Sunday Best (Appx 1:20 minute read)

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:10 NIV

Her perfume was beginning to fade and her nail polish was chipped.

“I knew I should have bought the gel polish.  Such an idiot.”

She had a pair of black slacks in the back seat of her car.  She wore them to the office from time to time. Thank God she forgot to bring them into the house.  Anastasia lifted the lever on the left side of the driver’s seat and slid the seat back.  She reached into the back seat and grabbed the pants.  Carefully, she pulled the pants on over her panties and under the shirt that she wore as a dress the night before.  Then she smeared Vaseline on her edges and her lips.

“Good as new.”

God knew her in all her glory.  He knew her weaknesses and strengths.  He knew her better than anyone.  He could heal her broken heart.

“Lord knows it’s jacked up this time.”

She bowed her head slightly as she entered the sanctuary.

“Good morning, Sister Faith.”

Sister Faith gave a nod and a smile.  Sister Faith lifted the intricate fan she was carrying and did a slight wave offering over Anastasia.

“Lord, I know I probably still smell like Caleb.  In fact, I can still feel his fingertips all over my body.  I can smell his breath on my neck.  I spent my tithes and offerings on shrimp and vodka. I’m here, though.  I don’t know if that counts for anything.  I sure hope so. My heart is bruised, valves are broken, and they no longer carry blood.  They carry shame. Father, I’m here in your house.  I’m not in my ‘Sunday Best’ and I’m a work in progress but I’m here.  Please heal me.  Please touch me.”

Just then, she heard the praise and worship leader lift his hands and wail.  He was crying out. When his lips parted, it was like he forced out all the tarnished parts of his soul.  With every sound he uttered, more pain came out.  Then he stood there empty and freed from his sorrow.  He was free. A tear fell clumsily from Anastasia’s right eye.  The tear awkwardly waited on her cheek for company.  She had no more.  Just one.  Just one tear.  It waited in vain, died and left a stain.  She envied him.  She envied his liberation.  When he began to sing, she closed her eyes and felt the warmth of God’s loving arms.

She knew her prayer would be answered.

By: Shaun Liriano

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Buttermilk and Rose Petals (Appx 1:12 min read)

Silhouettes of students with graduate caps in a row on sunset background. Graduation ceremony at university web banner.
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On my morning walk I usually pray, plan and take photos of flowers I see on my path.  I was never a flowers kind of girl.  As I grow older, I love them.  A clean linen tablecloth and fresh flowers on the dining room table is the perfect setting.  On the back patio, I have a few plants but it is my dream to have a beautiful rosebush in my backyard someday.

A gentleman in his 2nd floor window with the curtains wide open just taking in deep breaths. His eyes are focused on nothing in particular. The top of his head is bald.  A tight uneven afro covers the rest of his head.

A woman sits on her bright red, brick front porch. She is reading the newspaper aloud.  There is no one near her. There is no phone in sight.  There are no earbuds in her ears. There is no shame on her face when she sees me, see her, reading to no one. Who is her audience? Does she just enjoy the sound of her own voice? She seems content with her audience of zero.

A man waters his dirt.  There is no grass.  Maybe there are seeds planted under the brown and rocky dirt. Diligently, with a smile on his face, he waters his dirt.

I wave to get the attention of an older black woman.  She is vigorously sweeping the street in front of her home.  There is a large blown up photo of a graduate on her lawn.  He has a royal blue cap and gown on.  There are “Congratulations” balloons tied to her stairs. The SUV crossover vehicle parked in front of her home also has balloons tied to it and a makeshift banner.  As she sweeps, there is a smile fixed on her face. The light she carries is as if this moment is still happening.  I wave, point to the photo and say, “That’s beautiful.  Congratulations!” She is startled.  I have invaded the happiness she thought she was sharing with herself. She replies, “I didn’t do it.  He did it.”  While still in motion and now across the street from her home I said, “You did something.”  Her smile grows two sizes bigger.  “God bless you,” she says.  She takes the leopard print mask from under her chin and covers her mouth.  You can still see the glimmer in her eyes as she sweeps.

By Shaun Liriano

For the Rest of Your Life

RIP Nana Bea

My one year old runs her fingers over the tattoo on my arm.

I remember when the tattoo artist said, “It’s still professional. A long sleeve dress shirt will cover it.” I wasn’t concerned with that back then. That was a tattoo I got at a shop on Merrick Blvd in Jamaica Queens. It was shortly after my 23rd birthday. I was excited about it because I finally knew what I wanted to honor my grandmother with.

