Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Things My Father Gave Me (Which I Never Asked For)

Enlarge poem

1 Life. A home plate. A backyard with a pitching mound. A split-finger fastball, a slider, a curve. How to break in a glove. When to slide head first. A family name to uphold. Open arms.

2 Time. A Huffy Bike. How to crack pecans. A sandbox. How to piss. How to be a rock. When to till the Earth. How to make a fist. When to fight, when to smile. How to trap a rabbit. How to catch a liar. How to speak when White people are present. (How to talk when White folk ain’t.) The difference between a flathead, a Phillips head, and a hard head. A roof over my head. Room to grow.

3 How to shoot a free throw. When to call a foul. How to drive. A high-top fade. How to ask out a lady, how to let her be a woman. How to use a level. How to keep your cool. When to be cool. Cool.

4 A pimpstroll. How to smoke out wasps. Where to get good fish. Funk & Wagnalls. When to ask for help, when to give it. How to speak up. A love of brown. Talbotton. How to mow the lawn, to hammer, to saw. How to change a tire, when to change the oil, how to handle change.

5 How to tie a tie. How to buy a suit. How to earn an honest dollar. How to lead, how to follow. How to read the spread. When to swallow your pride. How to raise a fence. How to use a knife for a pencil sharpener. When to shoot a gun.

6 How to shake a man’s hand. How to look him in the eye. A thirst to learn. A book case. Muscadines. Nights to dream. Dreambooks. Reasons to cry. Dark skin. Strong teeth. Full lips. Blood. Two brothers. How to care for elders. How to honor them. How to admit when you’re wrong. How to apologize before the funeral. How to love—yes—and how to always come Home.

M. Ayodele Heath

Featured Poem:

Urban Percussions

Enlarge poem

Killed… I killed him with my own hands.
–Aime Cesaire
Tuesday, December 12, 1993
I sat at my window, gazing at the city—
bright lights, lasciviousness & lies,
sleek subway trains, and steel towers that soared
to the sky.
In swoons I dug the swing
of Miles’ horn ridin the high hat,
bathed in the subtle static
of my old phonograph.
The wintry wind whistled
a somber tune as a lone cloud
vanquished the moon.
Echoes of gunshots hung heavy
in the air, and somewhere
a mad drummer played his beats…

Yo, there’s that cat Nat—
I lifted his rims a while back

4:23 on my wristpiece—A. M., that is—
the phone rang, and who could it be
but Tracy
in herbal heights ramblin
bout her glittering dreams
of showbiz—ruby rings, candy-apple cars,
& scarlet sequined dresses. Baby,
I’m gonna be a star.
Miss Smile Brite 1979. I was
Miss Smile Brite 1979.
At the age of five I was live,
& I know my face was destined
for magazine covers.
She’d had many lovers
tryin to sex her way to the top.
Then, on her voice, rained the patter
of teardrops—fallin & fallin.
Tracy’s bawlin drowned the sounds
of Ice beatin his wife in the flat next door.
I could do no more than listen
as the voice on the other end
wailed of having no friends
and of being alone in this city
of being so alone in this city…
In the daylight some called her siditty
but only I knew of her vulnerability
in the night. Come on over, she said.
I need a shoulder
to cry on. Then, a dial tone…

So I slipped on my gear
made my way
toward the West side of town.
Caddy out front, brothas smokin blunts—
the dawn wrestled with the night.
The fiery ashes of a cigarette
lay dying on a stair, and somewhere
a mad drummer played his beats…

There’s that pimp Kimp—
duped him for a dimebag of hemp…

Slapped fives and gave dap,
floored the gas but had a flat.
Wouldya believe on MLK?
Got out, locked my doors,
Givin nods to the whores
packin it up for the night.
Went on trailed by a cop,
ducked into a doughnut shop
& ordered my usual.
After done I made a run
two blocks west of Ashby
in the shadow of the rising sun.
Finally, I made it to Tracy’s crib
on the West side of town.

