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