Urban Pastoral in Stereo: 3 Audio Pieces by Saleem [h.u.e.] Penny

Inside Rise

my burns are covered with her blood
a blazing heat like a thousand sunrises
my body, wrapped in a magnifying glass of saran wrap,
only intensifying this feeling.

she made it.

i always knew, and hoped, and prayed she would– she did.
sprinting down the pier as if the swells of the ocean,
or the collapsing concrete would consume her if she
to plant her foot, before trusting her weight to it,
i couldn’t keep pace with it,
and this was her procession anyway…

the wake of the air that she parted
knocked me off balance,
and as i stumbled, for a split second,
i saw the transformation beginning
like a tadpole or a butterfly spinning.
her feet were no more a whirl, like a propeller,
like a sunflower’s center,
a conglomeration of chaos, creating a simplicity,
chaos creating a consistency. rhythm.

like windshield-bound rain drops
her clothes were useless,
a weight, not a protection,
an anchor, not a sail.
she released the sandbags,
and the peripheral collapsed,
as her surroundings fell
into the void that time unexpectedly succumbed to earlier
the ocean beneath her,
might have been a deep-navy-blue,
or a clear-pale-silver,
reflecting the radiant red hue
of her body, the fiery-orange of her wings’ crest,
igniting, too searing to see. the heat breathed urgency.

i felt the sweat on my chest bubble to steam,
dizzying with joy, my ears buzzing, threatening to burst,
my flesh, the pitiful barrier, protecting my bones from the brilliance,
praying to be extinguished: with ice, or water, or a breeze,
something cooling, pouring from every direction onto me,
covering my skin, please let this end,
my muscles lost in a syncopated spasm of uselessness,
past the point of no return,
i too yearn for the truth that she earned.

and then i was smearing my hands on my parched eyelids
i can’t move or think or breathe
from my singed hair down to my charred feet,
i’m covered in a paste, grey and brown,
not a sound, it’s night, dark, no flames, not a spark,
all ashes, i’m painted and stained in blood now,
i’m soaking like mud into the ground now,
as this richness dismisses my fear,
i hear a song, far away,
steadily coming my way like the new day,
spreading visions of life without divisions.

i muster the strength to open my eyes–now quenched–
to the west, the stars are receding in the east,
fresh clouds are peaking/peeking their way over the horizon, into my purview
the sunshine now climbs, and see from the inside rise,
with wings spread wide, and glorious trailing plumes,
i see the life in its eyes and you, a new.
built up from the ashes, from the blood, from the pain, from the fire, from the flames
using love to get free, the cycle repeating eternally,
even after time ends, you’ll never be the same again.

Metal Moon

This metal moon that she wore had caught my eye
like a major league ninth inning pop fly
I was mesmerized but not paralyzed
Because my mouth had begun to move
Like a dance to a silent groove
It just began to spin
Words tried to tumble & dip & bend
But became unnerved
See adjectives stumbled with nouns
While adverbs stood up against the wall
Making silly faces at the disco ball

This metal moon she wore was so fly
It had to have come from the sky/ on the starriest night
Because it shown and gave unbelievable light
I don’t know any constellations except the big dipper
And i wanted to just sit there, stare at the sky and be with her
Not go anywhere, or do anything
But be like the sea
Totally contained infinity

This metal that she wore held her hair from her face
But I don’t think she realized that throughout outer space
The darkness needs the light
And sometimes the best a star can do is try
And even those that fall while trying to glide
Leave a trail of magic, tragic, as they die

This metal moon that she wore sat atop her head like a crown
Like the red dot that Hindus rock it marked a very sacred spot
I flashed back to a rocky mountain top
Where i sat in the snow/ and took off my board
Got out a pencil and let loose some words
I felt so alone up there/ above the clouds
looking down/ Feeling lost/ looking found
The tears chilled to my face
as wind whipped wistfully like lady’s lace/
So thin/ the line between where i was and had been
I missed you my friends

This metal moon that she wore was like the scar on the back of my shoulder
I remember the day that i first got it
How the thorn caught a hold of my shirt
And ripped the skin a part
Like we do to each other’s hearts
Sometimes trying to be true and real
Is tougher than training with Navy SEALS
Depends on how you feel:
Free from hurt
Light with love
In the dirt/ Scuffed from a shove
Years have passed and my skin has closed
Where wounds once were laugh lines have grown
Little by little now kudzu thick
Like an un-oiled skillet, memories stick
Sometimes you gotta soak it
Hours later, faded coals can ignite
If you stoke it

