Joycelyn Renette: Four Poems

Across the Bayou

Mistakenly distant, but close in heart
Tell me my love, does your soul sing the blues for me
That same sullen jazz tune folks used to hear across the bayou
at the ol’ juke joints. Black faces rowing by lantern
flickering lights floating across the rippling waters like fireflies
among high grass and the night moon

Greeted with warm smiles and open arms
sweat, moistened bodies touching and moving. Trying to get a piece
of that devil’s pie after a hard day’s work. Tell me my love
does your soul sing the blues for me? That same jazz tune
smooth as black satin you caress me

Did you miss me
Of course I did. You’re my baby
across the bayou I’ll never stop singing for
Across the bayou I’ll never stop waiting
to hear that blues tune my soul wants to dance to with you

Can I wrap myself in your love and sleep in your dreams
That I may stay with you in the midnight hour
Never thought I’d find another to dance through life with
limitations restrict us from swaying together
to the language of infinity, a song that will forever play
Tell me my love, does your soul sing the blues for me?


An Untelevised Revolution Buried Deep

I’m the ghost the system tied to bury under
FBI files deemed “communist” wanting only to drink from fountains
where bold letters of COLORED were figments of our imagination
See my imagination kept me free through my state of mind’s eyes

Through my state of mind’s eyes
I wasn’t kneeled down between thorn bushes dragging
a thin material bag of hope filled with cotton even though
my brown eyes could see the pain on my feet shuffling down
rows of soil, cut fingers dripping feared jungle blood
soak stain the very cotton leaving my hands
to imprint a legacy on the white man’s fabric

I’m the ghost the system tried to bury feeling
the warmth of other suns as my people attempt to migrate
away from their life’s shames
the entity of their core, their pride, their joy–gold, mahogany, dark dipped skin
the very essence of making them human, the very thing deeming them UNhuman
running from themselves only to find there’s nowhere to run
are we not all God’s children individually scripted for a purpose above the tides?

Across continents all reaching for a relationship with God seemingly out of reach
for reasons within us that could easily be replaced with the fruits above us
the heart its own entity with words yearning to seep, hardly listened to
I’m the ghost the system tried to bury on
the urban streets of Harlem—aspiring artists, writers, activists stepping proudly
in renaissance I’m the ghost the system tried to bury talking amongst
Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Fredrick Douglas about how things
used to be, how things are supposed to be
when the word fueled us and knowledge motivated us
to be the best, speak the best
reach beyond the double consciousness limits
walking in the direction of authority and grace
a leveled head to the sky instead of a lowered head to the pavement

when culture meant picking up every book you could
to know the theories of the most articulate
dressing not to impress but to signify
I am me, I am here
to pave he way for the young glories of the streets, thinking
rapping a catch phrase is the only means to success
female silhouettes behind pixels thinking
naked images are the means to accomplishment
Check your consciousness because you have two
to be an American and to be you
I’m the ghost the system tried to bury and
I live in you


From The Mountain Top We Shout, Martin Luther King

Through the streets of humanity we honor a man of ten thousand moons
Flying among spirits who showed the potency of Greek derived agape
Love found in the Christian doctrine
Amazed by the social peace of Gandhi alluding to his own courageous confrontation
Of evil by the power of love
A man who refused to cooperate with
An evil system; eyes that have witness the unspeakable horrors of police brutality, diner boycotts, water hoses and canines; out for blood
Witnessing ropes hanging from trees,
Negroes attached as accessories; American Glory keychains
Keychains that to this day never bare our names; unknown we stood in history
Now our ancestors lay down a history for us to follow

Today we honor a man who studied Thoreau’s Essays on Civil Disobedience
And took the faith of one’s future beyond the individual
Held a conviction so meaningful that he stood on it; at the pinnacle of his mountain top; he spoke
“But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
Beyond the lines of separation he walked; crossed paths with Malcolm X
And saw the heart of a man not the belief of a man; showed how to unite
To fight social problems with the power of love

Today we honor a man who brought races from all curves of the world together; unified the masses
That gripped in his heart one day “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers”
That one day all races would live together; love together, bring peace together, march together; today we make a dream a reality


My Spirit Sings Out

Emotions brew like a volcano boiling over until nothing can restrain it.
Contain it within the depths it crept from
a place in heat, simmering fire amongst hot coals
lost in life, found out of confusion
a heart that seeps, oozes like molasses; sap from the core
Slowing releasing the highest spirit, diligently uplifting the Almighty
a powerful force to be reckoned with, a rock foundation; solid, concrete
My soul dances along the street pirouetting through chaos
Unparalleled strength colliding against life’s exposures
Breaking barriers every turn
Stone for stone; leaping free

Fingertips elegantly flow, hands reaching to the nebulas; Thy kingdom
Thy come; I leap, a vessel wrapped in flesh
Surrounded by the most superficial damp of the night temptation; heated
Temperament of love suffering lessons from a fleshed society
where love means lustfully longing for a healthy relationship because
Parental observation wreaks stigmas that nobody took the time to brief us
To teach us; the young generations, about
Signing papers and packing bags, separations that are never final
Kids that don’t always have a mother and father to go to
Discovery of unknown families, stepbrothers, stepsisters, stepmothers, stepfathers
The other woman, the other man, divorce, infidelity
Beauty still grows within sorrow, but
Most think monogamy is a tree these days
Black love shows no endurance in the race of matrimony
Maybe Maxwell sings

A familiar blues of deep rooted ritual escapes my voice box
Bellowing my blues, dancing for the spirit
Hear my call; A chorused background of gospel
At a standstill asking forever forgiveness for accidently on purpose sins
Generations call it a grace period
I call it a period walking a disheveled path with bad reception
Missing calls from the Man above that were once heard from a clear conscious
I hope you can hear me when I say in His image we are Him
Filtering the sands for nourishment
Nubian kings and queens birthed from Mother Nature’s womb
Take in the energy around you
Watch with caution the dim figures in the shadows
Lord, wrap me in your light I wanna breath you word
Open my lungs and rejoice, my spirit sings to the masses
“Praise is what I doooo, when I wanna be close to youuuu, I lift my hands and praaaay”

Our ancestors worked bare foot. Killed for wearing dress shoes
Shoes the white man said a black man didn’t deserve
Lynched; Life feared for everyday
Wanting to be better than what they were
Hundreds years later we’re killed for wearing overpriced shoes that make
Hard earned money become useless rubber and a name brand
That makes us look no different
Killed; Not by the other man, by our own
Modern day shackles, blinded by the luxury of having
Come up for air, my people, above the ruckus
Bowed on bended knees and open hands I sing hope for the masses
Praise to the Sun that our generational curses may be broken
That we may find our way back
To be the people we are meant to be