Water II (Walk Upon Water)

tell me have you heard the people say
to meet the dawn you must survive the day
everybody has a part to play

tired, broken and your mind is numb
lost the battle but you’re holding on
that’s the time you gotta sing this song

we walk upon the water
the only way we ever survive
we walk upon the water
it’s how we change to stay alive
now the temperature is rising
but we’re not in it baby just to get by
we walk upon the water
anything, anything is possible

even when you think you stand alone
something in you knows the time has come
to live the truth of times long gone

we walk upon the water
the only way we ever survive
we walk upon the water
the way we change to stay alive
now the temperature is rising
but we’re not in it baby just to get by
we walk upon the water
anything can happen if you
don’t let it bring you down
keep it steady and you stand your ground
we determine what tomorrow holds
but we gotta let the best in us grow


Welfare Queen

if i look you in the eye
tell you i don’t wanna die you try to eat me
you’d say it was a good kill
you’d say it was a very good kill

if i try to raise my hand
whisper i don’t understand you’d just delete me
you’d do it with a good bill
a necessary bill

oh-why-oh-why-o-why-y?

(she’s the welfare queen)
oh i’m just a welfare, welfare queen
you know what i mean, you know what i mean

oh-why-oh-why-o-why-y?

when i try to walk away
tell you i don’t wanna stay you get to shoot me
you’d say it was a good kill
you’d really think it was a very good kill

when i try to raise a fist
you put shackles on my wrist and try to *$#%@! me
you’d tell them it was all for the best
for the good of the rest

oh-why-oh-why-o-why-y?

when i try to stand my ground
show you everything i’ve found you don’t believe me
if i offer any grace
you get all up in my face just to defeat me

if i say i can’t survive
on the wages you provide you denigrate me
you just swallow any lie
that protects you from your pride, who’s the obscenity?


Wednesday’s Child

i’m a wednesday’s child
born on ruination day
to a preacher man who’s better than
he took to the grave
when he left his garden
he caught a cold in his blood
grief comes in many colors
and so does love

grandaddy shot his self
straight in the head
but the bullet didn’t get him
bigotry killed him dead
and i say is this my story
is this my problem with rage
am i making too much of it
or am i turning the page?

well it is what it is
and it ain’t what it ain’t

grandma lives alone now
in the middle of a cotton field
where deep in the darkness
every star in heaven’s revealed
she tells me light and lonely
tread a narrow line
that’s why even the sun
can’t hold its head up all the time

mama gave me a book
about a small feathered seed
whose destiny it was
to ride the spirit breeze
and the wind was to decide
where she rested and took root
am I the fallen seed
am I the spirit fruit?

well it is what it is
and it ain’t what it ain’t


Chris’ Enigma – ME: The Back Story, Part II

CHAPTER II: DISCOVERING THE OLD EDITION

I was born in our great nation’s bi-centennial year 1976, which means I missed most of the amazing music of the 70’s. By the time my little mind registered the music it was ingesting, Marvin, J5, EWF, Stevie’s Key of Life, even Bitches Brew were all too old to be deemed du jour and too new to be retro or classic. Furthermore, for me, the best rock music of that era might as well have been made behind a Cold War’s iron curtain. And let’s not even mention the grande dames of singer/songwriting o’ the day: Phoebe Snow, Joni Mitchell, Roberta Flack, Carol King and Joan Armawho?

I was an ignorant disgrace to the future me. I mean, I think it’s safe to say that in comparison, the music you heard on the radio in the 80’s was problematic at best. But that was what I grew up on: Casey Kasem, BET and the few records I had which included singles by Whitney Houston, The Jets, some Jackson 5 compilations, Janet Jackson’s Control, Anita Baker’s Rapture, and anything I could get my hands on by New Edition (that Ronnie was so cute).

Like all the other kids in the neighborhood, I would use the tape deck on my lavender mini boom box to pirate Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick songs off the radio, rewinding and playing that memorex to its slow demise, just to learn all the lyrics (Ladidadi…we like to party…we don’t cause trouble, we don’t bother nobody…) I did the same with Run DMC, LL Cool J’s “I Need Love,” and the story songs by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, aka Will Smith. I liked the way the words rolled off the tongue, the rhythmic syncopations that felt as memorable as melody, and the way they could make out of virtually nothing, something we all just knew in our bones we needed, (more on that in a future post).

Admittedly, my love for New Edition surpassethed all understanding. All I can say is, with hit singles like “Popcorn Love” and “Candy Girl,” I found that brand of literal bubblegum pop completely irresistible, and when my sister got tickets to their ALL FOR LOVE concert at the Atlanta FOX Theatre, I begged my mom to let me go.

“No way. You’re too young.”

There it was again. Too young.

“But mom, by the time I’m old enough they’ll be ‘Old Edition’!”

She didn’t budge. No room at all to wiggle. “I’ll take you to a concert at the University instead.”

Gimme a break.

