The Broken Clocks on 125th Street
A free poetry chapbook by Anaisee Elizabyth, Dizzy SenZe & Caits Meissner Over the span of a month or two, Anaisee Elizabyth, Dizzy SenZe and Caits Meissner sat at a kitchen table in Harlem with a poem prompt, open notebooks and a hunger to write the world down. What arrived onto the pages were three distinct poems, all shockingly unique in voice and direction. There is a powerful and special moment that occurs when mentors and mentees cross the line into friendship and peers. This book came from this passage.
THE BROKEN CLOCKS ON 125TH STREET Copyright 2012 by Anaisee Elizabyth, Dizzy SenZe and Caits Meissner Cover photo by Ivy Meissner Inside photo collages by Kameelah Janan Rasheed from her No Instructions for Assembly series www.kameelahr.com Book design by Caits Meissner for A Love Supreme Production www.alovesupremeproduction.com â€œA quarter to seven 3 sugars, a little cinnamon tea glasses shatter from Lexington to Amsterdam Iâ€™m trying to take this ride to the end of the world- or at least out of Harlem, let the wind whisk me away... --Anaisee Elizabyth INTRO Over the span of a month or two, Anaisee Elizabyth (aka Steph E. Cheeze), Dizzy SenZe (Vitamin Latrice) and I (Thug C) sat at a kitchen table in Harlem with a poem prompt, open notebooks and a hunger to write the world down (and have a bit of fun, as illustrated by the silly nicknames we’d gifted each other.) What arrived onto the pages were three distinct poems, all shockingly unique in voice and direction. How had we each said such different things after using the same prompt? This is the magic. The poems were small presents to each other, ready to be unwrapped (read) and played with (edited) and loved (...loved.) I met Anaisee when coaching her to open a Broadway show with an original poem. There are lots of jokes now about how at first she hated the methods I used to push the best writing out. (She claims she never hated me. I guess otherwise.) What quickly developed through our intensive sessions was a deep trust, an unshakable bond and a mutual respect for what the other offered. On the night of the show we psyched up by listening to Nina Simone (because Anaisee has, by all accounts, a Nina Simone reading voice) and our catch phrase for calming nerves became “My boobies!” After listening to “I’ve Got Life,” we laughed about how the celebratory lyrics proclaim having hair and eyes and brains and limbs and a nose and... boobies! (Try it, exclaim “my boobies” and see if you can’t shake your nerves.) And it has always been laughter at the heart of our relationship since. Oh, and no shocker here, celebrities and show audience alike gave her a wild applause standing ovation. Dizzy SenZe came to me through Anaisee, and the youth and young adult programming of our dear friend Farbeon and the magnificent Hip Hop Re:Education Project. The first time I heard Dizzy’s flow and lyric prowess was as a young MC, and I was dumb founded by her DUCTION wordplay and command of an audience. I knew she was one rare gem. Anaisee has a wonderful story about rapping Dizzy’s rhymes aloud on her stoop in Harlem. Two men stopped her asking who he is, its fire! SHE is Dizzy SenZe she quipped, and she’s dope, and a legend was born. Though Diz is celebrated in the writing community, I only came to know her written poetry at our table sessions. The poems, like Anaisee’s, made me scramble to better my own poems. These two young women are just too good. Our ten year age difference suddenly vanished. Who was the teacher now? There is a powerful and special moment that occurs when mentors and mentees cross the line into friendship and peers. This book came from this passage. I don’t need to write the ways life is hard. Life is hard, this is something we know. Through our individual and collective hardships, the creation of this chapbook brought us all immense joy, and a place to be rewarded, to escape life and engage with it so fully, all at once. The clocks are broken on 125th Street. We are bartering time with these poems. We are hoping to live forever. Special thanks to our supporters- Rachel McKibbens for the last four of the five prompts, Farbeon for being a mentor extraordinare, Kameelah Rasheed for the astounding inside art, Ivy Meissner for the haunting cover photo, and all the folks who have so deeply touched our lives. Read on, Caits Meissner “ Ain’t got no earth, Ain’t got no students Ain’t