The Light Inside


for Jazmyn King (due date: Dec. 30, 2015)

You were a print of light pressed
into a waxy dark sheet. Your mom framed you
while I carried you in my wallet and phone.

I stood in your white room — the black window
trim and floor boards, the Espresso dresser and
crib watched me fold your onesies,

watched me contemplate the country of fatherhood,
where experience alone won’t grant you citizenship.

I hang the fluffy pink sleepsack, the doll-like plaid
dress, the white coverall and cap freckled with
green and blue Cockatoos.

Everything hangs, waiting for you to fill them
the way your mom and I waited for you

to fill her womb, we waited through the tears —
pacing and praying you’d be stronger than the ones before,
barely a glimmer when they dimmed.

Now, your mom’s a lamp, whose light comes
from your kicks and punches, from watching the star
in your chest flash on the ultrasound,
from your persistence to enter our life.

If there’s one thing waiting taught us
it’s that patience is the currency
of anything worth having.

So I rub your mom’s tummy to
feel your elbow, then your fist —
grateful for the light inside.


Posted by on November 26, 2015 in Poem


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Lela Malona

This piece, which I wrote in 2006, first appeared in The Arabesque Review.

bus stopLela rises at 4a.m. to catch the W13 for 5:45 downtown. She reaches the office at 6:30 to start coffee and have a fresh pot brewed for the workers stumbling in at 7a.m.

She was always known to bring in snacks and treats for her co-workers: Sugar cookies, candy bars and Now&Laters. Even though she wasn’t paid extra for her enthusiasm, her reward was the smiles of office mates as they enjoyed her goodies.

Barely a year on the job and she’s earned accolades from everyone along with numerous awards that amount to nothing more than condescending pats on the head. Kind of how a master praises his dog for entertaining his friends with tricks and being well behaved.

The things rewarded ranged from cubicle cleanliness to best personality to on-the-spot action.

Lela earned the latter that day she heard the loud, beeping sound of the fax machine and saw the blinking message indicating it was out of paper. But Lela’s swift action in ordering reams of blank sheets saved the day when her coworkers thought they were all but doomed.

“Good job!” A team manager told her.

“Keep this up. We just may have to give you a brand new name plate over your desk,” said another team manager as he glanced at her breasts and thighs. “You may even be promoted to Secretary. Way to take the initiative.”

He knew 10 months ago that she had the job when he interviewed her. He had introduced himself then as Clyde Holder.

Clyde usually took off his wedding band when he was interviewing women. That day, he wasn’t expecting to get caught up in the soft glow of Lela’s olive skin, her curly brown hair, and jell-o bosom.

The whole game of going through the interview process was so he could enjoy the eyeful. From that day on, he spent his nights lying beside his wife, dreaming of romping with Lela and sweating her curls straight.

Clyde knew then that he couldn’t go straight at her for what he wanted. No. If there was anything he’d learned from his years of office negotiations, it was to soften her up with shallow praises and phony certificates he had stacked in his drawer.

Another quality Lela’s coworkers noticed was that she was a voracious reader.

She was well-read on nearly every popular street lit novel from Hustla’s Anthem by Felon E. to I Ain’t Yo’ Father, Boy by Ms. D. Meaner to I’m ‘Bout to Slap You, Shawty by Juve Nile 10den-C.

She was reading the relationship self-help book,  You Know Yo’ Man Cheating When…, co-authored Tiara Sprinkles and Mello Mike.

Their bios alone were drama. Tiara Sprinkles (birth name: “Tia Jenkins”) decided to keep her stripper name even after she was born again and co-pastored the mega church, Party of Saved, with her husband Bishop Mack McCloud, with a mission of reaching out to women at risk of straying from the love of the true man, Jesus Christ.

Mello Mike was a failed emcee, whose hype men jumped him on a video shoot after they found out they were being replaced by the GEBCO dancers.

He met Tiara during an altar call when she offered to pray for him after he blessed the basket with a large sum he’d retrieved from the church ATM.

You Know Yo’ Man Cheating… was a collection of anecdotal info from their own experiences and those of several other church members. When publishing companies refused to pick up the manuscript, they decided to self-publish and distribute it at several church seminars.

Almost half-way through You Know Yo’ Man Cheating…, Lela—who had attended one of the seminars weeks ago—moaned in affirmation at each of the passages she read at her desk.

“Hey yall. Listen to this one: ‘If a woman ask a man out, then she does not know if he’s interested in her.’

“Here’s another one: ‘If your man doesn’t want to have sex with you anymore, then he was never physically attracted to you.’ Mmph! Mello and T bringing it, yall.'”

Right across from Lela’s cubicle was Chris’s workspace.

He wasn’t in the mood for any nonsense that day. He tried ignoring her, but was pulled into the conversation when he was asked what he thought about the passages in the book.
“Are there footnotes or a page for sources that you can research on your own?” He told Lela without looking away from his computer screen. “Do they even have degrees?”

“Anybody can speak the truth,” she snapped. “You don’t need a degree to write a book like this.”

Lela flipped through and read a few more passages out loud.