This metal moon that she wore was not perfect though i didn’t see this till i got close to it
It had chips, it had cracks, it had spots where the silver lacked,
It was dull, it had grey, there were places where it showed its days
Was it pride, was it shame, insecurity, a need to defame
Moments before, i cast no blame, moments before, i gave life praise

This metal moon that she wore made me fall like October
And in spring like May, i don’t recall much of winter, reapproaching September
Almost a year has come to pass
Since i U-Hauled my life and put it in bags
These tracks and prose, smack the foes that want to hold and make me slow
When it’s time to flow, rivers go, and dams can’t hold
Dreams that grow and break the mold that smooths the folds
I don’t know much but this i know:
If you’re hearing this, you’re one of my people
You are my equal, there is no sequel
This is part 1, 2, and 3
This is the whole trilogy

This metal moon that she wore
It caught my eye, it gripped my soul, it tripped my tongue, it made me young
It let me love, it let me live, it made me trust, it helped me give,
It let me sing and do silly things,
and be sincere, and make mistakes, and always bake an extra cake
For a treat, move your feet, to the beat,
shake the room, like a metal moon.

Lock Turns Left

So with their wisdom in mind
I will try my best to define,
For me,
What home is, and could be:
Turtle shells.
U-Haul trailers.
Black Hefty bags.
Every two years,
Not fleeing, not wandering
But always wondering,

To take the generational leap
From where my great-grandma lies in peace
To being a man riding anywhere I please:
On the bus, from work, a dull back pain from an office seat
Not from toil or labor.
Tight forearms from typing
Not from picking, or scrubbing, or shoe shining.
Headache from an artificially-lit computer screen,
To-do list worries,
I get lost in dreams.

Doors open, green light.
Pull my collar up
A worsted wool shield,
My salvation coat of arms.
A barrier, a protector.
When I step to the curb, this time
It will be with purpose, measured deference,
An acknowledgement that,
I am
Because of what other people couldn’t be.

Sidewalk heels ahead, echo
Sneakers behind me, shuffle
So many spider webs in the foyer recently
A strange greeting,
Come close traveler,
Head the widow’s creed:
“The less you carry, the greater your chance, of breaking free.”

How can something as light as silk
Hold so much unease?
I ponder, as I turn my keys
Clockwise to click,
Up 3 flights,
Hallway, shoes off
Then pause at the knob
This lock turns left,
And I release, a breath,
To take a weightless step
Across the hearth, closer to my heart.

I know this space.

With eyes closed
I let my hand glide along the shelves
Spines of books, legs of tables,
Feet of chairs,
When I move, the floor creaks with me.
Echoing my ankles, I’m a cypress knee
A creature that burrows,
Home is my rabbit hole.
A pond before winter,
When all aquatic life is preparing to out-weather death,
Or just after spring,
When the living that remains,
Solemnly send their dead to the sea.

I wish the refrigerator wasn’t so bright at night,
And that the left front burner would consistently ignite,
And the radiator wasn’t covered in 3 coats of shellac,
But these first-world worries merely fill the void of not having
To forage or struggle for my sustenance,
Of having multiple flavors and seasonal choices,
To check an app for the forecast,
Not having to huddle under plastic, atop cardboard, beneath an underpass.

Home is just that indeed:
A place where it is safe to face uncertainty.

Because someone you love is there,
Beside you, or in picture frames, or in the steam of cider on a Sunday,
And something sacred is near:
A rocking chair, that t-shirt that doesn’t fit, a wooden box, rings.
Although ‘final notices’ may pile atop the counter for weeks
Teetering at the edge of mathematical probability,
Gravity will win, and send the sediment to the bottom again.
And hope, the eternal surfactant, will dissolve fear to shreds.

Trails of broken chain links and splintered wooden fence
Post no bills. See,
It all depends
On what side of the window you look in.
He sees bricks, she sees paint
I see drywall, you see rain
Musings sent on the wind
To find you,
Heading home, again.

Saleem [h.u.e.] Penny is a Chicago-based “rural hip-hop blues” artist with strong ties to Pisgah Forest, NC and deep roots in Monck’s Corner, SC. His work seeks to reclaim the pastoral moments embedded in urban landscapes. He explores how young adults of color traverse wild spaces and come to define freedom, shelter, community, and solitude on their own terms. He utilizes electronic music, collage painting, and improvisational performance to punctuate his poetry. Find him at hueart.org and on twitter/Instagram @huedotart.


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