got no father, Ain’t got no mother Ain’t got no sweets, Ain’t got no ticket Ain’t got no token, Ain’t got no mind Ain’t got no land. But there is something I’ve got, There is something I’ve got, There is something I’ve got, Nobody can take it away... Got my hair on my head Got my brains, Got my ears Got my eyes, Got my nose Got my mouth, I got my smile I got my tongue, Got my chin Got my neck, Got my boobies Got my heart, Got my soul Got my back, I got my sex I got my arms, my hands, my fingers, My legs, my feet, my toes, And my liver, got my blood... I got life, I’ve got life’s, I’ve got headaches, And toothaches and bad times too like you ... I got life, and I’m going to keep it As long as I want it, I got life..... - Nina Simone, Ain’t Got No/I Got Life CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 1. Write a poem that includes the words thaw, honey, snake. • The Sun Sets on Corner Store Blues, Anaisee Elizabyth, pg. 1 • Curiosity Killed the Cat, Dizzy Senze, pg. 2 • Killing the Golden Snake, Caits Meissner, pg. 3 2. Write a letter to someone from inside another person’s brain. • Don’t Let the Hurricane Hit the Dollhouse, Anaisee Elizabyth, pg. 7 • Chocolate Happiness, Dizzy Senze pg. 8 • The Shine of Forgetting & Remembrance, Caits Meissner, pg. 10 3. Write a moment between strangers. • • • Shattered Reflection, Anaisee Elizabyth, pg. 13 Talking Politics With an Unconscious Satisfied Dope Fiend, Dizzy SenZe, pg. 14 Coffee and God, Caits Meissner, pg. 15 4. Write a poem using inanimate objects and the movement of animals. • The Jungle, Anaisee Elizabyth, pg. 19 • In The Event Of An Emergency, Ask Everything With A Face Questions, It Will Never Understand, Dizzy Senze, pg. 20 • After the Hurricane, Caits Meissner, pg. 21 5. Write a poem using a line from another poem. • When All the Good Ones Have Gone, Anaisee Elizabyth, pg. 25 • When You Left This City I Wept For a Year, Dizzy SenZe, pg. 26 • When You Left This City I Wept For a Year, Caits Meissner, pg. 27 BIOS 1 Write a poem that includes the words THAW HONEY SNAKE THE SUN SETS ON CORNER STORE BLUES Anaisee Elizabyth I tasted you once in the corner store of my heart traded similarities for metaphors found our love too young to have some liquor store blues so we drank Similac in hope to fall into a canopy bed of clouds we met mother earth, found her curves to be vivacious told her that her beauty be Christmas spirit on a Monday the rain, the taste of honey we laughed the stars into the sky and with sticky fingers made sure to steal one for ourselves I planted constellations inside of you watched as they built you to be a bigger sun the moon found the night too chilly for itâ€™s tastes so we stole it, too gave it a blanket to thaw watched it drink miracles into the horizon time seems to always walk in on us molding lust into cookie shapes I gave you the recipe to my favourite somehow I always find myself hoping my newest lover will be willing to eat the crumbs you left of me I always wondered if my soul had been a pet shop would you still have been mocking the Little Stuart innocence inside first love, you be boa constrictor poison the king of all snakes and still I find the sunset a call for you 1 CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT Dizzy SenZe Somewhere where the snaps of snapbacks slow dance in each other’s arms is a name A question mark lynched in a room of certainty honey glazed torture for a diabetic atrium Like Georgy Porgy’s pudding pie finally got acknowledged for its charm Waiting for the petals to be disciplined off its pedestal She loves you not. Maybe. Maybe may be’s might mingle in the Maybelline prides hide and seek, and seek freeze tag these walls of boundaries with all the secrets graffitied in your room when everything that makes sound is off The anaconda slithering itself into the image of your profile pic in the mirror is calling you a snake, sir It’s hissing at the self you carry in your back pocket like the like you won’t acknowledge right? He loves you so. Maybe. Maybe not. The razors used your hands to remind you, you lied to yourself You know the proof isn’t always in the pudding but maybe the intoxication I see, the Slytherin in your heart thaws out your chamber of secrets It isn’t much magic now, is it? The petals are dying. Your back pocket is exposed. Your secrets are showing. They love you both. Maybe. 