A Note from Mel

Make the connection…

New Publisher on the Block! Cherry Castle Publishing June 9, 2016


I joyfully took on the role of Poetry Editor for an exciting new press, Cherry Castle Publishing.


Cherry Castle Publishing, LLC is one of America’s newest and most energetic publishers of great literature—a press where words grow mighty trees. It is a press that honours the vibrant multicultural voice of American literature, one book at a time. Our fundamental commitment is to practice literary equality and to embrace work that is informed by the social, political and cultural vigor of our times.


The press has put out exciting new work, We Didn’t Know Any Gangsters by beloved DC poet Brian Gilmore, and “This” Ameri-can-ah by prolific poet Curtis L. Crisler.


Truth Thomas, the founder of Cherry Castle Publishing, delved into children’s literature with the amazing protagonist, Mya, who challenges the images and morality standards fed to her by her television in My TV is Not the Boss of Me.


New work is forthcoming from the press, including the exciting anthology, Songs for a Passbook Torch, which will include works by varied poets and writers in honor of Nelson Mandela’s freedom-fighting legacy.


Stay abreast of this fresh new publisher’s news and publications at: http://www.cherrycastlepublishing.com/index.html.


In love and poetry,


Melanie Henderson



P.S. We continue to accept submissions for the Mandela Anthology. If you have a gem or two or three that addresses the tough beauty of this ancestor, feel free to send. Check the guidelines below.


We are looking for poetry and short essays that:
(1) honor Nelson Mandela’s freedom fighting legacy (first and foremost);
(2) offer tribute to Winnie Mandela for her related activism, and all appropriate others active in the anti-apartheid struggle;
(3) shine light on the past and present fight for racial justice in SA (particularly in the context of police brutality);
(4) shine light on the profound similarities between police brutality in SA under the height of Apartheid, and current race-based police brutality in America.
Songs for a Passbook Torch, edited by award-winning poets, Truth Thomas and Melanie Henderson, is scheduled for publication when all the type is right. Payment will be in the form of one contributor’s copy.

Send your work as a SINGLE attachment (.doc; .docx; .rtf; PDF). Submit up to five previously unpublished poems and essays (honoring a 3,000 word limit) to:


Please direct questions to editor@cherrycastlepublishing.com
THE SUBMISSION PERIOD FOR THIS ANTHOLOGY IS CURRENTLY OPEN-ENDED. Decisions for inclusion in the anthology will be made on a rolling basis




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


Thoughts on ‘82 November 24, 2009

Filed under: Art & Children,Art & Culture,Art - The Process — anotefrommel @ 6:49 pm

Thoughts on ‘82


The year I was born, my grandmother hummed so many bridges between jazz and blues under the weight of thick black eyeliner and the blue shadow of U Street days. The younger music got muffled under laps of the rosary.


In between the first and second job and 3 square meals for me and my older brother, my mom lit our house’s yellowing panels with new crooners (and squealers): Miki Howard, Taja Seville. My mother’s blues was Phyllis Hyman. I learned the mood of a color both exuberant and dark as the bottom of the Anacostia River. There was always blues-influenced GoGo, but blue is not what I remembered about GoGo. It was the gray corners, the thick, white plastic buckets, the green, red or ash-colored milk crates, the sticks (and sometimes, they were just thick twigs), a brother all piled on the corner near Woody’s or somewhere in Chinatown. The blues was there, but it seems only Chuck knew it.


My encounters were brief until I slowly sought new encounters with old voices, instruments, Miles, Billie, Coltrane. They were distant Aunts and Uncles who I had heard of but never knew, kin whose blues wasn’t mine. When I first heard a recording of Hathaway singing, For All We Know, the startling tears let me know Janet Jackson hadn’t been doing her job though Pleasure Principle and Nasty were still the jams. The Cosby Show intros and outros sang to me sometimes when I was busier following the swing of little Rudy’s thick fuzzy ponytail and digging Denise’s shoulder-baring tops.


Somehow blues, jazz became a mechanism for writing, a guiding rhythm for what I perceived as poetry. I didn’t recognize any blues or jazz in my own, but others recognized it in poems about caviar and cognac or Kim Jong Il. The fact that it was felt made me want to up my game, dig more blue-ly. I can’t funk with the ancestors lightly.


What kind of sorrow is worthy of consumption, bedtime whistles from saxes? I didn’t know. Still don’t. There’s something missing and there when I write, when we write. It’s there heavy at the bellies of our fingertips, in the arch of phalanges like faith, a belief in darling remnants or blue-black angels.


