Poem: Do You Know?

This past year, I’ve had to really delve into new places where artists gathered and came together to create and inspire and share with each other.

It’s sad to admit that I haven’t really delved too deeply into spaces exclusively for People of Color, and one of the main reasons is that it was never a natural place for me. I’m a mixed guy who happens to look more Black then anything, and for most of my life, I’ve been able to make my way through the mostly white world with occasional people of color as good friends here and there, but never really in a group or cohort specifically for people of color.

The last few years have forced me to reconcile some things about myself and my racial heritage, and the reality that I am, in fact a Person of Color, and that I too belong in spaces, actually need, spaces where other black and brown bodies come together, where we can share our experiences, and gain insight and strength from each other, and just BE. Simply exist without all the societal issues and code-switching and shoulder-looking that comes with moving through this day and age as someone with darker complexion of skin.

This poem was created in response to a writing prompt during a session of Black Lines Matter, an amazing project that’s hosted by Black Table Arts, every other Saturday at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Do you Know?

Do you know how much sound is in this sentence…

It took me so goddamn long

To love myself?

Do you know how much focus it takes…

To open up to the world

Yet keep my shield close and at the ready each and every day?

Do you know how much patience it takes…

To remind myself

What others see when I simply drive down the street

Or walk into a room?

Too goddamn much, it what I would say.

Crowdfunding, gah

So, I have a confession to make.

When I started with my publisher, I had the goal and vision of being totally self-financed when it came to the cost of working with them and getting this book project published.

For a while, I was able to do just that; I paid my freelance editor promptly after she completed reviewing and revising the poems I was going to submit, and I was able to pay my visual artists as they turned artwork in or right afterwards.

Granted, some of this was school loan money, but still, I was able to essentially pay my way as the process went along, and I had a credit card that I barely ever used that was going to carry me through the bulk of the costs for publication.

Then, I was done with law school prematurely because of my poor grades, so there went those extra funds.

Then, my wife’s business started tanking while I was looking for fulltime work, and yep, there went all that expendable credit that I had sitting in that credit card, and then some cashed-in IRA retirement accounts, because the transition to the wife’s new company was taking longer then anticipated, and I was still looking for fulltime work, while working at a Starbucks at MSP and doing odd jobs for friends and family who needed projects done around their house or yards. It was a tough, long year, 2017.

And yet, the whole time, I continued to push forward with the book. My publisher was sending me editing and revision suggestions, which I would work on feverishly in any spare time I had, which was precious little. My artists continued to send me completed art pieces, which I would then get scanned or edited for sending to the publisher.

I was still holding out hope that, at some point, I would get the fulltime job and my wife would launch that new business, and by the time it came to move forward with the layout and final revisions and getting a cover image, I would have somehow paid the credit card down enough, or would have the additional income that I would need when it came time to start paying my amazing publisher.

But that didn’t happen. Turns out, the interest rates on my credit cards are a monster, and that my fulltime job that I eventually got 5 months ago, while amazing and generous, only covered the bare essentials financially. The wife’s business is still getting off the ground, and I’m amazed by that woman, that she still has the passion and drive to start a new venture AGAIN, while keeping our two boys alive and the house cleaned.

So, I’m writing this out on my phone at my second job, telling you all about the glamorous, exciting life of being a poet, and getting a publisher, and having this grand dream of a collaborative book project, and my confession is that, doing a crowdfunding campaign for the funding of this book was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

I don’t know why really, because it’s perfectly normal for writers and musicians and creatives of all kinds to do crowdfunding campaigns for their projects, so it’s not like it’s unusual or discouraged or anything, and it’s a perfectly fine way of getting a project funded. Hell, I give whatever I can whenever a friend or community member I know raises money for anything, so I’ve seen them work and be wildly successful.

The thing is, this book project has been the only thing that’s kept me going through all the bullshit and heartache that was 2017. The first thing I realized after the reality of not being able to continue with law school was, “well, at least I’ll have more time to focus on the book project.” When me and the wife were having painful conversations about our money situation and things were an utter mess, and separation and fear and everything came out in bitter, tearful confrontations, I knew that I still had the book project.

The book project has been my anchor, my one constant through a year or turmoil and uncertainty. Even when we weren’t able to get all of the pieces submitted in time to meet our initial deadline and weren’t able to get the thing published and launched when we first thought we would, it was still there, still something that was going to happen.

And now, now it’s closer then ever to actually getting to print, and the money needs to start being paid in earnest, and I’m gonna be holding a crowdfunding launch on the 26th.

While I wasn’t hoping to do a crowdfunding campaign, I have to say that I am looking forward to this upcoming night. Some of my friends have really stepped up and have been amazing, and it’s a humbling thing to see amazing and busy people in my life step up and give of their time and talents to making this the best goddamn crowdfunding launch that it can possibly be.

So, yet another lesson learned on this wild and crazy road to getting published: Keep going, even when it gets hard, and when you feel like you can’t do it all by yourself, reach out to those around you, because you will be pleasantly surprised by who comes through for you.

Back in October, I had the privilege to be interviewed by my good friend Caleb for his Podcast, and it was awesome/terrifying/encouraging to be able to shed some light into my life and journey regarding mental health, Iraq, alcoholism and sobriety, and of course the book project.