2 THE GOLDEN SNAKE Caits Meissner Into itâ€™s cage: honey and yellow-skinned crickets belly swells, sour magic in the blood wrap it like a crown, adornment round the clavicle or waist, chastity belt with its tiny, biting teeth. Kiss itâ€™s solemn head and shove it into the freezer next to peas and spinach. Let it thaw and jump, until the crunch of 1,000 tiny bones splits into sand. Beneath the lens of a microscope, a decorative mess of thin garland, the glitz of an animalâ€™s innards. Curl its limp body around a jar of pennies. Salt its bed and hold the broken skeleton like a trophy, strip naked and sing- sing blue, as if the world is sinking until a black lung crawls out its cave and swims in search of home, the pink innards of a conch shell. Plaster seaweed on breasts, arms and torso and cheeks, let it dry hard until it cracks. No, no, the spirit comes to find you, hissing, laying its damp length against your vertebrae, no, the world is not sinking, foolish girl, it is floating, it is dancing, fast, it is breaking, it is flowing open, fiercely, growing steady toward the village. 3 4 2 Write a letter to someone from inside ANOTHER PERSONâ€™S BRAIN DON’T LET THE HURRICANE HIT THE DOLLHOUSE Anaisee Elizabyth There’s a kitchen here Lemon Meringue smudges on the walls skin particles crawling off the cutting boards memories the color of stained glass window photos all over your ceiling you were happy just never tall enough to find that smile/buried treasure. The television projects your mistakes repeating them- your failed marriages are shipwrecked here. I sit aboard a broken plank watching your I love you’s fall short there’s a room with a smoke screen onions cry tears here- they screech since you lost them one by one I count seven broken Barbie doll heads. 7 CHOCOLATE HAPPINESS Dizzy SenZe Boom! Boom! Bap! Boom, Bap! Boom! Boom! Bap! Boom, Bap! It is 3 in the night, to hell with those that differ. My mom for instance. She believes in this thing called a long night of sleep, Shrug. Sounds like what the losers do. I mean, quiet is a losing man’s game... Right? Boom! Boom! Bap! Boom, Bap! Boom! Boom! Bap! Boom, Bap! I’ve been reading my little brother’s thoughts in the dark. They are all short term relationships with each other. Seem mature at one point, then pitch tantrums mid-sentence. Like when he’s hungry, his voice box projects the sounds of a chainsaw and train wreck’s love child This is a natural occurrence up here. Routine. In this space, there is no large delay. The apartment is often crowded by relatives of thoughts that complain about the lack of scenery. There isn’t much questions about the darkness. Or why the apartment is always so loud. Clocks hold weight because time is unimportant here. There is just happiness generators located on the floors of the body. Tickle spots that embody the sense of what family feels like . Boom! Boom! Bap! Boom, Bap! Boom! Boom! Bap! Boom, Bap! 8 It is 3 in the night, to hell with those that differ. The heaven in my little brotherâ€™s pupils are clouded with the curiosity of what he will do the next morning. His brain is looking for the jigsaw pieces to itself in my brotherâ€™s drool. He knows nothing of being unable or disable. Just happiness. 9 THE SHRINE OF FORGETTING & REMEMBRANCE Caits Meissner A projector splashes images on a buried wall, wavering from the damage of time: the man she loved at age sixteen with a butterfly knife back pocket, her father: a man in the shape of a comb carved to shank. A ski mask pulled over a snowman’s face in winter, spring, the cherry blossoms unhinging from their branches and sticking to the dark bodies as if long skins of ladybugs. The day her son died it was distinct summer. Outside the train station, the air so still the shot rang like a clean blade carving a cool swoosh through thick hair. The barber came out, and the shop owners, the bodega boy’s loosie limp off the lower lip. The girls updo’s frozen in time. Basketballs and skateboards, suspended. Drawing towards fresh blood like locusts, a hive of whispers- Yo, check it ain’t Hector? Jamal? Quick. Check it ain’t one of us. The next five seasons nearly the whole town’s knees touched the dirt in front of the purple-doored shrine on the corner, erected taller than an elephant. Orange carnations strung across the frame, thousands of folded paper cranes flinging their white bodies against the wooden eggplant sky. Millions of photos of the boy, each a shifting hologram, stuck on with clothespin, or thumb