolutionary? will our hands hold each other in crisis again and again when our bodies are fragile and bone-dry, coiling the repetition […]

The arrogance of the moon

the moon is unmoving. frozen and self-centered in the atmosphere. he’s proud of the fact that he can be steady among a chaos of satellites while meditating above clouds and rubbing elbows with stars. he’s stoic. watching egoic people who are steady impressed with excesses, like high definition drones that give us a limited view […]

A woman’s hands are the hands of God

(written for the Women’s March in Charleston, South Carolina) I am a feminist because our bodies are tattooed with the fingerprints of mother nature. I am a feminist because a woman’s hands hold the spirit of comfort the way the sun carries the burden of warmth. I am a feminist because my mother was with […]

the last word

one day, someone will write the last poem about injustice and it will become our new national anthem. only history books will hold the memory of hatred and museums will be built for the artifacts of our awakening. one day, someone will have the last conversation about politics because we realized there were problems that […]

beautiful.

the word “black,” by definition, means “the absence of light.” but I am much more than a shadow. yes, sometimes blackness is the darkness that haunts unenlightened minds and sometimes people talk about me as if I am a cold, night sky without the spark of a bonfire. but, being black, by definition, is luminary […]

brotherhood / after you left the hospital …

(from the tiny poems series) let’s have a flashback, to when our lives seemed carefree, when our world was simply a walk or a bike ride toward each weekend like unwritten stanzas in an endless poem, when there was nothing to write about except liquid summers and dried-up mornings, when my beard had no traces […]

the pulse (part 2)

(spoken word poem. part two of the pulse) Charleston, where church steeples and cranes look over us and multi-colored houses house live-in servants. where fast-rising hotels rise above slow-moving clouds that cast floods on the corner of America Street. where parades of one color get one day to celebrate then hide in the shadows of […]

Eight tiny poems about Charleston

A.C.’s   when the lights flash at 2a.m., every person in dimmed shadow becomes enlightened even though they are scrambling for another conversation with darkness and drama.     John L. Dart Library   the man at the pulpit says “I have faith that one day we will see her in the morning.” And I […]

… and we are the flawless

God took a selfie before the Big Bang and noticed the sadness in his eyes. Loneliness covered his face in darkness; depression awakened the need for light. Heaven was a tiny house with just enough room for God to meditate and dream of a universe devoid of vanity. Soon, space expanded from a single snapshot […]

Poem: “Mahogany”

Who decided to call us “black and white”? When I look at my skin, I don’t see black, I see brown. Brown. Like the color of sand, a brilliant tan that needs no sun. Brown, like the mahogany tree bark, grounded in the summer, whose green leaves make the transition into fall, coffee-stained by the […]

New poem – “greater than (or) equal to”

I was born the year our country celebrated its 200th birthday. Less than a decade from Martin Luther King Jr.’s assasination, 113 years after the emancipation proclimation. Here’s a bicentennial baby obsessed with numbers, released from his mother’s womb into a wounded society. He opened his eyes to a binary world where 0’s and 1’s […]

A poem about Charleston

I was blessed to be able to perform this poem at Lowcountry Local First’s Good Business Summit on August 27 at the Charleston Museum. Text is below. You can also hear my version with Quentin E. Baxter on iTunes. charleston, where the sidewalks scream on saturday nights and the corners rotate budding musicians with skin-tight […]

“circadian rhythms”

at ground zero of death, the voice of God will sound like an alarm clock, waking you up from a dream. you open your eyes and see yourself, not as a woman or man, but as a spirit who had been breathing in an illusion. on June 18, the voice of God sounded like an […]

Black Cloth – a poem for Charleston

Racism, let us no longer walk in your shoes. you are a traveler of darkness, a walker of shadows, cloaking yourself in a black cloth like the grim reaper and arming your soul with the tools of a terrorist – a misguided soldier who’s trying to start a war. My sisters, heaven was as close […]

Poem – “self portrait (in bloom)”

when i was in the 8th grade, i wore baggy pants and my bookbag on my chest because i was not bold enough to throw the monkey off my back. inside of the backpack was a lack of confidence weighing me down. i had not found my voice. this is the portrait of a black […]

Poem: b r e a t h e

two words with two G’s spread hate like a disease the smoke is everywhere and i can’t breathe. it only took one arm to squeeze the life out of an unarmed man the only thing in his hands were the lifelines embedded on his palms, now we stand on the front lines singing songs of […]

Poem: “CODE.”

If I write lines of poems like I write lines of code, no comma would be out of place and every quotation mark left open would throw the whole piece off center. Maybe coding is, in fact, poetry. Maybe life is, in fact, poetry and we are the result of a Universal code where X’s […]

Poem: Brother Denmark

(about Denmark Vesey) the history books tell us that you won your freedom when you won the lottery, but freedom isn’t something you win – freedom is a birthright. freedom is as seamless as your name, even when it was changed by a captain who claimed to control the sea. But God is the only […]

The Pecha Kucha poem

  the new foundation I. every moment that you are alive is the only moment that matters. the past is a glass house and we throw stones trying to shatter walls that need to come down. we are all architects of negativity – brick by brick of bold thoughts holding together bodies bound by blood […]