Archaic Motorcycle Breath The whistles of brakes Now here comes the burning oil The grinding petals to the street Polluted with archaic motorcycle breath. Across the bridges They spread disease in the ripples of the river The script flips Over that mountaintop When freedom is disrobed of crimson dress. Let’s believe in the burning of the privileges To the disease of a racism mentality Blowing up the baby boomer birthday party Around the curve, The flames eat through the winds of malice. How to become one? When? When reduced to living behind the fence Cannot see, cannot breathe In the flesh that should feel free But the enemies are loud And they assassinate without hesitation Living in fears – That feeds the dictator’s stomach. No one is here for your entertainment purposes only And no one under this sky Was put here to feel less than human So hard to fly within the radar
When the sunlight dies – You cannot tame the bird to go hide in the nest. Never a prisoner Never a suit Never a believer (in the power of the badge) Mixed in the blood of your boots (in your fairytale dream) The skeletons show from the closets – When you think all your bones are hidden. Will it all come out in the wash? With help from black robes on blue-lit streets The skyline begins to burn like paper A new revolution bubbles out from the crisping seas. The chariot to heaven – Doesn’t include stops to hide in the tunnels. When your name is called Remember those whom you’ve made suffer When your name is called Your lips won’t rest in the quakes and quiver. But love will come from the ashes But equality will come from the ashes But the truth will come from the ashes Honor will be Humanity will be And the American eagle coins meltdown like rain And monetary status becomes irrelevant
Like Bullets From the Cowboys I’m burning inside I’m caving in The laughter heard as they stole my mind You want the skin to be the demons I can’t escape the hills of your bones I’ve lain in the flood, in all of the blood Like bullets from the cowboys. The angels want more resistance The breath they want, And the breath they will take. That speed through the body faster than the viruses. Hidden in the badges, the hood, or the graveyards Like bullets from the cowboys. In the rapture, they trap in and capture – the Christ In cave walls or tiny mansions They white-out biblical passages Replaced with Americana ink The idolatry gospel spouts – From the mouths of the wicked And they still like to play cowboys. The outlaws in Mercedes Papas in rough trucks Mamas painting hate over the tracks Loose trails that lead to the next shell casing Bullets from the cowboys Or infantile swimmers stuck in the mind of a Civil War Newspaper.
Built like Malcolm, that’s the X in me Think we just in the middle, the thought perplexes me Built like Martin Luther, no wonder my name mean king And continue one day at a time Walking in his dream
Angels watch over me And don’t let the devil get up under me A lot of evil planning they six feet so they can put me under see Six feet has become the socially acceptable distance I have people farther away taken from me in an instance Thinking about the circumstances got me withdrawing my defenses See the pain through my lenses Lather all my feelings, watch it repeat as it rinses
I got angels over me Waiting to give my wings I still gotta do a few more things Reach a few more dreams Right now things don’t look like what it seems Feel like we’re in a balancing act Keeping it together on the beams Right now the world is holding it together But trying to bust at the seams
I got angels over me Watching over ensure I’m blessed Diminishing my stress Monitoring my success Always hungry for more Never settling for less
Angels watching over me Since they were taken from me too soon I wish I could sit and chat with them all In the same room Wish I could see my cousin one more time Call me RJ one, my favorite nickname of mine Wish I could visit my grandpa like I used to I hope you proud of me for the things I did do Wish I was I can see my uncle now And create my own stories I want all of them to say in unison to me not to worry Tell me this world is a scary place at times and that things will get better And that they’ll be with me all the way no matter the storm to weather
Dr. King’s Dream
If Martin Luther King’s dream became reality Ope there goes gravity Or whatever Eminem said People would lose themselves Over the realization That this is not the equality that he spoke of all these years ago This currently is not the peace he spoke of People would rather take a piece of justice into their own hands rather than make peace Because between their two fingers is all the peace some need Versus putting an index and middle finger up any day to actually stand for peace If Dr King’s dream became a reality We could stop living in this nightmare Maybe the majority could be woke like some of us To the point that they really open their eyes See their actions over years have led to this demise As it come to no surprise In order for one side to win over the other There must be an eye on the prize And look at the fucking trophy they want A country in shambles If Dr. King’s dream became a reality Then none of this strife would currently be happening
If you think that February 1st Is just a recognition of my melanin Then you would be the first to be mistaken This is not meant to awaken Unnerving thoughts but to serve as a reminder That if last year was any indicator That Black Lives Have. Will. And Always. Matter Time has shown only distorted views Where you see only pigments of achievements Because the rest of light is darkened by bloodshed and destruction We have fought so many years just to have a seat at the table Look these people in the eye And tell them I have something to say My voice matters My being matters My representation matters I am more than entertainment I am more than your fool I am more than your jester I am more Countless movements And we’re keep walking until we stampede over the divide and minimize the cracks in society Mother earth’s backbone is aching from the humans stepping on us We’re not roaches We’re not pesticides You’re going to sit and listen to my inner voice As it resides in the emotions of these lines I will tell you this Black isn’t history History is Black And when we can see the distinction Maybe both sides can finally relax
“We the People” is the opening phrase of the Constitution of the United States of America. “We the People” was chosen by the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the nation as the opening phrase of the Constitution because it would serve as a reminder to lawmakers and citizens alike that the power and responsibilities of the newly founded nation resided in “We the People”. The phrase “We the People” signified that the voting rights of the people would serve as the paramount political act in this newly formed land of various states, laws, and peoples.
