From the Bottom of My Heart

Feliz Navidad played over and over on the demon turntable in my head on a sticky hot August evening – I couldn’t recall just where I’d heard it last, nor why it was stuck so unmercifully on repeat, except to suppose that perhaps it was a safety device my brain had rigged up to drown out the relentless thoughts of her – you know, trading in one form of pointless unyielding torture for another. The train barked out each lonely stop and round and round I went in both mind and muscle, soul and sinew, in undying circles like the silly refrain of Spanish trying in vain to occupy her proper space in my head.

James “Jimmy” Aiken Sr (1953-2005)

james aiken sr.

The creek, it seems, swallowed him up.

He and the river were well known to one another, and as it had been with his father (my great-grand-), they had a long and comfortable arrangement. He respected her, honored her, and she shared with him her gifts and peace and splendor. It’s hard to say whether the deal was somehow broken, or whether this was all part of the bargain. He did his part, and perhaps when it was time to go, he left at her hand. I can’t pretend to know the covenant they came to. All I know is that the creek swallowed him up.

The past few days I’ve avoided the tears, fought them back from rolling down my face like sea island thunderstorms. From time to time I can sense them welling up only to be choked back again by my Taurean unwillingness to give in. I am bound and determined not to deal with my emotions, and I shall not until I am good and goddamn ready. I cannot, regardless, because someone has to stand as the bulwark between chaos and order, between the calm of Thursday morning and the unremitting monsoon of this weekend.

This weekend when the sky fell and only stopped long enough to give us his body back.

I would write more, but the words would do him no justice.

Rest in peace, Uncle Jimmy.

mojo workin’

We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like the river.

I’m feeling myself, as it were, feeling the power within exposing itself slowly to the desolation awaiting it in the cold and heartless world.

I’m alive, for once it seems, purely and individually, alive with possibility and anticipation. Alive with arrogance. Alive with fear and alive with fury. I inhale today and spit out tomorrow. And rest assured, you motherfuckers, you’d best not fuck with me.

Fear and loathing being too often aligned, from revelation to cliche, though in their way they describe this moment perfectly, pregnant with potential. At the crossroads of righteous hatred and uncertainty, where old women with cork burnt blackface ride the metropolitan transit systems accompanied by duct tape infested coleman coolers, amid abandoned flip-flops waiting for attention perched between the escalators. Here I am. Look at me.

Something about the southern soul sings out for the surreal. We adorn our days with it and during out late evenings it crunches loudly underfoot. We indulge its wild abandon as one must a petulant monarch. The surreal, as the name itself suggests, lives just beneath our reality – but it is the southerner who lives out this underworld amongst the waking hours. Our embrace of that nether region parallels our understanding of evil and scum and rottenness buried deep within the cold hearts of our neighbors – the bastards, the frauds, the motherfuckers living just across the lawn. We hate minutiae as much as the goddamn Nazis. People who stand too closely, folks who tell the facts and not the story, and those who take unwelcome liberties in their salutations, for those we reserve the Ninth Circle of Hell – the sonofabitch called me by my first name, I shoulda done him in right then and there with a salad fork. And goddamn it, he should have. The essential thing, the beast of it all is that we are right. We are right in our utter disgust of all things improper, and absolutely correct to distrust those we wave to everyday as the very essence of evil. Because the truth at the heart is that words have power, and no one, NO ONE, is to be trusted. Things are not as they seem. If nothing else, believe this.

We are warriors still.

everything in italics is Hunter S. Thompson. the rest is me.

What I Believe.

I believe you can tell everything you need to know about someone based on what type of music and movies and books they like. I believe in America. I believe in myself, almost without question. I believe in a thing called love, in spite of the women I’ve loved. I believe that nobody is perfect, especially me. I believe in the all-encompassing power of art. I believe hip hop will never die. I believe that not all white people are evil. I believe that not all black people are good. I believe too many white people are oblivious to the evil they do. I believe too many black people are unaware of the good they are capable of. I believe Usher did Chilli wrong, then profited from it. I believe love is a motherfucker.

