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Thoughts from the Road: Created in Violence

We are created in violence
Birthed in pain
Our only constants
Conflict and struggle
What can we possibly 
Ever know of nonviolence
When even our peace is achieved
Within storms turbulent
Enough to alter
The landscape of our lives

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POEM: I Am from…

I am LaShawnda, sister of Kim and Nicolette.
We are daughters of Terry Ann, the daughter of Bessie Mae,
The daughter of Lizzie, the daughter of Mae Emma, the daughter of
Many Unknowns.

I am from coconut oil and bergamot grease
From pinto beans and bananas.
I am from the light.
From home-cooked meals and shadowy corners,
From Thanksgiving feasts are for week-long leftovers.
I am from the iris;
The majestic maple tree,
Whose thick trunk I remember climbing and falling from.

I am from nowhere and everywhere.
From many mothers and no real fathers.
From silence, violence, solitude and perseverance
From hard work tempered with spots of joy.

I am from share-croppers and life-long toilers,
Farmers, gardeners, strong women, and providers.
I’ve been formed through the oppression of my ancestors
The generational resilience of my grandmothers and
The unruffled pragmatism of my Mama.

I am from lies and “keep it in the family”
And God is trying to tell me something
and do unto others as you… well, just do as I say.
I am from stardust and grace, refined in the fire of supernovas.

I am from Gary, Indiana by way of Mississippi and Arkansas
By way of Virginia, South Carolina and Louisiana
By way of Cameroon, Nigeria, West Guinea, and Britain
By way of One Africa seeding the World.

I am from the beginning and the end.
From all that is and all there will ever be.
From salvation and damnation, prophecy and legacy
I am from abundance and sufficiency. I am existence.

~ LaShawnda Jones
from I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America

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POEM: Elegy: Cousin Tish – Baby Woman Mother

In memory of my lil cuz, Tish.

Elegy: Cousin Tish – Baby Woman Mother

Playing house is different with baby
cousins, lil’ brothers and sisters and the
mannish boys in the neighborhood. Who needs
a fake baby with real baby cousins
in reach? Tish was a chubby, curly-haired
infant, rosy-cheeked girly-girl toddler
adorable, rambunctious, loved. Rolling
over, pushing up learning to walk, run
circles around folks from the house and yard
to Grandma’s vegetable garden; real life
cabbage patch doll blooming up and down the
street, burrowing roots, extending networks.

Too soon, I was no fun; just a boring
old cousin to a womanish girl who
preferred smokin’ weed as boys circled and
plotted in her haze. Though she grew up fast,
she was no fast-tail-gal. She met her love,
married young in paradise. Soon after,
my play baby was having babies in
wedded bliss. A homemaker happiest
making a home in the warm embrace of
family, next door to her mama, ‘cross
town from Grandma. A nurturing space for
herself, her husband and their one two three
four five bouncing bundles of joy. Later
expanding her shelter to make room to
comfort Grandma in her declining years.

A lifetime came and went. A final stealth
pregnancy shared with few. Heard in passing
near her due date. Her mom, my aunt, kept her
confidence; our uncle not so. She was
due on my long-deceased brother’s birthday.
A happy coincidence to be sure.
On December 16, my aunt called to
check on me. She asked, “Have you gotten your
diabetes under control?” “I thought
I did, but last week I spiked,” I replied.
On and on I rambled, before Cousin
Tish interrupted, “Should I let them give
Grandma the Covid-19 vaccine?” “No,”
my aunt said. “What do you think,” she asked me.
“No,” I agreed, “they don’t know what the side
effects are.” “Yeah,” my aunt said, “Mom has too
many illnesses and is taking too
many medications, that vaccine could
kill her. “Ok,” said the woman who was
once upon a time my play baby, as
she made arrangements for the grandmother
she was now mothering. Generations
are mere stair steps grape-vining across blurred
lines. We could’ve all been in the same room,
sharing the same space in momentary
unity. A rare consensus. Eighteen
hundred miles, forty years separated
us from oldest to youngest to farthest
away. “I have to go,” said Auntie. “Tish
needs to get ready for the hospital.
They’re inducing her tonight.”
“Goodness! How does she do it all,” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Intoned with a raised brow.
“She’s about to deliver her sixth child.
She’s on her feet to the end, taking care
of grandma, five kids and a husband. It’s
a lot.” With a quiet sense of affront,
my aunt said, “I help.” Indeed, she does, though
not immediately apparent from
eighteen hundred miles away. As neighbors,
mother and daughter have separate but
shared households. They see each other daily.
Tish stays home, her mom works. They share the days
and divide the responsibilities.
Mini-compound in an old industry
town. How can any of us do it all
without help? “Ok, talk to you later.
Good luck to Tish.” When was the last time I
told her I love her? She’s kept me at a
distance for decades; I stopped trying to
bridge it long ago. What would I have said
had I known it was my last chance to speak
to her through her mom? The next morning, her
brother called to say this vibrant woman
died in childbirth. Unbelievable, yet
true. That was not the call any of us
expected to receive. From good luck to
my God, may she rest in peace! We know she
held her blessings close in a well-lived life.

