Fiction Friday: Leonard's Blind Date

Leonard didn’t like poetry. Hated reading in general. But he knew better than to say so since responses fell into one of two categories: pity or disgust. He would fare better if he didn’t own a television or was gluten free. So, he kept his mouth shut. It was this lack of sharing that had led him to this moment.

“You’re going to love her,” his sister insisted. “She’s smart and funny. Cute. And she’s a poet.”

She rolled poet off her tongue like it was bubbles or candy or unicorns. But Leonard felt the sharp edges of the word striking through every nerve in his body. The instant dread sent his mind grasping too quickly at excuses, mushing them together and leaving him unable to form a single, cohesive argument against it.

Now, as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his blind date tried in earnest to dust away some of the awkwardness between them.

“So, Kelly tells me you work in corporate sales?”

Leonard flipped his fork over a couple times and nodded. He knew social norms required him to respond with: And she tells me you’re a poet. But the thought made his fingers curl around the fork handle and he had to will himself not to it jam in his eye.


There was an underlying plea in Juliet’s tone. For him to respond with actual words or to even send a glance her way. The problem was that his sister was right. Juliet was cute.

But the future he imagined with her was bleak. A never ending carousel of feigning interest in words she slapped together in the name of art. Why couldn’t she have chosen a life as a dentist? Or a barista?

Thankfully, the waiter arrived to take their orders. Juliet lit up at the opportunity to really talk to someone. The comfortable Juliet was light and funny and the waiter genuinely laughed at her clever banter.

Leonard knew he should appreciate this. The real her. But he also knew he couldn’t. For as long as he could remember, he fixated on things. Too many times it led to him being alone. Snorts when she laughs? No thanks. Inserts ums between every word? Nope. Yammers on and on about whatever book she’s reading? Uh-uh.

And it wasn’t like he was such a catch. Leonard wasn’t foolish enough to think that. Clearly his social skills needed a complete overhaul. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. He was ruthless at his job and grew more isolated every day in his personal life. Evenings consisted of getting food delivered and watching television. It was no wonder he didn’t know how to talk to people. How to make them comfortable. How to give them a chance.

The waiter took their menus and a tortuous silence fell over the table again. Leonard swore he could feel the heat generated from Juliet’s mind working overtime on what to say next. With her gaze focused absently out the window, he found himself staring at her. She gnawed at her lower lip and her furrowed brow twitched every once in a while. No doubt the manifestation of an idea of what to say being shot down. The passing headlights lit up her eyes and despite the intensity in her face, Leonard couldn’t overlook her softness.

It triggered something in him. A lightness. An understanding. His sister was one of the only people in the world he trusted. And one of the smartest. She had to have known what she was doing when she arranged this date. She didn’t need him to tell her about his aversion to poetry. That was the kind of thing she just knew. Just like how she probably knew the path his life was heading down was a lonely one.

Juliet’s poetry wasn’t what was ruining the date. Or what made him believe her to be undateable. Reality socked Leonard right in the jaw. Shocking and painful and difficult to accept, but ultimately undeniable. So, he cleared his throat, drawing her attention. The hope in her eyes scared him, but there was no turning back. Instead, Leonard took a moment to toe the edge before taking a giant leap into what he hoped to be a new life. A new Leonard.

 “So, Kelly tells me you’re a poet.” 

Fiction Friday: [Chiseling The Creative Block]

Yearning swells at the sight of it
glowing faintly through the fog.
Hands shoot out. Fingers flexed. Mind ready.
Fingertips graze, but the eagerness
sends it floating further out of reach.

Frustration swells as seconds pass,
ticking loudly through the panic.
Hands shoot up. Fingers flexed. Mind reeling.
Anxiety heightens, but life persists.
A reminder of another chance.

Lungs swell as breaths deepen,
calming the soul through deliberate gusts.
Hands float down. Fingers soften. Mind relaxed.
Chest heavy, but colors brighten,
clearing their way through the fog. 

Fiction Friday: Treadmill

Bare feet pound against dry, cracked earth.
Each step leading to nowhere.
The horizon never changing.

Heartbeats pound against tight, stitched ribs.
Each pulse leading to the last.
The horizon too far to care.

Despair pounds against ever-waning hope.
Each second leading to the end.
The horizon stares on, aloof and distant.

Faith pounds against the impatient horizon.
Each thump a call to believe.
The horizon swells. The horizon cheers.

Fiction Friday: [Hearts Ablaze in Charm City]

Stockpiles of pain
Sit heavily on tear-stained chests.
Hearts smoldering for a lifetime
Under the banner of:
Less Than.

Fires are burning, but
far beyond, far deeper than
the images splashed
across television screens.

