artist

Adrift

James (Adrift)

Mortal Man

Adrift

By: James Dickerson

Optimism is new to me. I stopped having expectations some time ago and have learned to let life be.
— James Dickerson

This year I found myself breaking up with and wanting to get over what I thought was the  traveling path of my life. I left behind someone I should’ve held tighter to. Had an emotional fling that I’m still sore about - my first time engaged in intense desire; so intense that I broke my own rules involving women with significant others. And financially, as a single father, I found myself struggling to live on the pedestal I placed the responsibility to my sons on. Sleepless nights wrote my story after so much happened in so little time. 

I would think: what is the point of a sunrise if all you see is darkness? Every day felt the same. I became distant at work. The idea of friendship is a struggle and my kids wonder if I’m okay. What it meant to be a photographer in a non-traditional way was lost because of inconsistency. Prior to full time employment I was able to split my time on the street as an urban documentarian with my time as a clerk at a library, making enough noise in both respects to keep everyone happy. Almost everyone. The dissolving of my relationship with the mother of my children forced me into a full time spot at work. And then things started to die.

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Part of the problem was giving too much of myself to sustaining troubled waters. I needed still waters. I sought still waters, but aimlessly. Living for the satisfaction of others is not mentally healthy when you avoid your own health in the process. The darker life became the more I contemplated the wrong things. I told myself that the “end” would be a loss for everyone. I thought about my kids and what that would mean for them to lose their father, and a thread tightens and yanks me back a few feet from the edge. Their sadness I’d never want to face even in death. 

My relationship with them is strong so I have to survive for them. I have to survive for them. Fatherhood is keeping me alive. 

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I’m not the type to enter into the year with resolutions but I think about them. With their succession, how does the future feel a year older? If I hit every one would I die a better man? From one year to the next they ranged from weight loss, financial responsibly, a healthier relationship, and a home to raise my boys in. All the things I wished for when I was with their mother are still the things I wish for after. 

There’s something to be said about existing on the same page. Our story could be told together, written without ending, but our conflicts with each other prevented any real growth after 12 years. I don’t regret the loss of time but I regret the lack of growth.

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I doubt that I’ve truly healed from the strains of this break up. My nuclear family had a meltdown. We both assumed blame but still lacked growth. I tried dating after her and while that had its strengths, I was definitely its weakness. I left her feeling as lost as I was. That made me a bad guy. 

The bigger question is if I feel what is in my soul is for me. I don’t want the crash and burns to define my life. Nor the hang ups of emotional flings. “I want more life.” She shared that with me when I was having a rough moment. A phrase from a play that slips my mind. I debate whether our relationship was karmic in nature; that we taught each other something in the process. I did learn that I don’t want to be alone. But the bigger part I learned was that I never want to be who another man feels will destroy his happiness. But am I allowed to make that mistake in the process of growth?

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I don’t know how to end the year within this essay because my life is still changing. I may have written the most cryptic piece for the Mortal Man series. At the same time someone may pick this out as a resonating segment among others. Optimism is new to me. I stopped having expectations some time ago and have learned to let life be. However, as my life wraps up, I have a small amount of hope that’s always existed. It’s pushed me forward when permanent sleep was all I dwelled on. 

Let me experience internal peace, God. Just once, even if we aren’t friends.

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James Dickerson

Adrift

Son | Father | Brother | Photographer | Author | Real Life Documentarian

I met James on instagram. I admired his photography and reached out to him when I knew I’d re rolling through his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Though it was our first time meeting our conversation was deep, intense, personal… REAL.

You can keep up with James on instagram at:

@dirtykics

James’ street photography is also featured on Wassuprockers’ “The Room” and can be viewed online here.

Permission to Cry

mortal man

permission to cry

by: tripp fontane

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Permission to cry, mama?

I know you say big boys aren't supposed to

What about when I don’t feel so big

When I feel as small as singular salt stain on cheek

I’m hurt

Watching you hurt

Forcing your body well past 40 hours

Working your fingers to arthritis

Struggling to interlock your fingers

Planting prayers under your pillow

Crying over them nightly

At least let me cry with you

Maybe they’ll grow faster

 

Permission to cry, babe?

I know it makes me weaker

A little less man with every tear

But I'm tired

Exasperated

From keeping it all in

My arms aren't big enough to hold us both together at once

I'd rather let it out than let you go

Are my tears safe with you?

Can I trust you enough to lay down my burdens

And them not being weaponized and held against me?

Can I be imperfect?

More man than super

Must my masculinity be my kryptonite here too?