Yo, there’s that nig Pig,
from whose hoochie I took a swig…

On the West side of town
I took the elevator to the floor
where Tracy stayed.
And from somewhere
near the end of the hall played—
or so it seemed—
the blatant blare of trumpet screams.
On the fourth floor,
Tracy already stood in the door
of apartment G. Tracy was bawlin
as I was stalling, wonderin
what the problem could be.

Can I come in? In a daze, she nodded.
I poked and prodded
to find her trouble.
And she looked to the double beds
in her bedroom.
I didn’t know what was in store
till I looked at the floor and saw
a pool of red.
My reflection in a pool, blood red.

Lying face-down on the carpet
was a brotha—dead.
I turned his face over

And it was me
it was me
It was me.

And somewhere
a mad drummer played his beats.
A dance with death
to the rhythm
of urban percussions.

ayodele

How does this featured poem make you feel?

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  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

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Biography

An Atlanta native, M. Ayodele Heath is a top-10 finisher at the National Poetry Slam. A graduate of the MFA program at New England College, his honors include: a McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech, an Emerging Artist grant from the Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs, and a fellowship to the Caversham Center for Artists in South Africa.

Ayodele has been a featured performer at such venues as the National Black Arts Festival, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and the TurnerSouth ‘My South Speaks’ television campaign, as well as universities and festivals across America. His first book, Otherness, is available from Brick Road Poetry Press.

M. Ayodele Heath

ayodele
ayodele

Biography

An Atlanta native, M. Ayodele Heath is a top-10 finisher at the National Poetry Slam. A graduate of the MFA program at New England College, his honors include: a McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech, an Emerging Artist grant from the Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs, and a fellowship to the Caversham Center for Artists in South Africa.

Ayodele has been a featured performer at such venues as the National Black Arts Festival, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and the TurnerSouth ‘My South Speaks’ television campaign, as well as universities and festivals across America. His first book, Otherness, is available from Brick Road Poetry Press.

Things My Father Gave Me (Which I Never Asked For)

Enlarge poem

1 Life. A home plate. A backyard with a pitching mound. A split-finger fastball, a slider, a curve. How to break in a glove. When to slide head first. A family name to uphold. Open arms.

2 Time. A Huffy Bike. How to crack pecans. A sandbox. How to piss. How to be a rock. When to till the Earth. How to make a fist. When to fight, when to smile. How to trap a rabbit. How to catch a liar. How to speak when White people are present. (How to talk when White folk ain’t.) The difference between a flathead, a Phillips head, and a hard head. A roof over my head. Room to grow.

3 How to shoot a free throw. When to call a foul. How to drive. A high-top fade. How to ask out a lady, how to let her be a woman. How to use a level. How to keep your cool. When to be cool. Cool.

4 A pimpstroll. How to smoke out wasps. Where to get good fish. Funk & Wagnalls. When to ask for help, when to give it. How to speak up. A love of brown. Talbotton. How to mow the lawn, to hammer, to saw. How to change a tire, when to change the oil, how to handle change.

5 How to tie a tie. How to buy a suit. How to earn an honest dollar. How to lead, how to follow. How to read the spread. When to swallow your pride. How to raise a fence. How to use a knife for a pencil sharpener. When to shoot a gun.

6 How to shake a man’s hand. How to look him in the eye. A thirst to learn. A book case. Muscadines. Nights to dream. Dreambooks. Reasons to cry. Dark skin. Strong teeth. Full lips. Blood. Two brothers. How to care for elders. How to honor them. How to admit when you’re wrong. How to apologize before the funeral. How to love—yes—and how to always come Home.

Featured Poem:

Urban Percussions

Enlarge poem

Killed… I killed him with my own hands.
–Aime Cesaire
Tuesday, December 12, 1993
I sat at my window, gazing at the city—
bright lights, lasciviousness & lies,
sleek subway trains, and steel towers that soared
to the sky.
In swoons I dug the swing
of Miles’ horn ridin the high hat,
bathed in the subtle static
of my old phonograph.
The wintry wind whistled
a somber tune as a lone cloud
vanquished the moon.
Echoes of gunshots hung heavy
in the air, and somewhere
a mad drummer played his beats…

