The Operating System

5th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 2 :: Jacklyn Janeksela on Airea Dee Matthews & Rasheed Copeland :: Words to Shake a Cradle, A Nation

[box]It’s hard to believe this year is our FIFTH annual 30/30/30 series, and that when this month is over we will have seeded and scattered ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY of these love-letters, these stories of gratitude and memory, into the world. Nearly 30 books, 3 magazines, countless events and online entries later, and this annual celebration shines like a beacon at the top of the heap of my very favorite things to have brought into being. [If you’re interested in going back through the earlier 120 entries, you can find them (in reverse chronological order) here.]
When I began this exercise on my own blog, in 2011, I began by speaking to National Poetry Month’s beginnings, in 1966, and wrote that my intentions “for my part, as a humble servant and practitioner of this lovely, loving art,” were to post a poem and/or brief history of a different poet…. as well as write and post a new poem a day. I do function well under stricture, but I soon realized this was an overwhelming errand.
Nonetheless the idea stuck — to have this month serve not only as one in which we flex our practical muscles but also one in which we reflect on inspiration, community, and tradition — and with The Operating System (then Exit Strata) available as a public platform to me, I invited others (and invited others to invite others) to join in the exercise. It is a series which perfectly models my intention to have the OS serve as an engine of open source education, of peer to peer value and knowledge circulation.
Sitting down at my computer so many years ago I would have never imagined that in the following five years I would be able to curate and gather 150 essays from so many gifted poets — ranging from students to award winning stars of the craft, from the US and abroad — to join in this effort. But I’m so so glad that this has come to be.
Enjoy! And share widely.
– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/box]

Words to Shake a Cradle, A Nation

jacklyn janeksela on Airea Dee Matthews & Rasheed Copeland

[line][script_teaser]”Who keeps making the rug-pile bigger?  Who gives zero fucks about lives?  Make borders stronger, not that brick shit –use iron, barbed wire, bombs, impossible stipulations.  Increase the price of everything.  Let them starve.  Let them imagine they could & dream life away.  This is someone’s mother or father talking, this is an uncle or a cousin or a brother, not my brother, but someone’s.  There are bodies of water & plots of land –full of slimy, skin-colored skinheaded skinners protecting something not theirs.  There are bodies of water & plots of land bursting with bones from bodies once used to build the American empire.” [/script_teaser]
What hides behind American borders can be seen, quite easily –mind you, from afar.  Social media reveals monsters galore.  Let’s look to Baldwin, shall we:  “I’m not worried about the Negroes in the country even, so much as I am about the country. The country doesn’t know what it has done to Negroes. And the country has no notion whatever — and this is disastrous — of what it has done to itself. North and South have yet to asses the price they pay for keeping the Negro in his place; and, to my point of view, it shows in every single level of our lives, from the most public to the most private.”
This is brewing with similar tones of Matthews & Copeland, whom I found while far away from my native land.  I, like, Baldwin, had escaped to foreign soil; for me there was no real immediate danger other than the stuff I subjected myself to – however, we cannot say the same for Baldwin or those like him.  I know not the torture to which humankind subjects its “kin” based on skin color.  And as I read about case after case of black & brown citizens being murdered, I nearly swallowed my tongue for lack of language, for lack of want to express what perpetuated an already sordid history.
From the other side of the fence, America is even crueler.  Grows gigantic with rage & fear as the years unfurl.  Way to go, America –a reputation as dastardly as any villain.  But this shit is not fictionalized, this is reality for many, this is the reality if one is not white or whitish.
II. Equally noted –self-hatred &/ segregation.
How some, melanined, might broadcast a thin nose or lip, a patch of naturally straight hair, a fleck of greenish blue in the eye.  How a light-skinned, trigueño, mulatta or red-bone will distinguish themselves from their darker brother or sister.  Some families insist on marrying lighter to rid the stain.  It is a sickness.
And others, sans pigment, persuade, tooth & nail, sons & daughters to select fairness, physically, not literally.  This, too, is a sickness, which lies in the heart & festers.  Watch the worm squirm.
Consider a piece of Airea Dee Matthews’ work “If My Late Grandmother Were Gertrude Stein”:

