The Artistry of Absence

Discopoet Khari B.

Chicago Dancemakers Forum, SHareOUT! Week 1


This past weekend, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosted the first weekend of SHareOUT!, a new festival of works commissioned by the MCA. One of the 2017 Chicago Dancemaker Forum Lab Artists, choreographer Joshua L. Ishmon, premiered the performance Redefining BLACK, which explores the negative perceptions associated with all things “black,” in part through collaboration with three Chicago poets. For this post, one of the featured poets, Discopoet Khari B., responds to the question of how poetry can work collaboratively with dance and other types of visual performance.

The poems featured in last weekend’s performance of Redefining BLACK are included below: explore the poems for an artistic echo of the first week of SHareOUT!. The festival continues this weekend, Aug 31 and Sep 1, with two premieres by the Jazz Hoofing Quartet, a new band led by tap dancer Jumaane Taylor, and Daniel “BRAVEMONK” Haywood.


Asked how poetry can work collaboratively with dance and visual performance, I think about the discord in division. We, the poets, dancers, visual artists, musicians, sculptors, etc. . . . R simply artists; all beings sharing a similar space N existence and searching for ways to best record, reflect upon, and reinterpret our journeys 4 our fellow beings. This is not 2 down the asker or even the question. We’re raised on division. Our work is presenting questions and, when it’s really working, answers as well, but ultimately it’s different languages seeking 2 express the same things; who WE R on this journey. Poets use words N the absence of dance. Dancers use movement N the absence of words. Musicians use sound N the absence of clay. Yet all our poems R songs. All our songs R dances. All our dances R poems. This is the connection: Same reflection - different expression. Feel your language.

Discopoet Khari B.

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Full Poem Texts

“Intro”

by Discopoet Khari B.

  • I never really understood the day workers
  • Waking up when they’re compelled 2
  • 4 5 days of slaving 4 someone else
  • 8 hours a day
  • 40+ hours a week
  • 2 provide 4 a place 2 sleep
  • eat and lay their burdens down
  • vocalized blues …when I lay my burdens down
  • & awake 2 another day of burden
  • N the light of day
  • wearing a mask of polite society
  • all covered N coercive brand name habiliments
  • from the finest modern day plantations
  • designed 2 streamline & draw lines
  • between the working class the elitists and yo ass
  • If U really liked the light so much
  • Y would U sacrifice so much of it
  • 4 a compulsory piece of paper
  • & if said imperious paper was really not so important
  • or U’d rather not B bound by medium of exchange
  • made with malicious intent
  • Y Rn’t U fighting
  • 4 more control of your day
  • Maybe the day ain’t the truth
  • Maybe the truth ain’t N the light
  • Night is when the darkness falls
  • The obligations dissolve
  • & the doors of our preferred church open
  • & N 2 the air music breathes
  • & greets us like a best friend that’s been gone 2 long
  • We do not care that the light is now gone
  • It was merely 2 highlight our rich undertones
  • By day we were babies
  • At night we R grown
  • Our chance 2 reright
  • all the things that were wrong
  • We float like a tone from a vibraphone
  • We R the fire and the brimstone
  • That is the reason we R reclaiming our throne
  • Our job is reorient where lost minds have gone
  • The moon N the sky is not reason 2 moan
  • Because it’s the night that 2gether we own
  • Let us rest when we’re dead
  • the night is 2 glorious 2 waste N bed
  • The dark 2 expansive
  • not 2 C what’s ahead
  • Ase
  • Darkness is a decision 2 B made ~Josh Ishmon

“should i tell (blk)”