Not included in “We the People” at the founding of the nation were women, native Indians, and slaves. Slaves who had been brought into the land as early as 1609 had no rights. Slaves who were the ancestors of a people we today collectively call African-Americans. My family and I are the descendants of those slaves. Slaves were granted no voting rights and considered only 2/3 of persons in the official census of the time.
On the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation “We the People” gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to culminate ‘The March on Washington’. The ‘March on Washington’ attracted over an estimated 250,000 Americans. The march was organized by A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, and other notable American citizens.
‘The March on Washington’ was organized to advocate for the economic and civil rights of African-Americans and to call for an end to police brutality. Scheduled speakers included John ‘Good Trouble’ Lewis, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Performers included Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, and the now famous Bob Dylan.
Notable voices that day included Roy Wilkins who announced that W.E.B. Du Bios had passed the previous evening. Speaking of Du Bois, Wilkins said ” Regardless of the fact in his later years Dr. Du Bois chose another path, it seems incontrovertible that at the dawning of the twentieth century his was the voice that was calling you to gather here today in this cause. If you want to read something that applies to 1963 go back and get a volume of ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ by Du Bois, published in 1903.”
Also speaking that day was the late John ‘Good Trouble’ Lewis. Who would later go on to become the long-term congressman for Georgia’s 5th congressional district. John Lewis told protesters ” My friends let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution.”
Walter Reuther made a call to the conscious of the nation that day when he stated, “American democracy is on trial in the eyes of the world…We cannot successfully preach democracy in the world unless we first practice it at home.” He went on to say, ” We must take adequate steps to bridge the moral gap between American democracy’s noble promises and its ugly practices in the field of civil rights.”
Last to speak at the ‘March on Washington’ was the honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was to deliver the keynote address. In his now iconic ‘ I have a Dream’ speech Dr. King urged America to become a nation where in which “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
“We the People” spoke at ‘The March on Washington’ to forge a more perfect union, to demand economic and civil rights for all its citizens, and to end racism. The people that day also called for an end to the police brutality that many protesters faced in the pursuit of the same democratic ideals inherent in the Constitution of these United States of America.
The ‘March on Washington’ is highly regarded as the catalyst for the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. I think that many scholars of democracy overlook the deleterious effects of the immigration policies of the era. American democracy as we know it today owes much of its potency to the tireless work of Senator Philip A. Hart who was called the “conscious of the Senate”.
Fifty-seven years later, “We the People” are here again in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial protesting racial profiling, police brutality, and systematic racism. The ‘March on Washington 2020’ was themed ‘Get your knee of our necks’ and was a call to the nation and lawmakers to end police brutality and systematic racism. This march was spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter Movement which had galvanized after the murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The ‘George Floyd’ protests as they are now known were held in big cities and small towns nationally and globally. It is estimated that as many as 25 million people have participated in these protests worldwide. Which has led to the forceful removal of monuments that many see as racist. The state of Mississippi a historical bastion of “White Supremacy” was even pressured to change its flag due to its symbolism of the Confederacy. “We the People” are speaking again… Washington please listen.