I believe Zuma is the work of Satan. I believe I am addicted to it. I believe OJ is innocent of murder. I believe I chose those specific words very carefully for a reason. I believe Kobe probably is guilty. I also believe he sabotaged my beloved Lakers for his own personal selfishness. I believe this is no way to live. I believe in the innate equality of all mankind. I believe something is seriously wrong with this guy in my class. I believe “The Big Lebowski” is an accurate way to judge if someone is my type or not. I believe Brooklyn’s the borough.

I believe in life. I believe in choice. I definitely believe in contraception. And on that note, I believe Trojans and Durex are far superior to Lifestyles, which will never again touch my wang. I believe I just used the word wang. I believe the Democrats take black folks for granted. I still believe the Republicans are in league with the Antichrist. I believe that leaves us all in limbo. I believe the best Bond was Connery, in a landslide. I believe in the wholesome sweet goodness of White Russians. I believe Janet is just as crazy as Michael, but I likewise believe Jermaine might be the biggest lunatic of them all. I believe Halle Berry is TOTALLY out of line.

I believe law school students tend towards obnoxious, argumentative, arrogant, Type A, asshole personalities. I believe I tend towards the same, minus the Type A thing. I believe Jay Z is overrated. I believe I need help. I believe intellectual property law is one of the most significant venues for civil rights in the 21st century. I believe Westlaw is better than LexisNexis. I believe you already know what I think about your opinion. I believe in kissing as the best and first form of foreplay, and that kissing will tell you almost everything you need to know about how someone is as a lover. I believe Bush stole this election too, on the hush. Clearly, I believe in conspiracies.

I believe in National League baseball and NFC football. I believe in the superiority of the full and half Windsor over the four-in-hand. I believe Rick James is more than a catchphrase and the song “Super Freak.” I believe bitches can’t be trusted, but I also believe this is a gender neutral statement. I believe in karma. I believe in poetry and porn. I believe in creative expression, in whatever form it might take. I believe fucking is a form of creative expression. I believe in the beauty of blackness. I believe in spending money wisely, regardless of whether I act on that belief with any consistency.

I believe in free wi-fi, free education, and free health care for all. I believe the greatest verse in hip-hop history is Nas’s from “Verbal Intercourse.” I believe the four greatest male singers in the history of R&B are Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding, although I believe there’s an argument to be made for my boy Donny Hathaway. I believe I am ready to settle down. I believe my heart is still hurting. I believe Sprint is out to get me. I believe I have the worst luck in human history when it comes to automobiles. I believe I am ready to leave DC.

I believe The Brothers Karamazov, Go Tell It On the Mountain, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are 3 of the greatest books in human existence. I believe I am racially, culturally, and gender biased. And homophobic. I believe its important to be honest about this. I actually believe in being honest in as many situations as possible. I believe in principle over personal desires. I believe the ’85 Bears are the greatest team in the history of professional sports. I believe Ditka is the personal emissary of the Lord. I believe I am going to hell in a hand basket for that last statement. I believe I am addicted to IM, Gmail, and Myspace. I sho nuff believe in the Dirty South.

Oh, and I believe you can kiss my ass.

on the occasion of my sister’s wedding.

Love is passion, true, and love is dynamic, dramatic, feral and free, but love also is gentle stillness, serenity and calm in the face of misfortune.

Love is sharing. Love is consideration, giving till there is nothing left to give, but also is love selfish, greedy, domineering, demanding of full attention, faith, and faithfulness. Love is desire and need, patience and sacrifice.

Few of us have not known the hard dull edge of a day when love has done us wrong, and fewer still are unaware of the saccharine bliss of when we’ve become full up in our hearts for someone for the first time – when we’ve become overwhelmed by the possibilities presented in a new relationship and the possibilities newly present in ourselves.

We must have both sides of the coin, both halves of the whole. In love, we require both storm and stillness. And in the storm we find our surrender to the power of an emotion, of a concept greater than ourselves. In the stillness we find our surrender to a person dearer to us than ourselves. In both, we place the outcome in hands other than our own, we relinquish total control. We trust in the power of our feeling and our faith, because the essence of it all, the roots of love, are found, through both fury and tranquility, in trust.

