Archive: Bring It On Home To Me

by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh

I’ve been busy. A lot has been going on. Good stuff. I’m amazingly happy but busy and preoccupied so this space has been quiet. I don’t know what to fill it with since so much seems to be happening at once. And there are a few things I want to own a little longer before I hand it over to the world.

It’s now 9:50PM and I’ve been sleepy since 8. Tomorrow is a 9:30AM flight to Pittsburgh. I’m performing at Chatham University. I’ve been so busy that this feels like a vacation.

I don’t know where to begin so I’ll leave you with something from the past. I was talking to my dude, Tim about Sam Cooke and our shared love for him so I thought I’d repost this for the Sam lovers and those who need to discover him.

I hope everything is beautiful where you live. I hope everything is working its way towards beautiful if it’s not already. At the very least, know that you are always. I promise.

Love someone and mean it. (mean it. Mean it.)

B.

PS. If you haven’t already, check out my sister love, Suheir Hammad (and other poets) in this month’s issue of O Magazine. She looks gorgeous. I’m so proud of her! She’s my poetry mentor and my sister girl and the light light light of lights.

Lately, I’ve been rediscovering my love of Sam Cooke. I’ve held it since I was 8 but every few months, I become obsessed with his voice, his face, his legend. Find the songs on my Ipod and stretch them out into an endless loop of obscenely clever ad-libs and the kind of soul drenched wailing that can only come from the pit of genius belly. 

I’ve owned 3 separate copies of Sam Cooke: The Man And His Music. Two were stolen, the third, I chased down on EBay. It’s the Japanese import because it is currently out of print in the United States. It was the only copy online. I paid $35 for it. It has since become a scratched and awkward mess. Thank God for Itunes. He lives there and in my MP3 player, Isaac, with only his sweet and smooth to move me. My little brother discovered Sam last week. Was watching VH1 Soul and found a special with endless footage of Sam in motion. He’s had a CD in his car playing mobius since. 

Yesterday, I drove to Anacostia to sit in on a youth writing workshop I’ll take over next week. Windows down because the AC is sporadic in Kebe’s car, I had Sam drifting around me. Cruising down 50 towards SouthEast with Sam’s voice a protective bubble. The day started off with me frustrated and fending off “D”. It ended with me, singing along with Sam as we sailed into city. I couldn’t carry a tune if you handed it to me in a bag of shoes but I was top of my lungs yesterday. I was base of my belly yesterday. I was, having a party. Everybody swinging. Dancin’ to the music. On the radio…”  It was funny to pull up to a car and have them do a double take when they heard Sam and not T-Pain or Akon or Usher. The older heads nodded and a few sang along. A younger cat asked me to turn it down so he could ask me what I was listening to. When I told him he said, “Wow. It’s like that then? Can I go where you goin?”  No, sir. I need this time with Aretha’s original Do Right Man. 

I used to be obsessed with Sam Cooke. When I was a kid there were two men that came closest to rivaling my father in greatness. Sam was one of them, Malcolm X was the other. It’s a credit to my father, that he introduced me to them both. My early memories of life and Stillwater and struggle and my daddy are all played with a Sam Cooke soundtrack. To the point, that for the longest time, I thought all the Marvin Gaye songs I liked were by Sam. I was confused when Marvin was killed when the songs they attributed to him, had Sam’s face in my mind. Was even more broken when I learned at age 8, that I could never meet him. That he had been killed years before I was born. It was the same year I discovered that Little Michael Jackson from the Jackson 5 and Big Michael Jackson from Thriller were the same person (and both now too old to wait for me– I would soon discover that MJ was off limits for many more reasons). It was also the year I discovered that the Huxtables weren’t really married and the “twins” from Parent Trap were one person playing dual roles. The 3rd grade pretty much sucked. 

But I still had Sam. And stillwater. late nights. waiting for him to come home from school. or one of his jobs. me in my room. new sister sound asleep in a crib. in a room that used to be just mine. I used to lie in my bed, underneath the covers with a flashlight. reading. waiting. Radio turned to the only ‘oldie’s station. music a low hum in the background. 
My father usually came home around midnight. Right when the dj played his favorites. I could hear the key turn in the door. open. My father would walk in slowly. quietly. tired. Hang his coat. Then, I imagine he would blink in the dark. Wait for his eyes to adjust, rub his face. Sigh. I heard him walk down the hall into the bedroom he shared with my mother. He’d emerge a few minutes later. Now in his faded yellow pajamas. His footsteps lighter. He would head for the kitchen. My mother always kept food for him warm and waiting in the oven. I remember the soft crinkle of the foil. The clatter of the plate on the table.  The knocking wooosh of the chair. My dad would turn on the stereo in the living room. I remember that wood paneled monstrosity. Legs metal and nearly as tall as me.  8 track. record player. radio. could imagine my father’s face. brown. soft. eyes partially closed. squinting in the dark and searching.  I loved to hear him spin the dial looking for his station. Loved the gibberish of voices being found and then lost. I knew he would find it. The same station I was listening to. The same dj’s voice, I held buried beneath Wonder Woman blanket and 8 year old waiting. 

That’s how I found Sam. His voice cool, comforting, water. There protecting my daddy and me. Soothing my worry. Soothing his weary. “if you ever/ change your mind/ about leaving, leaving me behind/ bring it to me/ bring your sweet loving/ bring it on home to me/yeah.. yeah…” i remember my father’s voice in barely whisper, reaching over Sam’s strong. “yeah… yeah… hmmm hmmmm hmmm”. My dad would fall into a hum, acquiescing to his inability to remember the words to any song. But I understood what the murmers held.  It was Sam cooke that liftedmy father out of the days bent over textbooks; his nights spent cleanign America’s excess from dirty, sticky theatre floors. My father longed for his village but it was Sam that brought him home. Allowed him to sit taller, walk harder, work longer.  Allowed him a steady and clear path back to his baby girls. The eldest of which, often worried that maybe this would be the night that daddy didn’t return, so she fought sleep from the base of her throat. She just wanted to listen with her father.  To create the stories he never shared; to know the past that kept him sometimes home with her, other times coated his homesick and longing for the home of his youth.  
At night we both shared restlessness, both listened, both sang underneath our breaths. We both waited until the song drifted iinto it’s final moments. 
I remember sliding into sleep as the DJ’s voice broke through songs drifting final moments, “that was Mr. Sam Cooke.”

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