Life’s Work as Delivered to City Year New York

Life’s work


Slide – Soul Daddy

“Oh nama Shevaya”

Hand out the loaf of bread

Act 1 – Adolescence

Slide – Family

My life was not what it was supposed to be, at 17, and so I went on a 7 year voyage to arrive right here before you, to be who I was thinking I should have been so long ago, no- to be who I am today, the man, today who I wanted to be all those years ago.  I am a man no longer marked by my past.  Do you know the story of the phoenix, a younger self asked of his football team, 24-0 at half time.  Do you know the story of the phoenix?

My life was changed by fire.  Trial by fire.

Today I am reborn by flame, the fire red which wears our name- City Year, I stand with you my brothers, I stand with you my kin upon the frontiers and look out on a dying city, education failed me, that’s why I serve here today, because Allah Reveals myself to me, I am intelligent, I’m not an academic, I am athletic, I’m not a basketball player.  I dance.  I sing, I speak, and am heard when none can hear another voice.  I am because you are umbuntu brethren, I was because someone wasn’t.  I had a fire sparked in me and when the flames went out from crying as I lay dying I had the fortune to be picked up, and carried.  I was carried here over great distances, and for many moons.  There was one tragedy of my life, that I let the flame of me go out, my greatest salvation was catching fire again.

I invite you to soak in my sorrows but furthermore and so much more I welcome you to share in the divinity of my joys.

I was a lad that had it all, dad would call to me “son you live the life of riley”

and with this in mind I squandered every dime, every penny

to every opportunity I turned up my nose, or dug it down in the ground

and hid from the life knocking at my chamber door

always this and little more.

Get up, get up!

My father’d shout

I only heard

“get out get out”

and so I left

for the open road

to a friend downtown

claiming sanctuary

in his humble abode

to court to court

a CHINS was filed

in his defense

what am I to do your honor

with such nonsense?

threw up their hands

and cried

at their child’s delinquence

A deal is made

I’m sent to HYDE

Jekyll’s friend

to find my inner glory

the character

I’m supposed to play

run again, I run away

but Hyde’s a funny thing

That knows too well

how youths play the game

played hardball, fastball, curveballs too

and shapes me up

while years count two

Do you know the story of the phoenix?

The phoenix is a mighty bird

of mythic fame

that when it withers, dies

there bursts a flame

and then upon the flaming pyre

The phoenix flies again reborn through fire

and soars on up into the night

spreads it’s wings and sheds some light

Act 2 – Performance

Slide – Performance

  1. In the bathroom

“To enrich our culture and society”

  1. What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
    That he should weep for her? What would he do,
    Had he the motive and the cue for passion
    That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
    And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
    Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
    Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
    The very faculties of eyes and ears.
  1. Deconstructing Horace Vandergelder and Striking The Matchmaker

Act 3 – The Fire

Slide – The Fire

I’m still smelling-

antiquated wood, dusty crevices, old rugs, horse hair and plaster walls, spackling over cracks, hardwood floors, unfinished spaces between the window sills and the outdoors, mildew in the basement, the chalk rubbing off the walls, the abandoned laundry chute, a queen sized bed, a carpeted childhood closet, storage spaces and hiding places, matches just lit to light the fireplace.

I’m still tasting-

Dad’s fresh baked bread still hot from the oven, hot enough to melt the butter on but just right to the taste.  Pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  My mother’s Christmas only Cardamon cake.  The metal file I used on my teeth.  The wooden furnishings I left teeth marks in.  The paper I’d chew and eat.  Every plastic toy I needed my mouth around.  Pennies.  Pine needles from all the dead Christmas trees, dried and shedding fast.  Dog hair on everything.  Unsweetened baking chocolate, like chalk, as a joke.  Legos.  Fresh cut pineapple I waited days for Mom to cut open.  Knives I was told not to put in my mouth, licked safely on the blunt edge.  Pencils.  The insides of stainless steel bowls and rubber spatulas still wet with fresh cookie dough or cake batter.  My own hair, long enough to reach my mouth.

I’m still touching-

ornate corner peices to doorways and cabinets delightfully round rings rise and dip, divets, valleys for my fingers nipple in it’s center; Edgey ballusters square at the top round down into columns over lips and segmented cylinders rounded curvy smooth til it finds it’s square again tunneling into hard wood below vast vistas of planks stretch forward the tiniest lines divide them and betwixt them are crevices small or great, blackened by the pitter pattering footsteps of a hundred boys and girls; Curvaceous trims rough to the touch where weather has weathered them down to chips, outside the world is cold or warm, but always wondrous and they melt with difficulty into the great scales of my home and down rails, up columns my toes remember touching down upon and climbing up, the rough tension between skin and home holds me up between them like a hammock caught between trees.  I’m still there relaxing in tension.

I’m still hearing-

footsteps around the corner- who’s coming? clickety-clak, clickety-clak, Dad’s in his cowboy boots again, ready for the day’s work.  Shiffle shiff shiffle shiff, Dad’s walking the halls tonight, hours of TV have worked their hypnosis well enough to calm his acid reflux, nerves for the evening.  Step, step, creak, eeewwaaarerrr shhhhhhh, someone has gone to the bathroom on the second floor. Shk, shk shk shk shk shk click- someone has gone to the bathroom on the first floor.  Jingle bells, someone just came through the front door.  Slicklackety- lackety the screen door on the big porch just closed.  Clangarangarangshktack, the glass door in the hallway closes.  Clink! Lights on to the third floor.  Bip… Bip…  Bip…  The fire alarm batteries are dying.  HAruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurgh the furnace turns on while the house warms up.  weeeeeeee row, flllllshhhhhhhhhhhh fllllllllshhhhhhhhhhh ffllll shhh woweroo woweroo woweroo, ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffhhhhhhhhh the firemen battle the flames.

I’m still seeing-

It all intact.  Or partially, as if a ghost, of the past wondering unchained from the underworld walking amongst the living.  I see it in my dreams, in visions of hope and home and splendor.  I see it here inside of me, this tiny snow globe like Edward Scissors home, trapped in sheets of self made ice, glittering in the wind, it’s darkest corners illuminated by the frost that freezes it’s last impressions in time.  I see no whole home anymore, nothing 18 Grand about it.  Just some smoldering house, some vagrant spot to squat in.  Yet I recall even the ghost with happy imagery, though I can not shake it’s ghoulish figure from my minds eye.  I can never again see what 18 Grand stood as, even in my imagination.  But it is exactly there that I see what it stood for.  And bow to that great spirit, give it a great big hug, and send it on it’s way.  And as it disappears through flame and air, I see, but for a single moment, a smile, still hovering there.


Slide – All You Need is Love


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s