by Kristiana Rae Colón

  • what should i tell my children
  • what should i tell my children who are
  • what should i tell
  • what should i tell my
  • should i? should i tell my children?
  • what
  • should i tell my children drumming buckets outside the red line of what
  • it means to be trapped on garfield with senegal’s rhythms
    quickening their bloodline and their limbs
  • loose strings on their timbs
  • what should i tell my kings selling loose
  • squares loose squares loose
  • squares and loose dreams
  • what shall i tell my lucid dreamers of
  • what their hued skin means
  • in a neoliberal wonderland that refuse to
  • see color
  • what root might i lyric into medicine
  • for my mother what penumbra
  • under hoodie might obscure
  • the beauty of my brother’s smile to
  • the neighborhood watch
  • what should i tell my daughter
  • bout why the neighborhood watched
  • from its porch when she cried out
  • what should i tell the supernovas
  • folding into flesh of what it means to
  • be sheathed in shade
  • what do i tell a solar flare
  • of how exquisitely he’s made
  • what do i tell a fugitive slave’s great-
  • grandson bout how to make it through
  • eighth grade when every lamppost
  • is plastered with his ransom
  • how do i tell soil
  • that she’s handsome
  • plant seeds in her starlight water
  • what should i tell daughters
  • carrying whole zip codes on
  • her back of how to unroll the
  • scrolls of her shoulders
  • what do i tell my son when Chicago’s
  • summers grow colder
  • what should i
  • what should i tell my children what
  • should i tell? should i tell my children they are
  • what should i tell my children
  • headed back in a spaceship
  • that pulled up 600 years ago
  • bout what i been on since they left
  • what bedtime story will ocean sing
  • to lullaby bones blanketing her depths
  • what should i what should i what should i
  • Black
  • what should i what should i what should i
  • Black

“goodnight”

by Kristiana Rae Colón

the sauce from evening supper scrubbed from every silver tine

of forks glistening in the drainer, costumes drying on the line,

soil of my basil pot is moist, the floors swept clean, every corner

of the house is sprayed + saged + prayers gleam from the front

door to the rafters to the back door to the street. I’ve labored

through the day so every soul I greet within these gates

  • has found a place to breathe + eat + dream + drum +
  • draw their map to freedom. Poems anxious in my hands

    demanding that I free them in the night, but hands that lift

  • + type + scrape the day crave stillness when the light has tucked herself away
  • the sun has done her shift, inviting stars to guard the dusk,moon to supervise the switch. My spine a wire hanger tangled

    on an empty rack, a ripped guitar string strummed undone

  • from the fretboard of my back: and here, inside the womb of black
  • only one spell remains. Tell me
  • where does a supergoddess rest when her magic
  • trick is labor made invisible? Who mends
  • the capes ripped tripping marching smoke rings
  • around city hall? Who bandages the knuckles
  • of medics on the frontline? Who hears
  • her stomach rumble as she serves your plate
  • at lunchtime but forgot to eat again… who hydrates
  • our warriors? The night
  • : a berry plump with the black nectar of rest. The night
  • : a bed of stars where daughters tuck a racing head. The night
  • : dark silk sewn to armor tender hearts. Night
  • : a river black to wet the lips of weary gods
  • good god
  • good (night)
  • good god good
  • . (night)
  • god
  • (night)

“morning song”

by Kristiana Rae Colón

  • that night
  • was a plum wine woman with black
  • lacquered lips blowing cherry swisher
  • smoke over the breaks of lake michigan
  • we climbed inside the night’s
  • mouth and she was humboldt park lagoon
  • humid: desire thick as thigh muscles
  • but we too cool to move through it
  • we too blue raspberry italian
  • lemonade on taylor to name
  • this nascent mango
  • nectar love we too unapologetically
  • tender to be impatient with our touch
  • night’s nipples were two kola nuts
  • pitching a tent under a linen blouse wove of stardust &
  • we nestled against her pulse to warm skin
  • cooled by late summer night sweat
  • licked couplets under earlobes, tongues etched
  • calligraphy on each other’s neck
  • & this
  • was a beginning, not timid but
  • just dipping in the dark spring of our pleasure just
  • dripping iridescence in oceans of forever knowing it
  • don’t have to last but we solar power centered so
  • when our chests connect dawn recharge our
  • desire, each rotation wind us up stack tinder on the
  • fire, we burn the night to ash
  • blacken our bare bodies in it collapse expand implode
  • [we] rode griffins [backs] from babylon to kemet
  • [ & back]
  • eden’s serpents marvel
  • at the knowledge we deposit at each other’s root
  • bodies burn the temple marble black like thutmose & hatshepsut
  • ancient cosmic throbbing naked
  • bake the earth a crust
  • magma syrup from volcano
  • with every loving thrust
  • the dome of night a temple
  • we painted til the dawn
  • sunlight spilled down cave of throat
  • became our morning song
  • & this
  • was a beginning, not timid but
  • just dipping in the dark spring of our pleasure just
  • dripping iridescence in oceans of forever knowing it
  • don’t have to last but we solar power centered so
  • when our chests connect dawn recharge our
  • desire, each rotation wind us up stack tinder on the
  • fire, we burn the night to ash
  • blacken our bare bodies in it collapse expand implode
  • [we] rode griffins [backs] from babylon to kemet
  • [& back]
  • ancient cosmic throbbing naked
  • bake the earth a crust
  • magma syrup from volcano
  • with every loving thrust
  • the dome of night a temple
  • we painted til the dawn
  • sunlight spilled down cave of throat
  • became our morning song

