Kenneth Carroll is a clarion voice that will outlast the birds in the trees. He's a mentor for every heart that cries out to be heard - to learn how to speak. He is funny and sad. He writes of the past with a style that can't be imitated and his stories are indelible. From our shattered lives, Carroll brings light to our task. From the collapse of dreams, he restores a wind of goodwill and courage. From all that is fatal in language, he infuses it with life everlasting. -- Grace Cavalieri
Kenneth Carroll is a native Washingtonian, his poetry, short stories, essays, and plays have appeared in numerous publications including. He is the former executive director of DC WritersCorps, Inc., where he helped create the country’s first Youth Poetry Slam League, which was honored by President Clinton’s Commission for the Arts and the Humanities in 1999. He is married and the proud father of a daughter and two sons.
Truant on MLK Avenue
she points her green nails at me, a curse
tells me, I have been absent or late 68 days this year
there is a robin that visits my windowsill every morning
around 9am when I should be in my first period class
instead it is burnt orange, my boyfriend has a hat that color
he wears it all the time, he think he cool
but he reminds me of that poem we had to memorize in english class
sometimes when the robin is late, I sit in my spongebob pjs and wait for its song
wisps billows to green opens to sky
delivers rain as an answer to smoke
driven by breezes that swirl in desperation
mixed with perseverance potential and fate
gray skies frame green leaves as young as hope
branches brown as faces on corner murals.
Call and Response
call and response, the go-go-ification of the groove
the black church birthing funk
the holla back for the future generations
Chuck Brown as caliph, as patron saint
of the endless jam, asked us
“Hey everybody how you feel tonight?”
and we answered, “Feel like moving that body.”
from spirit we still hear his call,
the inhalation and exhalation of life
above us like the overlook at the panorama room
pulse carried by river carried by song.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Mathew 19:14
They come to us as the same bell that warns of fire, begs
cornrows and sagging pants, shoes untied and dirty faces,
smelling of youth and desperation and hope.
All arms and legs akimbo, screams announcing fright.
like family reuniting, hugging us in violation of regulation,
like returning abductees seeking embrace & remembrance.
cards, official statement of their status, & triggers for state
core curriculums absent of poetry, with smiles bent in half
by failure. as fugitives sought by several hundreds years of
policies seeking their enslavement.
reminds them of their below grade level reading, whose
derision marks their struggle to grasp algebra
circumstance, who resent their academic deficiencies, who
see them as roadblocks to professional gain
as representative of the names that have frustrated them
They come to us to have the letters and labels around their
names, IEP, Disabled, E.D., removed like old bandages
to acknowledge their heartbeat, to validate their company.
They come quietly, muted, unable to shake the ravages of
the day or the anticipated dangers of home
They come because father is absent and mother cannot bear
his face that they carry.
be excited by story and song.
pupil in pupil, an image in someone’s eyes. They come to us,
because if we do not, no one will ask them about their day,
tell them they are loved, remind them they are holy.
have one more thing to say, request an extra snack, a final
touch, a tentative promise of tomorrow before they follow a
waning sun toward home.
A People's Historian
that the king’s riches are soiled with
the history of our blood and sweat
who recounts our moments of resistance, explicates
our struggles, sings of our sacrifices to those
unable to hear our song
altered the course of a raging river of oppression
how we turned our love for each other into a
garrison of righteous rebellion
have been less than large, when our own
prejudices have been turned against us like
about the monster of lies, an eclipse that casts
a shadow dark enough to cover centuries
roots around the muck of history, the word covered
in the mud of denial, the mythology of the conquerors
let their song come slowly, on the periphery of canon
of history departments owned by corporate prevaricators
lonely readers, underground and under siege
their song, the seed crushed to earth, and growing
now a tree, with fruit, multiplying truth.
the faces of old loved ones
the expansion before the contraction
the teeth deserting our mouths
to remembrance & mother soil
like a time tested prayer
to reassure our selves of moment
birth & survival
we hold to the canon’s covenant
each day we survey the slow decay
from our recollection of our own youth
jesus knew & still wanted more time
if we can
we will dream of new loves.
© Kenneth Carroll, all rights reserved