On this episode of BTRtoday‘s When We See Each Other, I talked with poet and performance artist Stephen Jackman-Torkoff from the queer musical collective The Queer Songbook Orchestra. The Queer Songbook Orchestra is a 13-piece chamber pop ensemble based in Toronto that focuses on surfacing queer narratives in pop music. They released “Medicine for Melancholy” with Bonjay in November of last year. Check out the video for the track HERE.
It was a pleasure talking with Stephen, and they also read one of their poems, “Magic.” My favorite line was, “Be the flower you wish to grow in the world.” They also informed us on what exactly is miracle poop, lol. Listen to the interview HERE.
When We See Each Other is a bi-weekly podcast centering the work of Black, queer, trans, non-binary musician/artists, and also friend musicians I’ve known for some time. The pod gathers from a board range of genres, stretching from poetry to indie rock, pop, alternative, noise rock, hip hop, reggae, dance hall, metal, calypso, funk, etc. The show is sort of a mixed bag, where artists are interviewed on their creative process, and how identity influences their work.
Please rate and review this podcast at Apple podcast, Tune-In, anywhere you listen to podcast!
This podcast is produced by Stereoactive Media.
A face in a square box, while my life has always been nonlinear in design to capture me in a pose. The lighting will have to render me in all essence that includes lines below my chin, possessing the means of my neck. My hair is wild and tightly coiled, a definition of my set ablaze heart. My forehead creased with question marks. My eyes as glorious as of a late afternoon’s sun glowing in the panorama. My ears piqued with sound, restless around my oval universe, seeking new varieties and variables. My nose broad and brimming my smile across my cheekful geometry. My thick layered cake lips blowing a kiss to the world.
Hello, I have some really great news! Recently, I was asked to do a podcast for Break Through Radio (BTR). The show will air every other Wednesday and feature Black, queer, trans, non-binary artists, in the hopes of sharing and exposing their work. You can listen to the first episode HERE.
My Black Joy is witnessing my nieces and nephews, my niblings, be alive. Thriving as the future, and me watch them and celebrate enough that their teenage, young adulthood makes them embarrass of my shout-out. Like, yeah aunty, yeah uncle, I hear you. Black joy is watching them cut up. Is that the phrase? Am I getting it wrong? When you are so right with your mashups, and your new language for something as old in its expression. Black Love is being a witness to their parent’s’ commitment, my siblings, which brought and nurtured the young in this world when Blackness is seen as dangerous.
Today and always
I am forever seeing you
out at large, a gift.
So this is a response to all the fireworks happening in the New York area and else where.
Explosions In The Sky
The sky lights up with the sound of Boom
resonating through the walls. Like thunder it
exists as a reminder of disaster, a Boom Boom
Boom so you know who is in charge. Like a
frighten dog, like a frighten cat, we escape
under the bed. We take to cover and bury our
heads into our arms. Hide our bodies and our
love ones from the terror of what the sky is
suppose to mean now. Safe? It is a word we
dream about and fight hard to attain. Safe? It
is a word that cares nothing about who is
outside facing the elements which was
created. We are looked as dangerous while
our bodies, an esse, are the most vulnerable.
Spent the evening watching fireflies
that’s what I did because it meant
observing the nature of quiet while
being restless with nerves by
all that has happened and
all that can still can…
I watched those lightning bugs ignite
pulses of pronounced intensity
shortly appear to shortly disappear
vanishing as the transition occurs
dusk is their majestic moment
where such leaping guts sparkle
intermittently, they beam a breath
of fire in the nigh night.
The weather exists outside your own intentions. The rain comes with its clouds regardless of your want to lookup at the moon, to receive and see its splendid aura. Especially at a time where I have to lookout for threat rather than beauty. The beauty in the sounds of joyous glee. The beauty in seeing the miraculousness of things of living a life. When I watch for the next killing, the next mourning in a hashtag. Am I next? Am I next if I step outside and demand my space as a human being? Will I be next because my fight/flight/freeze mode is at a vigilance, so my actions are seen as a danger, while you have been so dangerous to me!
Ignited moon gaze
ricocheting in waves of
Us, Oh the glory
We’re at the same juncture where Black people are met with the same struggle, one which seems to never end. We’re still fighting for our lives to matter. We still can’t breathe as the knees of oppression bends into our necks, killing us. We’ve peacefully marched, we’ve walked with our anger boiling beneath our rich and beautiful skin, but yet this ugly history of us being beaten down, being hosed down still continues today. A reflection of us standing up against the fences, the faces of an established denial of my place in the world, where I dream as much as you do. I wish to sing my troubles. But it is the same tune. What else is there for us to say out loud, write down and shout, We shall over come… Should I tell the next generation it’s up to them now, to carry this anger, this despair, this anxiety of living outside, while I can’t even escape it myself? My life is ordinary like the songs of any bird-call voicing an incandescent sound, but because of the hatred of my existence I am martyred for my race, for my color: Black!