tackbirthdays, backpacks on the first day of school. Some pictures scattered on the ground like carnage. The boy swimming in a shallow pool. 10 3 Write a moment BETWEEN STRANGERS SHATTERED REFLECTION Anaisee Elizabyth At home he kneels trying to find himself in genitalia too small to be Godly, face made canvas / a two face impression done wrong. If only his father had shown mercy. Trying to find daddy with pockets honeycomb-sweet, come morning he’ll glide in heels car to car backpack too heavy to carry arched inward from the pressure of giving or receiving. Yolanda feels beautiful. Later in the day she’ll be arrested for spreading her kindness over New York streets. Yolanda will be asked her name and men will not show mercy. Because Bob’s can’t be Sue’s. It’d be horrifying. 13 TALKING POLITICS WITH AN UNCONSCIOUS, SATISFIED DOPE FIEND Dizzy SenZe Tell her your voting for Obama because he gathering bread crumbs for Ethiopia and promised the rednecks he’d try the blackface role during his presidency. She’ll respond that she’s voting for Voldemort that the ends of his wand orgasms sparks remind her of her first dance with the Devil there’s some supernatural in that and hope is a paranormal activity. As a matter of fact, hope is fashionably late. Swag. Life will hit you like a 2x4, Swag. She told me elections are too much stress and life is a party, you just gotta learn how to dance. But the 12 steps to recovery is a trend overrated. 14 COFFEE AND GOD Caits Meissner Coffee and God meet on 125th Street under the train by accident, it must be told, this was a day of fate. Coffee been gone some dumb long time, middle turned tender meat, back hunched up like a knotted tree. Still got eyes like a lemon though- some sparkly gold shit always up in them, and bread crumbs strewn in his beard- nasty, man, where your comb at? God, on the other hand, got that perfect James Brown coif and came big as The Intrepid, mad big, new muscles clear breaking the sleeves. He kisses the pavement on one-armed push up. Colossal, Coffee says as he squeezes the biceps like checking an orange for ripeness, then punches the swollen flesh. Women, God says, all these women, man, and gestures around the air, breathing in deep(Grandma walks by hunched over a grocery cart, a gelatinous belly pours from the top of snake skin pants, dragon lady fingernails, wheelchair, two children running from the Bodega with penny candy.) Yes, all these women, the women love God and God is hungry for women. When Coffee laughs his mouth is a cave of summer, all gums and heat, Iâ€™ll take a nipple, he says, slapping God on the flat of his palm and the bread crumbs fly like snow. Above the scene the train rustles by, a roar, a slick lion. The balmy afternoon turns the air nostalgic for better times, a silence snags the brag and laughter, turning memories over like marbles under tongue. The two men embrace, with the violent force of magnets colliding, which is a metaphor for loneliness, but only for less time than a human eye could catch. 15 16 4 Write a poem using inanimate objects and THE MOVEMENT OF ANIMALS THE JUNGLE Anaisee Elizabyth The moon and sun trade places a chainsaw awakens the abnormal, crying loud the vase has eaten all of it’s flowers morn the petals, the stems, fingernails nestle into skin raw and pure, the smell of copper the shoes run from their master, hide their eggs in the sand, no one is safe. The flashlight consumes it’s batteries. Darkness. An eye socket holds it’s pupil swimming from left to right, trying to escape the body. The eyelash refuses to let itself lay upon flesh. Collarbones climb barren trees in hopes that leaves will come back, shelter them, help them regain their skin shredded to costumes of the night. Giant skulls roar at the skies asking mirrors to reflect rainbows back. Remotes beg for floating devices as they jump from landscape to landscape. Tears slither slowly down faces. Glasses sing themselves merrily onto ground, happy to be set free of cupboards. Survival mode for only the brave fear taking form of blade wrists cut while singing songs here, Doctor, wastelands are a heck of a sight here, no man’s land. Padded walls eat flesh here, brain matter the size of crumbs. 