Of the ways we thought any of us would
go next, the ones we were “ready” for, Tish
dying giving birth was not a concern.

Gone. Thirty-eight years young. Healthy. Happy.
Living, loving fully. Present for life.
Woman, wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter,
sister, niece, cousin, friend. Being herself
was her favorite role. “I Am Woman.
I Am Me,” she shared with me when asked what
womanhood meant to her during my last
visit. “Everything about Woman
represents Me. Determination. Me
being focused. Being respectful and
making sure my children are respectful.
Having manners. Succeeding in life.” She
Will be remembered as my play baby
and a bonafide mommy-woman. She
leaves behind many impressed by all the
life in her years, her love of motherhood
all encompassing. For the little ones,
Tish’s babies, overwhelming sadness
for the void her physical absence leaves
in their lives. May God enrich their spirits
to receive all the comfort, guidance and
love they need to fill their years with good life.
Precious Layla, Erick, Karess, Remy,
Daymanie and dearest London whose first
breath struggled pass her mother’s last. As I
mourn Cousin Tish, I ache for the husband
she shared her life with, mother never more
than a hop away, father whose pride was
his first-born, and brother who could’ve been
her Siamese twin. Then there’s Grandma, who
has been sustained by Tish’s care and grace.

 

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IG Live Reading @UrbanExpo

I did my first virtual reading during g today’s event with the Phoenix Urban League’s Urban Expo. Yay! I’ve been telling myself to do virtual readings for years. All it took was a pandemic and virtual vending opportunity. 🙃

The poems read were selected from Clichés: A Life in Verse, Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace, and I AM Woman: Experiences of Black Womanhood. All the books are available for order in my store and on Amazon.com (quicker with discounts).

Here’s a list of the selected readings.

3035 N Prospect Ave the fight onward through struggle I Am From Trauma of the Unseen Love, A Postmortem Books purchases will soon be available via #igshop

View the reading here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CHlXeUXHmTF/?igshid=zpnb395iwa43

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Poem: Sister, Sister II

My sister is forty-one; three years my junior. She’s about six months clean. I don’t know exactly when she began doing drugs, but around the age of twenty-four, she essentially stopped living her life. She lost, or gave up, her job, her apartment and her car and allowed her “boyfriend” to pimp her out. For the last seventeen years or so she has experienced horrors I can’t listen to without cringing, crying or asking her to share with less detail when she needs to talk.

Our brother died in July 2007. His funeral was the last time my sister and I saw each other until July 2018. She avoided me for eleven years. Whatever her reasons, no rejection has ever hurt more. Most of those absent years she called me on my birthday to let me know she was still alive. Quite honestly, her voice was the best present every time. I would also get calls when she was in hospital or jail and forced to get clean for a while. Answered prayers. One year she moved out of state with a john and was clean for almost a year. She called almost monthly then. Until he grew tired and bought her a ticket to return her to the hell he pulled her out of. I tried frantically to reroute her ticket to me, but she didn’t want me. She wanted the comfort of the hell that was the only love she was willing to accept.

A couple more years passed.

In July 2018, I returned home for a visit after many years away. I reached out to my sister through the grapevine – her network of friends and contacts who knew where and when to look for her. She agreed to see me. She stayed with me for about a day, sleeping through most of the visit. She slept in the car, on our cousins sofa during a condolence visit, in the car again and through the night. We didn’t have much time to talk between the visits and the sleep, but I made sure to remind her that wherever I am she is welcome. I told her what I wanted most for her was for her to love herself as much as she loved the man holding her in bondage, because then she would no longer accept the things she’s been accepting for her life. I told her she could return home with me that weekend. She had only to say the word. Instead she said she wanted to go back home to the drug house she was living in, to the man who had lured her into that life.

