I met David Bickham about 18 years ago when he was living in Boston. He promised me that he would get me to his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi one day to share my experience with cultural economic development. We kept in touch over the ensuing years and he always contacted me when he was in town. True to his word, he invited me to Jackson on a consulting project. I visited right after Thanksgiving last year, where it was my pleasure to meet staff of the phenomenal Jackson Medical Mall Foundation and other community organizations. What a warm welcome I had there…such warm and accomplished people. I hope to go back.
My friend David is an elegant; kind, and handsome man; deep and analytical thinker; and an orator par excellence. He is also a poet. I am pleased to share these two poems.
My love poem is not for the sanctified,
Those separated from the neurosis of nakedness.
I have felt this convulsive lust,
Since I first unimagined you; for no dreamer
Could carve your silhouette—half flesh, half divinity,
Out of something as incorporeal as a dream,
Out of something as illustrious and intangible as dream-life.
Though dreams embody life like imagery,
They do not fulfill my wakened world, so emaciated,
So paradisiacal without the possibility of this depravity.
Each day, I see you move through our home,
Your lush body, the flashlight of some
Gospel of chaos, shining specifically on me.
For I, forever in darkness, as a midnight doe,
Struck first by the car light, that scurries me into or
Out of this chaos, for I know still it is light, tinged by blood,
And light has become my crypt,
And my life has become still more tumescent.
Who lives well in a bloodless marriage?
So who can tell me this: that life and death
Are different; they are more than twins; they are
Indecipherable when I am in your arms, one polarity,
Incorruptible when I am in your hair,
When I am between the same breasts through which you
Excavate my impurities while naming my purities.
Now, your body pervades my presence like
A paring knife wounds the pealing of lemon;
You know my pith, the white skin beneath the black skin,
The absent foreskin, you know it too.
My preadolescence, you have mined my former selves,
The bitter whiteness before the juicy witness,
The source of my religion and my persecution.
Like a tennis bracelet of knives against my wrist,
Your nipple alerts my intimate pulse;
And your thickness as only I have seen in a black woman,
Will be my romancer, the way the death angel, hallucinogenic,
Seduces the dying with crazy assed smells,
Seduces the dying with crazy assed thoughts,
On the waning side of lucidity,
In which the ancestors are as redolent as
Your odor in our emergency, current lovemaking.
All night, you swim to me like a voice in vibrato;
My night light is just one gold tooth,
Shining in your mouth of heaven,
Warding off the terrorism of my
Dumbfounded loneliness, calming my
Gaze into the bottom of your lily,
Drawing me into its fluted form like
A master glassmaker whose breath stems
The fire of blackness.
My tears run as thick as oil from your sardine can,
Down the corner of my mouth onto my chin,
Chest hairs, the anointing of my beloved.
My Love, no need to serenade me as
I sing to you. I am old.
All I need to know is that,
Whether in life or in death, with you
Chauffeured in the limousine Cadillac,
Shining eggplant black,
That you will love me like no other has loved,
Me even as we loved each other during,
These unromantic conditions.
Look at my hands,
Once the hands of a lover not a peasant,
But for you I worked so hard,
That my fingers look like unscrubbed ginger.
David Patrick Bickham is the principal and founder of Bickham Innovation Catalysts, LLC, a consultancy specializing in innovation and organizational change in economic, philanthropic, educational and community development. He speaks across the nation on culturally responsive practices, building systems for innovation, impact and change and other areas. He has advised over 50 fledgling to major non-profits, colleges, and universities, community-based organizations, philanthropic institutions and other entities in domains ranging from mental health to futurism to youth development to arts and culture to workforce development to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) to 21st century learning sand futurism. He lives in Brandon, MS and Atlanta, GA with his wife and son, and in addition to working across the nation they will be expanding their enterprises to global sites in 2017. He has raised over $25 million as a part-time grant writer and fund advisor. He has won the In Search of a New Voice chap book competition for Blackberry Juice for Blues Bones and the North Carolina Writer’s Network 1st place prize for his short story, “Nicodemus.” After an almost 15 year hiatus in significant writing, he has completed recently an unpublished manuscript of poems, “The Aristocracy of Suffering.” He is a graduate of Tougaloo College in Mississippi.
About National Poetry Month:
Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month, held every April, is the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.