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who is rhythm?

...a rhythm is a regular recurrence of an action or function, as of the beat of a heart. and that is who she is: a regular recurrence of "thinking out loud," using poetry and spoken word to express social and cultural issues as well as personal thoughts and aspirations.

...a wildflower from the start, rhythm began to spread her roots in greenville, south carolina in the early 1980s. almost as soon as she could hold a pen, she could pen a poem, and she's been doing just that ever since.

...upon entering the historical campus of lincoln university in pennsylvania (also attended by langston hughes and gil scott-heron), rhythm began to write most of her poetry as performance pieces. there, she also began an intimate relationship with open mic spots and live performances.

...rhythm has since returned her art to its purest form: the written word. she specializes in semi-biographical poetry, as highlighted in the first of a series of books entitled libations. the series includes original poems and images (by acclaimed philadelphia muralist willis nomo) celebrating artists and musicians who have passed away. the first volume focuses on black artists who died young.

...drawing upon influences from blues, r&b, rock, and jazz, rhythm often marries music with spoken word to form a signature blend of words, melodies, thoughts, emotions, and rhythm...


We pour libations --
Artistic creations of appreciation
For lives lived
And for God sharing his Gifts
And their gifts with us
We give thanks
Through music and poetry and art
We pour libations --
Respect and reverence
For spirits crossed over
But still very much alive
In their legacies
And in our lives
We pour libations.
We honor those who’ve honored us with their presence
And their own sacred offerings
We invoke their spirits
And know that they hear it
Wherever they are
Because we are here.
And loving
And being grateful.
We pour libations
As a blessing
From past to present to future
For those whose futures seemed bright
But whose lights stopped shining early
And we try
Not to cry
“Gone too soon”
For we know
That’s not our place
We simply say “thanks”
For them ever being at all.

Electric Libation

Jimi turned the world upside down,
Restrung it to better suit him
Left-handed guitar bandit
Electric vibes ran through him ...
Jimi was electric,
Some say eclectic,
‘Cause they just couldn’t land on his planet
And it’s no wonder ...
‘Cause he rode his Stratocaster spaceship
So high up in the sky
That all they could see was his star trail
And stars paled in comparison
His guitar wailed when it shared with him
In musical climax
Axis: Bold as Jimi turning the world on its own
His own banner
Was spangled with psychedelic stars
And amplified stripes
Magic bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That Jimi was there…
His feedback gave us feedback on what
We lacked
In appreciation
His creation of electric libation was true American beauty ...
And I can dig it
His sound had a spirit
And it was omnipresent
Like people, hell, and angels
It was omnipresent
Like the closed doors he faced
From some whites for being black
And from some blacks for not being “black enough”
‘Cause they lacked enough
Knowledge of
The real roots of rock ‘n roll
And Jimi’s soul struggled
For love
For acceptance
For peace
For respect,
And not just for the gimmicks
‘Cause Jimi sparked flames,
Beyond setting his guitar on fire --
He set hearts on fire
With passion for ecstasy
No question, he ...
Is an ICON
A beautiful voodoo child
With flocks of voodoo children
Lovin’ him like he loved Dylan
Prayin’ his playin’
Had no ending
Mind-bending rock
And soul-stirring blues
When Jimi got down,
All hell broke loose
‘Cause Jimi’s only destination was Higher
And he played every day
To fulfill that desire
And he played a lot of love
In each chord he struck,
Gave the world a good, long mind ... massage
And it felt real good
‘Cause he knew where to rub
And he knew where it hurt
‘Cause he, too, needed love
And he knew his train was comin’
‘Cause he heard it on the tracks
In the midst of all the people
Asking for all they could ask
And I like to think he took that train
In peace and not in pain
And that he smiles to himself modestly
Each time we speak his name
And that he says, “Don’t fret,
‘Cause I still fret the world with my right hand”
And that he’s up there somewhere jammin’
In an electric angel land.

Dream, Girl (for Ms. Flo)
This one is for Flo.
It’s not a Tony, an Oscar, or a Golden Globe—
It’s just a poem
And I dedicate it to her.
A ballad for Flo Ballard, if you will.
A love song—
A remembrance of a voice so strong
It brought the house down—
School house, church house—
Anything with a foundation—
Her voice was a gift poured out as libation
And we now reap the blessings…
She left lessons for proud women,
Sometimes loud women,
Full of grace,
Refuse to stay in “their place” women,
Real tough women,
Take no stuff women,
Big hips, bigger heart, sho’nuff women
Even if we haven’t yet found our voices
Flo sings for that woman,
For that little girl
Who can’t yet make the world hear her
Flo reigns supreme
Flo remains a queen
In memories and 45’s
And though a tragedy took her life,
That doesn’t make her tragic.
Broken-hearted, for sure—
But triumphant nonetheless
A spirit worthy of emulation
And re-creation
For the inspiration
Of generations to come
Downtown, uptown, and every town between,
She sings
Of rising above your means
And making a life that means something
To you
This one’s for Flo,
For reminding us to
Reach high,
Sing proud,
Live strong,
And laugh loud
And to always
Dream, girl.

He was a rebel
And she wanted to rebel with him
Wanted to cast spells on him
He who mixed bubblebaths and blunts with poetic ease
He stalked her dreams,
Showing up wherever they were
He kissed her
Just by understanding her complexities
And she tucked those kisses into her poetry
Where only he could find them
She loved the Rockstar in him --
Reminiscent of Bob & Jimi & Rick
So real and surreal, all in one glance --
Poetic in his essence
Yet almost unwritable
His guitar was a pen
And she strummed herself to him
‘Cause his hymns were holy in rebellion,
Worshipping freedom
And freely worshipping lust
She must
Have seen herself in him
Her own reflection in a pool of seduction
Trusted him with snapshots of her vulnerability
And she became more beautiful in the sharing
She blossomed
Lotus-like in her (re)appearance
Giving birth to Self daily
Maybe ... he was sent for her --
Not even real,
Just real clear in her mind
In the spaces between time
And the time between spaces
His many faces intrigued her
Besieged her to look at them
And write them into forever
And she did.
Because he put currents in her still waters
And made her old soul feel still current
His contrasts were beautifully engaging
Waging war with her resistance
Writing poems with their existence
Breathing want into her lungs
Completing songs that she’d begun ...
He had her singing ...
Slightly off-key, but erotic nonetheless
Because she was a rebel
And he wanted to rebel with her
If only on the page.

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Published in In Motion Magazine October 26, 2009

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