In youth, in newness, with exploration, love is tempest and torrent.
In time, with age and understanding, love is serenity and sacrifice.

These are the two disparate and unified facets of love, divided only by experience. And it is at the threshold between them that these two find themselves poised.

I’d like to end with this Sicilian proverb:

Matrimoni e viscuvati, di lu celu su mannati,


Weddings and spiritual matters are heaven sent.

This is surely such a union. Sent from heaven and a blessing to us all. Thank you.

(I wrote this for my little sister’s wedding yesterday)

water no get enemy

It’s hard to find the words with which to begin. Words, I’m afraid, scarcely hold the information required to tell his story. Here we go, though, whatever my lack of eloquence.

I have known few men or women in my life I can say I truly respected. There have been many I liked well enough, and of course, many more whom I thoroughly detested – but precious few, loved or otherwise, about which it can be said I respected them.

This was such a man.

I sat, uncomfortable, shifting fore and aft in the pew, looking around at the beautiful sea of black faces surrounding me. Some I recognized from my undergraduate days on the second floor of Childer’s, some I only knew from books or the occasional PBS documentary, and more still were unknown to me completely. Still, all these were somehow familiar to me – as a long lost cousin’s high cheek bones and oblong head and bulbous nose fit ever so well in the long progression from one’s great grandfather, grandfather, and uncles; we all belonged that day, all one family, in mourning and celebration of a great man now gone.

He was a man for whom “category” and “boundary” were terms as useless as monopoly money – and confronting him with either would have been equally futile. He was, as eloquently as I can put it, unfuckingstoppable. A giant juggernaut of the art world. It was his way, or would stomp you into the highway. Ribald, regal, real; passionate and playful; confrontational, curious, and courageous; kind, giving, honest, and ALIVE. It was in this fashion that he led a movement of artists from the Chicago hinterlands to the motherland. As one artist from Nigeria put it, “Because of him, we came to America, to find Africa.” Co-creator of the “Wall of Respect,” co-founder of AfriCOBRA, leading light of the Black Arts Movement, Dean of the Howard University College of Fine Arts, and all around bad ass muthafucka.

He tried to teach us how to fight with unrepentant fury.
And how to paint even harder.

We said our goodbyes…cheered for him and cried for ourselves. We laughed at Jameelah’s jokes. Donald Byrd played. Haki Madhubuti read. And all the while, I tried to make sense of him, to fit his absence into my new reality. only just now did I finally give up on all that bullshit. He hasn’t left us at all. He is us. If only as we one day wish to be.

Here is to our mighty emperor of blackness. I hope you are giving them hell up in heaven. These sorry ass words could not do you justice.

Dr. Jeff R. Donaldson
December 15, 1932 – February 29, 2004

yellin’ crickets and crows

there is rawness and an infantile quality to love among we children of africa in america. as if it’s a love not yet matured. as if we are unable to express our affection for one another with the purity required to reach, within our feelings for one another, the absolution true love brings. as if our puppy love is a lifelong endeavor. we use and are used. we fuck and are fucked. but so rarely do we give, freely and without recompense. rarely do we transcend the corporeal. always on the lookout for the better deal, we are consumed by our realities, and so cannot indulge fully our spirituality. true love is completely spiritual, total testament to the altar of what we can be when removed from material existence. has whitey so ripped from us our potential?

we have lost our spirituality. we have had stolen from us our inner children and our outer adults. we love and worship selfishly and without faith. tell me I am wrong. I pray that I am wrong. and yet…

in re solitude

brainstorm, take me away from the norm
I’ve got to tell you something
this phenomenon
I had to put it in a song
and it goes like…

typing. slowly the arduous process of unfolding my self onto the new page, of opening up my unmarked surfaces to the sky to be filled and scribbled upon begins anew.

together we were a sight. A miscegenation explosion of beautiful benetton body parts akimbo and on display, as we embraced madly in the urgency of the all too short time we shared.

but if sharing is what we deign to call it, then its best it ends. now before we revile each other all the more.

our hatred of one another is and should have been no surprise, because what we dislike so intensely in one another is what we fear most in ourselves…she detests her own tendencies towards laziness and abusiveness and promiscuity, and I my own vacuous self-absorption, self-criticism, and self-gratification above all else. we are our darker sides, each other’s antimatters, and the violent reaction between the opposites was something quantum physicists had up till now only hypothesized. anima and animus.

and still. though all of this is unquestioned and without challenge, and still. I love her intensely with white hot pain and bone chilling depth. I love her enough to want her near me no matter how much it hurts, and enough to never see her again if she requires it in order to avoid hurting her any more than I already have.

