Trayvon Martin Does Not Turn 18 & Dirty Work or The Rules

On February 26, 2012 George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin. You’d have had to have been under a rock not to know this, but as causes come & go, it may have gotten lost or distant in your mind. I have been a black boy, hassled by cops & wannabes who believe that it is always open season on youth of color. I remember how at Trayvon’s age ( 17 ) I came to understand just how few of the boys that I ran with would grow old enough to be old, to have children, to have a life filled with meeting the challenges that such thinking creates. Yesterday, February 5, 2013 would have been Trayvon’s 18th birthday. I am the father of a young black man & I recall the dirty feeling that I had every time I had to explain the rules to him. The rules black parents have to teach their children about surviving encounters with demented ( & often non-black) folk with guns & the fears that the U.S puts into their heads about black masculinity. As a poet will, I wrote about that experience of trying to explain the whole fucked up deal.About having it explained to me when I was 16 in the 80’s in the United States. As a participant at the Split This Rock Festival in March of 2012 (  I delivered that poem as part of my set in my panel. I surprised myself with the emotion that came from me, the roar as I read it. the shaking, the rage, the sorrow. & I remember my own son, at the only age Trayvon Martin was allowed to achieve, looking at me like I was a maniac, trying to make some sense of any of this. It truly is work that one has to do, but that leaves one feeling filthy in the soul. America, you do this to us.

The website picked it up for a feature on their Tuesday Poet slot in June of 2012. You can check it there:

or with a few edits below.


for Trayvon &…

light fades in the eyes

each word    catching

the junebug  in him

pulling the legs off

you say it best you can

way it was said to you

day the birdsong got

knocked out of you

+  kid wants to hear

this about as much

as you did  + you can

tell he’s stopped listening

so you get it together

again     start over    or

walking too fast  or

things in your hands

or  hands in your pockets

or hoods on your head   or

being in stores   or on

corners  or  in a crowd   or

being alone  or doing any

thing   or doing nothing

at all + he’s not trying

to hear this    as much

as you weren’t trying

to hear this  you know

he’s thinking

this is just some more old

shit    so you talk about

Pa Pa  +  Pa + Daddy X

+ Daddy Y +  Daddy Z

about Uncle A + Uncle B

+ Uncle C    even Auntie

D  + all the cousins

almost cousins

cousins you think were

cousins & you hope you

still have it straight as it

was told to you   you

know he thinks you

a big bad fake / then you

start backwards   all over

or being loud     or being

quiet  or /  or  /  or  /  you

try to remain calm   when

the eye rolling starts  you

start over  or talking back

or  talking too smart or not

saying anything  + all

the things never to be

said  + stop when ordered

+ do not run + do not resist

+ no matter what never

ever     resist  +  he can’t

believe that you are saying

any of  this   you’ve said

stand up   you’ve said fight

back  you’ve insisted that he

be proud      you have to

breathe through this   as he

cocks  his head like you

cocked yours    you can

hear him thinking That’s

not my world  + you’ve got

to breathe  you got to knock

it out of him    you shock

him  shaking + shaking +

shaking him   or /  or  /  or

+ now he knows you’re

tripping   or / or /  or  /

+ he smirks: So what

They’re just going

To kill me ?  & you must

breathe  shut up   sit down

start over   shut up   breathe

stare at his cocky junebug

+ smug birdsong now you

Start in  again until you

bring your son to his knees

I checked into the online ether world and discovered that my poem “Transit Ostend” is this week’s Cave Canem Poem of the week. How about that? I was an early fellow of Cave Canem, part of the first group of fifty. It was quite an experience. Being a part of the Dog Pound has truly enriched my life. Thanks Cave Canem for this distinction & for all that we have & have yet to do. You can check the poem & Cave Canem out at this link:

Yalangange Quillumbo

It’s a spare spot I know. It’s a set of floaters.  A small project in public. It’s a mic check. It’s bouncing words on rhythms. It’s trying figure some things out. Not often what to say. Just how to say it. & that changes. That’s the only constant here. Thoughts will bounce around.

Yalangange in Criollo Kongo means: Welcome/Enter. Quilumbo is the camp in the forest where one learns one’s fundamentals. It is also the camp of war. You keep the gunpowder there. It’s also a temple. It’s also the place one goes to test the craft they’ve learned. It’s a wood shed.

“Yalangange quillumbo” may be used as a formal way to invite someone into their Nzo, into the temple’s heart by a Palero when they’re putting on the dog. It can be used to indicate the respect with which the door guardian admits someone of good counsel or much force after the challenge at the door. Both words as spoken by chanters are also images that hold more associations  that dream themselves many other ways. Some people may relate to “quillumbo”  in many ways as well. Palenque. Palmares. A Seminole camp. I offer it here in those ways too.  &  for the meanings it  always means.

I also say it because it is pretty & it pops & rolls.

So here’s some work. It’ll grow.

OK then: “Yalangange quillumbo” & I mean it.