LOCUSPOINT: Washington, October 31, 2008

Of our nation’s capital, Sandra Beasley wrote, “The poet as nurse; the poet as waiter; the poet as bureaucrat (consider the dowdy roots of the “Poet Laureate” title, which was originally “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress”). The Washington poet is a working poet. The writers I know struggle and juggle artistic calling with the demands of parenting, lawyering, Department of Whatever-ing, bartending, and teaching. A friend often taxis from his work on the Hill to catch a Folger reading, knowing he’ll have to taxi straight back again as Congress marches steadily on towards midnight. On a good day, our insistence on making time for poetry demonstrates fierce, inspiring devotion. On a bad day we are an exhausted lot, cursing the delays of the Red Line and straggling in just as the reading ends.”

For the anniversary, Sandra adds, “When I think about the DC edition, one of the things that I’m proud of is that we showcased two poets–Derrick Weston Brown, Maureen Thorson–with poems that then went on to appear in each poet’s first full-length collection (Wisdom Teeth from Busboys & Poets, and Applies to Oranges from Ugly Duckling Presse). Only two years out, I’d feel a little strange about trying to reflect on what has changed in this town, especially as someone who has gotten to spend so little time in it as of late.”

Sandra chose Derrick Weston Brown’s poem “Remembering Bonita Applebum” for this retrospective.

Remembering Bonita Applebum

Bonita Applebum is a
onyx colored
Milky Way sprinkled
infinity loop of
a goddess’s laugh.

Bonita Applebum be
the pentatonic scale
squeezed into form fitting
denim overalls.

Bonita Applebum be
Coltrane’s “Naima” at 88 bpms
riding an Ali Shaheed Muhummad break beat
bare back.

Bonita Applebum be your daddy’s
woman before your mama came into the picture.

Bonita Applebum still leaves thugs
breathless, their eyes leaking water
from nostalgia.

Bonita Applebum’s eyes shiny like
new vinyl, fresh like a Rudy Huxtable
perm.

Bonita Applebum be your
first first. First back porch
summer sunset French kiss,
first pack of Nag champa incense,
first hip hop sample that makes you
seek out its source.

Bonita Applebum is
1989, baby dreads,
salt fish, ginger beer,
sweet iced tea, cassava,
kola champagne,
mud cloth, head wraps,

ashy knees, shea butter,
library cards, bottled water,
and rickety first time ancestor
shrines.

Bonita Applebum be black folk
in Birkenstocks and that’s okay.

Bonita Applebum’s
bookshelf is bigger than yours.

What you gonna do about it?

Bonita Applebum is a worn
copy of Erotic Noir.

Bonita Applebum is light skinned
girl crushes on Lisa Bonet, Jasmine Guy,
Pebbles, and Tisha Campbell from House Party.

Bonita Applebum is dark skinned girl crushes on
Sheryl Lee Ralph, Eddie Murphy’s first wife
from Coming to America, and Karyn White.

Bonita Applebum still knows the
lyrics to every song on Eric B and Rakim’s
Paid In Full album.

Bonita Applebum be your
first on purpose poke on the
dance floor.

Bonita Applebum be
the reason you got a Sankofa tattoo
on your left shoulder blade.

Bonita Applebum is
the rasp of Q-tips voice
that puts goose bumps on
your girl’s neck even now.

Bonita Applebum
ain’t 38-24-37 no more.

Bonita Applebum is
33 with a mortgage
and two degrees under her belt.

Your mama still asks about
Bonita
Bonita
Bonita?

Bonita Applebum is your
Son’s second grade teacher,
Guidance counselor, tutor.

Bonita Applebum drives a
Toyota Forerunner hybrid model
with mud cloth seat covers.

Bonita Applebum is still slamming
like a hip hop song.

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