Eddie Bell

21st Century Woman

I got the message, in real time, passed through brokenness and midnight creeps and forced thighs, through birthins and stole chillins. I got the message through quadroon balls and big house doins, through borrowed tits and slavin'. This 21st century woman rock hard with flowery petals flowing through time toward eternity, hued black to creamy, propped up on every leanin' fallin' side.

I got the message, the sun rising on me and mine degreed and deeded, employed below glass but breaking through on my own, man, no man, sometime wom-man. I got the message, old-time lessons learned from ancient ladies who were when they weren't and did when they couldn't, stole back their lives, willed the bent sunrays to guide them to this to this lady to this time to this place. Listen! Can't you hear their song?

I got the message and turned from know nothing', do nothin', shook my skirts tilted my head just so and walked, walked through time and trouble, time and sadness, time and lost-ness; took time for happiness along the way, walked on history picking up stones polished with promise hardened with knowledge, ballast for my soul keeping me upright on my move past still brothers waiting loudly on the block for the hammer to fall.

I got the message watching steel-hearted brothers with indiscriminate manners heading down, down, down past old dreams and sacrificial bread, down past ancient paternal blood dripped into crossed oceans, down with guns drawn rat-a-tat-tattan on bleak streets ripe with pipe and rock and cock- the only things that matters - dancing with death - all the day long.

I got the message and I step over bad times step into good times, step, stepping into the fullness of life that stretches back and springs forth into what I must be, playing my role and hoping the ancient hope that my self-burdened brother will follow me into distinction. Hoping but not waiting, hoping but waiting, hoping but not waiting, stealing away from the blues, stealing away from the pull of the street-boy blues. I pass by hips swinging it, my air bringing it, cleavage showing it a touch too low. Working it, girl. Working it, world. Can't you hear my song?

Twenty First Century Man: A Rap-so-dy in Black

I'm a 21st century colored man strolling through recent times seeing the change coming that didn't come, never meant to come...well maybe some, though cankerous unabated streets steam black with fools' gold and sorry-ness.

I'm waking in the years' mornings seeing that I'm still...well, black and losing, absurd, still irrelevant on mean streets that take my lives and make pictures. I bounce balls, carry balls, use my balls, sometimes to applause and high fives my bling swinging, my mouth flinging words that despise, words that sing my sorry state. I bring laughter-everybody loves a clown.

I'm a 21st century black man desirable at the root but not in public, despised in private time when folk are comfortable in their own world comfortable being white - that nigger this that nigger that, smiles when I come around and pleasantries like false faces rebound into a make believe world that wishes it wasn't necessary. I pretend I don't know, don't care, but I do know, do care and I take my hurt and swallow it never forget it, go on, play the tune, recall that joy comes in the morning. Pops did his, Grandma did hers, Mama? She did hers too but after she first saw to mine. I swallow it and get stronger, turn my hurt into stories that I'll tell later when it counts. Can't play me. Can't trick the trickster. This trip is mine regardless and I fun along the way.

I'm a 21st century dichotomized man split like the rent curtain my holy-of-holies exposed in naked detail- bars and boardrooms pipes and Grey Goose bling and Brooks Brothers 50 Cent and Wynton bound together by what I can't escape, life on the outside clashing with life on the high-side. Come let us go into the house of the Lord together. I see a hip hop jungle tired of itself but can't see no other way don't want no other way afraid of another way, sliding down the scale of invisibility into the morass of servitude and license plates and steel door economy and hos and bitches and daddy-less babies waiting their turn on the wheel. I see what ain't supposed to be seen, muck and mire miry clay the light of day revealing footsteps that tug backwards. My other self steadfast against the slippage hoping this blot is only a temporary thing hoping that it's slavery still trying to heal itself wondering if the physician is on the way.

I'm a 21st century black man determined to pierce the fog. Wake up, Brothers! Bill Cosby's calling from the other side.


It took years -too many years- for me to see his African
this man the Captain, this man my father,
a remnant passed down through stories and blood
a contradiction, a part of yesterday and tomorrow
his parallel life tied to ancient times and strut
a family king of robe and royal thought
an elders' child taught well what it was to be a man.

This African, my father,
captain and king, a warrior punished and loved
a man's man keeping his promise made in secret dreams
dreamed in another language transported in evil ships, carried
by fleshy cargo inky black and beautiful;
his own dark beauty drawn from theirs
his own strength inherited un-weakened by iron, whip and rope
his own voice not the childish whimper, but a strong storm against
an acquiescent surge.

It took too many years of long-lived life for me to see his African
the hidden parts that he himself did not wholly understand-
his place, his mode, his man a libation to the gods
his way the holy way of fathers birthed in Eden
his blood enduring un-kept by the soldier's grave in which his body lays.
He came forth and tamed his hostile world;
the hurt the death the triumph and the glory.
His passing leaves first fruit and root
The Captain, my father, displaced African from an unknown tribe
from unknown place
At last my eyes are opened and his life can be fully understood.

About the Author

Eddie Bell's poetry is a rhythmic composite of social commentary, historical fiction and pointed allegory. Exposed to his hardboiled grandmother's tender verse from age three, he learned to impart the nuances of life, particularly black life, through poetic stories. His plainly written free-verse poems evoke a continuum of deeply felt emotions especially when presented in oral form. Eddie's poetry is accessible to audiences old and young and without racial or cultural barriers.

He has performed his work in large and small venues from coast to coast and in Paris and throughout central France. Eddie is the recipient of multiple grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the French Ministry of Culture. He spent two month-long exhilarating residencies at Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois where he completed Capt's Dreaming Chair, the first of his two books. His second book, Eddie Bell: En Francais, emerged from his Paris and Clermont-Ferrand collaborations and is presented in English with French translations. Some of Eddie's work has also been translated into Russian.

Eddie's latest work, Festival of Tears, is a unique fictional presentation of the tragedy of lynching presented through poetry, narratives and short stories. It is yet unpublished. He is currently working on his first novel, The Fictional Memoir of E. Eddie resides in New Paltz, New York and Leadville, Colorado. www.eddiebell.com

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