“Keep that ghetto shit to yourself, then. I ain’t trying to hear you read off a checklist for sistas, who look for Mr. Right at every Happy Hour and Cabaret.”

Chris was getting ready to put his headsets on to drown out Lela with MF Doom’s Vaudeville Villain album.

“You can limit your chances of meeting these wack dudes by doing something out of the ordinary. Try going to a reading or an art exhibit.”

At 6′ 3″, he had a commanding presence when he entered the suite despite his position as clerical officer. His laidback demeanor was often mistaken for laziness and his cool temperament for being timid.

Why was he the only guy in that workspace? Chris wondered. He hated that Lela tried to make him a source for everything she wanted to know about guys.

He was only one man, who could only speak about what he liked and disliked. Chris couldn’t stand guys who tried to be a mouthpiece for every man.

That’s why he never liked Terrance Mason and his syndicated radio talk show. The guy’s divorced and he’s giving relationship advice, he thought.

He despised Terrance’s sold out plays: “Why Men Walk in the Dark” and “Disarming Shango.”

Chris had considered getting with Lela when she started working in the office, but quickly dismissed that idea. They were from two different eras despite the fact that she was a few years younger than him.

He was from an era where developing craft was the most important thing an emcee can do. Storytellers like Ghostface, MF Doom, Pharoahe Monch and others were legends that people of his era worshiped and saw as the torchbearers for true lyricism.

Lela was of the Laffy Taffy era. The era of the Chicken Noodle soup.

Great. Dances that sound like sides, he thought. What’s next? The Italian Wedding? The Cheese and Broccoli?


Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Cornbread Othello’s Reflections on the Coco Loco

Editor’s note: Several years ago, while studying Journalism at Howard University, I started to appreciate prose. Having written mostly poems up until that point, I enjoyed the freedom prose gave me that I didn’t have with poetry. Poems seemed more demanding because of the various literary devices and space. Prose opened a new world to my writer mind. With that discovery, I started writing flash fiction pieces. The following one first appeared in The Arabesque Review, an international arts journal. I borrow a character, Fatback McGristle, who was created by my friend and fellow writer, Derrick Weston Brown. Thank you, Derrick, for permission to include Fatback in this story. Here it is:

bbA line inside of Coco Loco stretched along the bookstore walls, wrapped around the Poetry shelves and passed through the Biography and Fiction sections.

Every Thursday night, eager performers rushed Fatback McGristle for the list as they cried, “Ohh.. mee, mee!!” The tired host let out a frustrated sigh while his gold capped tooth gleamed among the other three remaining ones.

Outside, Cornbread Othello was brushing back his sandy-brown ‘fro before taking the Black&Mild from over his right ear, lighting up and puffing tight O’s that stretched to loose hoops the higher they climbed the cool air.

“I ain’t never seen people this excited for the open mic since Yogi Records in Adam’s Morgan. But that was years ago. A few of these pups were nursing their mother’s tit then.”

Cornbread peeked inside at Fatback gesturing wildly that the list was closed, and that there were no intentions of squeezing on late-comers.

“This was a whole different scene nine years ago. D.C. was fierce then. Can you imagine being at a reading and every poet there at the caliber of those in the Black Arts Movement? You left every reading ready to put pen to paper under some desk lamp or whatever light you had to work with.”

Cornbread got his name from reading on the scene. It was awhile before the older cats took notice and was feeling his Shakespearean flow–everything from sonnets to rhyming couplets.

After the council of elders had watched Lawrence Fishburn play Othello, and after considering that his skin was lighter than corn meal, they unanimously decided what to call him.

The rest was history. From there, he’d go on to share his work in Switzerland, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Cornbread’s work was in several national and international anthologies. He published over 20 collections of poems, 10 novels and numerous articles for the Washington City Paper, The Afro, EMERGE, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Cornbread was also nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize and the National Book Award. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and journalist was invited to do speaking engagements throughout the African continent.

The D.C. scene was definitely a different place then. So much onus was on the writer to study their craft and not to take the reader for granted. Even the audience was well-read not just in poetry, but other literary genres and current events going on around the world.

“One night, this self-proclaimed elder got up on the mic and started doing this number by the Last Poets.”

Cornbread takes a long drag on his Black&Mild, now smoked to the mouthpiece. “He never even acknowledged that it was their piece.” He holds it in as long as he could before releasing a stream through his nostrils.

“I felt so sorry for that cat when he finished that poem. Right after, the host counted to three and damn near everybody in the place recited the same poem back to him before they banned his ass from ever performing there, again.

“That was then. Recently, I was at another spot nearby. Nag Champa was burning strong that night. This one cat does a poem and bites several lines from Saul Williams’ ‘Amethyst Rock.’

But everybody was so busy being righteous that they didn’t catch it and the chump got daps and back pats. I was so disgusted that I left. ”

Cornbread pushes through the heavy double doors. Cornel Shalom was on the mic.

Cornbread couldn’t stand this extra-righteous brother. Something about the guy’s whole image seemed artificial. Cornbread ran into many of these dudes preaching that “king” must love the “queen” rhetoric.