Yo, there’s that cat Nat—
I lifted his rims a while back

4:23 on my wristpiece—A. M., that is—
the phone rang, and who could it be
but Tracy
in herbal heights ramblin
bout her glittering dreams
of showbiz—ruby rings, candy-apple cars,
& scarlet sequined dresses. Baby,
I’m gonna be a star.
Miss Smile Brite 1979. I was
Miss Smile Brite 1979.
At the age of five I was live,
& I know my face was destined
for magazine covers.
She’d had many lovers
tryin to sex her way to the top.
Then, on her voice, rained the patter
of teardrops—fallin & fallin.
Tracy’s bawlin drowned the sounds
of Ice beatin his wife in the flat next door.
I could do no more than listen
as the voice on the other end
wailed of having no friends
and of being alone in this city
of being so alone in this city…
In the daylight some called her siditty
but only I knew of her vulnerability
in the night. Come on over, she said.
I need a shoulder
to cry on. Then, a dial tone…

So I slipped on my gear
made my way
toward the West side of town.
Caddy out front, brothas smokin blunts—
the dawn wrestled with the night.
The fiery ashes of a cigarette
lay dying on a stair, and somewhere
a mad drummer played his beats…

There’s that pimp Kimp—
duped him for a dimebag of hemp…

Slapped fives and gave dap,
floored the gas but had a flat.
Wouldya believe on MLK?
Got out, locked my doors,
Givin nods to the whores
packin it up for the night.
Went on trailed by a cop,
ducked into a doughnut shop
& ordered my usual.
After done I made a run
two blocks west of Ashby
in the shadow of the rising sun.
Finally, I made it to Tracy’s crib
on the West side of town.

Yo, there’s that nig Pig,
from whose hoochie I took a swig…

On the West side of town
I took the elevator to the floor
where Tracy stayed.
And from somewhere
near the end of the hall played—
or so it seemed—
the blatant blare of trumpet screams.
On the fourth floor,
Tracy already stood in the door
of apartment G. Tracy was bawlin
as I was stalling, wonderin
what the problem could be.

Can I come in? In a daze, she nodded.
I poked and prodded
to find her trouble.
And she looked to the double beds
in her bedroom.
I didn’t know what was in store
till I looked at the floor and saw
a pool of red.
My reflection in a pool, blood red.

Lying face-down on the carpet
was a brotha—dead.
I turned his face over

And it was me
it was me
It was me.

And somewhere
a mad drummer played his beats.
A dance with death
to the rhythm
of urban percussions.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Things My Father Gave Me (Which I Never Asked For)

Enlarge poem

1 Life. A home plate. A backyard with a pitching mound. A split-finger fastball, a slider, a curve. How to break in a glove. When to slide head first. A family name to uphold. Open arms.

2 Time. A Huffy Bike. How to crack pecans. A sandbox. How to piss. How to be a rock. When to till the Earth. How to make a fist. When to fight, when to smile. How to trap a rabbit. How to catch a liar. How to speak when White people are present. (How to talk when White folk ain’t.) The difference between a flathead, a Phillips head, and a hard head. A roof over my head. Room to grow.

3 How to shoot a free throw. When to call a foul. How to drive. A high-top fade. How to ask out a lady, how to let her be a woman. How to use a level. How to keep your cool. When to be cool. Cool.

4 A pimpstroll. How to smoke out wasps. Where to get good fish. Funk & Wagnalls. When to ask for help, when to give it. How to speak up. A love of brown. Talbotton. How to mow the lawn, to hammer, to saw. How to change a tire, when to change the oil, how to handle change.

5 How to tie a tie. How to buy a suit. How to earn an honest dollar. How to lead, how to follow. How to read the spread. When to swallow your pride. How to raise a fence. How to use a knife for a pencil sharpener. When to shoot a gun.

6 How to shake a man’s hand. How to look him in the eye. A thirst to learn. A book case. Muscadines. Nights to dream. Dreambooks. Reasons to cry. Dark skin. Strong teeth. Full lips. Blood. Two brothers. How to care for elders. How to honor them. How to admit when you’re wrong. How to apologize before the funeral. How to love—yes—and how to always come Home.

Comments

Your email address will not be published.