Black is the beauty
of the night forever and ever
Black is what brings light
To survive is gonna mean more than just
weathering today as you scrape together
leftovers and create a spontaneous meal to
feed the hunger inside our hearts. It will mean
a new way of breathing, as your lungs can no
longer take the pressure of the air of the past.
It would mean your kidneys cannot renew your
blood like it use to. It would mean your heart
can no longer function as simply a tool but a
bearer of all that is alive and living. The air
which trees transport will be differently
received, reciprocated as we wear a mask
now. I am terrified as I am piqued with
curiosity of where does this passage take us.
In real life, I can count my friends on one hand
and tell you stories of us being together, like it
was yesterday, we did that thing which was so
funny to us, or we went through a rough patch
where we disagreed with each other, but some
how found ourselves back to laughing like old
times sake, and wondering when we’d meet up
again. Like a current, there’s a sweet love
running deep of many years and it shows, with
this responsibility of a connection. Intimacies
at the level where you say, you tell each other
the hard truth which needs to be heard. You
show up even while it’s heavy to be there
because this is your friend, your family.
Remembering the weekend blood pulsate
throughout my body, throbbing excitement
an emancipation from the hard work week.
Friday, meant you celebrated however you are
in whichever minuscule way of greeting how
labor felt and won a time to rest in jubilation.
The energy in the streets whether when
it’s frigidly cold, you yet emerge in fire
the electric, electric of being free for two days.
It still meant working these chores around
your home, as Sunday signified the blues
return of another Monday. You were free to be
as you became and can imagine leaving
this frenzy of just two days.
On Saturday, I participated in a virtual writing Salon, and it was very enlightening and inspiring. It definitely was thoughtful food for the soul, and I can’t wait for next month’s Salon. We were given writing prompts, and one of them was to write a Haibun, a prose/haiku poem. Here, I make my attempt, as I write about social distancing, and the mental toll it has on us.
Alone in my room, there I am sitting on the unmade bed. With my phone in hand, I scroll through what seems to be the universe of information. Like satellites, thoughts scattered across social caves. I watch cat videos, even as I observe my own. Each thing she does is more spectacular, so I document and label it. I watch the latest dance craze, that makes me young enough in my heart to want to share in the spirit of a challenge. I just watch, and watch, lurching in between rooms where you collect your loneliness and project it through the screen. A quiet longing, a hunger for connection, for touch, for community, for communal sharing. Because, we are social beings. Alone is it’s own force of meditation. You become use to listening to your river of thoughts. You time travel and revisit moments only to reflect them back as what you should of, could of. Alone becomes a sequenced pattern you follow. But this “alone” is different, as I wake up every day worrying about, well, will I make it to the other side? The other side everyone is dreaming, desiring? As the first thing you’d do when it’s over? Many say they’ll flock to shows, swarming them to capacity. To never again take for granted this freedom. In the meantime, you hang on by hanging out through a screen of online get togethers. Let’s meet again a week from today, even as we can’t tell how long this will last. Who knows for sure? Tomorrow you might be stricken.
Set apart on this
journey to the other side
where we laugh and dance
While out at sea, we said goodbye to another day
as the now bronze gold sun meets mountainsides
reflecting a journey in its open waves, calmly
lapping ripples across the wide blue ocean’s surface.
If I could walk on water
I would tell you about
leaving the sun nearing evening
of all the mountains climbing stratosphere
shapes of the sky reaching the earth.
No, I am not religious, unless you consider
my praxis, which orbits around the faith in forming
a collecting of words, rhythm in a rhyme and a space
of sounds coming together.
I am practicing with enormous spirit to call it a worship
of a denomination – a place where miracles occur
and faith in each other’s real participation of reciprocity happens.
I’m calling it now as I write to you.
I’m calling it now as I sing to you.
To manifest in songs of celebration.
To manifest in words of praise.
Let them persevere to comfort our days.
So, I FaceTimed with an old friend, and we sort of had our very own writing session. We both wrote for an hour or so, based off a prompt. My prompt was, Where in your life are you willing to make a choice? This is what came out of it:
Today I will make the choice of choosing me
All of me from the top of my head
to the bottom of my feet
I will love my tattooed hands and long arms
helping me to freely write and play
I will love my globular head
holding my mind and thoughts
my gracious face which expresses my deepest wishes
I will love this magnificent body
It is the vessel which carries my soul
Today I will make the choice of choosing me
with all my past mistakes, as life is a journey
we can only live and learn
These mistakes were made to teach
new lessons about the world
Today I will make the choice of choosing me
which means I must love myself
which means I must forgive myself
which means I must find comfort
in the multitudes of selves that is me
I choose me
I choose me
as there is only one me in the world
Tonight there is going to be a pink full moon. In preparation, these past couple nights the moon has been showing itself off with greatness. If you can, look up tonight.
When I look up at you
amazed by your intensity
to vibrate and shine so unforgivingly
you are ineradicable for all whom
experience your many days and times away.
Quietly as your body moves around the earth
as I look up at you, slowly ruminating
breathing deeply for the root of purpose
the reason for having this life and what it
means; speaking becomes a form of silence
or a champion of howls like a werewolf
as you silhouette through the trees and
escape from the rooftops and high rise stories
Glorifying the sky with your magnitude.
It was the warmest winter
It only snowed one day and it wasn’t a blizzard
like in past years. I guess climate change is
real but it won’t be really real until levees are
broken, diseases, viruses chases anyone and
everyone and the salvation of human life is on
the wealthy suffering from the same plaque.
Suddenly, the crisis is actual after all the dead
black and brown people surface with their
bodies to the rim of existence. Suddenly, we’re
all in it together when there’s no place to flee to.
Suddenly, we’re all human and needing the same
care in order to survive. Suddenly sudden isn’t
an after thought but proactive measures.
I have felt this before
a companion love, one
which makes you step out
yourself and have to care
for more than just you.
Remembering how it all began
hitherto, I stole a kitten
from a village of cats
because I wanted this
even as I didn’t wanna
be patient and see it through.
She is not mine anyways.
She is a spontaneous gift
who leaps across the floor
to the window where her gaze
of squirrels searching for acorns
gatherings of sparrows are a captivating display.
There is a game she likes to play where she
believes I’m chasing her and before she scurries away
she grunts what I assume is a tiny laugh of see
you can’t catch me, later.
She is a gift of 5:00am affection
as she licks my hands with her gravel tongue
and purrs and kneads the blankets until done.
Even as she is awful
she ruined my room!
All my small treasures
ripped and bitten to pieces.
Tiny immeasurable things now
that cannot be brought back
she is still beautifully kind.
Like when she decides:
I will kiss you now regardless!
I’ll kiss you right now!
To be a black, non-binary, queer, immigrant is
to live many lives, as you see the world through a
multitude of lenses, encompassing a myriad of
lived experiences. The world is no longer fixed
in a box of a pair but an ever evolving
continuum of galaxies. Burning bright with
other ways of being. Burning bright with a
desire to live. Burning bright to explode as to
be seen and loved. Some days I resent
visibility, as countless of us didn’t make it, into
and out of, having to learn how to live through
this system of one or the other. But then I
won’t be there to feel their glorious splendor
as they shine so royal.
At some point you have to re-up, and tomorrow I have to go outside for groceries and I’m really afraid. I feel like I’ll die if I step outside, like I will immediately have the virus. I know a lot of this is anxiety, but how careful can you be? I wrote about it of course. Hoping everyone is safe.
Tomorrow, I’ll venture out of my home for
essentials. Normally this chore would just be a
labor of crowded spaces where you contort
your body to grab a bag of rice, cans of
beans, oil, meat, pasta sauce with spaghetti.
Now sharing any space leaves you wondering
scared how much feet did you leave between.
You feel like you would die if you step outside
greeting Spring’s air in the first place. Getting
close to another never felt more dangerous.
Social distancing is our Winter when we wish
and wonder about Summer as our time to
mingle free of layers, of separation, the time
when we shared apart.
My younger brother has been visiting me in my dreams and it is both relieving and terrifying. I find relief knowing that he is still around but the fear present is a real terror. The experience has left me wondering if the reason he’s showed up is to warn me about something. He died unexpectedly, so did my mother, and they both have a presence in the dreams. My brother’s much more so. I wish I could translate my dreams.
Every Poem is an Existential Crisis
I wish I could translate my dreams from my
dreamscape, then maybe the fear won’t be as
transfix. Where lying still, I hear myself cry out
while in dual state: in the dream and waking
up from it: the terror that leads to worry about
impending doom once you’re aroused. Dreams
are important. They are messages missed
which you reflect on in meditative states.
Dreams are an experience into the other-side
of what you were exposed to in reality. Another
language to learn, another power to discover
and possess. While I know the imminent is
true, that dying is inevitable, I wonder how
much of my dreams are a harbinger of what I
already know but not quite recognized.