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an autobiographical poem

the mirror remained in tact though
my body lied limp and feverish amidst
the blind and bustling hallway traffic of the hospital with
“no colored rooms available.”
the relentless claws of pneumonia
teased my lungs and hung them out
to die.
Mother lied there too
for pneumonia is deadly and highly contagious as was
our “coloredness” in upper southern USA, 1969.
Daddy had to cut across the Ohio river,
saddle audacity,
harness indignity and insistence,
drop names and even cuss until
a room was finally
unbroken the mirror yet reflected
a mere token gleam of the American Dream
as “Martha Lutha,” a king’s voice, boomed
from living room and store front speakers with
poster portraits plastered everywhere.
our city did not burn
like the ones on tv, but
furious fists hurled blistering bricks at
windshields framing strangers’ faces flying
50 miles per hour in the 35 mile per hour lanes of
Lincoln Avenue.
i did not understand the rage and pain
painted on the faces of family and friends whose
colors were not caste, class or race to me but
ice cream flavors from my favorite local parlor:
dutch chocolate, creamed coffee,
butter pecan and banana golden.
the mirror did not shatter until
a “friend’s” opinion mattered.
shimmering, razor shards splintered my virgin skin
engraving their ignorance as birthmarks of awareness.
i bled rainbows;
the bitter broth of a colored girl’s blues
scalded my lips and
bruised my tongue to stunned silence
when in 3rd grade
a best buddy, vanilla bean,
turned wide, innocent eyes to me and exclaimed,
“I think you’re very pretty, Tamara,
for a black girl!”

Patriotic Poem

penalized by the hate
still in 2008,
she awaits a reprimand
watching with indignation as he
knots a noose between
mocking, nimble fingers.
Human Resources is not resourceful or
human enough to touch such unjust
is this not

Civil War

in the akashic records
there lies
a blue print design
of why
our souls crossed and embraced
this lifetime
after many times
once again.
so, I sift through
dead sea scrolls,
ancestral holy books
and the robes
of my past souls’ wardrobes
to find my regalia and
clues as to
why you are with me
and I am with you.
who are we
to one another
in a world where
somebody murdered the mojo
and juba is under siege
by BET, MTV, MP3
and the White House?
in a world festering
from the filth of its own vomit,
recycled and force fed again,
we don’t really need each other
when vibrators, cyber space,
and palm pilots can do the trick.
so I never really have to look in your eyes
when I can see me
in a magazine or plastered on the monitors
of Times Square
where the world parades its slaughter
in festering funk and glittery fan fare
amongst scintillating lights pretending to be sun
even at midnight.
we don’t really need each other
when we are dying anyway
do we?


my love affair with poems
struggles in jeopardy.
i believed in giving
the most horrific a name,
believed in foraging through
the murky details
to purify the blood of the murdered
for proper and sacred burial,
swift and clear transition,
knowing that bearing witness
gives it/us at least a chance
to begin to heal.

I have birthed poems:
rape poems,
poverty poems,
incest poems,
war poems,
political poems,
religious poems,
savior poems,
condemnation poems,
redemption poems--
all conceived in love
for what is or once was
that I and others mourn for,
celebrate and consummate.
I have conceived, loved
and birthed them,
cradled and claimed them
tediously naming each one,
yet the men are still setting fires
that are not sacred,
our elders are smothered in ash and
the women are yet weeping
while the children still bear witness
to the senseless,
horror of it all

my love affair with poems
struggles in jeopardy;
I am running out of names.

Breath Wish

I long to know
that my breath counts,
that each breath counts
whether slow, deep and purposeful
or puffing and panting.
I want each breath
to have its own name, address,
blog space and history
to be etched in some holy book
as chronicle, psalm, or incantation.
in a world where seeds are genetically designed
instead of naturally conceived
and lives are tossed like cellophane wrappers,
where missiles replace dildos
as the ultimate, masturbatory orgasm
and seven year olds are sold into sex trade,
I need to know that my breath
will not prescribe to such blasphemy,
will not fester greed,
will not agree to slavery.
I need to know that one exhale
can set the seas in motion,
rivet the ocean,
gather the ribbons of every stream
to lasso and knock a tyrant to his knees,
shatter his profane deeds
and abort his filth from the
wombs of this earth.
one breath can set his soul assail
to remember, re-member.
I need to know that when
I breathe my final, mortal breath,
an endless wind will blow
seeping into every pore
of this heinous abyss,
taming its flaming fist
while hurling it back to
from whence it came.
let the world be
from an ever burning

All poems @ 2008, Tamara J. Madison

About the poet:

Tamara Madison is a writer, poet, and performer currently living and working in Atlanta. She is the author and performer of Naked Voice, the 2002 winner of the First Literary Recording Contest sponsored by AUTHENTIC VOICEwork Records with Manzanita Quarterly produced at The Santa Fe School for Wonder. Naked Voice was nominated as 2004 Spoken Word Album of the Year and 2004 Spoken Word Selection of the Year (Birth Story) by Just Plain Folks, an organization of independent musicians and composers. Most recently she received an Individual Artist Award from DeKalb County Office of Arts, Culture and Entertainment for the completion of a performance work, Ripe, celebrating twenty years of spoken word and performance poetry.

Her literary work has been published in Check The Rhyme, An anthology of female poets and emcees which was nominated for a 2007 NAACP Image Award in Poetry/Literature. Her works have also been published in PLUCK!, Warpland, Parenting Magazine, Manzanita Quarterly, The Lucid Stone, The Black American Literature Forum, Seattle Poets and Photographers, Kola, Pleiades, Portland Review and the HarperCollins anthology of contemporary African American women’s voices, Sisterfire. Her works for stage have been featured during ESTROFEST, THE RAGE PROJECT at Seven Stages in Atlanta, Georgia (2003), New Black Playwrights Festival in Atlanta, Georgia and Intiman Theater’s New Voices Series in Seattle, Washington. In addition, Madison was featured as a spoken word performer for SPOKEN on The Black Family Channel (2005), as well as featured as a writer and performer for TBS Superstation, Interact Atlanta Black History Special, Crossroads (2002). She has also recorded and performed as a bilingual poet and songstress on the self-titled CD, JUBA Collective (Premonition Records), an internationally performing, and multidisciplinary, touring arts ensemble from Chicago.

Committed to artistic expression, education and the development of “unsung” voices, she has worked extensively as a teaching artist-in-residence with various community and arts agencies including: Fulton County Arts Council, City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, ArtsCool, Seattle Arts & Lectures Writers in the Schools, Washington State Arts Council, King County Arts Council, Seattle Arts Commission, Powerful Schools, Fox Theater of Atlanta, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, and Washington State Department of Corrections.

Born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, she has lived in Seattle and Chicago and has studied in Strasbourg, France. She is a graduate of Purdue University where she was an active member of the Black Cultural Center’s writing, choral and drama ensembles. She is currently working on a sophomore solo recording project and has recently completed a literary manuscript of poetry seeking a publisher.

e-mail: madison_tamara at

Published in In Motion Magazine May 25, 2008

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