  • “Villainy”
  • by Discopoet Khari B.
  • When asked
  • The task
  • Of casting
  • The light by which the villain is casted
  • R your visions fast masked by
  • the last trash news report flash
  • of dark faces splashed across the screen
  • Embossed by brown fiends lost in a system
  • That never fostered their dreams
  • Or yours either
  • Neither time nor statistics
  • Has altered an intrinsic, color-specific
  • prejudice toward darker tones
  • Mystically minimizing years of wrongs
  • inflicted on the very ones we bemoan
  • as the unfortunate savages
  • born 2 a life of crime
  • Ignore the signs and historical timelines
  • where’d we find that the facts R far different
  • Stories bent 2 misrepresent those whose ascent
  • has meant the descent of every environment
  • they have descended upon
  • Spaces where they circumvent nature
  • With artificial implements reinvented 2 cement their hold
  • On the land and dominion of man
  • Confident in their control of the content
  • they insure that it’s imperative we’ve spent
  • most of our lives disoriented by their relentless narrative
  • a dubious, degenerative deception
  • a distance beyond my alliterative pejorative interjection
  • that paints the evil doer as the hero
  • & the hero as the wretch
  • But N the stillness of the dark
  • Has ever led U 2 think
  • That the bad guy
  • The villain
  • The terrorist
  • The author of evil
  • The master of misery
  • The scourge Carpathia
  • The sorrow Moldavia
  • The propagator of genocides
  • The ravager of all countrysides
  • Has been some shade of pink?
  • K. 3/14/18

  • “Brutal Imagination”
  • by Jacoby Cochran
  • My Name is Zero.
  • I was created in the brutal imagination of the cosmos… From the moments humanity woke up they have feared the darkness. It makes sense if you think about it. The unknown often sprouts fright and terror. But It is also quite sad when you think about it. To make sense of the abyss we projected our monsters and demons, plagues and curses, fright and terror onto the darkness. It was in this basic anxiety that I began

  • to take form. You see when an anxiety simmers long enough eventually it will grow flesh and walk outside of your body. I am that flesh. anxiety made actual, paranoia personified. In the beginning I was neutral, dissuaded, over time empathetic, understanding, even accommodating. but now a world obsessed with darkness and blackness to hide from itself is unrecognizable.
  • now the anxious world needs no greater villain than a trickster, master manipulator, prince of Darkness. Somehow a biological bias became a bottomless bayou for the worse of ourselves never coming to terms with our primordial fear. Now Dark bodies are the stand inn.
  • My name is Zero! But my essence is from a long history of great deception. You know my transatlantic track record, my lynch mob lineage. When called on I am your trickster, master manipulator, wizard of dark magic with just few tricks, turning household items into guns. A shapeshifter transforming 12 and 17 year old boys & girls into thousand year old beasts and ghouls.
  • I’ve travelled the known world and met my maker, my demise, my rebirth, while recycling these old tricks. And you know what I have learned. At every corner darkness remains the most oppressed. the

  • most vilified . the most likely to be seen as zero. Look around it’s not hard to spot. Everywhere you turn its the light vs the dark. Light Luke vs dark darth . Every wicked witch from the West to east Salem wedded to black as judgement. Voldemort mastered the dark arts. Scar was darker than Mufasa. Check Hulu. Dagger emits a white light of hope as cloak grows blackened phantom limbs and haunts the heart with despair. Even death in all it’s naturalness became your caricature sketched in black hood and sickle. Must I continue. It doesn’t take a “Black Mirror” to see me. Open your eyes and you will see me.
  • I’ve been astroprojected out of thin air in Union South Carolina and plastered over raw flesh from Oakland to Cleveland. I have been stopped, frisked, and choked out in Staten Island and snuffed out in Waller county. I have swallowed 16 shots in under 16 seconds on Chicago side streets. I have been told I am ugly and advertised lightening cream from Nairobi to mumbai.Yes darkness celebrated worldwide on futbol pitch for profit, they call us King James and queen

