Tag Archives: poetry

the DC Youth Slam Team’s 2014 SEMI-FINALS SLAM

is on sunday, january 26th at 4pm at the smithsonian’s national portrait gallery in downtown, dc. it’s free and open to the public, so bring the whole crew to see dc’s finest young poets performing their original spoken word poetry.

semi-finals poster here


the fb event is here https://www.facebook.com/events/631308690245016/

and you should be there. the dc youth slam team is absolutely amazing.

here is a video of one of the teenage poets performing at a rally on the national mall in front of the capitol. his name is Malachi and i think he is one of the poets who will be performing at the semi-finals on the 26th.



Electric Sunshine

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Smiling at your uneasiness
Inviting you to laugh at yourself
She won’t do it alone, so you go with her
Beautiful five foot something, dark curly hair, 
She can make prison walls show their dimples

Stretching ocean waves flat across the face, a rocky shore
She’ll silence its mighty roar

With eyelids like butterfly wings
 Two flutters and tidal waves wash away nations worlds away
Her stare lowers sea levels around the earth
Boiling beaches without uttering a single word
Phony suckers evaporate in her presence, and
Sunflowers bend backwards following her as she walks by my building
Five foot something, beautiful brown hair
Daughter of hippies
Descendant of hustling immigrants
Mother of creation, she
                A future
Outside the lines, confident strokes
She’s not worried about finding a man
As much as a reason
To keep the struggle in her back pocket
We all know what the guys are looking at
No need to spell it out on her bottom
The movement is in her genes,
Attractive activism swings from generation to generation
Marching through her blood like city streets
Up to the steps of her capital buildings
Where everyone can see
Where she gets it from,
Mother taught her how to raise children, not her own
For hours each day, she
A flexible temple, her body
Stretches almost as much as her mind
Both needing to shake it off, sometimes
The daily grind, can be difficult
But she is coffee
Already made, organic, smooth and strong
Do not fear her stubborn stains she only spills on those who don’t know how to hold themselves

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Call her sunshine, her spirit touches you through intermediaries like the moon when she’s not around,
Many have tried, but no man can walk on her
Ground-ed like a lightening rod
She is not easily shocked
    Electric sunshine butterfly woman
Sister transforms awkward to awesome when she enters the room
She turns strangers to family with her loving cocoon 

Weaving a little more of what this world needs into the corners of every social fabric
Wearing love as an old tee shirt

Worry as a prom dress
Life in a necklace
Joy in her earrings
And justice as brass knuckles
She is not an easy woman, not your girly girl
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes
Running, she
Chases dreams back to where they came from and forces them to grow up
Developing old realities from young fantasies
She stays in the darkroom
Raising children, not her own
Out of the city chemicals 
With increasing contrast
Between their present situation and their past
    Always looking better

    She, is light

All colors together, as one
Running faster than anything or anyone
Across the room
To give you a hug.

new poem – The Living Truth

I read this poem at the Busboys and Poets 5th & K Wednesday night open mic hosted by my man G. Yamazawa. My friend and teacher-of-the-year Clint Smith was the featured artist that night, and none other than Danny Glover read as the spotlight feature. Yes, that’s Danny Glover in the background listening to my poem. He said he liked it. I hope you like it too. I think it still needs some edits, and I definitely need to learn how to perform it better. Let me know what you think.

What Do You See? Questions from Trayvon Martin to his killer


What do you see when you look at me?
You don’t look me in the eyes
So what is it you’re looking for?
Am I the kid who beat up your brother in middle school?
Am I the one who stole his bike and you couldn’t do anything about it?
Do you see vengeance in me?
A chance to get back at him? To get over?
To “make things right?”
Is that why you followed me?
Or are you a “teacher?” A righteous educator taking life lessons to the street
with a bully curriculum and a 9mm?
Do I look stupid to you?
What was your GPA?
Do I look like I need to learn a lesson
Hard as steel today?
Aren’t we all stupid to you?
Aren’t we all carrying guns and breaking laws?
Or is that just you?
Really, what do you see?
What can you see?
Can you see my father? Or does my skin preclude me from having great male role models like yourself?
I hear you mentor black boys; what have you told them
About hoodies and iced tea?
What of Jim Crow and self-defense laws?
What of segregation and privilege?
Have you shown them what streets they cannot walk?
What white ladies they cannot talk to
Or whistle at
In this sundown town?
Have you drawn chalk outlines for them
To step into for the “safety of the community?”
Have you told them how much their hair reminds you of drugs
Their noses violence, their lips rape, their skin crime?
Have you scared them into forgetting their pride
And cowering before you, Massa?
Or are they just the exceptions to your black rules?
Just the Oprah’s and Obama’s among the 99% of us thugs?
Am I all dick and fists to you?
All crack and rap and basketball?
Am I not a child still?
Can you not see my mother in my cheeks?
Her joy and laughter and pain and hope
Breathing through my lungs?
Is she not holy, not sanctified, not deserving?
Like your mother?
Can you see her grief?
Can you touch one tenth of the earthquake
Rumbling in her chest every morning she wakes
Without me?
Can you imagine the almighty strength she wields
To prevent herself and my father from finding
Sweet relief in the same violence turned around?
Can you see how god she is?
How god we all are?
Even you?
I wonder, truly
What do you see?
What can you see
In me
Besides bullets?



