The Only Way Home

 5/21/2010

I was never an artist.

Not I, no sir. I was too busy being an obedient sycophant
in pursuit of the American dream that my handlers convinced me was my own.
When my childish heart beat a syncopated timpani to the strokes of my pen,
I did not sing its foolish rhythm. While
wanton lips whispered wordless verses,
unspoken, breathless tokens of her affection,
there was no reflection
of their inflection
in my empty, shattered heart.

No sir,
not I.

A child of my ilk,
born to be the genius child of
the next black renaissance, did
a dance when happenstance
(or God’s slick design) gently set
myself
in my hands, to craft.
Instead,
I set down the clay, and
lay myself across the tracks,
sacrificing dreams to the dieseled gods
of far-flung business schools.
There I learned to have a strong
mind but no soul to speak of
for a child of man
(not child of the Son of Man)
was borne to burdens, and
the train was a-coming, and
a man must choose on which side of the tracks
he plans on living.

Surely, I could carry the race
on my back –
a young Thurgood perhaps
or Dr. Drew, I the great greened hope —
the Business world version of a Shirley Chisholm candidacy.
I could rule the world
while I lost my soul,
and my voice with it.
Obedient to the conservative dream,
I pretended to care, and joined the flock
of others marching to the same slaughterhouse.
All of us bleating the corporate songs,
singing in perfect disharmony, and
believing, because we must.
I wore the tailored suits of my
expectations
with a blackened heart
counting the ten thousand days
until my freedom. Ten
thousand days until I could be
whatever it was I was not being
daring not whisper the word …
poet?

And I looked into the sour eyes of my
bitter half
and sighed, joined the muddled flockers
at the corporate trough.
What is a mere
lifetime to give for
obedience?

Only a rebellious heathen
would dream the
dreams of artistry.

And no sir,
not I,
no.

My hairline recedes,
embarrassed, no doubt
as my heart had long ago promised
it dreadful locks
dreaded by all who would pay
for my overdue quietus.
There I stood, those many years
with closeted cravats, and
unsuited attire, a lifetime’s work
in pursuit of excellence

that no one would remember.

Praises would I earn, for
my damnable
ability to streamline, and edit
and downsize everything. Though
my long-dead heart knew
’twas not a gift, but apathy
that slew the giant.
Easy, it is, to kill
that which you do not
love. And I did not love you
corporate sheep.

Through misspent years
of charts and graphs
reports and teams,
never once, had I buckled under,
rent my flesh or torn my cloak,
in mourning of the life
that could have been.
A good corporate soldier
in a proselyte suit.
Never from my lips would I whisper
my secret wishes.

No sir,
not I,
no way.
Which way to the trough, sir?

I am nothing, if not
persistent.

Forty-three are those years
two-score and three
Twenty-two million minutes
minus and counting
and they won’t come back.
Through the forty three
goddamn wasted
years
earning high marks
and dollars that never mattered
I never, once, was man enough
to be myself

Because I was ten, see
when first I turned from my artist’s heart
and set down the pen, and closed
the sketch book, with just my
cameras
to keep me company.
Because …
reasons.

But then it all broke. I
mean the fans hit the shit
and the shit hit the fan
and the shit even hit the
shit that the other shit
was shit from other people’s
fans.

And she left,
and freed my stupid, broken
ass
from my own prison.

Because God kicks ass.

So,
after a shattered, and shuttered
and mended and tattered and
weathered and battered
heart, wondered I
shall I die in this lie
and lie my last days
in a lovely suit
of misery?

No sir,
hell no, say I
not I
no.

So now I have chosen to be
the man God made, and not
the man-made man
so fuck six figures that do not count
and fuck the praises that
have never stroked my flesh
or stoked the fire of my loins.
Now, I wear no more suits
forever
for you and I will not
fit in your motherfucking box
bitches.
And if you don’t like my jeans,
how you like my brains,
bitches?

Yeah, that’s what
I thought.

So,
No sir, no thank you,
sir,
no more trough for me,
sir
hell to the
no, not
Bill.

Cause, Harriet
was right, and
I just figured out,
see,
that I was a slave
to myself.

And so I am back, for the first time.
and arrived just in the nick of time,
‘cause, damn, I wouldn’t have made it,
if I’d stayed so happy,
in my corn-rowed field, a-picking and a-grinning
and a-worshipping the
wrong
damn
God.
I’ve wrapped my head not in dreams you gave me,
but in the headdress that calls me.
And I adorn myself with silver
thumb rings and the secret tattoo she
left on my heart.

“Why,” you ask, Sir, “do you wear those rings?”
No, not with your lips, since, I’m known
for my “outbursts” but with your eyes
you wonder, Sir, daily, “Why them rings? Them
damned rings, why the rings around your
thumb, son?”

And respectfully, I answer,
“Because they fit, and you
no longer do
and
the onliest one
whose thumb I’m wrapped
around
is me.”

I write, in the dark
and let the tears and they fall they do
and fall, and fall, but not cleanse
they fall in an angry torrent, for
nine thousand damned days have gone
and I’ve just gotten home.

I will die no more
for you
forever,
no sir, not I
for Bill
doesn’t live here anymore.

All that is left are the poems
I stole by age nineteen, secreted
in folders you never knew
and the tales I write
to songs I made,
and there are worlds, there
that you cannot
rule.

Not you, no sir
because, well,
God gave me these
and not you.

I am artist
too late born, but
here, I am here, I am
here, I am here, I, am here
I am,
here
and I will not conform
to your expectations.

It is too late to be that which
I could have been
but…

but I think
perhaps,
it is not
too late
to be me.

I have been lost
but have not failed
no sir,
not I.

in some lonely lives,
the road less taken
is the only way
home

Yes sir,
thank you, sir

says I.

Bill is finally
home.

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3 thoughts on “The Only Way Home

  1. This is one of your best, and one of my favourites. Powerful, emotive, poetically just and musical, honest and downright.you. Don’t forget that you always chose artist over all else, but a person’s got to make a living and sate those other desires that pull at the coattails of modernist affectation and, socially ordered lust. The artist never left, but lay quietly beneath the guise of political success, tactical fortune that would carve your place in a place that did not know your heart, but judged you by the colour of your collar and, the collar within the colour. The artist grew, gestating like a seed that would secretly, silently grow into the broad leafed Oak, with its strong limbs and weathered bark, sensuous and grooved to the touch. So many stories and, rhythms and, dreams this upright, forthright, weather-strong tree would speak of. Like an organic, ever-morphing, swaying, not bending, library of knowledge there ever was and will be. Replete with that knowledge of the artist grown to maturity, wise beyond meter, grounded beyond tenure, and skilled beyond measure. The poetry of you outgrew the suits, and the closeted cravats, and most, the dreaded heart that hid beneath the ink of unvoiced hope. Your heart grew strong and in new ways as you lay slumbering on your six-figure bed of nails, preserving your right to speak loud and proud when the time served you well. Now is that time, now you can shout from the top of your uppermost boughs at the scarified land you grew so damned tall above. You, a landmark, testament to tempered will and, enduring patience. You, tuned to perfection like an upright instrument ready to be plucked by willing hands, hands that know your music intimately, hands that would lift you, not mould you, hold you, not scold you. Hands that feel your tones, and caress the melody that now drips from your divine silvered tongue and, claim solace from your deep, resonant leonine strum. Thume, poom, boom, badoom thum poom.

    Liked by 1 person

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