Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade)



Brothers and Sisters,
Today I'm here to tell
a tale old as blue-green algae,
How Love can leave you at the crossroads,
crushed like a berry,
blue as a Jay,
with all your feathers in disarray.
Don't you know Love can be a Devil
in a tight blue dress,
eyes flashing like a bluefish,
tongue poisonous as a blowfish.
Don't you know Love will leave you
sleeping in a doorway on the avenue,
blue as five frostbitten fingers
stuck to a frozen bottle.
Can I get a witness.
Brothers and Sisters,
Love can make you melancholy
as a muted trumpet,
emptier than a cloudless sky,
bluer than a baby's eyes.
Love can leave you strangled
with a blue ribbon tangled in your beard.
Can't you see through these shades of blue,
something's stuck to your shoe
and it ain't money.
There's a new moon rising,
it's gonna leave you St. Louis Blue,
thin as bamboo,
in a leaky canoe.
Love can leave you
with a Leadbelly,
blind as a Lemon,
Howling like a wounded Wolf.
Do you hear me
Brothers and Sisters,
Love can tease you
with a blade of bluegrass,
til you're hot under the cobalt collar,
then leave you
with a blue chip on your shoulder,
and an indigo joke stuck in your throat.
Please read this whole note
and come in out of the misty view,
before your heart crumbles like bleu cheese.
Love can hurt worse than a thumbscrew,
last longer than a tattoo,
lock you into a rubber room with a view,
blue devils dancing in your brain,
a blue heron flying through your veins.
Love can make you sing the Blues in 12 bars
that all overcharge for the same cheap drinks.
Raise a hand if you feel me.
Brothers and Sisters,
Love can be a bluebottle fly
flitting between purple and green,
wings raggedy as a pair of old jeans.
Merci beaucoup,
Love can have Winnie the Pooh
doing Voodoo in corrective shoes,
it can track a muddy trail through your bruised heart
leaving blueprints to disaster in the pristine parts.
Love can be salty as cashews,
crooked as corkscrews,
bitchy as a blue crab,
itchy as a new scab,
and is scientifically proven to lower your IQ.
When the Postman rings he'll tell you
that Love mails all its letters
with the postage due.
Now, let the church say Amen.

Steve Whealton

glass photogram

more work by Steve Whealton




Spirituals are how
angels would sound, singing
in a cotton field.


For Romare Bearden

Curling his arm
around her neck,
he wants to lean her body back,
place one finger on a nipple,
another on her navel,
and strum her washboard belly
as he hums Softly as a Morning Sunrise
into her eager ear.
His bass notes are grace notes,
soft as the chiffon dress
of this woman whose
obsidian hair shines
through the hazy lace
hanging in the air.
From the bandstand,
the light turns
a snifter of cognac
brown as her eyes.
As he plays,
he imagines her
stepping shiny from the shower,
her smile curving like a bass clef.
His heart bangs against
the piano keys of his ribs.
He would savor her wet skin
like a sip of chardonnay.
Curling his arm
around its neck,
he leans his bass back.
Places one finger on a fret,
another strokes the G string.
The note quivers like a question
as it enters her ears.



As my tongue
wets your inner ear--
a sudden shiver.



We meet only
in the alleys of memory.
Our broken smiles
glitter on the ground.
Although we bear the same name,
identical scars,
you can't remember
what day I was born.
Anger spills
down the side
of my face.
This is what you have taught me:
needles are as hollow as lies,
collapse more families
than veins.
Now a prisoner in death's camp,
you grow thinner every day
until I can count your T-cells
on one hand.
The phone rings,
Mama pleads
Please buy a dark suit to wear.
I tell her
I wear black every day,
all day,



Frozen rain coats street
old man sleeps on steam grate
footsteps whisper past



1. Acknowledgement

Even in a room dark
as the inside of an egg
John Coltrane knows there's a solo
that will shimmer
into the morning air
radiant as prayer
As dawn's purple fingers
crack the sky's black shell
he assembles
his tarnished sax
Once he loved the sharp notes
a needle played in his veins
now his smoke-stung lungs
are inspired by a higher key

2. Resolution

If he turns his sax upside-down
it curves like a question mark.
Since notes vibrate at various frequencies,
what is a true measure of music?
One melody brings back his grandmother
dozing in her favorite chair,
another recalls a childhood friend
splashing in a muddy puddle.
But, can a chord diminish a mass
of malignant cells,
could a true trill
fill a beggar's cup with coins,
can a long riff sustain rain
from thunderclouds?
As the sun's yolk
bursts across the horizon
he makes notes
to resolve this progression
of questions.

3. Pursuance

He grips the mouthpiece
between his teeth
closes his eyes
and tongues the reed
seeking a riff soothing
as sunrays on his naked back
his sax refracts sound
collating chords into colors
the first b-flat floats
black as smoke from a locomotive
rising the silver rails
of a minor scale
pulling the remaining rainbow
past the signs of time signatures
around the sharp curves
of a treble clef
down through a kale-green valley of choruses
over a brown wooden bridge
pursuing a solo healing
as a holy balm
as a favorite Psalm.

4. Psalm

His fingertips kiss
the lacquered keys
....of his tenor sax
blowing three notes one drop of sweat
dots the thick chords
....of his neck.
As the sun ascends
it cloaks him a golden robe.
He nods his head
in the rhythm of revelation
then hits a riff
as the name of the Lord
on the lips of a kneeling child.



Beside the dumpster
a rat drinking rain
from an eggshell.


Joel Dias Porter (aka DJ Renegade) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. After high school, he enlisted in the US Air Force. After leaving the service, he because a professional disc jockey in the DC area. Then in 1991, he quit his job and began living in homeless shelters, while undergoing an Afrocentric self-study program. From 1994 through 1999 he competed in the National Poetry Slam, finishing as high as second place in the individual competition, and becoming the 1998 and 1999 Haiku Slam Champion. His poems have been published in Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Callaloo, Antioch Review, and the anthologies Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Role Call, Def Poetry Jam, 360 Degrees of Black Poetry, Slam (The Book), Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, Catch a Fire, and The Black Rooster Social Inn, which he also edited. In 1995, he received the Furious Flower "Emerging Poet Award" from James Madison University. He has performed on the Today Show, in a commercial for Legal Jeans, in the documentaries Voices Against Violence and SlamNation, on BET's Teen Summit and By the Book, and in the feature film Slam. Currently at work on a CD of jazz and poetry entitled "A Desperate Wrestling of Tongues," he is the father of a small son and teaches part-time at Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts.

Published in Volume 3, Number 3, Summer 2002.


To read more by this author:
Joel Dias-Porter: Split This Rock Issue
Joel Dias-Porter: Audio Issue
Joel Dias-Porter: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue