Feet

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership over that free self was another. -Toni Morrison

Fun fact about me…I don’t like feet.  No matter how clean and groomed you may pride yourself on being, I think feet are the ugliest part of the human body.  There is just something very alien about feet.  The way the toes move on their own and almost have their own personality is like a never ending telling of “this little piggy…”

I’m 5’7″ so I have never had the luxury of “cute” feet.  I carry with my frame the necessary foundation to carry it without falling on my face.  I wear a sturdy size 10 shoe.  I try to stay “polished” (as my mother calls it when a woman is neatly groomed) so my feet are as “pretty” as they are ever going to get. Nevertheless, when reading, We’re Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union I had to think long and hard about a reference she made. There is a point in the book where she discusses the intimacy and seduction involved in a foot rub.  It is a fleeting reference and not a topic she dwells on long.  It’s like when you are reminding a reader of the childhood affinity they may have with eating an ice cream cone on a summer day.  She just brings attention to connecting with a feeling that will place the reader in a subjective, emotional and deep sense of innocence. My first foot rub was not sexual at all.  There was no brown skinned R&B group reject boy massaging my big ass feet with oil.  There were no candles.  There were no dimmed lights.  There were no tingles up my spine.  There was only Matthew Franklin.*

Matthew Franklin was a friend I made my first year at Pace University.  He was kind, highly intelligent, well read, cultured, and slightly…off.  That’s what people would say.  Women would say he was “off.”  Men would call him “gay.” To me, he was no different than the other male friends I had in my music and arts high school.  Men who were considered “gay” or “effeminate” because they were “artsy.”  Matthew was definitely polished!  He was the first man to tell me about Vitamin E oil for my skin and hair and to point me in the direction of where I could purchase it cheap.  He saw right through my tough exterior the FIRST day of classes.  There I was attending a private university on a partial scholarship (I use this term loosely but I’ll save that for another post.)  Our school was downtown Manhattan post 9/11 and the campus was beautiful, elite, and predominantly white.  I grew up in Jamaica Queens. My parents were sure to place me in extracurricular activities where I was exposed to all cultures and most importantly vast socio-economic environments AKA what is now coined as “black excellence.” However, being in private school most of my life and the square of the hood I was determined to prove myself to be “urban” and accepted by my peers.  I went to college in flight jackets (Generation Z, you may have to Google flight jackets) of every color and fitted hats over my perfect perm. I looked the part of the character that was being cast in the John Singleton movie that only existed in my own head.  Matthew invited me to the cafeteria immediately after Anthropology class. There we talked about Franz Boas and pygmy colonies and every other geeky thing we could cover while eating very expensive croissants and drinking Alize out of Starbucks coffee cups to avoid judgement. It was so much fun! Eventually we attracted other closeted dorks and developed a crew of minorities.  We had two Haitian girls (one of whom I still keep in touch with), Jamaican girl, 2 Black American girls (one was me), a Puerto Rican, A Dominican, and later a Filipino friend.  As time went on we attracted more and we had some great adventures my freshman year.  There was another group affectionately known as G.P.A (The ghetto peoples association) and we became cool with them too. We never got too cool with G.P.A.  Many of them were men of color from Brooklyn who lived (how do I say this?) …lives that could be categorized as criminal.  Most of them majored in political science so they could beat their own cases should they end up in an unfavorable circumstance. THESE were the guys from the movie directed in my head.  These guys didn’t particularly care for Matthew Franklin.  So we were “cool” from a distance.

I remember being in Matthew’s dorm on Fulton street.  It had hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances.  We were all chilling in there watching a Mya performance with AJ and Free on 106 & Park (Again Centennials you may have to look this up.) Everyone was casually eating junk food and being intellectual or so we thought.  It was hot and Matthew didn’t allow shoes in the dorm so I left my flip flops at the door.  I remember him sitting on the floor next to my feet and looking at my heel inquiringly and saying, “Damn girl, your feet are ashy!!!”  I was so embarrassed but he quickly grabbed some cocoa butter and started to rubbing.  At first I was shocked and then I was immediately humbled.  Up until that point no one rubbed my feet.  It just wasn’t a thing. I guess, that’s why I neglected it too!  I remember growing up Catholic and seeing the depiction of the washing of the feet ** in church.  I would be so grossed out. “Ewwwww, I thought.  Look at them touching, washing and rubbing strangers feet.”  I lost the connection and the representation of humility and submission and service.  The whole 11-15 minutes that Matthew rubbed all the black girl magic into my feet (cliched cocoa butter and all) I felt real friendship and belonging.  It wasn’t sexual and sensual like in the movies.  It was just kind.

In 2004 there weren’t as many discussed titles.  There wasn’t unclouded science to human sexuality.  At that time, (to my knowledge) you were gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or straight. Or at least that’s what was commonly discussed. As I continued getting to know my friend Matthew, I know he would be considered today as pansexual.* There was no released pansexual flag he could have waived in front of his traditional Caribbean  parents then.  There was no sexual identification that G.P.A would have accepted.  He allowed “off” and he dismissed “gay” as the titles people found necessary to identify him with. He continued being himself.

I didn’t stay at Pace.  The tuition was a little too pricey for me to continue being a Pace Setter.  I became a Stony Brook Seawolf my sophomore year but I lost touch with Matthew Franklin long before I transferred.  All we know is he just didn’t come back Sophomore year.  A part of me thinks he was tired of the crap.  A part of me re-visits the day we saw the news headline about a gay student who committed suicide on a nearby campus.  According to the note, he would rather fly out of that window than tell his parents he was gay.

My thoughts on human sexuality are to be determined.  I consider myself liberal, open-minded, Christian and human.  I always want to be understanding of the humanity in everyone and I want to be compassionate.  I am also a parent and I wouldn’t want my children to experience the scrutiny and violence that oftentimes affects that community.  It’s a sensitive topic (to say the least.)  At Stony Brook I remember watching television one day while supposedly studying and seeing Matthew in a commercial.  I was elated!  He wasn’t dead, beaten or some loser somewhere.  In my young naive mind, he was successful because of that commercial and he was okay.

I don’t think I ever thanked him for that foot rub.  I don’t think I ever thanked him for being my friend and truly hyping me up and telling people I was this brilliant poet. I never thanked him for sticking pepper spray in my coat pocket one night when I left campus a little late and I was taking the J train home. Its funny the memories a random line in a book can send your way.  Thanks Gabrielle.  Thanks Matthew.

 

*Name changed for privacy.

**Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:1–17) occurred in the upper room, during the Last Supper

 

By: Shaun Liriano

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RIP Toni Morrison, the woman who unapologetically told stories whether we were ready to hear them or not.

“As Far As I Can Throw You”

He threw her.  Just threw her with full force like you chuck a football through a field. He threw her. She flew through the air.

I always knew I could fly, she said.

For the first time there was someone he could trust with his life and he wanted to show her that he cared.  He wanted to show her that she was special.  He wanted to show her that he’d be “mush” without her.

I trust you about as far as I can throw you, he said.

Then he threw her.  He hurled her body and watched it spiral through the air. His love poured out of the sweat that beaded on her forehead.  His faith sprouted wings in her back.  His hope stripped her naked and replaced her bland clothing with an aerodynamic super suit colorful enough to match her vibrant personality.

At first, she was afraid. Fretfully, she gathered herself and tried to get her bearings.  She tried to get used to being in the company of birds, high branches, and jet planes approaching their landings. She screamed in excitement.  No one seemed alarmed that she was up there.  They expected her to be in the sky.  It was as if she didn’t belong on the ground and everyone knew it.

He didn’t look at her though. Once he threw her he didn’t wonder if she could take flight.  He BELIEVED she could. So he obliviously kicked a ball through a field and watched it roll on. He read an article from time to time. He viewed television shows at leisure. He felt the warmth of an onlookers admiring glance. He chugged along knowing she was soaring through the sky for the first time.

Isn’t he wondering if I am okay?  How does he know a larger creature hasn’t consumed me?  Hasn’t he thought about my loneliness? Sometimes it’s cold up here.  I don’t know anyone up here.  Sometimes I’m scared.  I’ve never flown before.  I’ve never been thrown before.  At first it was fun but where is he?  What is he doing?

Her fear ignited a fire so fierce it singed her beautiful wings. It incinerated her custom costume.  It sent her flailing through the sky clumsily…falling.

She landed in a bed of roses.  The thorns, long and sharp, pierced her skin and her blood mixed with the crimson red of the rose petals.  Her body naked and covered in ashes and blood writhed in pain.

She screamed out in horror, “My love! Where are you?  Why didn’t you fly with me?  Why did you leave me all alone?”

Silence.  She waited in the cold.  Naked. Vulnerable.

All the while, he returned to the field of her original launch every day after breakfast.  He wondered why she never returned. He assumed she must be enjoying the clean air, the ascension.

Why didn’t she ever try to throw me?

He felt her absence but he also felt her presence.

-By: Shaun Liriano

*Dedicated to my muse.

My life is part humor, part roses, part thorns.

~Bret Michaels

 

 

Keeping it 1000

Focus.

You can only catch one chicken at a time.

and my favorite…

Jack of all trades and master of none.

A person who is multi-talented or curious is often considered to be “flighty”, “messy”, “lacking focus”, or a “dreamer.” These are your liberal arts majors in schools.  These are your subway singers. These are your “professional students.”  They are always “finding themselves.”  What I’ve noticed is these people are exhausting to their loved ones.  Are you one of the aforementioned?  Well, have you ever been asked any of the following?

So what do you want to do with that?

Oh! So you’re a _____________now?

What are you going to do for money?

The questions are fielded towards you and what do you do?  Do you get defensive because they don’t “get” you?

There isn’t much I think believe I cannot do (thought and belief are different but that’s a separate post.) I’ve tried it all.  I’ve done personal training, martial arts, I took security guard training, I played tennis, I played chess in college my freshman year (although I wasn’t very good)…you get the idea.  The only two things that have been constant in my life are music and literature.  They pacify my inner baby.  When I enter that space, I am in another world.  I am in a safe cocoon of calm.  I am invincible.  I am untouchable.  There is no high like that of creating something and seeing the effect it has on others.  That connection is remarkable.  It’s a human relationship that allows you to alleviate someone else’s pain or share in their happiness. Although those are my constants, it doesn’t mean I am not capable of doing something else.

Your ambition is your double-edged sword, Shaun.

Currently, I am in a place of self exploration.  I am taking an acting class. It is freaking amazing!  I wanted to sharpen my stage presence as a poet.  I signed up for the class and it has opened doors of opportunity that I couldn’t have imagined.  I’ve met people who have been in the industry for decades.  The networking, the experiences, the tips, the tricks, the progression I’ve made is priceless. Now, I can create monologues with my free verse poetry and I personally know actors, playwrights, and venue owners who can bring my writing to life. The excitement I feel is so juvenile.  It is a childlike hope.

It is a childlike hope.

Sometimes people say, “let me keep it 100 with you.”  That means they are going to tell you the truth.  They are giving you 100%.  When someone is really trying to bring it home they may say, “I’m gonna keep it a thousand!”

They’re keeping it real.

Well, I’m going to keep it a thousand…

Do what you do, every day, to the best of your ability and with no apologies.  If you’re a genius, no one will understand what the hell you are doing.  You may be judged.  You may be called names. God willing your loved ones will support you and love you even in a state of confusion.  You can reward them later when you are successful.  You can write in a journal so they can read your thoughts when you’re dead. Whatever you decide to do is okay as long as its authentic.   Do not use monetary value to bring legitimacy to what you do.  There are people crying in mansions.

Check out what I found randomly googling one day:

3. A jack of all trades is a master of none.

This saying got cut short as well and originally said “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” Unlike what our version would lead you to believe, having multiple interests but not being an expert in anything could actually prove advantageous.

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/7-phrases-youve-been-misquoting

If you’re good at everything…do everything!  Kick ass at it.  Bust down doors instead of waiting for them to open. Make it hard to be ignored.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you.

The only way you can fail is by second guessing yourself and listening to the voices in everyone else’s head.  You can do this.

-Shaun Liriano

 

 

 

Unleash

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http://josevrodriguez.squarespace.com/

She opened her eyes and it was the same beaming light from the dream.  Piercing. The light was painful and abrasive.  Blinding. Where was it coming from?  It was relentless.  She tried to rub it away. She tried to blink it away but it was strong and impenetrable. Now she was getting a headache.  Unable to focus,  she stumbled out of bed.

Her legs buckled and she fell to the floor.

She decided to call him. The phone seemed to ring for hours.

He answered.  “Hi.”

She said, “I can’t sleep.  I can’t see. I’ve been blinded. My legs are useless.  Now I am laying here on my white carpet with the blood of my heart spilling out of me. I’m in a pool of blood. A puddle of crimson all around me. I’ve screamed but the neighbors are unmoved. I’m in a cage of vulnerability.  I cannot be released by anyone but you.  I’m alone. I’m getting weaker. I can feel my body getting colder. I’m afraid.  When I bang on the walls with my right hand it slowly disintegrates. I will soon be a pillar of salt encapsulated in a puddle of blood. My heart bleeds for you. Please…please…help me.”

She hears the dial tone after he mutters to himself, “crazy b#!&h.”

The light begins to flicker. “I’m dying”, she definitively states. She begins to imagine what God must look like. She prepares all the questions she has for him. In all her pain, she doesn’t cry.

Then she hears the familiar sound of bongos. She sees something tall, slim, and solid. Most importantly. . .it stands alone. She squints and she can see. It’s a microphone. 

The light is a spotlight. 

She gradually crawled to the stage.

**********

This excerpt is day 1 of a 30 day writing challenge.  Comment,  share, like. Tweet your feedback @shutyamouthnow. Happy holidays!

-Shaun Nickens

How Do I Begin? 12.10.07

How do I begin?
What do I say?
If I was an artist, what would my background be?
How about a landscape with trees and peppermint clouds that you can taste before you see?
If I were a true musician, what would I play?
I’d glue my fingers to the keys and make the audience sit and watch me stationary on a rotating stage.
If I was a murderer, I’d perform a double homicide on Ms.Phony and Hypocrisy.
If I was a mother, I’d birth individuality.
I’d breastfeed it attitude and responsibility, from each titty.

How do I begin?
Do I talk about the kin that built me up or screwed me up?
How do you love a lyricist whose greatest worth is her words?
How do I begin to give oxygen to a sheet of paper?
How can a woman neutralize the judgement of man before she allows it to shape her?
How do I begin to describe the warfare within a wordsmith?

By: Shaun “ControversE” Nickens
2007

Why I Write

“I’m not really qualified to do anything else. “-James Frey
“If writing were illegal,  I’d be in prison. “-David Baldacci
“I write to shed dead skin and to explore why people do the things that we do to each other and to ourselves. “- Terry McMillan

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I was an angry child. I was in martial arts and all kinds of extra -curricular activities. Those were supposed to be outlets. I was still angry.  I was just angry, busy, and in some cases talented.  The anger didn’t vanish.  I later acquired interest in literature.  I sought solace in myself.  I would write. I would curl up on the pink rug in the front of the heater vent and write.  I’d eat a whole row of saltine crackers, a red delicious apple and a yogurt with fruit on the bottom and I’d write. I’d only get up for two slices of raisin bread with butter.  My poetry didn’t have to rhyme.  It just had to bleed. It had to have a heartbeat.  It had to have a conscience.  It had to have bruises.  It had to have the kind of scars that cocoa butter couldn’t rub away.  Grotesque scars. It had to secrete the tears that I couldn’t. 

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When I was at Stonybrook University I had a phenomenal professor in one of my Africana Studies classes. Day one of the class there was an elephant in the room. Finally,  one of the Italian football players said, “You’re lily white. How can you teach a black studies class?” That woman sat on his desk with a nonchalant poise that I have never seen. She said, “I am whatever I choose to be. I am Cherokee Indian and Italian.  I have a history degree with a minor in Black studies.  I have a lot to teach and you have a lot to learn. ”

I did a lot of writing in that class. I did a lot of soul navigation and destiny seeking.  I am whatever I choose to be. I think about that a lot. I choose to be a writer.  I know my writing has the potential to engage,  enlighten , excite and empower.  I know I’m not getting any younger but I know I’m just starting to delve into my true abilities.  I plan to show strength,  creativity,  and resilience.

I write because it allows me to be whatever I choose to be.

What do you choose to be? Dare to satisfy yourself today! Tell the world you are fulfilling your destiny or you can Shutyamouthandcallmeugly.

By SMN 5:58 pm 4/29/14

Long Overdue … (Shout out to Catholic school, Higher education, and Incense!)