II. Miscegenation

Good. Smooth. Curly-haired baby. Baby rock-a-bye. My baby. Mama rock-a-bye that baby. Wrassle the earth, baby. No dirt. Shine-neck porcelain. Powder tarnish and milk. Cabbage-trunk. Basement inheritance. In front the washtub. On top the bed. Leaky numbers run. Run. Run. You know the one. Busted lock for close to always. Red fever got a hold of your palm. Sweat it out. Hot. Hot. Hot under that rest. So pretty that wax. Wide flower. Ellis-Island daddy. Oh, Daddy’s bar. Banned. Mongrel hum. Come now. Little bones bend. Old crack. Creak. Crank. Crick. Curly-Q. Fuck. Them. Then fuck them. You hear me. Walk through good-haired baby. Half of you. Belong.


Matthews conjures not only Stein, but a spellbound language sprouting from a whispering spirit.  No need for allegory here, Matthews speaks of a history slowly being melted down into myth; America has a tendency to manipulate & monopolize.  She writes this poem, & others, to cement stories.  Demanding to be heard, she magics her words into a dance of sounds, a short story stilted, an incantation preparing future generations.  Matthews is not playing.  Her fury a marching set of words.
III. Well, it’s not always like that.  Some black & brown people flaunt their beauty.  They are awake.
IV. America includes both the >North and >South.  The skin.color.divide. is but a couple million people wandering lands, renting homes & space(s), and tonguing dried up lives.  No big deal, right.  Who says that?  Who keeps making the rug-pile bigger?  Who gives zero fucks about lives?  Make borders stronger, not that brick shit –use iron, barbed wire, bombs, impossible stipulations.  Increase the price of everything.  Let them starve.  Let them imagine they could & dream life away.  This is someone’s mother or father talking, this is an uncle or a cousin or a brother, not my brother, but somone’s.  There are bodies of water & plots of land –full of slimy, skin-colored skinheaded skinners protecting something not theirs.  There are bodies of water & plots of land bursting with bones from bodies once used to build the American empire.
The guilty mass seems so massive that an attack doomed & unlikely.  Should America cast a glance towards Haiti?  Let a little Louverture wax poetic beats on some ancestral spirit guides.  Fight-for-your-life & let-rest-possessions-shit.  The most sacred possession –a life worth living.
Consider the whole of Rasheed Copeland’s #16 of 100/100 poems series titled “Dreams”:


Stowed away like a pain in the bayou of me,
I got dreams that keep me up at night
they are as un-American as black breathing
and be speaking unintelligible speech
talking talk contrary to what the bullet said.
Contrary to all the things that sing to me
a beautiful that I have never been.
And I wonder how they bring the sky so close.
How they coax all my daddy out of me
and bring him back from the dead as a peacock
proud and perched in the middle of my chest.
How they sweep my mother off her feet
and out of her debt.
What are these lucid things
that believe in me like I’m their god?
And to think…
I once thought myself manic
for thinking outside of the box
they wished to bury me in.


Moving seamless from disbelief to omniscience, Copeland defies gravity by floating above and below this poem.  By revealing self-doubt he becomes innocent and honest, by challenging it he becomes a force altogether prevailing.  Copeland, with his provocative nature, promotes re-birth; a re-birth that will fly into the faces of haters and hatred alike.  By implicating America in his poem, he intensifies guilt that should be acknowledged; he summons Hughes and Baldwin with acumen and a fearless approach.  He’s passing on the torch, hold out a hand, young’uns.
Many lands seem to be cursed & barren.  Let no black/brown man prosper –they are cold, transparent, & tricky like ghosts or albino chickens.  Let them hang onto their ceremonial blood, some cowry shells, their deities –they deny other identities contrary to their own, cowards & Christians.  All the while, they are afraid – & with good reason.  No magic greater than Mackandal. Study history, learn stories, practice discoveries.    Between the lines of Matthews and Copeland grow gardens.  The listeners –harvesters.  Be not blind to the seeds ready to be trees.  Be not blind to the seeds that metamorphasize before eyes.
VI.Can we talk about North America, again.  Yes, again.  There’s so much cleaning up sometimes the best solution looks like an exodus or an oven.
Let Airea Dee Matthews tell you about Lousiana:

Let Rasheed Copeland preach a sermon on ‘merica:

VII. Because categorization is all the rage, this list.  Because today, it appears to be the only way to one can be understood or “heard”.  And because it was inspired by Matthews & Rasheed –two poets, breaking barriers, for real; before #blacklivesmatter they were working their own magic with words, building bombs with voice, protesting with rhythms.  Born with gifts, they are modern day orishas –can some beat a drum, please.
VIII. Because I care, I write this.  <I am not alone>  Stand up.
Because I don’t want to see my beautiful black *unnamed* girlfriends cry when they see another beautiful black woman objectified, fooled, undervalued, raped, dead.  Because I can’t fucking understand pinning down another person for profit = power.  Because racial slurs are beyond me.  Because I fear no one & tread un-lightly.  Because I believe in the power of poetry & poets like Matthews & Rasheed.  Because I can picture a fall of epic proportions.  Listen to the prophets.
IX. Airea Dee Matthews > I’d like to think (if I have right to do so) she personifies the souls of black folks.  What a heart she carries, one that beats with blood of fervent women of yesterday & today.  Upon studying her art, there’s sense she’s a time traveler and a shape shifter; she = many mystics talking at once.  Shakes souls from corpses;  entices spirits with sweets & such.  She’s a charmer, no doubt.
My response piece to Airea Dee Matthew’s work “If My Late Grandmother Were Gertrude Stein”:

White Wash Lighter. Brighter. Bottle bought. Erase dirt face. Napkin swipe or blot. Pretty girl. Ironed hair. Hair extensions. Ascension ladder. Weave the wave, the curl. Polish skin & nail. Smile. Bigger. Bigger. Teeth, white. White. Right. Write. Wrote. Why? Rye seeded color. Roam. Not home. Another bundle. New baby. Baby churning. Bread oven. Pop. Fingers crossed. Golden or flax. Water eye or iris. Cinder shout. Cinder block. Shoot and shine. Skin. Skinned. Win. White. Yes, white. Sure? Not black. Not brown. White? Yes. Rest. Eyes. Lies. Oil clothe. Rub out. Washed. Like plate, like dish. Like teacup baby. Gonna climb, grow. Show, spotlight. So light. Bright. Tipped scales. Delete.

X. Rasheed Copeland>he builds houses of words and spit.  There’s no question he believes in the clout of his poetry as he sears listener & reader with a tongue so sharp.  He knows what he’s doing –he’s saving lives.  He saved his own, once.  A healer is one who can identify pain and live to tell the story.  Rasheed Copeland = modern day shaman.
My response piece to Rasheed Copeland’s #16 of 100/100 poems series titled “Dreams”:

Pinned on pricks & preambles of ghosts
who got medicines working on the grind
strong enough to remove soul, soot, stain, not pain
bubbling lips like words & promises
buried by the dozen they put down like dogs.
Manifested on bills & hymns, the pig patrol
an ugly they have always been.
But what to their acres & mules.
How they ripped babies wombed & swaddled
from the chest and nipple of goddesses sourced
and bought farm-animal style.
How they plucked penises like guitar strings
and made songs.
What atrocities lurk pluraly
brimming like brew, this ghost spew.
And it grows…
the fever heightens frantic
bellows like wolves howling
at a white-washed moon.

[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image] jacklyn janeksela is a poet among other things.  she is a self-taught artist.  her art/poetry can be found @ felled limbs, The Tower Journal, Oddball Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, Berfrois, e-ratio Poetry Journal, All in Your Head, & Barrelhouse.  her poetry can be found elsewhere, but in lesser known places or tucked away-hidden.  for their music in [the velblouds], she and her husband were in Armenia for an artist residency; their work surrounding the band was on display at the Modern Museum of Art in Yerevan.  her artwork @ femalefilet ( , her blog for women about women, is part of the Art Saves Lives International website/e-magazine.  next summer she will be in Finland for an artist residency, among other things, for a project based her deceased, schizophrenic grandmother (  more artwork can be found here:  &
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