My Nana Bea was a wedding and party coordinator. She spent a lot of time in her balloon shop. My aunt Darlene was the assistant manager. We worked closely in that business, many days a week, side by side. My grandfather would often have my cousins Jason and Tyson do push ups in the back. He would “toughen them up.” All the while Nana would groom us young women for running a business. I had so many “cousins” as young black children often do. Family wasn’t designated by blood. There were friends of family, neighbors, and extended family who all worked alongside us. We turned bare rooms into magical wonder lands. We made dreams come true. We built memories.

You see, my grandmother wanted to be successful.  She wanted to be a staple in her community.  She wanted a legacy.  She loved her children and took great pride in the accomplishments of her grandchildren.  I used to listen to her brag to her clients and suppliers about articles and poems I wrote. She kept our pictures near her cash register. This was best way for us to spend time with her. We worked to learn and earn money but we also worked to be close to her.

We ate vanilla ice cream, Pepsi or ginger ale and plain potato chips on breaks. These were big treats to me because my parents kept healthier options in the house. Those were some of her favorite things. Sharing them with her added to its sustenance. They were items she could eat quickly, on the go, so she could get back to work.

As Easter approaches I remember Easter baskets with big mylar balloons with my name on them. Inside was always chocolate, bubble bath, lollipops, and a stuffed animal. She never missed an Easter or birthday. We always knew what the business meant to her but we knew even if she showed up at 9pm, she’d be there.

She’d come over in her white minivan with my grandfather at the wheel with goodies. She was warm. She was always smiling. As an adult sometimes things get fuzzy. My Nana Bea passed when I was 19 years old. She died right before Thanksgiving. I wish I’d asked her in all the time I had with her, what it was like to be a woman of color with her own business. I wish I asked her what sacrifices she had to make. I wish I knew what she’d do differently. I would love to see how’d she react to social media and how quickly information and advertisements travel now. I remember dressing the store front windows for the next holiday. It was an honor. If she picked you to help dress the store window or put up a new display it meant she trusted you artistically to make her look good. Recently someone asked me, “Who encouraged you growing up?” It was always my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother wanted us to be reaffirmed in our beauty and she called me Princess my whole time with her. My maternal grandmother wanted me to feel intellectually confident. She helped with school assignments, establishing routines, and life skills.

Those of us who have tattoos are often reminded we are wearing veritable choices. We will have these pieces of art inscribed on our bodies for all time. I love my balloons.  Everytime I see it I see the smiling face of Beatrice. I feel myself standing in that building with confetti and broken clips (that held the latex balloons in clusters) on the floor. I remember the taste of Tiger Pops. I hear the older girls telling stories about the young men they were dating.  I hear music. I hear arguing. I feel her curly hair. I smell her lotion. I remember rummaging for the sharpest scissor to curl the ribbon with. We would decorate baby shower chairs with toole and silk flowers. I can hear her yelp when she’d burn her finger on a glue gun and then keep going until the job is done. I see my faded balloon tattoo and I see love in all of its wholeness. Imperfect. Mine.

By:Shaun Liriano

To My Songbird

Our love went on like an unwatered plant.  Without the sustenance needed to survive.  I mourn the conversations we postponed, texts that should have been phone calls, the drinks we should have had laughs over.  I miss the adolescent I knew and I pray for the woman I watched grow. I hold in my heart the spirit that could never die in any realm.

By Shaun Liriano

RIP Martine

Tulips

I put tulips under all the pillows and then I set fire to the house.  Sounds dramatic, I’m sure. I mean, will forensics even know there was tulips there if everything is ashes by the time they get there?  I would know the tulips were there. I will always know. I will never forget. I bought those damn pillows. I remember researching which ones would enhance his quality of rest. The way you sleep impacts the way you live. He worked so hard, by the time he slept, I wanted it to be deep fruitful sleep.

She found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car.  My daughter found it while picking up some fruit loops that fell out of her mouth and rolled under the drivers seat.   Araina picked up the bracelet and dangled it in front of her face. When the light danced with the glass in the rear view mirror, I snapped out of my mommy daze. “What is that, Araina?” “Your pretty bracelet, Mommy.” I turned green with envy.  My heart began to bleed. The last time we saw a movie, we fought through the first 30 minutes and left early.  He was drooling over the main character.  I found this to be disturbing and pathetic because it was one of those graphically enhanced movies like “Avatar.”  “You’re getting horny over a computerized character!?” He just rolled his eyes at me.  The chick wasn’t even human.  I should have known then that we were a mess. I can’t compete with imagination. I should have known our reality was being invaded. Who was invading our reality?

