The Operating System


For this, the 6th Annual iteration of our beloved Poetry Month 30/30/30 series/tradition, I asked four poets (and previous participants) to guest-curate a week of entries, highlighting folks from their communities and the poets who’ve influenced their work.
I’m happy to introduce Janice Sapigao, Johnny Damm, Phillip Ammonds, and Stephen Ross, who have done an amazing job gathering people for this years series! We’re so excited to share this new crop of tributes with you. Hear more from our four guest editors in the introduction to this year’s series.
Hungry for more? there’s 150 previous entries from past years here! You should also check out Janice’s piece on Nayyirah Waheed, Johnny’s piece on Raymond Roussel, Phillip’s piece on Essex Hemphill, and Stephen’s piece on Ronald Johnson’s Ark, while you’re at it.
This is a peer-to-peer system of collective inspiration! No matriculation required.
Enjoy, and share widely.

– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/blockquote][/box]


Poets are fingerprints
A menagerie of textures
that leave a unique cultural-
impression on the world

The seven poets that I have the honor of curating for the week of April 16-22, are varied in tone, approach, inspiration–but all have a thundering presence that thrums the strings in your soul. They demand that you be present and feel whatever you will.
Throughout this week, readers will take a journey through waves of love, self-reflection, mourning, discovery, tribute, longing and acceptance.
To hear these poets speak life into their muses and perform their work, please come to our reading, Tribute, at Dixon Place on Monday, April 24th at 7:30 PM.
Phillip J. Ammonds, a Brooklyn native, is a founding member of the writing collective Writeous, with whom he has co-produced three chapbooks.  Phillip curates Rainbows Across the Diaspora, the queer text reading series at Dixon Place in New York City. Phillip also performs his work as Trinity Rayn, Drag Poet.  His work has appeared in the anthology Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call (Vintage Entity Press, 2013),HIV: Here and Now Project, Yellow Mama and The Operating System.


[line][script_teaser]“I swear, we know this place,/
because we have vowed before never again to return,/
but here we are, back in the desert” [/script_teaser]
It was the Poetess, Sunni Patterson who inspired Unique Mother to continue with the speech of spiritual resurrection to awaken people. Empress Sunni Paterson is a visionary poet, singer, and activist. Her voice moved my nerves to take risks without thinking of fear and judgement. This young woman and poetess provided me with hope, and calls for positive change within all people. The power in her words encourages those with open ears to heal from the harsh conditions of the world.  She strengthens people to look within their souls for their own divine power, so that they can become an agent. Sunni Patterson is a mighty woman and a tribute to the African ancestors.
[box]VIDEO: Sunni Patterson, performing her poem, “We Know This Place.” Full text below. [/box]


So we know this place,
for we have glanced more times than we’d like to share
into eyes that stare with nothing there
behind them but an unfulfilled wish
and an unconscious yearning for life
though death rests comfortably beside us.
At night their moans are louder.
They come to visit the guards at the gate,
and they stay until morning
torturing their guilt-ridden insides.
The silent cries of the keepers are louder
than the booms that come from the guns
they use to occupy the space.
And we know this place,
for we have seen more times than we’d like to imagine
bloated cadavers floating through waters of a city gone savage,
foraging the land for what can be salvaged.
But what can be saved when all is lost?
It happened in August, twenty-nine days in.
We are now five days out of the only place
we knew to call house and home.
Few things are certain:
one, we have no food;
two, there are more bodies lying at the roadside
than hot plates being distributed
or first aid being administered
or recognition as a citizen.
Fourteenth Amendment, X, refugee, check.
And we know this place.
It’s ever-changing yet forever the same:
Money and power and greed, the game.
They suck and devour the souls of the slain.
What a feast for the beast at their table of shame
with napkins around necks that catch the blood that drains
from the flesh they chew, it’s hailed again.
And we know this place, all too well,
dank with the smell of death and doom.
It hovers, it smothers, no growth, no room,
no pretty, no please, just grey, just gloom,
just burned me of hope, and it died too soon,
just juckin’, just jiving, just living, we just fools.
And we know this place. It’s decked in all its array and splendor,
golden streets with good intentions
capture our attention, gadgets and inventions
pesticide the food supply, flu-like symptoms,
diabetic condition, a cancer in the system,
held on hold, it’s a pistol to the temple.
Go run to the churches, tell reverend it’s simple.
Good works and good deeds is what equals redemption,
but tell me, please, Jesus never mentioned,
how do churchmen get extensions on freedom,
while children are being fondled
from the altar to the streets, then back to the sanctuaries?
It’s kind of scary, ain’t it?
to know that both the prophet and the priest practice deceit,
then come to the people and claim peace, peace,
come to the people and claim love, love.
But where is the peace, huh?
Where is the love?
Where that balm in Gilead
that can heal the wounded soul
or make the half-man whole?
I swear, we know this place,
because we have vowed before never again to return,
but here we are, back in the desert,
dry mouth and thirsting for waters from Heaven.
But come, come, children, rally around,
and maybe together we can make a sound
that will shake the trees or rattle the ground,
make strong our knees,
we’s freedom bound.
And we know this place.
Reclaim the crown.
Hold onto the prize,
never put it down.
Be firm in the stance,
no break, no bow,
got to forward on, Mama,
make your move now. Forward on, Papa,
make your move now.
Forward, dear children,
’cuz freedom is now.


[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image] Tasha M. Brown, Unique Mother, was born in Brooklyn, New York and while growing up she was known for creating and building community events for her peers. Unique Mother has been implementing her craft as a spoken word artist since 1999, and is respectfully affiliated with Save Darfur and Youth Poverty Organization.  Her name comes from her nurturing spirit, and from the warmth and healing she exudes when performing.
Unique Mother is known for her polyphonic flow and beats of hip-hop, African, and Acoustic sounds, which can be heard on her CD, “Angelic Voices of Old Souls.”  She is no stranger to the stage and large venues. She has performed at Morris Museum for African American, Paine College for Nubian Reflections Poetry Nights, Café 209 Thursdays Night Open Mic, and Moorish Festival under The Nuwaudian Nation of Moors, Augusta State University Musical Concerts under Dr. John Bradley.
Unique Mother will continue to use her talents and art to promote unity, African spirituality, positive self-esteem, and healthy relationships.
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