– Melanie Henderson


Anatomy of the GoGo Shake November 10, 2009

Filed under: Art & Culture,Art - The Process,Art - The Product — anotefrommel @ 11:27 am
Tags: , , ,

Anatomy of the GoGo Shake


Rock your GoGo : hips more bottom than Louisiana : strut : grandma says slow your gogo : magic lifting off dark flesh : flow gogo : vibrating base drawn : about silhouettes : inky, stinky shadows : rippling from speakers : the stage resituated in a woman’s freedom song : linoleum spreading for sweat : the most African promise : in her pocket : vulnerable : open-palmed praise : of thick labor : rhythm freed from tall standing sugar : canes : feet feed from bloody soil : rise up as water : a xylem trance : and Big G calls your name, “goddess of a water dance.”


– Melanie Henderson


Notes from a Failed Hand Dancer November 3, 2009

Filed under: Art - The Process,Art - The Product — anotefrommel @ 9:49 am
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Notes from a Failed Hand Dancer


Maybe too young to know a rhythm : to know : rhythm is dynamic : made : not taught : who dares teach steps : sedentary as mountains — to aim for spirituals : about big rocks : gospels : might be : a better angle : baptisms : the mountaintop : welcome to a church of faithfuls : gathered about a mountain’s low old hips : gleefully emptying eye sockets : exchange for dipped hands : guiding : trusted hands : a mass of dignified followers : asking to be lead : knowing an inspirited sway : a swing of robed bodies : will follow : shook pews : balls of feet : weighted : unseated at the right hand of a brother : the float is not about tippies : toes sprinkling : dew eating a Sunday morning of porous earth : grabbing for parted light.


– Melanie Henderson


To a Bourgeois Sister, an experiment in line endings September 16, 2009

So I’ve been reading The Art of the Poetic Line by James Logenbach. I appreciate Logenbach’s discussion of the line break vs. line end and do agree that when a line ends, it doesn’t necessarily break; the syntax may continue. Line break implies a definitive end, a stop. But, all lines of poetry do not function in a way that makes the term line break relevant. He provides a great example by William Carlos Williams, which follows:


To a Poor Old Woman
by William Carlos Williams


munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand


They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her


You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand


a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her


Though I may have made slightly different decisions for line endings in lines 1 and 8, the second stanza shows masterfully the impact and/or the potential of impact line endings can have upon a reader’s experience in the vein of comprehension and emphasis.


I liked the idea so much, I gave Williams’ technique a try. My humble attempt follows:


To a Bourgeois Sister

after William Carlos Williams


fingering a mound of

pearls flowing, water

strung about overlay tips


They look fine to her

They look fine

to her. They look

fine to her


You can tell by

the way she carefully rubs

her painted lips while

stroking a singular silk bead



a solace of beaming planets

seeming to fill her eyes

They look fine to her


I’m still reading The Art of the Poetic Line. So far, so good. Check it out!

If you like the idea of revisiting popular poems, you may also want check out Conversation Pieces: Poems That Talk to Other Poems edited by Kurt Brown and Harold Schechter.


Ginkgo, for Lack of Digits September 13, 2009

Filed under: Art - The Process — anotefrommel @ 3:13 pm


Ginkgo, for Lack of Digits


My time here              (in natural order)

      is longer for years       for breaths

like ours.

                              I’m the one

with all the time             branches

                              lightly hover

with your death        your heels     toes

      full of bumble     blood, youth   you have

to know      this risk of my time here

(in no natural order)     unnatural

     is without you          the brown body

the tree I will leap from       fanning leaves

separating               in a blown wind,

I fall for our time             here,     uncounted.


– Melanie Henderson


Be Real Black September 5, 2009

Be Real Black

(after Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway)


Let the brief cool of fall,

pour like milk from the mouth

of a hand-made antique,

grow pretty as a lily

worthy of your pauses.

Let all that is black, continuous,

unchanged, magical,

sprinkle like a hush,

surrender to dizziness

whenever your lips part crookedly

casting my back’s arch,

setting me straight like teeth

perfecting organs for speech.


– Melanie Henderson


Travel to the Next Literary Convention September 1, 2009

Filed under: Art - The Process,Relating with an Artist — anotefrommel @ 6:42 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Travel to the Next Literary Convention


I don’t care to remember you from up there,




This low memory is closer

                                   than the next the train out of here,


Some place less written on tracks

under the dye of code or colored lines,


Speech pretense, tunneled performance

(when bellies tell a better story)

Stomach of a dark station, down here,


A corporeal informant, the snitch

all the riders watch sideways, voyeurs,

necks too frozen to prism into good sense.


– Melanie Henderson