in the UK, Limmud, and being Jewish during Christmas

peace and blessings my friends. today i am writing from Warwick University in the UK. i am here for a week-long conference called Limmud. i don’t have pictures to post (yet) because my phone is not active over here, but there will be many beautiful things to see and share over my trip, i’m sure. today is only the second day and already there has been much to report. Limmud is a conference and a nonprofit devoted to inclusive Jewish learning. as an American Jewish poet, i was invited to participate, perform, and facilitate a few workshops this year. the conference has been going on for 30 years, so many of the participants come year after year and to different Limmud conferences all over the world. they are held in NYC and other places in the States too, but since it was founded in the UK, this is by far the largest. for those who know about NFTY and other Jewish youth programs, so far my experience is very much like Jewish summer camp, except for all ages and families and teachers and performers and scholars and drinkers. yes, there is a bar and i will be volunteering to work it tonight.

being in a foreign country (albeit not too foreign) all by myself and thrust into a heavily Jewish atmosphere where many people already know each other could be a bit overwhelming. i am enjoying it so far, and remaining pretty social. the fire alarm in the dorm went off at about 7:56 this morning. i thought i did it somehow, even though i was asleep. freaking out and searching for pants (very glad i did), i made my way outside with the others where we joked about this being a way Limmud helps us get to know our housemates and ensures that we go to Shul (sabbath services) today. i only froze my butt halfway off while waiting to get back inside. i did get to see a beautiful sunrise and birds that i wouldn’t have seen otherwise, so all is not lost.

last night, after shabbat dinner i attended a small workshop on Yehuda Amichai‘s poetry. he is the most famous modern Israeli poet and the session was led by a young American woman studying to become a Rabbi in England. we read poems and discussed them. it was not terrible. i’ve not read much (or any) Jewish or Israeli poetry so this was good education for me. come to think of it, i’ve read much more Palestinian poetry than i have anything Israeli. this conference is going to give me many more opportunities to continue my Jewish learning, and for an nonreligious Jew like me that is very important. last night at dinner one man got up to speak and reminded us that learning, any learning, is a continual process. you don’t simply learn something and are done with it. if you don’t constantly interact with and learn ideas again and again you will lose them. just like language, all learning is continual and requires active engagement. that was a powerful reminder for me, and i think that is why i am here. to teach and to learn is a mitzvah (good deed), one and the same mitzvah according to Jewish text. so students and teachers, when they are learning and teaching, are both engaging in the same mitzvah. this too, is something i will bring home with me.

after the conference i am going to stay in London for the New Years celebration. i still don’t have a place to sleep, so that will be a fun little mission. hopefully some friends of friends will come through before i break down and book a hostel or hotel room.

one of the things i love most about being at an all Jewish conference over Chanukah and Christmas is that i do not get all the Christmas shoved down my throat like i would back home. it is Christmas eve here and i’ve not heard a single thing about it. tomorrow will be Christmas and nobody will care, because it is also still Chanukah and that’s what we’re celebrating here together. at home i do not surround myself with Jews or Jewish things, so this is particularly different for the holiday season. i mean, i actually love Christmas music and the spirit of good cheer and peace on earth and all that mess, so i do get into it when i’m home, but it is quite nice to be reminded that another world is possible, and specifically a world created and shaped by my people is real and alive somewhere, even if i don’t choose to live in it everyday.

Shabbat Shalom! Happy Chanukah!


My Angle on Pimpin’

Check out this hot new video of my poem Pimpin’ on Park Triangle’s new series The Angle.

Jonathan B. Tucker: Pimpin’ from Park Triangle Productions on Vimeo.