Friday, January 30, 2009


I say 'You can have your Broadway, Give Me Lenox Avenue' to myself anytime I feel displaced, ignored, or marginalized in this city. Though a tried and true proud as hell Bronx woman, Harlem has always represented Renaissance to me. Safety. Connection. Reconstruction. Immigration. History.

And though I will never know what Harlem was like when my parents used to go to parties there in the 50's and 60's - long before I was born - I know what it's turning into. Here are 'The Victims of Yellow Lights,' long time lovers of Harlem World and infinite spirit residers of Sad Street, singing:

"When the Lights in Harlem Glitter"

Oh when the lights in Harlem glitter
It’s hard for me to feel so bitter.
Tonight my heels stand taller than the litter.

I pass a whistling old man wearing a zoot suit
and a young man in baggy jeans,
now, wait a minute he’s cute.

Well, my hair is fixed
My numbers picked
I am wearing Spanish fly.
Everything new on Lenox Avenue
Except for the moonlight barbecue fish fry.
Where Pearl wears her fox-fur
It’s not that cold, what’s wrong with her
I like her alligator purse, however,
Not as much as mine
I like mine better, it’s leather.

Oh when the nights in Harlem glitter
It’s hard for me to feel so bitter.
Tonight, my heels stand taller than the litter.

Young handsome men hang on the corner, again
One asks me if I would be his friend
I say not if I see him standing on this corner, amen!
Ah well, men.

Just where am I going, tonight, I wonder
I hope far away from my inner thunder
Tomorrow I praise God just like every ‘Sunder’
But for tonight let my mind be free as summer
Got the rest of my life to think like winter, because
When these lights in Harlem glitter, honey
I don’t think about not having any money
Ain’t that funny

When these lights in Harlem glitter
It’s hard for me to feel so bitter,
I mean the weather’s a pleasure, the people are lovely
And Mister Magic Moon twinkles directly above me
and I just might find me a man to love me
looooove me,
Harlem, with you, I'm in love.

Please visit Harlem before it's all gone!!!

Here is Cynda Williams singing Branford Marsalis' 'Harlem Blues' in Spike Lee's joint, 'Mo Better Blues' back in the day.

Monday, January 19, 2009




Your sentences push like needles through my veins
and my eyes are bloodshot.
Here I will call you Charlie and remember how you looked at me
dressed in sky blue
floating over Tremont Avenue.

The first day you touched me
was the last day my body would ever put up the right fight
was the first day I had been so scared in all my life
at the power of pleasure.

For years you trembled me, Godlessly,
in your parent’s row house,
a working class laboratory of joy,
cluttered with pictures
of a white saviour in human form
who looked nothing like me or you.

Every room became dusty with that image of God
including the lower ones
where you saved me.
For a time we fashioned our flesh
into desirable brown skin.
Our singular ambition to light a candle through what we believed
were inevitable life sentences
spent dying in church
after our dreams would defer then decay
illuminated us as human altars sacrificing our own flesh.

You were the first one to bend back into yourself,
dry up and disintegrate,
though you were once the ripest fruit on the vine.

Before you crumpled
you said to me from deep down inside
“Urda, I am sorry
for us both starting an impossible religion.”
There was nothing much left of you
but the basic functions of your limbs
and the visions in your stained glassed eyes.
God killed You, Charlie,
but you needed God more than you needed touching me.
The same God you denied that you said
denied you
was an invisible man.
You reached him through the narrowness
Of crack pipes and filled your head with smoke,
Forgetting the memories of the murders, you say you
Committed in the Persian Gulf, forgetting the stroke you had at 31,
And most of all, forgetting your unwillingness to worship a mortal like me.

You Believed their was dignity and righteousness in suffering,
As long as your veins were penetrated by thorns
and God’s holy, holy cross.

Pleasure became your smack,
my silent immeasurable terror,
knowing I worshipped the person you were,
the savior you might have become,
knowing I worshipped something as superficial
as the skin on your body,

the only religion in this world
I could really touch.