Earlier this year she entered rehab. She has a new boyfriend who encouraged her to do for herself. She wants to please him so she committed to rehab. However, she says she completed rehab for herself. The new guy also encouraged her to visit me. She stalled and bounced around for a few weeks after rehab, ending up back in the hell she now wanted to stay out of but didn’t know how to live without that man and all the familiar demons within sight. Then I got ill. Gravely ill. I called to tell her I was taking myself to the hospital and didn’t know how long I would be there. In my head, I was articulate, but apparently I was barely speaking. She began sobbing uncontrollably, saying “Shawnda, what’s wrong? I can’t understand you!” I was trying to give her instructions on what to do if I didn’t make it – sell the house, keep the profit, etc. I may have even said, “I’m letting go.” Or maybe she heard the distance in my voice. She started calling out repeatedly, “Shawnda, I’m coming! I’m coming!”

It sounded nice, but I didn’t believe her.

I’m grateful God doesn’t limit our blessings to our ability to believe.

My sister arrived the day after I was released from the hospital in July 2020. She hasn’t been in a home of mine in over fifteen years. It feels slightly surreal but mostly it feels like a lesson on hope, waiting and not letting go.

Kim is here. Answered prayer. New challenges. Renewed hope.

 

Sister, Sister II

I have loved you more

Consistently and unconditionally

Than any other living being,

Except for mom.

I have left myself open

Remained available

Laid myself bare

For your convenience

And possible comfort

Should you ever choose

To love yourself more

Than the abuse of men

And begin to value your

Life beyond your next high

I’ve been waiting

Months years decades

A lifetime now

For my sister to come home.

6/24/20

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Poem: Be Anything

I had such bright
hopes and dreams
when I believed
I could
be anything
I tried
strived
over-achieved
if thoughts manifest reality
the American Dream
wouldn’t be
unreachable
and life would be
different
all I truly wanted
was freedom to be me
without threat, violence
shame or compromise
how tragic
being me
proved to be
the hardest thing

~ LaShawnda Jones, 2020

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Poem: Trauma of the unseen by LaShawnda Jones

Many traumas ripple through a life
Remembered forgotten long ago feeling like now
How to tell what’s real or simply
Perception from trauma tinted lenses
Impossible to know if the
Traumatized have no awareness of their state
One revels in solitude because loneliness
has become a way of life
Quietness broken by occasional conversations
with strangers labeled as friends.
True friends don’t allow friends to rot
Unseen. Unheard. Unfelt. Unknown.

~ LaShawnda Jones, May 2019

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Poem: Life is happening.

Picture1So many years
wasted
waiting
wanting
forgetting
life is always happening
it doesn’t accommodate our schedule
or ask for an appointment
it isn’t scouting for the perfect environment
or adjusting for the most flattering angle
it doesn’t care about having
enough money, enough time
enough energy or enough of anything
life is simply happening
it’s on-going and going on
don’t let it pass you by
don’t get left behind
while looking back
or too far ahead
be where you are
fully
life is happening there
whatever you’re doing
wherever you have your being
life does as it does
it continues to happen
whether you’re ready or not
it will happen no matter what
don’t waste it on hopes for tomorrow
don’t wait to live out loud
don’t allow your wants
to diminish what you have
forget what isn’t
relish what is

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Poem: The Weirdest Dream

You were here with me (in a room, in the
sun, by my side, one on one).  I could see
you so clearly, feel you, even, and smell
all your scents – you know, the natural ones;
the perfumed ones; your hands – so warm, so strong
and comforting (all, your essence) – so missed.
I talked with you; laughed with you; saw your smile,
as if never gone; in my arms, alive.

I rolled over and reached for the phone.  Hi,
Mom… “Hi, baby, what’s wrong,” you would ask me.
I just had the weirdest dream about you….
We would talk; our closing of choice being,
“I love you, baby.”  Love you, too, mommy.
Rolling over, as sleep left me, my smile
faded.  Glancing, pitifully, at a
telephone with no connection to you.
How can it be, you’re not here with me?
These dreams only intensify my pain. 

Lost so absolute and unexpected.
Time doesn’t heal the wounds – it spreads them out
to de-intensify… or to numb one.
Memories… they don’t fade, as we sometimes
wish they would – they become detailed through our
rose-colored 20/20 hindsight, as
we see our past as we wish we’d lived it;
perfect and happy, absent of pain and
misunderstandings; moving together,
not apart, one unit, blessed throughout time.

The Weirdest Dream from Clichés: A Life in Verse by LaShawnda Jones