  • bees, long as we bring said profit. but when darkness makes waves & paddles across oceans of water and sand, too close to shores in refuge called alien. Then Caged for profit. Don’t forget I have been shamed in folklore, made evil queen in fantasy, I am the boogie man in every bedtime story, the character whose heart is always black as night.
  • But hell isn’t that what a good villain does. Doesn’t a good villain only exist to reveal the hero. To be dominated, demoralized, and defeated.

  • Is that what we have made of the darkness.
  • Nothing more than to be dominated demoralized and defeated.. This is the problem, humanity never dealt with its real fear. Even those who reached to the stars for answers stigmatized the darkness as it constantly revealed back at us that we are in fact not the center of the universe.
  • I am tired of being your trope, figment, a mistaken identity. I am tired of being the comic book villain covered in deaths shadows living as a remixed sample. This anxiety has me present at every locked door, dirty look, every lash, every underhanded you’re cute for a dark girl, every pseudo science justification. Inferior, Savage, Slave, Criminal, Terrorist, GangBanger are the wingless birds that pluck away at me as I remain chained to the boulder of your naive binary logic. How quickly humanity forgets it was the darkness that birthed it not the fire.
  • for my entire existence I have been shackled to this role and I am tired. Its exhausting, the shackles and the waiting. Waiting for My only desire to be realized and I freed from this existence. Free me and yourselves from this paranoia. Free a world that has you questioning the magic in melanin. Has you using dark as
  • synonymous for fear. You must let go of this anxiety which has consumed us All. All I want for you is to redefine the darkness realign with the darkness we were born in the darkness. The damage has been done And for long enough I have remained silent, but it is clear you

    can not evolve if you do tear down these systems that require the light to be at war with the dark. remember the sun has never been at war with the dark sky. They are one in the same. You are the children of the sun and the dark sky. End the war inside of you and let me go. (Repeat)

“Absence vs Everything”

by Discopoet Khari B.

  • In the absence of exterior light
  • Sunlight, moonlight, lightning bug, light bulb
  • What do U C?
  • How quick we R 2 say nothing
  • 2 feel a perceived absence
  • 2 think that everything might B gone
  • when nothing has moved
  • when everything still exists
  • when there is evidence 2 the contrary right behind our eyes
  • When I close mine
  • There exists an eclipse
  • Dark and demonized
  • But nothing has ever attacked me
  • No harm has ever befallen me there
  • Au contraire
  • It’s where I go 2 meditate
  • 2 find peace beyond the perceived
  • 2 reach and witness my dreams
  • subconscious thoughts and the play of aspirations
  • I never knew I had
  • When I close my eyes
  • from that darkness
  • colors emerge
  • shapes begin 2 form
  • Forms begin 2 move and
  • I C
  • I can C
  • N the black behind my eyes
  • without the sunlight, moonlight
  • Lightning bugs or light bulbs
  • I can C
  • Even when I am not sure of what I am Cing
  • I am clear that I am Cing something
  • Dependent on the light of the day
  • Dependent on the light of the bulb
  • I have been conditioned 2 ignore the luminescence N my soul
  • I have accepted absence N the absence
  • of that which is only outside of me
  • 4 an absence of what is inside
  • & I have wrongly dreaded the black
  • when it was always the black
  • that held my everything
  • What provides sight N our dreams?
  • My black
  • The black
  • Our black
  • is full of matter
  • Black lives matter
  • My black matters
  • Black matter
  • Dark matter
  • The latter is fatter
  • & badder than any unflattering fluorescence
  • scattering the everything
  • U already held & were on the inside
  • Sliding down a ladder N2 sadder times
  • Based on an illusion that shall B shattered within these lines
    Splattered N2 1000 pieces, 1000 times
  • Scattered across an infinite universe
  • 2 return back 2 the black
  • it’s always been N the absence of nothing
  • My black is something
  • else
  • Full of everything
  • U’ve never accepted
  • U saw
  • So I challenge U
  • 2 close your eyes
  • & look again
  • K.
  • 3/14/18