19 IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY, ASK EVERYTHING WITH A FACE QUESTIONS IT WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND Dizzy SenZe Mom’s been in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner with the recipes of Uncle’s obituary. Asking the face of the counter, has it remembered all the secrets that have been chopped here. It is Spanish-apartment noisy. The chair’s legs have slithered against its lap. The walls tympanic membranes have gulped from the decibles of upside down laughter. My family is looking for smiles about each other or others. We are others to each other after one too many wrist croaks from the quarter back snap of a leather belt or throat’s clearing its dance floor as beverages in need of detox Salsa down them. Bailando. Shakespeare wrote a play for this. Picasso’ed my family structure all invertebrate. Insomnia is at war with the growling flashlights held by the good samaritans protesting within the stomachs of the following generations. Who are we, but the fog wiped off the mirror when the shower’s done What are we, but the ribs barking at the hunger for apologies. This is long overdue. Yet, funerals burn holes wide enough that we don’t have enough thread to sow. I’ve been asking the clock, why is daylight light savings time the only time that time show’s mercy. It only responds with a nervous tick. Somebody needs to start talking. 20 AFTER THE HURRICANE Caits Meissner After five days indoors, the brain takes out its teeth. She says she is seeing things that are dead. I now understand what a body does when left to itâ€™s own devices, though I am not dying. Downtown the road has gutted itself with a clean line through the stomach in the shape of a smile. This is what my city has become: a woman burning alive while bystanders photograph. What are my neighbors pockets stuffed with, leaving their homes as the water rises? I imagine them taking out each precious item and placing it in a map on the damp ground, curling into the warm womb of all that is beloved: pictures, passports, keys, letters, lockets, rice. Nature has no conscious. What does this say about us? Inside, the crook of my elbow feeds on leaves. Hook the Chrysanthemums vein to vein, the sunâ€™s blood smeared across the wall. We drape a towel to soak its light, embarrassed by our many heavy blessings. Tomorrow, we will find a way to celebrate what is most painful. We are a loud people. it is how we survive. 21 22 5 Write a poem using a LINE FROM ANOTHER POEM “When you left this city I wept for a year.” - Audre Lorde, from To the Girl Who Lives in a Tree WHEN ALL THE GOOD ONES HAVE GONE Anaisee Elizabyth Ripped up postcards questions left to rot like meat you weren’t strong enough to eat from my rib cage. Have you yet given flesh new meaning? Do you still pick the fried skin off chicken? The plot’s always more intense in the book. Read me the tales of narrow bone let skeletons wear négligée pain knows not of zipcode. Where do I go now that this city has left me bare? And who will teach me of the streets and alleys? And what of the bones of dinosaurs? Will they become extinct in my memory as well? What of the tea cups? And the nausea? Why is it called Coney Island? Who is Coney? The lady in the green dress? I don’t remember if my change goes in the metrocard slot. If the A takes me to the Bronx. This city has swallowed me feet first. I still wear your socks, the ones with the individual toe sections. 25 WHEN YOU LEFT THIS CITY I WEPT FOR A YEAR Dizzy SenZe Google searching a manual on breaking your father’s pinkies is a much harder task than I thought. Your thought chamber is probably emotional at this point, asking, “why his pinkies, why not a jaw or something more typical?” Because a man is judged by the strength in his handshake, not his heart. A man is told to lynch his feelings next to his church suit. They’ll say a man only has his word and his balls. Wrong. A man has his pinkies and his balls. Slick talking fathers could slow dance belief into their daughters without trying. Make an honest naive girl out of them. Attach an “I love you” at the end of every pinkies break-up and tears blow dry to steam. Pardon that. My dad had a pimp named slickback’s tongue and a Chicago pimp’s vocal chords. “Ohio is a borough away.” His voice is Mitt Romney. When the night squirts a day into existence valuables get broken. Dropped kicked windows out of cars. 26 WHEN YOU LEFT THIS CITY I WEPT FOR A YEAR Caits Meissner Pushed the dresser to the opposite wall tucked up inside like a baby in a bassinet. Oh, that wind howled, ashamed, June, Jen on a summer stoop, smoke a curling cat said, don’t you know how the body remembers? I built the coffin as a promise fifty nails unhinged & a bed of bird seed, I wanted to draw wings toward me like a curse, to lift me out and up into the glittering mouth, a warm wet silence. The city isn’t sand nor grass nor an egg shell, it is not no bed, no nor sweetness on the tongue. No medicine. I pulled the asphalt up over every soft part of me, this twin mirrorin the brick & rocks & metal. In the morning when the garbage trucks come the concrete unfolds like a giant hand the air, a whirling spit sieve weeping for its own distinct lossa bow cutting an arrow, a bow cutting the cello’s hollow string, the strong ship of darkness calling everyone aboard, the street lamps go out one by one. Water. Salt. River. Run. You rantried to outrun the earth, as if it won’t go hunt down a man who disowns it and make a coat of its hide. I ain’t running. I ain’t going nowhere. 27 28 ANAISEE ELIZABYTH AKA STEPH E. CHEESE DIZZY SENZE AKA VITAMIN LATRICE Anaisee Elizabyth (also known as Steph DaOracle) began her artistic journey as a Freshman at Facing History in 2005. Since then, Anaisee has contributed to the Hip Hop Re:Education Project, performed for a standing ovation by opening the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway with an original poem and has graced stages from Brooklyn to the Bronx, to SUNY Purchase. Poetry is the path she has chosen as her calling and as her safe haven. She is currently working on a memoir detailing her life journey. Dizzy SenZe is an emcee, spoken word artist, producer, and black book writer stemming out of the South Bronx and south side Jamaica, Queens. Her name is a combination of her childhood nickname given to her by her mom and the eyesight taken away from her little brother. With her father being a DJ and her mother being a dancer, Dizzy was â€œborn from a boomboxâ€? with music being her savior. Picking up a pen at age 9, lead Dizzy to perform at the Bowery Poetry Club by age 16, the NuYorican Poets Cafe and Apollo Theater by age 17 and the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and touring in Berlin (through the Travel Agency of Change in the Hip-Hop Re:Education Project) by age 18. Dizzy is a member of non-profit community organizations such as the Hip-Hop Re:Education Project, Urban Word, and Urban Art Beat promoting the common goal of infusing daily sense into others through sharing her art. 29 CAITS MEISSNER AKA THUG C Winner of the OneWorld Poetry Contest, Caits Meissner attended the 2008 inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum in Accra, Ghana where she studied under Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa. She has been published in various literary journals and books, including Saul Williams’ anthology, CHORUS. Her poetry/music EP, The Wolf & Me, was released in May 2010 to acclaim on websites such as Okayplayer. The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You, Caits’ collaborative poetry book with poet Tishon, arrived January 10, 2012 on the Well&Often imprint, a press and online literary magazine where she also serves as a Founding Editor. She has performed at prominent venues such as Joe’s Pub, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Highline Ballroom, NYU, Columbia University, SUNY New Paltz, The Kitchen, The Bronx Museum and the Blue Note Jazz Cafe. Caits is also a long time arts educator and mentor. OTHER ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS See more of Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s artwork at www.kameelahr.com Read the full writing prompts we used (#’s 2-5) from Rachel McKibbens at www.rachelmckibbens.com To contact any of the writers/artists in this book, you can email caits@MVMT.com (or search them on Facebook, like everyone else.) 30 are broken on 125th Street. â€œWeTheareclocks bartering time with these poems. We are hoping to live forever. Over the span of a month or two, Anaisee Elizabyth, Dizzy SenZe and Caits Meissner sat at a kitchen table in Harlem with a poem prompt, open notebooks and a hunger to write the world down. What arrived onto the pages were three distinct poems, all shockingly unique in voice and direction. There is a powerful and special moment that occurs when mentors and mentees cross the line into friendship and peers. This book came from this passage. Cover Photo by Ivy Meissner Book Design by Caits Meissner for A Love Supreme Production