I prayed it wasn’t something cliche like a chick at work or an Instagram model.  It was both!  Apparently, Lily was an aspiring actress.  She was a brand ambassador and a party promoter but that wasn’t bringing home the bacon. She decided to get a second job working for my husbands telemarketing company.

One late night when I surprised my husband with an under the covers “special treat”, the taste of lipstick left a residue on my tongue.  I could smell baby wipes and cologne.  We were arguing so I don’t think he expected my mouth to replace his alarm clock.  We were both surprised. He denied my blatant accusations. He labeled me abusive when I smacked him. I knew I was right though.  I knew something was going on.  One night while he was overseeing the OT crew, I hired a sitter and drove the 17 miles to the job. In a true act of absurdity and a visual reenactment of every urban novel ever read…there they were.

In the employee lounge, over the sound of the office dishwasher they were grunting and moaning. They were so bold.  It was as if they were supposed to be together and that was their sacred space. There on the floor slipping and sliding in the free office supplied french vanilla coffee creamer was their love nest.  I decided not to make a scene.  I decided not to ask, “why?” I decided not to beat the bimbo up. These were all quick decisions.  This didn’t need to be a Waiting to Exhale Moment.  This didn’t need to be an episode of Snapped. I picked up my pocketbook and returned the visitors pass to the front desk.  I drove home without the radio playing and I slowly counted my breaths.  I walked passed our lime green deck chair. My husband would watch golf in that chair on the iPad while drinking an ice cold Stella Artois in the summer.  I kicked that ugly ass chair into the salt water pool and paid the babysitter. I then carefully selected 5 Lily flowered tulips from our backyard garden and placed them under all the pillows in our master bedroom.  I packed two bags, unplugged Arainas Nintendo Switch from the charger and strapped her in the booster seat in the CHR we kept around for guests.  Then I took a safety match from the glove compartment and set fire to the house.

We drove away from the flames and the ashes of my cremated marriage.  I cried silently while my daughter slept in the back seat.  I mourned my youth spent with someone who didn’t deem me worthy of honesty.  I wondered if the smoke smelled like lilies or regret.

By: Shaun Liriano

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Exciting News !

Come 2020 I’m bringing back my poetry workshops!  I was a contract creative educator for Queens Library in 3 locations in the past and I loved it.  I have been praying on it and it’s time to start teaching some young hungry minds again. For information on booking please fill out the contact form below or DM me on IG @ShaunLProductions

Please view my how-to video on YouTube “Writing Process for the Super Busy” https://youtu.be/a3J8X0EaLtM

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Leading a Brainstorming session on a group poem at a Jazz Concert October 2018

Thanksgiving

 

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Photo credit commondreams.org

 

What’s small may be a lot, what is a lot may seem small

Until you lose it all and its a rash mad dash for survival daily

Until your past is full of regrets and your future is full of uncertainty

and hope is a liability because deflation is defeat

It could deplete from the strength you need to fight for your core

The strength you need to prevent combustion

The fight you need to escape frustration

Adjudication is needed to make monumental change for the forgotten

Realities need realignment

Vision needs correction

Humanity needs connection

By Shaun Liriano

For information regarding organizations I am affiliated with that accept food, time and monetary donations, fill out the contact form below. 

Note: This reflection was inspired by Gil Scott Heron “Winter In America” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2zKdIcOV5s

“From the Indians who welcomed the pilgrims

And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains

Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds

Looking for the rain.”

Follow me on Instagram @ShaunLProductions

 

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Tribute wall at the Making Strides Breast Cancer walk at Flushing Meadows Corona Park Queens, NY Oct 20, 2019.  Photo by Shaun Liriano