The stockpiles fanned
again and again,
finally sparked, ignited
In the hearts of
The oppressed.

‘Legitimate’ news sources
taken to task
by Twitter.
Citizen journalism broadcasting
truths that don't boost ratings.
Ensuring that the world:

And with each heart sparked
to action, to empathy,
another Less Than banner

I felt that it was important for me to share the birth of this poem. The other day I watched an interview between Wolf Blitzer and activist Deray McKesson. And although I pride myself on taking most broadcast news with a grain of salt, this particular interview really got to me for the following reasons: I have lived in Baltimore. I have friends and family in Baltimore. I'm a black woman. And I'm a human being. To blatantly attempt to goad someone into creating the sound bite that you want is not journalism. Trying to coerce someone to condemn the legitimate feelings of the oppressed is not journalism. Those family and friends I told you about? They were posting images and sending tweets about what the majority were doing. Coming together in crowds of hundreds, sometimes thousands to figure out how to bring the peace. How to talk to the children and make this a teachable moment. But, not only was I not seeing this on the news, here was Wolf only wanting to perpetuate the 'If it bleeds it leads' work ethic of the news industry. Angrier than I'd been in a long time, I created and posted the following graphic on Instagram along with the caption that follows it:

Above is what happened after I watched #WolfBlitzer's interview with #DerayMcKesson.

I lived in #Baltimore for 9 months while working on The Wire and what I learned about the people there was that they love their city. They're proud of their city. I shouldn't have to go to social media to get the whole story and to recognize the strong people I remember so well. Especially when people are getting pretty hefty paychecks under the guise of being fair and impartial. 

I am in no way condoning the violence or saying that it shouldn't be reported. What I am saying is that if you only tell 1/4 of a story it becomes a tale of fiction based on a partial truth. This systematic grooming of people's minds to believe that people of color, especially poor people of color, are all violent thugs is a problem on the national level. And it's a problem that will never get resolved until we are shown the whole picture. The good and the bad.

To are more than the picture they are painting. #StayStrong #Rebuild #TeachAndGrow

Fiction Friday: [As DIsquietude Flows Through Delta Waves]

“Close your eyes,” whispered the moon.
The words slid slick down its beam of white and I surrendered.
Falling deeper and deeper into the abyss, I grew
feather-light, airborne at the slightest sigh of a breeze.
The world fell quieter and quieter around me until
the silence thickened, hanging like a noose around my neck.
Thoughts gathered and swelled and I swayed
from a branch of worry and anxiety and events of the day.
Molecules solidified too quickly and
I longed to be weightless once again.
I longed to be light.
I longed for the light.
“Open your eyes,” whispered the sun. 
The words slid soothingly down its beam of yellow
and I surrendered.

Fiction Friday: [Deep In The Roots]

Roots dig deep through soil rich in hopes and dreams.
Dreams of achieving the impossible, strengthening every branch.
Branches that bask in and reach patiently toward the sunlight.

But when clouds gather and the world goes dark,
rain tumbles toward the earth, washing
mistakes and insecurities and regrets
from its leaves and down its bark,
driving it all into the soil
to challenge the light.

Now deep in the roots, it cannot nourish the darkness
without breathing new life into the hopes and dreams
that have called it home for so long.
One they won’t give up
without a fight.

They stand their ground, knowing that soon the sun will shine.
Shine a light back on their path to endless possibilities.
Possibilities they refused to give up in the darkness.

Fiction Friday: [Frustrated Sympathy]

I found him in the shower.
His sobs mingled with the spray beating down on him
and escaped from between his knees
where his head was tucked.

He didn’t move when I turned the faucet off,
Didn’t flinch when I wrapped the towel around him. 

I sat on the edge of the tub.
Not saying a word.
Not because I didn’t know what to say,
but because I knew he wouldn’t want me to.

In an hour he’ll act like this never happened.
And I’ll play along as not to add to his embarrassment.

It was a tiring game.
A lesson yet to be learned.
That words were more freeing than tears.
But pride kept him tethered.

Pride, and believing the pain circled down the drain with his tears,
Erasing the memory of the time before.

And the time before. 

Fiction Friday: [Halloween 1984]

The mask
was a concentrated heatwave.
Every exhale filled the nooks and crannies
of the pre-BPA free plastic and
applied layer after layer
of slickness.
The slits at the nose and mouth,
embarrassed by their uselessness.

The body,
slipped over my street clothes
like a doctor heading into surgery.
and tied at the back,
proudly displayed the name across
my chest…
in case the mask wasn’t enough.

The world
had to know,
there could be no doubt
that I was, indeed,
Strawberry Shortcake.