 

Permission to cry, my nigga?

I mean I was there when it happened

I know it's against the code

But I don't wanna be a G right now

I just wanna grieve

My eyelids ain’t got much strength no way

Closing my eyes couldn’t stop closed casket

Couldn’t stop me from seeing just how cruel fate can be

I can’t continue on congested

Heavy

No Paul could bear the weight

Eyelids weary from playing dam to an overdue river of truth

My eyelids not strong enough to stop me seeing

 

Permission to cry, dad?

I know it’s not how you raised me

But, I’ve fallen

Too many times to ignore pain

I’ve been in pain too long to continue neglecting the healing process

‘Cuz I don’t wanna be the man your actions taught me to be

Cold

Bitter as tears that never fell

Oppressive weight you were too “strong” to let go

You taught me emotionally immature

You taught me to trap myself behind walls of bravado

To call them protection

Call them manhood

Do you even remember how to cry out for help?

 

Permission to cry?

‘Cuz I’m broken

From contorting spirit into stereotypes called masculinity

From trying so hard to pull the pieces together

They’re never all they cracked up to be

Permission to be

Okay

Or

Not okay

And express is

Permission to express

To evict negative energy without fear of judgment

Permission to breath

To sigh in the name of relief

Permission to baptize

To be cleansed in a collection of my own tears

Permission to...… to...… to...


Tripp Fontane

Rapper | Poet | Educator | Author

Tripp Fontane is a Dayton native - rapper, poet, educator, author of the book (All Is Fair - A Collection of Poems and Thoughts on Love) and founding member of the spoken word group of Underdog Academy.

instagram: @trippfontane and @underdogacademy

facebook: Tripp Fontane

twitter: @TrippFontane

website: uapoetry.com

booking inquiries: trippfontane@gmail.com

order Tripp’s (All Is Fair) book: All Is Fair

Footnotes On Loving a Broken Man

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Mortal Man

Footnotes On loving a Broken Man

by: Atlas

On days, I rebuke my reflection Times, where I begin to wallow in self-doubt and pity.

Eventually, succumbing to my past failures On those nights, when I come home defeated And I feel I can’t live up to my name.

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(Please.)

Wrap your heavenly wings around my physique. Compress your flesh upon mine. And (hold on.) Cling to me like memories of the fallen remind me what an functioning heart beat feel likes,

(Be silent.)

Wipe tears that escape my pride Off my cheek bones

(And as I resist, in showing you emotion.)

While my ego attempts to engulf Whatever’s left of me in order to save face. Remembering, what the absence of my father taught me. What the absence of my grandfather taught me. Remembering what my mother taught me. That there is no safe haven for men; boys whose hair is coarse and skin sun kissed.

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That being frail is not an option, being tender is not an option. That black men; boys cannot be broken. when those words prove false. And my own esteem shatters across our living room floor When these eyelids overflow And streams of disdain pour down your back. (Squeeze me tighter.) Remind me that I’m not the sins of my father. That I am not incompetent or a failure. Or colored from the same brush Everybody will eventually paint me. Remind me, that (I too deserve love) I too am worthy of peace, vulnerability, of feeling safe.


 
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Some of my oldest memories of my childhood were me looking for affection and it was consistently met with resistance.

I wrote this because men aren’t allowed to be broken, especially me being a black man. I could go over the statistics and data of how we as black men are treated unfairly in society. However, no one really gives a fuck and at times it is extremely frustrating and infuriating.

I can only speak for me and I personally was always taught that I couldn't show ANY vulnerability or emotion. That was like a cardinal sin growing up. Some of my oldest memories of my childhood were me looking for affection and it was consistently met with resistance. When little girls fall and start crying because they scrape their knees, we stop everything to make sure they are ok. When a boy falls and start crying because they scrape their knees, we ignore him or tell him stop crying; we call him names sissy, punk, or a girl. We give negative reinforcements at an early stage that showing emotion is not a quality boys should have.

We as society promote hypermasculinity and stoicism, especially in the black community; then 15-20 years later after he's been conditioned to be a "savage" or lack empathy we complain about how he does not know how to say I love you and mean it or why he cannot properly express himself. We also chastise and vilify him for that same reason. Men are just forced “Man up,” especially when dealing with emotions.

This poem is me recognizing what has been instilled me and why it's problematic. That there are an abundance of broken men out there who want to show love and be loved, but that concept is so foreign to them. Lastly, masculinity will continue to be fragile until society is truly open with allowing it to be vulnerable.

