trigger warning: likely typos and run-on sentences… you’ve been warned.
Ali has always been a dividing point (one of many!) for the city of our origin and those old wounds and arguments resurfaced with this week’s announcement that Louisville was renaming it’s airport in his honor. the point of contention: Ali refused to fight in Vietnam – for those on the right this made him a traitor; for those on the left, an iconic hero and a patriot in the truest sense. Ali was a conscientious objector. he didn’t “dodge”, he disagreed. was stripped of boxing titles and sent to prison for his beliefs. he never claimed to be a pacifist, because in pugilism he is G.O.A.T.
Ali believed in the fight. the paid fight… and the good fight. the right fight.
these beliefs are what made him the world’s most recognizable humanitarian. and many in his hometown hate him for it.
in Louisville, Ali is as despised as he is adored. his detractors all say that race has nothing to do with it, that this is about PRINCIPLE. and patriotism. and yet many of these same people voted for Trump, a most braggadocios draft-dodger who laughed at the lack of ingenuity of those unable to get out of it. THIS is their goat. they are his scapegoat… they don’t like him, but they admire him for it.
so… indisputably, this IS about race!
fuck the haters.
the often democratic leadership of this mostly left-leaning city in a sea-state of political red all LOVE Ali’s Legacy and what his association with the city does for its image. he has a boulevard and a museum and now an airport. much more than the lonely little block in front of the city’s ferderal building dedicated to MLK – whose brother actually preached at a baptist church on 18th street; a street that racism forbade leadership from re-christening as Martin Luther King Jr Blvd… they said it was because it was erasure of the heritage of what the street designation of EIGHTEEN meant and represented to their identity as Louisvillians (no one could ever fully enlighten us as to what 18th Street actually represented, but it was “heritage” for the poor, Portland area Whites financially trapped in Louisville’s West End in the wake of the city’s desegregation movement: approximately 8 square miles of residential neighborhoods abandoned in white-flight due to black-fear.
so, again… race. seldom is any societal divide in America not about race.
NO to America’s greatest civil rights icon with Louisville ties getting more respectable real estate in namesake, but at least we continue to do right by Ali.
and yes, TECHNICALLY, it’s The Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (to quiet those who may be in their feelings at me leaving the city’s name out of this post’s headline), but also TECHNICALLY, the airport is “international” only in the fact that UPS (the former nameholder for the airport) ships internationally from this hub. not a single commercial flight leaves our city for foreign lands. so PFFT! to yall…
anyway… i don’t have any artwork that features anything “Louisville” in it, but Ali as Patron Saint of Louisville Poets, Bullshitters, and Shit Talkers does make appearances in a few of my poems, most notably this one from my Fair Gabbro series where the mythology of Ali’s Olympic gold medal is featured. it’s more prose than poem (my aesthetic) and likely my least favorite in the series – but it was the first one in the series before i even realized its potential as such.
thank you, Muhammad Ali, for all that you have meant to the world, to America, to the city of Louisville, and to this
angry conscientious Black poet from 42nd and Larkwood.
sometimes, i think to revise a poem is to reverse its bloom, returning to its kernel… the pit… its seed. we do this for the sake of ‘crafting’… and often it’s most necessary for us to do this, but i’ve read the poems of others in their original drafts and often the melody of them is pitch perfect; as a reader you feel comfortable snuggled within it. though not always lyrically sound, our rough drafts are often the most poetically clear or insightful. the rough draft is the hand of our mind sketching illusion towards reality. the draft often containing fruit-laden branches… in revision, we consider erasure an advancement / whittling away the most astounding emotional context for the sake of the best intellectual punch. we pare back each branch, down to its stub and say “see, here we strike at sap and it is the center of the truth.”
but sometimes, nothing is more truthful than our teeth sinking into flesh, breaking the surface of a ripened skin.
then again, perhaps another truth: i’m just putting off revising these dozen poems i promised to have finished by the end of the month.
i’m gonna submit 5 separate poems to 5 separate journals this week AND THEY GWAN PUBLISH THEM TOO, GODDAMMIT.
yall just wait and see!
(doan make me make you rue the day!)
*and if you see meeeee, walkin’ cross the skreet… and i start to cryyy —*
i wish that was something i aimed for as a writer. it’s hoped for, we all secretly long to be understood / to have an audience / to be known as that person when specific creative aspects are discussed (in a positive manner!)
from the time we pick up a pen until we lay it down and all times in between. we have them / it’s okay for us to admit.
but when you know in your heart that you are meant to make heavy, laborious words float as lubraciously as possible / knowing full well that a kink for the densely populated poem is not a favored classroom subject / then you equally avow yourself to invisibility. to anonymity / full eclipse. you worship hermitage – so buck up, it comes with the territory.
yet still, you study the works of others who write of similar themes / a popular others / you see the accessibility in their approach, their skill. you see both the formula and the craft desired by peers (if not “the people”)… and yet…
maybe it’s because you come from a stubborn people / your penchant for a certain amount of hardheadedness / you blame it on Ali being the patron saint of your city… going against the grain with your dance / hoping, at last, for the grain to yield.
to float like a bee.
to sting like / a butterfly in flames.
and this is how i lose you.
well, shit. we all can’t fit in the parade. someone, afterwards, must always sweep the streets / keeping track of the precious remnants found in trash / be the apparition for an imperfect memory.
i was charged, once, to write of snow;
i wrote of winter / on the surface of the sun / of drinking rum from a glamorous woman’s boot (and replacing it to heel before she awoke) / (or was she clamorous?) / (( i can’t recall )) … whichever, i’m forever in my own head / forever dawn of the dead in dialogue
but these brains are sour. dear zombie.
okay, that’s weird… poet goes for introspection and a writing prompt shows up. what was i to expect, this deprived of sleep? that’s what brought me here…
but what is your excuse? well… we can wallow as one if you like, just please keep your hands to yourself. and don’t watch me. and don’t you dare utter a single solitary word. unless you hum.
blink to me in morse code a shared song.
the idea is to not twiddle my thumbs. but writing is daunting. and writing about one’s self is nerveracking…
plus, i’m boring af. on second thought, twiddling my thumbs may be the most adventurous these posts get.
but i welcome yall… except for you Joe Johnston. i mean, you’re welcome… i guess… of course… but you’ve already been here once before in what i’m calling in hindsight “my beta testing”… so this appearing on your timeline again orsumshit might just be a little redundant. my bad.
goddammitfuckthisblog… writing is intimidating.
next time around: yall bring a little bourbon, i bring a little bourbon, we snuggle up to our device screens of choice, we let the finely distilled lubricants work their magic aaaaannnd… maybe / jus’ maybe – things might go a little smoother our second (or third!) time around… ?
stay up yall,