Tiffany (Bassagirl)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Memories of Clown Soldiers

The Memories of Clown Soldiers

To maudlin militants
your barracks blown to confetti,
greasepaint camouflage mixes with the tears in your eyes,
because you all remember Nancy,
the Prisoneress of war who entertained you
with visions of her taking off her fish nets,
to sunbathe by moonlight in mud.
You all thought she loved you
for reasons that had nothing to do with reason
but for all your sorrows
you made a pretty unhappy girl smile.
But what does this have to do with bursts from balloon bullets
and the way you pissed colors into black shadows
and learned for weeks at a time to juggle caskets of rain?
It was the way you all kissed each other
when Nancy left you behind, buried
with her fish nets, lipsticks and heels in mud.
Those kisses weren't delicate or violent,
most of all they weren't make believe.
Admit that your funny kisses, Privates,
weren't as empty as the trenches
in your toy chests and
the artificial flower you pull in your pants.
Instead, those kisses made memories
that bursts balloons and even bombs
so that the dances some of you did
to the rattle of hand grenades
made you declare - after the veil lifted -
though your life ended with a curtain,
your body sunk in a curtsy,
your head off somewhere, bent in a bow
- that at least you knew love.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Moment for the Minstrel

As Introduced by Madame Bassa:

Mister Fooly blows on a telescope
Tucks away his wings
He sees universes down his throat
And other surreal things.
His Ancestors’ screams are caged there
So are their yells and cries,
Darkened muscles and high yellow skin,
A used up prostitute’s thighs.
Fooly dances for strangers
Or receives lashes on his hands
Thought to be unintelligent
Mr. Fooly has plans.

I am the black, jackass angel
Supposed to find heaven in a box
But heaven is up the hill there
Boarded up by locks.
Mama was a mistress,
Daddy was a crook
Executed when they were found
trying to sound out letters in a book.
Bells jingle from my knee caps,
A fiddle cramps my neck,
Performance my duty
Comedy my lot
There are more levels to me,
Levels so unsought.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lyrics for an Electric Guitar

Pauly Has a Car He only Rides at Night:

Pauly has a car he only rides at night,
Pauly has a car he only rides at night
with your girlfriend, with your girlfriend.
Pauly and your girl go to Nick’s motel
Pauly and your girl go to Nick’s motel
Why not a hotel?

Cuz it’s your girlfriend.

Pauly’s car sits next to lonely men in the motel parking lot.
He’s got your girl in a love embrace
And before they get inside of Nick’s rotten place
He’s loving your girlfriend, he’s loving your girlfriend.

Oh Pauly has a car he only rides at night
That ain’t the only thing getting a ride at night
Ooooo your girlfriend, Ooooo your girlfriend.

Pauly’s car is blue black no license plates
He got it for a good price
In a nearby state
to pick up your girlfriend, to pick up your girlfriend.

If you saw the car Pauly rides at night
You’d wipe both your eyes and say ‘what a sight,’
He’s got 10 inch silver rims
and bucket seats,
carpet on the floor
For your girlfriend’s feet, ask your girlfriend.
Go on, ask your girlfriend.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Genocide: The Dignity of Statues

The dignity of statues.
The colors of conquerors.
The steam from the engines of history.
The totems and maypoles
alongside tall and swollen walls.
Unchanged faces painted all over carousels of ancient ruins
Sinister chariots which carry the skeletons of the dead
and the screams of dying people
who once genuflected.

Art and Words: A Girl and her Gun

[twisted justice for a twisted world]

The Spirit of Betsy Gladness

Meet Betsy Gladness’s favorite Gun
whose bullet spirits grow restless
wrapped in gunpowder
REEKing of talcum
brushed onto their metallic coats.

Kill---kill---kill – roars the Gun. Don’t shoot! -the bullets say and the Gun replies, mournfully-
You…all… weigh…me …

Whatisanartist if she cannot add
splashes of paint to herblastedcanvas-
what is a doctor if she cannot listento yourheartwith her silverstethoscope-
what is a gun if she can never shoot her bulletsinto a humanback-as if
nothing more than animal?

What ?
The bullets ask.

-That gun, My dear, dear bullets,
is an - oppressed -gun

Betsy Gladness’s hardware wasn’t always so angry-
and neither was she