That’s What Hopping’s All About

hopscotch
Hopscotch at a Harlem Community Center

“If a person is not faithful to their individuality, then they cannot be loyal to anything.”

Claude McKay

Harlem Hopscotch

by Maya Angelou

One foot down, then hop! It’s hot.
.   .Good things for the ones that’s got.
Another jump, now to the left.
  .   .Everybody for hisself.

In the air, now both feet down.
 .    .Since you black, don’t stick around.
Food is gone, the rent is due,
.    .Curse and cry and then jump two.

All the people out of work,
.    . Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
  .    .That’s what hopping’s all about.

Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost. I think I won.

Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House, Inc., 1994)

Life can take surprising turns when you least expect it. I am convinced that poetry is a vehicle for change and always has been.  The power of poetry is in its ability to transport the human condition from a current state to a future state, a state in which you win. Poetry can be therapeutic, it can be a form of anarchy, a way to protest, a celebration or a way to reveal a truth beyond which the world is ready to see at that time, but a time capsule waiting for the future where it will be better understood. Writers like Maya Angelou and Claude McKay used poetry and novels to move themselves and society towards a better future and a better version of themselves.

I have spent the past 4 months editing and re-editing poems that have become two separate chap books.  It is work that goes back 5 years.  I have begun the process of socializing that work, handing out copies and inviting people to read it and give me feedback.  And in that process of welcoming vulnerability, and being open in my mind to change, a door has opened for a relationship to the future that is not predestined, nor constrained.

I had the pleasure again over the weekend of seeing how words and experience braid themselves together perfectly until you can’t tell which one is a testament to the other, which one the record, which one the experience, which is action or the corresponding reaction.   So in these final days of February if you are in need of a change in your life, find the right words to describe that change as best you can, whether they are your own or someone else’s. Keep reading them, keep absorbing them. Keep editing them, keep reading them. Invite others to read them too. And then be open to the power of transformation those words might create in your life.  Find the words that say to you, in whatever form they may be; “I win.”


The Harlem Dancer

by Claude McKay

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black, shiny curls
Profusely fell; and, tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold- eyed boys, even the girls,
Devoured her with their eager, passionate gaze;
But, looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

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