I have crushed many a heart before. I have broken many a promise. but this is by far the worst, as the heart I have torn in two is as much mine as hers.

goodbye, sad eyes. goodbye my magnificent hair beast. goodbye.

don’t give up your independence
unless it feels so right
nothing good comes easily
sometimes you’ve got to fight…


and if you were at any moment unaware, you, for us, are what we are to you…a steadying hand, a welcome smile in a sea of unfriendly hearts, a word of wisdom amidst the tempest of despair it seems far too many of us with our personal web publishing empires seem to wallow in…oh, we are a sensitive, ornery lot indeed. and yet, our souls reach out to one another…a million and 2 individuals, separated by distance and introversion, standing up to scream out. “I am here. I need to be heard. I need to be free. I need to illustrate my hatred and my fears and my love and my hope and my pain for others. I need to illuminate them all for myself.”

our freedom is not in the solutions to the tribulations, you see. our freedom is in exposing our torments to the sun. because angst is allergic to light.

down by law

lately i have been thinking about this whole “law blog” thing, and if my site is really one of those, or not, or whatever. I mean, occasionally I write about the law, about something one of my professors said, or whatever, but for the most part, my writing is pretty absent of any overt law references. why is that? I spend most of my time at the law school, with law students, and we talk about all kinds of law things while we are there, preparing ourselves to lead long law lives and annoy the hell out of our non-law loved ones, in little law worlds of our own. actually, we will pretty much annoy the hell out of everyone, non-law unloved ones and law people as well. we will probably annoy the hell out of ourselves. I am only saying all this to say, the reason I don’t write very often about the law is that I don’t define myself within the construct that other law students do…I came back to school with other marketable skills that have absolutely no bearing on my life as a dreaded “law student,” so I don’t see myself as such first and foremost. here, i explore and develop my other interests and abilities. there, I argue with people over the meaning of basic words deep inside of obscure case law.

and so I have been able to maintain my happy little dichotomy. the artist and the asshole.


the rain fell so steadily today, and I raced back and forth from my office to the parking meter standing watch over my car all damn day, collecting raindrops all along the run.

melancholy is my mood, my magic, and my melody.

she is the root of all my art and the foundation of most of my understanding. my compassion, too, is all too well-connected to the quiet, dark place in my soul.

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The Tumult of the Time Disconsolate

there is purgatory. and then there is hell.

purgatory is the student health center line and waiting for 3 and a half hours to gain even the simplest of understandings as to why an infernal medical hold has been misplaced on my student account, preventing me from registering. purgatory is the 45 dollar parking ticket surely awaiting me on my return to my lovely nissan, earned because to leave the health center, thereby losing both my place in line and my ability to re-enter the building again today, was a fate I was not quite ready to face. purgatory is the hu beauracracy, beating down we humble and humiliated students, year after year after year after year. purgatory is the bullshit forms. bullshit lines. bullshit shots. and bullshit people in lab coats who clearly have no reasonable business interacting with the public. purgatory is a tuberculosis scare, and expired tests.

hell is bonita perry, who drove all the way from mobile alabama (she says) to atlanta, whereupon she took a flight to dc to share her words with us in line, to talk and talk, about absolutely nothing of any worth or substance. with her spellman t-shirt, her 44 years of life, her 4th from the bottom of page 8. and no, you cannot film us for your home viewing enjoyment, miss perry.

and I promise you, purgatory ain’t got shit on hell.