Most of these guys were womanizers, who postured as photographers, poets, teachers, and founders of non-profits. At 6′ 4, Shalom–who was bald–was wearing a long flowing ceremonial garment.

“The Tax Man’s!!…the Tax Man’s debt!!” ranted the militant, who was said to resemble Morpheus. “The Tax Man’s!!…the Tax Man’s debt!!”

He said it as if he were somehow stuck on repeat, as if the idea were a scratched record struggling to play past that point.

“The Tax Man’s!!…the Tax Man’s debt!!”

At first, Cornbread thought he was having a seizure. He was reaching for his pick just in case the performer tried to chew off his tongue.

But he realized it was a part of the performance when he picked up on the dramatic pauses and the way Cornel looked intently into the eyes of the mostly-women crowd. Five more runs of this and his piece was finished.

Cornel then whipped out two African Peach incense, lit them, and cued his boy to dim the lights before going into the love poem called “Black Queen,” a tribute to Baskin Robbins’ new flavor due to be released during Black History Month.

Cornbread thought, for a minute, that he was in a Dark & Lovely hair commercial when sistas gave Amen-affirmations to Cornel on the mic. Cornbread half-expected a cream-colored, dreadlocked brother to come from backstage–barefoot in Capoeira pants and a linen shirt, handing out roses to women in the crowd.

Cornbread shook his head.

“These people want to be entertained instead of enlightened. They don’t appreciate the poets sharing their craft with them nor do the poets appreciate the crowd. Instead they do poems for the cheap applause.

“Back in the day, a poet had to be on their p’s and q’s because they could be approached afterwards by someone in the crowd and have their work critiqued on the spot. If they misused a word, someone usually pointed that out while talking to the artist.”

Gone are the days of honest and constructive criticisms, he thought.

“And don’t even think of approaching people today because then you’re ‘hating’.” He disliked that whole practice of dismissing criticism: “Oh, you hatin’!”

But this wasn’t the worst night at Coco Loco’s. No sight of Moans da Poet, who usually walked around, ogling strange women with his lazy eye before trying to grope them.

Whenever Moans was around, he signed the list so he could do his sex poems to get the women in the mood.

But it was hard for anyone to grasp what he was trying to say in these pieces. One minute he was talking; the next he was making sonar noises.

Cornbread once overheard two women from a nearby table say it reminded them of PBS’s special on mating sea mammals.

“Things really were different nine years ago,” Cornbread remembered. “Rita Dove was the Poet Laureate of the United States then, which led to the discovery of the Poetry on the Metro Project.

“It was founded by this lady named Laurie Stroblas, who went around teaching writing workshops in D.C.’s public elementary and middle schools. You gotta get ’em while they’re young and the appreciation’s still there. I used to love to see the kids faces light up when they saw their poems going to and from school on the public transit system.

”’Hey Mister,’ one of them would tug on my sleeve. Keisha, I think was her name. ‘That’s my poem! Look!’

“I told her, ‘Keep doing your thing, sweetie. Don’t forget about those that came before you. Read all their work and keep it moving.'”

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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


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What the PLUCK!

Here’s the rundown on this journal, according to the editorial team:

pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, takes its name from a Nikky Finney poem of the same title which appeared in RICE. The journal features poetry, prose, and visual art from writers who identify with multicultural experiences based in the Appalachian region.

The journal was founded by Frank X Walker and debuted in the Spring of 2007. pluck! is currently released twice a year through the University of Kentucky.

I got my issue, the Black Poets Speak Out edition (learn more about Black Poets Speak Out). It’s a blessing to have my poems in the company of so many amazing writers and thinkers.

Want your copy? $15/copy sent to pluck!

1215 POT, University of KY, Lexington KY 40506 | $30/subscription for individuals, $100/sub for institutions and organizations

Visit pluck! online.

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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in Uncategorized


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New Video for My Poem, “Conundrum” – DRIFT Book Trailer pt. 2

Here’s another trailer for my poetry collection, DRIFT (Aquarius Press/Willow Books, 2012).

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Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Anicia’s Wild Adventures

I wanted to try my hand at telling a children’s story in video format (at some point, I’ll start doing voice overs instead of using text in my video stories), so I made this short video for my 5-year-old niece, Anicia.

With her mother’s permission, I’m posting it here:


Posted by on June 22, 2015 in story


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A DC Creative Writing Workshop Cypher

A few years ago, I started as a writer-in-residence with the D.C. Creative Writing Workshop, and worked my way up to senior program director.

I owe this nonprofit and its Executive Director Nancy Schwalb so much. I shot these clips, not sure what I would do with them.

They sat on my phone for two years until now. So here’s my small way of saying thanks to Nancy and the young poets in the after-school Writing Club.

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Posted by on May 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


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D.C. Funk Parade Highlights

Earlier this month, the D.C. Department of Funk (how cool is that!) presented the Funk Parade on the city’s historic U Street corridor. Below is a video highlight I put together. Check out their official video.

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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Highlights


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Humble Bear Promo Video

Here it is, folks!


Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Commercial


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DRIFT book trailer

Here’s a trailer for my debut collection of poems, DRIFT (Aquarius Press/Willow Books, 2012).


Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Announcements


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