“I believe in God.  I believe in Zen.  I believe in Karma.  I believe in myself…”~ My Daddy

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I have prayer templates.  Template 1:  “The Telegram Prayer”  (i.e.  “Thank you Father for waking me up. Amen.”  “Bless this food. Amen” “Stop me from smacking this idiot. Amen”  Template 2: “The Bargain” (i.e. “Dear Lord, if you get me through this I promise I will never _________________”) Template 3: “Begging” (i.e.  “Dear God, please let me get home without this car breaking down. I know the gas light has been on for 2 days but payday is tomorrow.” )  These templates are that of a lazy/”lukewarm” Christian.  What is a “lukewarm” Christian, you ask?  It is a term, I find offensive but one that I must admit describes me from time to time.  Scripture speaks of the “lukewarm” Christian quite often but the bible quote I never forget is the following:

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would rather that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

~Revelation 3:15-16

When I was about 16 yrs old my friend who lived down the block from my house was having an argument with her mom.  Her mother was always a firm and somewhat serious woman.  She was thick and German with a slight accent.  When she was angry, thunder couldn’t compete!  I don’t remember what my friend did but I vividly remember her mom saying, “I have had it with you.  You are hanging from my throat and I am going to spit you out!!”  I had never heard a parent say anything like that before.  It stunned me.  My friend was unaffected  but I was crying!  All I could think to myself was, “Damn!  That’s some hurtful s*%t!”  So now as an adult, when I do something wrong, I imagine the Creator saying that to me.  I imagine being discarded by God.  It’s a scary feeling.

Why am I “lukewarm”?  Probably because I’m still “finding myself” (that location cannot be found on google maps but for those of you who made the attempt…thank you.)  I’m 27 so if my calculations are correct, I’ll probably find myself around age 89.  Cool with me!  As long as I have a legacy for my children, as long as people still say “Shaun’s deep”, and as long as at least 1 person sort of kind of gets me…I’m good!  Why am I “lukewarm”?  I was a baptized practicing Catholic up until age 19. I am soooooooo grateful for that foundation but I wasn’t encouraged to ask questions about FAITH and DELIVERANCE in Catholic school.  In fact, I will be bold enough to say that compliance, obedience and fear are the fortified teachings of my adolescence.  My favorite part was confession because to me it was like going to a therapist for free and I was an odd child so I had a lot to talk about.  Also, they would always burn incense after you said your assigned number of hail mary’s.

   Why am I “lukewarm”?  Blame higher education.  My first year at Pace University, I had  a tree-hugging,incense burning, bike riding,emotionally  damaged, hippie!  To date, he’s the best professor I’ve ever had and he challenged me to read more, become a more open-minded person, appreciate everything I have in life, and never judge a book by its cover!  That year, I read “Assata” by Assata Shakur, on my own free will.  I studied Emerson and Thoreau (if you don’t know who these people are then its time to do yourself a favor and hit the library.)  I read, “The Forest People” by Colin Turnbull and I swear I wanted to wear loincloth and live off the land like the pygmies!!  

The things I learned led to me becoming more “worldly.”  Good church folk know that being “worldly” is frowned upon in Christianity.  By definition it means you are “contrasted with heaven or spiritual life” (dictionary.com) but the second definition is “experienced, knowing, and sophisticated.”  I was a walking oxymoron!  I went to church every Sunday, had sound Christian values, and knew all my prayers and old negro spirituals just as my mother taught me.  On the other hand, I wanted to learn about other cultures, history, I respected other practices of Faith and knew that it was ok to be different.  I couldnt ignore the obvious similarities between Greek mythology, Egyptian history, Native American Proverbs, and The Bible.  We are all so different and yet we are all the same.

“Lukewarm” isn’t good but its the most comfortable temperature for most people.  I wash my hair in lukewarm water.  I take a lukewarm bath because hot baths hurt and dry out your skin.  I like my food lukewarm.  However, I am well aware that walking the fence doesn’t produce impressive results.  The most successful people are those who make decisions and step outside of their comfort zones.

In conclusion, I’m still “finding myself” but I’m getting “warmer” in life’s game of hide and go seek!  I converted to the United Church of Christ in 2004 and I have some uncompromising beliefs.  I started this post for a completely different reason though.  I kind of went on a tangent (sorry.)  I started this post because I have some  template prayers to address:

  1. Thank You God for curiosity.
  2. Thank You God for a significant other who tries to understand me and relate to me and love me no matter how hard it must be.
  3. Thank You God for my family.  I’ve seen other families on TV and I know you gave me a good one. 🙂
  4. Thank you God for my health.  The hardest thing I dealt with this year was Memorial Day in the ER for Strep Throat and that’s not too bad. Plus, I really like those hospital socks!
  5. I promise to use my love for writing more often to profess your grace and favor.

Are you “lukewarm”?  Do you have any template prayers to address?  Leave a comment….share….follow me on twitter @shutyamouthnow or email me at :Shutyamouthandcallmeugly@gmail.com

~By: Shaun M N