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Atlas

Footnotes on Loving a Broken Man

Vet. Artist. Teacher. Student

Atlas is a spoken word artist and member of Underdog Academy.

Be sure to engage with him and follow his journey.

instagram: @atlasthepoet & @underdogacademy

twitter: @Da2KcoolJ

facebook: Kyle Flemings & Underdog Academy

and also at uapoetry.com

please comment on this page to keep the dialogue going.

 

what is woman?

leroy bean

this guest blog is by leroy bean, author of the love and theory of womanology. 

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a spoken word poet  from dayton, ohio starting my new artistic journey as leroy bean. after being apart of underdog academy for over 2 years, i have had the opportunity to perform at many colleges and universities such as ohio state university, ohio dominican university, university of cincinnati and more. i was the 2017 litfest poetry slam winner for the university of dayton and was chosen to be published in both their orpheus and writ literary magazines. i am the host of the underdog academy's expressions open mic and now i am finally releasing my second chapbook - the love and theory of womanology.

this complete project includes a chapbook with 37 poems, including a 7 poem series, 16 haiku's, and a pantoum. also includes an audio book that isn't your traditional read along on tape. the audio book is all put together over instrumentals to provide a completely separate experience from the chapbook itself even though the poems have not changed. one gives you room to implement your own imagination and the other sits you in the center of my imagination and feel for the project as a whole and the individual poems.  i've always approached my poems from a different perspective; creating story's or satirical poems to get my point across.

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in december 2016 I was inspired by music, conversation, and just consistent signs pointing me down this path to create a chapbook dedicated to woman. after reaching a new point on this journey for developing a better understanding for love and compassion for all life, i realized that i have been blinded by my male privilege. from the experience as a black male in america, i have witnessed oppression first hand and was able to transfer that comprehension to the relationship between man and woman. it was made clear to me how much of a habit sexism was alone and although i did not install this way of thinking on my own, it is still my responsibility to recognized my mistakes in order to grow as a human. this lead me to build a chapbook, metaphorically giving woman the power that was bestowed upon men, "in the beginning", with genesis by characterizing god as a woman that not just created but gave birth to the universe. also emphasizing on the characteristics that woman are deemed weak for, such as their love and support. also bringing important woman characters to the forefront such as mother nature, eve, and the roll of "the mother" in american society.

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upon the ending of the books creation it dawned on me that if i really wanted to help influence as much of the community as possible then I would have to bring the book to life. this lead to the event, "what is woman?" where I teamed up with ap2 photography and ted's own big dave to help bring the vision to life; men using their platform to help bring shine to the woman's perspective and experience. although this is a release event for my new chapbook, the book is far from being the face of the event. this premium art experience showcases nothing but the strength and struggles of women. using the power of art and it's influence on people, we dedicated paintings and photo shoots to the diverse beauty of woman and counter the countless shaming that society puts on women that don't fall within it's standards. what is woman? showcases female vendors and performers to portray the wide-range of talent that women have. It will be held in a business owned by a woman to show their strength and intelligence. what is woman? will challenge the audience with that very title by having a panel discussion to assure that the voice of the woman is heard. even if it is only in front of 50 to 100 people, i know it will still be effective because at the end of the day, communication leads to solutions and  seeds will get planted to initiate a ripple of change in the minds of the future. 

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what is woman will take place satuday, september 2 at third perk coffeehouse & wine bar in downtown dayton, ohio at 7:00pm. tickets are limited and are available to purchase on eventbrite, “includes the option to preorder the book as well.” 

cook's row

by: rachelle smith

the line of store fronts are all smoky bbq, clattering feet and saxophone jazz.

on this busy NOLA street i hear a trumpet tribute as i twist the sign to “open” on my tiny eatery.

i wrap my head in a white scarf and pray by the door.

i want the spirits to eat just as well as we do.

ooo! ooo! ooo!

that gumbo appetite heat wave riot.

tap tap a full glass of water with ice.

summer air as spicy as my rice in tuesday’s blue special.

cook’s row is all people shadowy pavement with clustered conversations.

rat tat tat of a snare.

“giiiiirl!” from across the street there.

smell the louisiana breeze.

new as today.

old as voodou.

taste all the home cooking stories you hear.

 

rachelle smith

is a spoken word artist residing in dayton, ohio. words are her passion. her poetry and short stories are inspired by personal experiences, spirituality and the drive to move the reader emotionally. chelle also is an author, grade school teacher and graduate of miami university with a b.a. in creative writing.

connect with chelle: instagram - @sculpchelle | twitter @sculpchelle