These protests have occurred during a global pandemic which has halted life as we know it. The Covid19 crisis has infected over 26 million people worldwide and killed over 850,000 according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While, here in the United States Covid19 has infected over 6 million people and killed over 190,000 people. It has also left as many as 50 million people jobless and with little or no health coverage. Many of whom voted against affordable health care just a mere four years ago. Living during a global pandemic and facing systematic and structural racism is another barrier to the pursuit of happiness for many of today’s black and marginalized communities. Many of today’s voters are saying ” enough is enough” and it’s time for Medicare for all. Drastic times call for drastic measures the voices seem to echo.
Covid19 has caused the closing of schools, businesses, and government offices. The cancellation of many sporting events, entertainment venues, and live shows for musicians and performers. The NBA, MLB, CFA have all been impacted by Covid19. I’ve even had to suspend my attendance at my beloved University of Memphis Football games. Many people now see how vulnerable ‘Our Democracy’ really is to the winds of change, the climate crisis and other realities of life in the 21st century. America… young voices matter! America… black voices matter!
Qualified Immunity and the Blue Code of Silence are widely regarded as obstacles to the end of police brutality here in the United States. Qualified Immunity makes it almost impossible for police to be held accountable for their actions. The rate of black deaths at the hands of police is three times that of white citizens. No wonder the popularity of organizations like Black Lives Matter.
Among Democratic voters 90 percent see police brutality as a “serious problem”. On the other hand, only 14 percent of Republican voters see police brutality as a ” serious problem”, as reported by a Gallop poll. Only 30 percent of African- Americans trust the police. With all these killings caught on video who can blame them? No amount of money can bring a love one back, even if anyone is ever held accountable. “Why turn your body cameras off” many people are saying? Why aren’t they being convicted? Systematic racism is the most logical conclusion.
‘The Ending Qualified Immunity Act’ is a Police Reform bill proposed by Congressman Justin Amash of the the Libertarian Party that seeks to abolish Qualified Immunity for police personnel. Rep. Amash has so eloquently stated that ” The brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police is merely the latest in a long line of egregious incidents of police misconduct. This pattern continues because police are legally, politically, and culturally insulated from the consequences for violating the rights of the people they have been sworn to serve. That must change so that these incidents of brutality must stop happening.”
“We the People” must vote to end police brutality! George Floyds death must not be in vain! Tamir Rice’s death must not be in vain! Breonna Taylor’s death must not be in vain! The death of untold numbers of victims of police brutality must not be in vain!!! In this November’s election the choice is clear. It’s time for “We the People” to be heard!!!
This work was inspired by the dedication and sacrifice of United States lawmakers John ’Good Trouble’ Lewis, and Philip ‘conscious of the Senate’ Hart.
Troy Jackson is a literacy advocate and writer based in Memphis. You can support him by purchasing a copy of his current work. Life: A book of Poems available on Amazon.
1) Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, and what is the theme, mood?
Catrice: I am working on my first chapbook publication. I expect this to be a selection across topics. I have several books planned. The books planned beyond that one are specifically themed. Themes I write about are a broad span of Spirituality, transcendence, trauma, consent, disability, healing,mental health, love, the environment, human nature, the cosmos, ancestral topics, cultural traditions, identity, dialect, food & culture, Orishas, and music I often weave my love of the sciences, math, astronomy, astral travel, biblical spiritual references, and futurism into my work.
2) What frame of mind and ideas lead to you writing your current book?
Catrice: My first chapbook would be my introduction to the literary world in print and encapsulates many ideas from over the years. Although I have written for several decades, I did not choose to publish a book. I chose to focus on refining my voice and craft. In the last few years, in service to the work I am creating, I felt there was a purpose, an audience and space that would be a good fit for the work to speak for itself. My choice to publish now is solely in service to the work itself. It feels like the right timing. I get a sense the work will live best published now versus earlier.
3) How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?
Catrice: I began writing early somewhere around ages 8,9,10. At 10, I began to be compelled to write. Ages11/12, I experimented. By age 14, it was clear for me that it was a necessity. I was mentored one to one by a high school teacher. I wrote for academic publications in high-school and was editor and editor in chief of a creative journal. While in my senior year of high school, I also began writing as a Features writer intern for a local historic newspaper at age 17. I went on to intern, associate produce (credit) and write scripts as an intern for a local tv station in my college years. I continued a smattering of explorative involvement in media in various forms off and on through my twenties. My own private writings of poetry simultaneously continued to grow and refine. My declared major in college was English Literature. During that time, I began to perform spoken word and recite poetry. Mainly I did this at events via another mentor in college who felt it was a good avenue for me to learn to conquer my shyness. I’ve continued to write privately since then, until now.
