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When my Papa passed away
although painful
it wasn’t tragic

His funeral was the most beautiful gathering I had ever been to
Black people
of all shades
came together in celebration of his life
Black people
of all degrees of enslavement
came together in celebration of their own lives
We wore colours
We ate soul food
I sat with snot and tears like candle grease on my face as I filled my tummy
filling the room
with an extra pair of shoes
an extra prayer saying grace
I’m telling you like it is because it feels like it was
just yesterday
just an hour ago
when my father
burst into my bedroom
woke me from an afternoon slumber

sun shining
but no light in him

I distinctly remember how hot-damned-well that sun was shining
as I hurried to pick up a lamp that knocked out the light
from my father’s pretty dark brown eyes
and held him
like he was child again
trembling like he was small again
in my Silly String arms
sucking air and bellowing back, “He’s gone! My daddy’s gone!”

At the funeral, a youth gospel choir sang “One Glad Morning”
and I always confuse that one line for “One Black Morning”
that’s what death means to me:
running out of light to give

Thankfully, my father
still has light to give

He found it on a highway, I believe
where he was beckoned to an honourable memory
of his hero
the signs are designed
to reach us at eye level
and others greet us
6 feet
under sound

Britta B.

You look

You must have discarded
a whole heap of dirty garb
to get that clean

How did you
shed the rust
of your unhelpful relatives?
How did you free
the remedy of your inherent habits?
Can you take it for what it is
if you bring
it out of me?

Nature has Her ways, souls
rubbing souls
for Earthly calibration
I am the catalyst
You are the Scientist’s prescription
for a healthy heart
Good health
is sensitive to unhealthy servants
and no one knows it more than you
how even the undeserving have a purpose
“There’s nothing more necessary
than the unnecessary”
There’s nothing more divine than losing your religion

As I sit
with you
under the toenail of a
closed cathedral
I wonder, what if
out of the 144,000
you were the first

When the question hitches a ride with
the westbound wind
you catch on too with your photo-maker
causing a traffic jam raising the blade
of your eyebrow all to say without sound:
I’d be the first to refuse

See, this is why I like you
you’re no anchor
no black hole ether

You just haven’t met anyone
who catches light
like you yet

Britta B.

Manipulators don’t like
to be manipulated
Facilitators don’t like
to be facilitated

But a fool!
A fool loves to be fooled…

Britta B.

In the liquor store
I don’t put things back
where I found them

What makes you think
when you’ve reached the bottom
you’ve been put back in your place?

Britta B.

Stewing in the skin of my inward eye
probable and prone to tunnel vision
I satisfy
the perversity of repetition

When impulse takes me by the hand
we give substance to silhouettes
We do what we must
to quiet the fuss

Out to seek
what is seeking me
Hunting for a higher Truth

People hand the best they can
not the way
you want them to

When I say, I have no words
I’m not trying hard enough
When I say, I have no choice
my mind’s been made up

We do what we must
to quiet the fuss

With my voice, I collapse
I’ve never had my heart broken
only an ego scratched
and my desire requires many reminders

Harmonious woman, you deliver life
everything else passes or purely assists
Don’t try to make love
it already exists

And excuse
my imposition
but consider the privilege
it is to consider the position

you’re in

isn’t as much as what you leave
as it is
to where you return

When will you learn you have so much to learn?

Oh, we do what

Britta B.

Can’t swim
but love to study the waves

My favourite part of the day
is when it’s raining
Ah, blue o’clock
I take my time coming home

you’re in trouble…

I sing to myself when I catch him
in my breath

His eyes:
two liquid capsules full of transparent blur
red-rimmed and open ocean blue
was barely there

When asked what’s up
his head hangs like a crooked frame on a wall
and the little yellow and red Lego pieces of me
instantly connect
to the ton of bricks on his shoulders
I know, I know
You shouldn’t play with road kill.
But it’s like holding a camera in your hands with no flash
and you must make light of the situation
I guess the best way to explain it
is that
wherever he is, I’ve been there

