by Nikki Giovanni

Clock Icon 10 minute read



I talk to myself


People think I am on my phone
In simpler days
I would have been considered strange
People would feel sorry
For me
And called me Crazy
I would have walked down the street
Carrying brown paper bags
Arguing laughing sometimes
Humming a tune


I am alone
At the kitchen sink
Or behind the wheel
Of my car
Taking the roasted chicken
With root vegetables out of the oven
It’s easy to see
The delight I am taking
In this life
I am always smiling
I am in love



If I had never been in your arms
Never danced that dance
Never inhaled your slightly sweaty odor


Maybe I could sleep at night


If I had never held your hand
Never been so close
To the most kissable lips in the universe
Never wanted ever so much
To rest my tongue in your dimple


Maybe I could sleep at night


If I wasn’t so curious
About whether or not you snore
And when you sleep do you cuddle your pillow
What you say when you wake up
And if I tickle you
Will you heartedly laugh


If this enchantment
This bewilderment
This longing
Could cease


If this question I ache to ask
      could be answered


If only I could stop dreaming
      of you


Maybe I could sleep
      at night



(On You)

3rd and long
I go for it
4th and short
I jump over the pile
Someone hears a moan
That would be me
Someone heard a sigh
That would be you
A pile of sugar
A pile of salt
I dip my finger
And taste
They said
You hadn’t been seen
In over twenty years
They think
You might be
I know better
I saw you smile


But still here
Inviting me
To fall
In love



When the sun returns
      to the arctic circle
      from its winter rest


The grasses sprout
      seducing the winged
      and the hoofed


Polar bears and their cubs
      must flee
Before the ice
      breaks up


Although others begin
a northern journey


The Snow Goose flies
      from the Gulf of Mexico
      to mate and birth her young


Two million Mongolian Gazelles move
      over the tundra where each gives birth
      at the same time defying
      the will of predators
      who would consume
      the gazelles’ future


Though only, of course,
      to provide nourishment
      for their own
      young predators


Let’s not judge
      too harshly


Salmon swim upstream
      jumping falls
      and grizzly bears


      ignoring the advice
Of ants
      make music
      to celebrate
Winter’s end


Monarch butterflies
      leaving the safety
Of Zihuatanejo
      forge north
Beginning the longest winged journey


With only the hope of warmth
      and the promise of grasses
They unflinchingly face:


As would I
For you



I am jazz
I am smooth but not pop
I am cool but not contained
I run the soundtrack
Of your life


You enter me with dissonance
Then command a little rag


There may even be a prayer or two
Somewhere in there


I am jazz


When you are alone
I come to you
Giving you rhythm to work
And rhyme to care


I agree with pure jazz
I am safe for your dog
Cool for the cats
Salt in the pond
For your fish


You need me
Admit it
You need me



Green shoes
Blue shoes
Red shoes
Good news


Bad news
Suede shoes
No ties
Loose pants


Pink shoes
White shoes
All shoes
On the little ants


Your shoes
Her shoes
My shoes
Good news


His shoes
Those shoes
Miles Davis
All Blues



I was running
Running running


I wasn’t in a hurry
’Cause I didn’t have anyplace
To go


I’ve been in love
And I know
The best thing to do


It’s not like I’ve been
And there is way more jazz Than blues
When I soundtrack
My life


It’s just that the time
To persuade
And seduce
Runs into Law & Order
Not to mention Monday Night
And I do have book club
Garden club


And though I should give up
I am still trying
To train the dog


I also have a job
And dirty clothes
And dinnertime requirements
So I was running
’Cause there just wasn’t any
More time in the day
But then you smiled
And I smiled back
And not paying enough attention
I stepped on that 3rd rail



(for Carolyn Rude)

Not safe…not even all that nice…when you think about it…What mean fraternity boys do with their fists…and drunk fraternity boys do with their penises…barefoot boys do with guns…Whether it’s a redneck screaming “nigger”…or a poet hollering “titties”…illegal and unkind behavior tells someone s/he doesn’t belong…check it…check it out…
Not nice…No…And no reason to feel safe
A good day…someone pointed out…however…to be black…or a woman…and not be hunted…and not have to hold your head down…and not have to quiver…when you pass a man…police…or professional…yet still knowing…at any given moment…you are a target…
“They didn’t move fast enough”…they cried…“They could have done more”…they demanded…“More to let us hold on to our illusions of safe…to let us hold on to our illusion of fair…to let us hold on to our illusions…illusions…illusions”…And whether it was a bullet flying or an animal cracker coming straight at you…it was an attack…And yes…maybe there could be faster motion…faster lockdown…faster dismissal…but hey there is the bigger picture…and after all he didn’t mean it…his leg was sprained…he’s so intelligent…so talented…so special…he didn’t realize his heart was blind…he didn’t understand he was causing pain…gun…and just because you’re dead…doesn’t mean I really did it…
but I only pretended with the rest of you
And in the end he was very careful with himself…Sure not to be treated the way he treated McFarland and Sutphin…Avoiding the knockout blow or killer smile he dealt the man who came when he called “Help”…Silencing his victims with death for their goodwill and sense of decency…Or their pity for him…Do all the sane and sober things to protect yourself, Monster…so that you can plead Innocent By Reason of Not Paying Close Attention…Threaten us that you can make Blacksburg not ever be the same again…
But we will be the same…willful ignorance will overpower indignation every time…
That still does not make us nice…and it sure doesn’t make us safe


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