I have the distinct honor to present to you a phenomenal poet, Ismael Khatibu. I met Ismael several years ago while attending open mic at a local coffee house and it was there that I was instantly captivated by his spoken word. Since that time he and I have become friends and for that I am grateful.
When asked about poetry and his inspiration Ismael told me, " I have been writing since the day the ink dripped on my etch a sketch! I am inspired by the idea of freedom and its interpretations (or misinterpretations!). I am a three-time member of the Piedmont Slam’s predecessor, the Winston-Salem Poetry Slam Team and I stepped into the organizer’s role in February 2009. I have also been co-hosting since February 2009."
You can find more information about the local Piedmont Slam team and Ismael's bio on the Piedmont Slam website (http://www.piedmontslam.art.officelive.com/).
Every 4th Thursday of the month you can find Ismael along with numerous others at Krankies Coffee house in downtown Winston-Salem. Open mic starts at 8pm and the Piedmont poetry slam starts at 9pm. Due to the upcoming holidays, November and December open mic and poetry slam will be held on the 3rd Thursday of the month. For more details regarding this monthly event please visit the website.
Mount of Olives
by Ismael Khatibu
There is an emerging Christ; face down in the lowest depths of the innermost valleys of Babylon
Where the air gets heavier with each descent into the realm of unfathomable recluses,
Where the breeze’s grip is the heaviest weight, anchoring imagination to a dream deferred
Where illusory shackles are slave ships turned arks and densely packed is a full box of Newport cigarettes in the breast pocket of Sister Clara’s best Sunday jacket.
Her crumpled crème linen with re-stitched lining and its usual scent of nicotine is thrown over her right forearm this hot summer day while the left arm uses every bit of strength to climb the church bus.
Her customary seat is taken beside the choir director;
Psalm book in hand,
A melody in her heart
and a tear in eye as she prays for perseverance.
“But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more” Psalm 71:14
The bus climbs the unpaved road of the Mississippi Delta, turning right onto Mt. Olive Ct.
Bumpy, bumpy is this one-way street, abandoned by contractors, land banked by developers who read from the same psalm book as the choir director and thank God everyday for Katrina.
Gentrification was never so easy.
Cleophus Jackson the bus driver, a retired social worker, who lost his family to sea and sky, recalls the previous three generations where his family members were sharecroppers.
Cleophus prays the next three won’t clean the rooms of wealthy vacationers in the resorts of casinos.
He has seen enough gambling in his life and the shot of gin he inhaled before his first cup of coffee is his testimony.
Then, there are the little ones; with no idea of differences between thirst and drunkenness or any lasting impressions of pain and agony.
They smile, they cry; and they are as momentary and instantaneous as the good tidings showered on them.
Up they grow, from little darlings to societal threats
Up they go forgotten roads weathered by Katrina’s blown kisses.
That and every Sunday morning;
to a shotgun church,
from a rickety bus,
from a broken community reduced to rubble and ash and sporadic existence,
to the highest point of Mt. Zion.
There is an emerging Christ, nomadic, clinging to yesterday for tomorrow’s sake,
lacking everything except spirit because they know as sure as Sister Clara’s hallelujahs egg on Pastor Jenkins,
and as sure as these beautiful youth run back and forth down the narrowest of aisles of this church van without being scolded because the members of Mt. Olive Church knows it keeps Brother Jackson from falling asleep at the wheel,
is as sure as they know that through the work of God, everything will be OK.
And once again,
as in past Sundays
and with diminished numbers that
continue life’s journey, they have arrived safely.
The adults, in dire need of the Word, file out,
followed by the children, largest to smallest,
followed by Sister Clara, who secretly or not-so-secretly, takes her last pull from her Newport
and lastly, Brother Jackson who says a prayer to the Lord for safe arrivals
and also has a quiet word for his deceased wife Brenda.
Slowly they stream through the church doors and take their customary seats in the pews.
The choir is assembling, preparing to ‘Get Right with God”.
And while Katrina’s baptismal waters recede like a departing thief and the deep sigh of her gale is completed,
communion glasses still tinker and crackers still crumble
and the voices of twenty robed in purple velvet rises as one Christ emerging from three days of death to sing and shout
that even though levees may break….
our spirit does not.
Copyright © 2009