What Is Past

two, sitting. me in the chair now fairly coated in the earthly and earthy sacrament of our lasciviousness and sexual creativity. you in its gorgeous, timeworn, five-dollar, multi-slatted cousin, across the hardwood floors adored by nakachi. scribbling furiously in our respective symbolic notebooks (the 800 lb gorilla in redmond calls them, collectively, “notepad.”) fucking frantically sans fighting fanatically? phenomenal, filthy, fun, and fantastic. turkey & provolone on panini? well, sadly, only passable. coffee? bitter, at best. tag-team flirting? enjoyable, to be sure, though I am afraid diane wasn’t quite my type. better epilogue? how ’bout the smile on your face, teeth bared shown clean to the world, as we absorb the melodies escaping the ruby red sony on top of the dvd rack? or the spontaneous hand-dancing session that erupted during smooth grooves 4: a sensual collection‘s selection of betty wright’s “tonight is the night?” no, far, far better was the harmony of our voices in duet.

“…there will still be music left to write…”

so having shared our bodies so hungrily, completely, and furiously, we shared, together tonight, our hearts, with equal vigor, for the first time in many months. i missed the completeness of what we have to offer each other. and it hurts that our stresses and tests often obscure the miracle of what we are and should be to one another.

I had intended, in all seriousness, to write this with great beauty, poise, discipline, and wit…but instead, now I am choking back tears, and like a beautiful woman, the words with which to end this appropriately remain just beyond my extended hands. so with resignation, I surrender to the slumber that calls me, and to the woman just beyond my reach.

Born With No State of Mind

they sat there, perched delicately on my eyelids, trapped between each eyeball and its respective lashes. the tears should have overflowed on the spot, but instead they remained fixedly in position, awaiting some new catalyst to initiate the inevitable deluge. I tried, seriously tried, to distance myself as best I could from my old wounds. the darkness caught up with me, though, hard as I tried to outrun it.

this was a hard weekend.

In My Mind

“hello, and thank you for choosing greyhound, my name is david, and I will be one of your coach operators for today. there is to be no smoking on the coach. if you do not heed the restrictions on smoking, your next driver will be a state trooper. there is no drinking alcoholic intoxicants of any kind on greyhound. if you do not know what an intoxicant is, that includes st. ides, mad dog 20/20, gin and juice, and apple martinis. if you have already drunk an alcoholic intoxicant, than please go to sleep, and we can all have a nice, peaceful ride this evening.”

a cacophony of conversations. accents. personalities…and most importantly, characters of every sort. The 50-ish british woman, who continues to swear up and down that she knows nothing of prejudice or white supremacist patriarchy, because she was so ready to befriend a pakistani girl she met in grade school, when no one else would volunteer, despite their instructor’s entreaties. my, isn’t she liberal? “I usually take a plane,” she exclaimed upon commencing her rant. and she is telling this to? light-skinned, wavy-haired hybrid boy in his early twenties, new yorker, with timbs, maurice malone denim, a burberry head scarf. yes, if you missed it, go back, and read that shit again. a burberry head scarf. across the aisle sit two elderly women, from columbia, who insist on angrily heckling the driver as he proceeds up and down the coach – “I guess I woulda had time ta get that water after all, huh? tol’ ya so!” up front is carrie, who, she assures me, shoots back. that’s why “them arabs don’t dare” mess with her, and why new york is safer than charleston, even after september 11th. 4 rows back, to my right, a little girl babbles on inanely- the self-same little girl who screamed at her brother, prior to leaving the station, “that’s why I hate you, perry!” a holy terror, that one, aged 3. 2 rows up, right, the older gentleman who keeps staring at my shirt. next to me sits a bag, a book, and a butterfinger. wait. the old women to my right just began singing gospel songs, interspersed with dry, harsh, hacking coughs. I wish she had gotten that water, dammit.

a litany of lunacy is carolina trailways, or peter pan, or greyhound, or whatever the little changling demonspawn busline wants to call itself. so here, riding on my second incorrect schedule, and not knowing whether I am still on time, I ride. at night, on a bus with no reading lights. and a rude, silly ass driver (see the above quote).

to put it more succinctly, foolishness and freaks a go-go.