I get it

Despite surviving a semi-detached house full of split personality
part of me believes
I deserve to be forgotten, left alone unwanted
Sometimes I feel like a rescue dog, you know?
and hungry
for something other than what could be held in my mouth
or sometimes I feel like an ex-jock
who can’t help but be loud and drag around a stupid Letterman jacket
I might run ahead a few blocks
but I always look back
and it’s complicated to fall
for someone who doesn’t want to be who they are
It’s counterproductive to react (it doesn’t do any good to feel bad)
The hardest part of being there is knowing when to step back

I step back, out of the way

His eyes, two tidal waves
of Come At Me
or Get Out of My Face

I can tell he’s been chasing shadows and leaving dead people
all over town
Not that he’s in any danger per se
but he’s desperate to escape from living out the corner of his eye
so I make him a bed he can’t refuse
circle around it a few times
before laying down
and joining in

We reach for our slingshots and fold into each other’s laughter
pointing at those who scurry by with their newspapers and umbrellas
because we love the rain
we love the water and
would kill to have something we’re made of
destroy us
Using my arms for scaffolding, I build myself up into a seated position and…
He’s a copycat!
Mocks the way I study the waves
and I’m… flattered

Because it doesn’t matter
if you’re looking through trash or looking through
you always find what you’re looking for

Britta B.

Here’s a short documentary put together by some Humber College students (2013) Special Thanks to Julia Rogers.

Check out this interview with Britta B. and Ryan B. Patrick from Canada Arts Connect Magazine:
URBAN/Intersection: Spoken Word Poet Britta B.

I recently read, “Old stories are like old friends, you must revisit them every now and then…” or something like that. Coincidentally, two days ago, I came across the journal I was writing in while I was in Kenya. I opened to this page and felt everything I felt then all over again. Reminders, man. Enjoy. 

July 11, 2010
It’s beginning to get harder to get out of bed now. I’m not quite homesick, however, I feel as though I’ve lost purpose on being on this trip.

I keep thinking about Toronto and all of the feelings I’ll have and the commitments I’ll try to keep. Like spending less time in the shower, turning taps off while washing/brushing, unplugging unused electronics, buying food I need opposed to greed, being more inviting to strangers, being more available to friends, spending more time in Kingston with family, letting frustrations pass with a convenient ease and smile, being more conscious of where the products I buy are coming from, sleeping earlier and long before it’s time to get up. Consume carefully. Write more often. Say Thank You. Take breaks but work hard. Save $$…

All of these things and more.

I’m ready to go home – I feel very confused here. I definitely don’t belong, it’s not my place and it’s all quite disappointing.

Even though I have such negative feelings about all of this, there is one very special thing (person) that keeps me alive here in Kenya. Janat.

The top of her head reaches no higher than my shoulders and her cheerfulness expands eons. She has wide eyes with big black dots in the middle and the most straight, clean teeth out of any child here. I sink into her lanky arms each time we meet. She loves playing hide-and-go-seek, chewing grass, talking about what different words mean in Swahili, asking questions like Where were you?, saying Yes, throwing her handmade ball of rags to play catch, and of course, laughing. A lot of laughing is a must around her.

Every time I see this girl I am instantly happy and calm. All is well with Janat. She is in Standard 5 (or grade 5) and looks like a young Lauryn Hill with a shaved head. She has an older sister and two older brothers but acts as if she’s roamed the ends of the earth and back all on her own. There is a wise soul inside of her that I only hope gives her strength to be everything dreams of and more. More than me.

She is so smart, appreciative, and smiley! While collecting water with a plastic container that once held cooking oil, walking back and forth from a river 20mins away – she did it all with a smile. As if happiness was a state of mind unconditioned, as if smiles could be smacked on faces like lipstick for special occasions and this right here, the moment of now, was a very special occasion. I can’t get over her.

Britta B.

With my impatience
I can build a Ruin in a day
and let it ruin my whole week

Britta B.


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