To your second question, yes, to some extent my work is always growing and adapting. It adapts as I grow and as my vision of the world and of myself grows. As my perception refines and my craft refines, so does my work and approach to the work. At this time, I am clear that I write in service to bringing work forward in its divine nature.
4) What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?
Catrice: That’s a complex question. I’ve read so many poets and writers. Off the top of my head, I can say Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Laini Mataka, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Pablo Neruda, Wislawa Symborska, Jean Auel, Deepak Chopra, Zitkala-Sa, Ivan Van Sertima, T. S. Eliot, Milton, Lacan, Saussure, Descartes, Jung, some Freud, Kafka, Andrew Marvell, Shakespeare, and many, many more.
My love of music is vast. I love opera, R&B, alt rock, alt classical rock, gospel, jazz, alt Christian music,Hymns, African-American classic hymns, some folk music, the list goes on. Those influences show up in my work time and time again. It runs through my soul. I write through the music I feel as emotion and the words for me are music.
5) What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside writing activities merge into your mind and often become parts of a poem?
Catrice: I am a former photographer, former dancer, former dessert caterer and entrepreneur. I still like to cook. I enjoy nutrition, and herbology. I garden sometimes. I keep a small personal healing apothecary. I enjoy fermenting foods for health. No longer in a home, but now an apartment, I keep a modest plant system and a fledgling kratky garden. I sketch a little, use various creative mediums sometimes. I enjoy singing with a community choir. I like creating songs lyrics to express some type of emotion. I listen to music for hours and hours. I used to be active in athletic pursuits for several decades. I am healing from something that creates an impairment and disability for me at this time, so being that active is abbreviated for the moment. But at heart, I am athletic. Currently, I enjoy walking, light hiking, yoga, weights. I love films. I like science and enjoy learning about various sciences in my spare time. I enjoy learning languages.
I am a Christian. I am of Catholic faith. And I am human. The combination of those elements as well as my own broad curiosity, acceptance of spirituality in general factors into my work. I see and channel much through a very spiritual lens with an understanding and respect that we are all connected and that the universe is vast. All the activities I noted above show up from time to time in my work or in how I come to the work itself and process life. The more fully and vibrantly I live, the richer the work.
6) Tell us a little about your process with writing. Is it more a controlled, or a spontaneous freewriting style?
Catrice: It depends. I mainly channel my work. I feel it is given. It is then my responsibility to refine the bulk of what was given to be sure it expresses clearly and serves the message of the work. The craft I have honed over the years and continue to hone is a skill. Those literary skills for editing then come into play. But often while I am writing, what I am channeling my mind is working very fast to edit at the same time. I allow my mind to simply speak what needs to be said. Sometimes I receive a lot. And other times, a phrase, a word, an idea, a partial Stanza. All of it eventually, shows up later in layers that are building to create something new. I feel that my job as a poet is to be present, listen intently to myself, be a witness, and scribe.
7) Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence your writing?
Catrice: There is nothing singular for me to point to. My writing is influenced by the totality of life experiences, education, observation, perceptions, spiritual faith, heritages, connection and spiritual receptiveness. It is a reflection of an acceptance of my fellow man as I observe, receive and process enormous amounts of information.
8) What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?
Catrice: Most frustrating — sometimes the poems come channeling through so fast and it may be an inopportune time for me to write it down. Or the lines are coming in so quickly that I am not fast enough to write it down verbatim as I am receiving the lines. I end up sometimes writing an approximation and that is often not quite on target.
Most rewarding — is the fact that I am allowed to channel through and write down these beautiful, divine, words and sentiments. The fact that I am a part of this divine process, I often feel very humbled and grateful to be a writer. The process for me is filled with music, emotion, colors, rhythms, visions, that somehow translate into words. That process even for me is well beyond me. Yes, I am an academically trained writer. But I didn’t start out that way. I was quite young when I started. For me, my process is unique as well as it has a foot in classic approaches.
I am grateful when anyone feels organically connected to the work when it is healing or creates healthy dialogue that can foster positive change. If a heart is touched, if someone feels seen or heard by my work, then I know I have been of service to my greater community and that when I was called by said poem to write it into existence, I was correct in answering that call. It served a soul. To me, that level of service is a high honor.