Needless to say I was thoroughly put out. I don’t know why my mother thought for one second I’d be even remotely interested in a “concert at the University,” and I think if she’d had to do it over again she would have thought twice about it. Much to my mother’s later expressed and reiterated chagrin, that concert literally exploded my world and actuallly turned out to be the pivotal moment that turned childhood piano lessons and after school chorus from hobby-like extra-curriculars into lifelong career preparations.

It was a free performance offered by a visiting orchestra from Atlanta, maybe even a little chamber ensemble from members of the ASO. In truth, I don’t remember much about the program except except these few little artifacts:

  1. There was something on the program by big daddy Bach. His name was in the program, along with the customary birth and death dates, and it caught my attention because I was teaching myself a Bach Minuet from one of those Bastien books at the time. I was intrigued beyond reason to learn how old this music was. I mean, we could trace my family history back pretty far on my mom’s side, and if this guy died in 1750, that would make him older than my great, great, great grandaddy, and up until that point, that had been as far back as my nine year-old imagination could reach. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around how music this old could sound so alive. Blew my mind, I’m tellin’ you. Totally blew my mind.
  2. I remember there being being a harp in the orchestra that had done very little (if anything) during the Bach hullabaloo but started doing all kinds of stuff in the third selection on the program. I’d caught a glimpse of the instrument before the concert began but had no ideas about what sound it might make. Then I started hearing that magical wisp of tone that always told me in my early childhood read along books when I would “know it was time to turn the page.” Again, my little head had come even closer to exploding quite inappropriately, all over the blue-haired lady blocking my view of the stage. Could this be coming from a real instrument? Why wouldn’t the lady move?!!!?? I kept shifting in my seat to see how that sound was happening, and my mother kept pinching me in that way I imagine only Black American mothers have mastered. It was the sort of pinch that feels it’s bringing you within an inch of your life, certainly within millimeters of your pain threshold, and since every cell in your body knows not to “cross the line” by making a single peep or indication of your present agony, you do the only thing you can, which is to cease to breathe until the infinitely dignified barringer of doom sitting to your left, whose womb once once your only home and comfort, becomes sufficiently satisfied that you know better than to continue your previous course of action. And yet in that moment I honestly could not discern which was worse, the pain of this pinch, or the pain of not knowing where that sound was coming from. Finally, the blue-hair leaned to the right, revealing the harpist to the far left of the stage for the full duration of remaining minutes of the movement. I had never imagined I would ever see these miraculous sounds being made right before my eyes. I was stupefied.
  3. The second half of the program involved a lengthy work by a Ludwig van Beethoven whose name I was familiar with but whose composition I could not afford to ingest on that particular occasion. My little self was already spent. I had become nauseated with excitement and was thoroughly terrified of the ceaseless stream of tears I felt would come if I’d had to take in one more note. I don’t remember whether or not we left at intermission, or whether I just blanked out, but I have no recollection of the second half of the concert. Beethoven would have to come to me later.

Yes folks, I was officially turned out. I left that concert hall a different sort of girl altogether. Nothing could have been more magical. It had quenched a previously unknown thirst and sliced open a space inside of me that I would spend all my days, even up until this one, trying to fill. I almost lost all interest in music being made by living people, and gradually gave myself over to the mysteries of dead men.

For fifteen years I was lost to that love affair, so when I now refer to myself as “old school,” I really do mean “olde school.”

When the Rain Comes In

“it will already be too late when the rain comes in
if it’s true, what we gonna do in the reckoning”

there’s a story
daddy told me
when i was just a little girl

‘bout a storm cloud
that wrapped all the way around
this wide world

he said “what would you do, child
to weather a storm like that?
it’s my question to you, child
be ready cause the
day may come if we let it.
when we don’t look ahead, we regret it.
somebody’s got to tell all the people who forget it
that we’ve been here before.
do we really want more?

it will already be too late when the rain comes in.
if it’s true, what we gonna do in the reckoning?“

When Mama Cries

in the morning after mama cries
hopelessness, helplessness
and fear become her eyes
the lonely and the weary
seek refuge in the skies
but they’re left unheard
without reply

and the children look around them
and ask for us to see
that another soul is dying
of neglect and sanity
so the children learn the hopelessness
of a victim’s soft demise
these lessons in the silences
left after mama cries

mama said to her lord on bended knee
she’d relinquish all her joys for one last plea
a noble sacrifice indeed but inadvertently
she passed all that joylessness
right down to me

and now her spirit lies somewhere between
her body and her soul
but without her joys and passions,
well she never will be whole
and the children learn the universe
requires such sacrifice
repeating her same promises
every time their mama cries

let the circle be broken
so our spirits can move on
and let it be here and now
before tomorrow is gone
teach me faith, teach me a prayer
show me your strength and love of life
teach me hope, show me you care
and maybe we’ll make it through this night

now i believe that after all is said and done
all the trials and the battles become one
to find your withered soul
and let it blossom in the sun,
well that’s when you’ll know your life’s begun

so children look around you
at all there is to see
know that the beauty of your presence
in this world will set you free
see that the children learn the universe
gave them the gift of life
and that these lessons become promises
every time their mama cries