A Note from Mel

Make the connection…

Easy (after Afro Picks!) December 16, 2009



(after Afro Picks!)


That afro pick lean

lean forward

for extra cover,

Sunshine in dull

word placement

world placement,

Her neck, her back,

tight z patterns carry

all of that good stuff

(and some artificial

remembrance for them

to work out)



won’t budge,

Won’t tilt

a degree further,

fear of a falling coif,

Combs too plenty,

too brown,

don’t worry.

Your fro can’t

hit the ground.



– Mel


Return of a Black Shadow December 14, 2009

Return of a Black Shadow


Most mornings, I drive to work. But after a weekend of tree-trimming with babyboy, baking, and gift-wrapping, I was running a little low on energy and time. So, I took a walk to work so the sounds of the city could wake me. While walking down K Street near what used to be the Sursum Cordas Project (moment of silence…it’s all electric-wired fences and unkempt grass now), I happened to look down. Low and behold, I saw a soggy postcard:


I remember how the mystery and persistence in the bold angles and curves of blackprint gave a sort of haunting feeling to all travels through the District in the 80s. Honestly, I was terrified that this Dan person seemed to be everywhere like a phantom. He had a haunting, constant, over-arching presence. I remember asking my mom, “Who is Cool Disco Dan?” She didn’t know. I never knew. After a while, I didn’t care. Figured he was locked up somewhere for all that damn tagging. But, I did know this dude was on a mission to imprint his character across the District as often, as prominently, and as boldly as he could. From what I can remember, he never used colors like other taggers. But then, he wasn’t your average tagger or graffiti artist. You could tell he was serious about this. I mean, his tag was under bridges at heights it seemed only Spiderman could reach. Always in black. His tags stood out the best in the rain, letters bursting at the hips like one of my uncles old girlfriends he had met at the go-go. His girlfriends always had Saartjie Baartman booties.

It’s funny, I wasn’t particularly a fan of Cool Disco Dan spraying himself all over town, on buildings, walls, trash cans, I mean, anywhere. But now, the little postcard with the familiar bold print makes me nostalgic for a totally different DC.

Of course, there were a lot of things about the 80s in DC that are worth forgetting, but there was a flavor and a heat about the city then that seems to be trickling away at an uncontrollable pace. The retail shops filling up old Chinatown. Humongous condos blocking the neighborhood’s perfect view of fireworks on the Mall from New York and New Jersey Avenue. No more midnight basketball at White & Colored (New York Avenue Court) because the parks close at dark. Strange, the neighborhood once affectionately known as simply New York Avenue is now “Truxton Circle” and “Mt. Vernon” according to Historic Preservation. They’re preserving something, but nothing I remember. I miss the O Street Market. The numerous fireworks stands lining the major thoroughfares of DC at the crack of summer. The feelgood of the annual Black Family Reunion. It’s all different. Some change is good. Just some. But what can I say. Some of us are still here and will always remember that once upon a time in DC.

Thanks Cool Disco Dan for taking me back for a spell.

Based on the postcard, it seems Cool Disco Dan has grown up! Entrepreneur with a product to sell. Check him out at www.CoolDiscoDan.com.


Necessity of Memory December 11, 2009

Necessity of Memory


i. be




in the blue/red thickerthanwater

currents of history

                recreated skin

                pacing under

maybe grandfather was not

so upright

suggest his photo,

sharp collar,

pleats’ neat longitude

at knees

faded in the ash

of years, a few

ancestral embellishments

grow family

steady from paradisiacal elegies,

Hayden smoke,

lies memory tells

about back alley ways,

neighborhood ghosts.



ii. break




skirtflow climbs

full height of Roscoe

four feet, age five,

silk fantasy repetition

gold/maroon paisley

build: inside

groomed cap, blurs

uncle’s harsh tone,

fact reverberating

about a family

house on L

Street Southwest,

draft time District of Columbia,

disappearing in the unnamed

6-foot slender

build: brown eyes,

brown hair,

miscellaneous registration line

of color, fading in a wish

to folklore

male voice

as all dark boom

and thunder!

or sartorially

-implied stature,

emphatic collars,


strong hats.



iii. be


All that memory,

be false and true

as a gospel of our ways

according to

a recording seer,



– Melanie Henderson