My plan is to spend the next 30 years trying to make the world a better place.  I will continue to volunteer, raise funds for good causes, write pieces that resonate with the beauty and the ugly that lies within all of us, and no matter how hard it will be …I am going to do it with a smile on my face.  We cannot only care about matters that affect us directly.  We cannot only be the anecdote for diseased parts of ourselves.  Our humanity calls us to attempt to treat others with love and respect.  What if we go beyond that?  What if we actually tried to help someone even in the midst of our own wilderness?  I went out on the 20th with a cold, with my husband and children, took a shuttle to the site, operated on 4 1/2 hours of sleep after taking my children to a party the night before.  I walked 3 miles for women who have had mastectomies, women who have endured chemotherapy, women who have lost their lives and women who are too afraid to even see a physician because of loved ones they have buried.  I walked because I can.  I walked because I have the use of both of my legs and I have the will to be a part of something amazing.  I walked because we are not called to shy away from matters that bring pain and disruption to the lives of others.  I walked because I believe in medicine.  I walked because I believe in God.  I walked because I believe one day there will be a pill or a shot in place of devastation and despair.  I walked because pink is a beautiful color.  I walked because the energy and the music and the courageousness is infectious. 

I walked because we can spend years taking selfies until we are happy with the selves we see.  Yet, I have no intention of wasting purpose on persuading the masses to click “like.”  I want my legacy to be laced with the luster of love.

You have to walk before you can run.

 

By: Shaun Liriano

The Sounds of Stillness

I have been in here for days.  They are probably looking for me but I don’t care. They probably think I am in a dumpster somewhere. They think I’m wrapped in a black trash bag.  So they are pooling together their resources so they can come together to raise my kid now that I am theoretically “gone.”  They are part correct. They are probably more than half right.  Which also means that there is an existing part of them that is “wrong.”  Consequently, I’m right too!  That is extremely comforting in this time where I really need a win.  I need to be indisputably right. I’ll settle for this unofficial 33% though.

See, I met a man on the Colosseum block on Jamaica Avenue. He’s a security guard.  He’s a grown man with a job and a beautiful smile. Usually, someone like that isn’t interested in someone like me.  I’ve always thought of myself as plain. I’ll tell you one thing though…I have bedroom moves that would put a Stanley 68 6 way screwdriver out of business. I know how to make men feel special and feel in control.  I yearn to be controlled and I long to be needed. Mr. Security Guard fits the bill for now.  They don’t know anything about him.  They just know that he is the last person I was with.  They know I am either “flippin’ in the ghetto on a dirty mattress” in a bad way or…I’m gone.

I miss my kid though.  The last thing I wanted to become was Her.  She is the woman who walked away from me when I was a toddler and then She decided to come back on my 11th birthday.  Then the Broad left again.  She popped in and out of my life for most of my life sporting a cute nickname, “Mom”, that only she called herself.  We (my brother and I) just call her Beverly.

My goody two shoes best friend has been going over to my house every day since I’ve been gone. She acts like she’s better than me because she stopped at getting finger popped and I went all the way.  She’s saving herself for marriage and I wish her luck but I don’t believe in such things.  Goody Goody is good, I must admit.  She brings over food and toys for my kid.  My step-sister and Goody Goody are home from their respective colleges for the holidays. I know they are just trying to make a bad situation less bleak. If they could only see the picture from my viewing seat.

Beverly is a figment of my imagination, my grandmother who was my best friend in the whole world is gone, my grades are great but I hate school, my dad has spent his whole life trying to be the character he created in his mind.  In the process of trying to become this character he has ruined every woman he has ever touched.  My siblings are their own beautiful messes.   I love my baby brother and I wish there weren’t so many years between us. He might be the one to actually understand me.  It’s too late now.

They are frantically looking for me like any good family should.  They are imagining the worst.  They are praying for the best. I’m gone though.  I can see the breath leave my body.  I hear someone calling my name.  I’m surrounded in darkness and I f*#@ing love it! Every time I walked towards the light it was just a trickster with a flashlight shining it in my eyes to taunt me before he shoves it where the sun don’t shine.  I know there is a God but I need help finding his contact information (there’s no yellow pages anymore.)  I just want that warm apple strudel that slides down your throat baked by the hands of someone beautiful.  They call it love.  I’m been searching for it, I draw it, I read about it, Good Goody sings songs about it.  The silence of my surroundings is drinking me in.  I can hear my own noises now over the absence of sound. The nothingness pushes the walls on top of me.  It doesn’t hurt though.  I just focus in on the reverberation of thoughts so strong they could escape the confines of my head.  In here it is just me and my madness.  I don’t know when I will leave here.  Within the isolation is the safest I have felt in some time.

I can’t hide in this basement forever.  I think they teach Sunday school here in the morning at 10am.

 

-Shaun Liriano

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Photo captured by Shaun Liriano