((( in my Nina Simone voice}}} You can’t help it.
An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times …
- Steam Treatments. And I do them old school too. Pot of water on stove. Add orange peel. Add sea salt. Add ginger and onion, if I choose (this morning I added eucalyptus). I wait until my water comes to a boil. Grab my Social-Media-phone and find a video on YouTube that runs about 20 minutes or so. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Start the timer. Start the video. Turn my head into the middle of the hot bubbles and breathe. Issue is, I watch the time on the stove. In somewhat a distrust of my patience and/or the timer only proves this regimen is some odd way of letting anxiety do the praying for me. I will say, it’s definitely helping me rest longer. Never been able to sleep for too long. 4 hours at most. The other day, when I didn’t have to wake up to do anything, 3 of these steam treatments & a Tylenol had me out for 7 seven hours. This made me happy. Little-boy-opening-up-a-Christmas-gift-that-I-wanted-happy. Look at God. Look at fire and water. Look at mist. Look at me watching these 20 minutes and listening to videos filling the air with whether or not Nene spat on Kenya. Look at all of this reminding me 20 minutes is still such a sliver of this life. A life that I find myself breathing into the hottest part of an aromatic steam to keep me in the land of present. Standing.
- Drink Tea. The Throat Coat one. Or the Peppermint one. The Gypsy Cold Remedy one. Or the Ginger Turmeric one. There’s the Earl Grey one. Then there is the Black Currant one. I laugh at the words Black Currant and drift down memory drive. I first met Black Currant in at a shop in Brixton, London. It was my first time out of the country. With about 30 years of Chicago, Illinois living, it was the first time I realized that I was American. Meaning, in citizenship. No matter how black I was, I wasn’t the black of the brothers and sisters with their some-place-far-way-accents. This was evident in my walk, accent and something as simple as the amount of ice required to drink a beverage. After asking for some ice inside my cocktail of cola and black currant, the server came back with 2 slivers of ice to my drink. When I asked for more ice, she asked if I wanted a cup of ice separate from my cola and black currant. Then she asked where was I from. I told her, West Side, Chicago. She said, Nice. You sound like they do in the cowboy pictures. Funny the things that sips of tea trigger in these times. Funny how boiling water has me on skype &/or zoom having tea with a friend from another part the world. He and I talk the 5 reported cases of Corona in the Bahamas that went up to 7 yesterday. He and I talk about the scandal and scrutiny behind the contractions. We talk of the one Brazilian woman who done clipped 7 Bahamian men for their money and left them something to pray about. Then we talk prayer. Then love. Then we talk Whitney Houston. Her big hair era and beaded gowns.
- Dance anytime I feel like it. I have 2 crooked feet that can cut a mean rug. They burden me with no resistance when it comes to jacking my body in front of the floor mirror in the living room. A reminder that the blk body in front of me ain’t limp on a cooling board, waiting on a suit that fits.
- Sing loud. Every time I want to. All the Things Your Man Won’t Do in the car with Nay-Nay. Laugh at the part when Joe says he gonna make love to some poor deprived woman on a beach of jet black sand. He says their gonna be outside in the rain. He says they’re gonna be doing it all night. Immediately, I think, ain’t that gonna be muddy. Speaking of Muddy and folk who won’t shut up, with Jamila, I am singing, Leave me breadcrumbs on the ride / to guide me back. I am singing, Big Birkin bags / Hold five, six figures with Deana. I am singing, Is this the part you take my heart to wipe your feet on with Major. Then there are those times, in front of the bathroom mirror, when I am singing, Sign me up for the christian jubilee with Great Big Mama’s ghost. Tyler has a bunch of folk singing, He’s got the whole world in his hand. I am trying to hold on to what is mine. I am singing with Ronald and his brothers, I’ve got so many things to do.
- Write poems. Keeping in mind the charge of Mama Nina, I am writing poems that reflect the times in which I live. I live amongst this election. This election to hopefully rid us of an Easter-Egg hunt president. I live in a time of Covid-19. Corona is the name that give this pandemic in these streets and means in which I can party with D-Nice or Quest Love on their IG lives. Keeping in mind the charge of Mama Nina, I have made a list to the poems to write. Keeping in mind the charge of Mama Nina. The charge that I must choose to be compelled to speak on the times I live, I write about these times which are attached to my bed. And in my bed there is me. A street-monger with a stent near my bladder. In my bed, is a street-monger with pee coming out my urethra kool-aid-colored. In my bed, there is a street monger with abdominal pain and a laptop shining Corona symptoms back at me. In my bed is a street-monger whose poems about what’s going on in these streets seem to be muted. In their place are poems about a trip to the Bahamas and turning virtual tea time into fun. Natural fun. In their place are poems about breath, tongue and lips on my goody-good-parts. In their place are poems about the space inside my bed awaiting some other body. What will I write about when my body is fixed, and/or my pee is more lemonade in color. What will I write when my abdominal pain is gone. I will write that the window of Corona symptoms got replaced by the naked barber’s only.fans page. Now I am writing poems that suggest that all this time quarantined makes it obvious of how sexless this street-monger’s life is. These poems that reflect the times in which I live are primal. They wish there was a body on top of mine. They wish there was a body underneath mine. They wish there was a body inside of mine. They wish there was a body that mine was inside of. They wish to feel something other than this place between fear and not caring. They wish to feel good. They wish to be wanted and desired. After all, kissing has got to mean that I don’t have Corona [or least not the time to spend worrying about it]. Kissing has got to mean that I will live to jack-jack-jack-jack my body at my birthday roof party underneath June’s sun & moonlight. So if this poem is nothing more than the scenic route to understanding my street-monger living can never replace the heat or comfort of a lover – then so be it. This poem could be the yellow brick road to understanding the private will always eclipse the public and/or political. I wish this poem was a balm to heal the rash on this land’s skin right now. But this poem is the vacant space inside my bed awaiting steam.
avery r young is an award winning teaching artist, composer and producer with work that spans the genres of music, performance, visual arts and literature. Examining and celebrating Black American history and culture, his work also focuses in the areas of social justice, equity, queer identity, misogyny, and body consciousness. He is the author of neckbone: visual verses and recently released the accompanying album, Tubman. Avery is the Poet Laureate of the Stony Island Arts Bank.