I did not get to be the doctor/writer I had hoped to become like William Carlos Williams. I wanted to be a psychiatrist. But, in this way, I am taking part in helping with vastness of unity and oneness of healing, speaking truths for my fellow man as well as for myself. For me, to be allowed to be part of that divine miracle, even as a scribe and a witness, is humbling and rewarding.
9) How has this past year impacted you emotionally, how has it impacted you creatively if it all?
Catrice: For me, I have a long personal story. Too long for this interview. For a number of personal reasons, disability as healing, being one, I was already living sequestered and very alone prior to the pandemic. When this began, emotionally I was already on a path to find ways to reach out to connect even though I could not physically reach others as well. This year, not due to Covid-19, but two of my close friends died. I was already mourning so much for so many loved ones that passed away. Emotionally, I needed to connect with other humans and live again. Feel alive. I did not wish to impose my will on changing the situation. I felt and prayed that I would like to walk through this with my fellow humans and somehow live as much as possible and authentically as possible. Emotionally, that meant managing any anxiety, or depression, any last hurts that can show up when we have time to think. Allow myself to clear and let go of all things no longer needed and to even now commit to honoring my solitude, my need for connection, interdependence, joy, love, need for healthy intimacy with self and others, and healthy boundaries.
All of these things have some contingency on voice and its authenticity.
Being honest with self about what I truly feel, what and who makes me feel uncomfortable, knowing what I truly need and want, desire, and voicing that clearly is a healthy evolution in my state of being. This also includes me being able to take action with healthy boundaries and not be crushed under the weight of dissension, intimidation, silence, lack of connection or understanding or respect from others. In this space, I learned to honor my voice unapologetically in the healthiest way. I also learned to embrace my deepest needs and desires. By doing all of that, I am like most humans a continual work in progress, my work reflects this authenticity and growth.
The more I see and accept my self, the higher divine self, the shadow self, the unspoken, the traumatized self, the unloved self, the unseen self, the healing self, the transcendent soul, the imperfect self, the creative self, the unbound spiritual self, the grounded self, the bold, the loving self — all of the parts as integrated parts without judgement, then I have been more adept in my poetic work to speak clearly in the service of the work. It seems that humanity resonates for other people who feel connected to the work and the voice I have to offer to our community of humans. This moment in time is one for which I share in collective mourning and also appreciate our collective unity, transformation, and healing. Emotionally, this year has shown me a great deal about myself and others.
Creatively, I have become even more in tune and immensely prolific. All for which I am deeply grateful.
Thank you for this interview. Be well.
Yearning Through the Fog by Catrice Greer
It’s a busy time the car exhausts, the fires breathing smoke over the twilight pollution laying across the horizon as if on a chaise, lounging overstuffed dumpsters, overflowing with wrappers, peels, discarded boxes, and stench trees half bare dangling windblown bags at their tips trying to take a stand, hold back the school of loop-winged billowed-bottomed plastics flying by the grass sparse, dirt scratched patches, concrete overtaking the landscape We miss the deer and their morning hellos We miss the murder of crows and their caw caws We miss the foxes leaping over and under the brush playing hide and go seek We have not seen enough rabbits before dawn
Cortical Cartography by Catrice Greer
I give thanks for you bravely doing this again traveling synapse by synapse trails of electric pulses jumping blackhole gaps that used to remember holding the dead space a new soma body birthing from bleating darkness show us the nucleus the middles of what we were made of Axons spread like kamikaze flying squirrel bodies with arms akimbo reaching dendrites touching Grateful for even this axon potential sometimes on sometimes off Praise for brave synaptic dives and jumps Grateful for re-birthed myelin insulating protecting making sure that we traffic on our way by the quickest route charged in this dark matter discovery-space This astronomy building anew, wrinkled city of light, crevices, crannies, gyri and sulci, ridges and valleys jellied, crinkled mass sectioned by lobes all speaking trillions simultaneous synaptic voices prayerfully all at once this chatter mines the neuronal network and we build
a whole new world
Catrice Greer @cgreer_greer is a poet and writer who resides in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a 2020, Pushcart Prize Nominee. In November 2020, Catrice served as a Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Poet in Residence. Catrice’s poetic work explores a range of topics about the human condition. She currently performs as a featured poetic artist or via poetry artist collectives in international virtual open mics. Her recent poems were published in Icefloe Press, the historic Afro-American Newspaper, a Phenomenal Womxn Anthology, Baltimore Health Behavioral Services art gallery, and local newsletters. She is currently working on publishing her first chapbook. She has recently read at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival with Damien Donnelly