Rasheed Copeland is a renowned poet raised in Washington, DC. He placed 2nd in the world at the 2015 Individual World Poetry slam and has also competed as a member of DC’s 2010 and 2011 Busboys and Poets 11th hour slam team. As the 2010 NUSPA (National Underground Spokenword Award) winner for “Best Performance Male” he has featured at various venues along the east coast including the Lincoln Theatre, the Howard Theatre, the prominent Busboys and Poet’s as well as the Legendary Spit Dat. He is currently studying English at the undergraduate level at Howard University.
Teaching my son to cook.
As with everything you do,
do this with love. Do not fear the fire
bend it to your understanding.
Do not dream of the charred.
Instead, remember the polished gold.
Remember the smell of gingerbread
painting the room with a bouquet
coaxed out of the dough by the blaze
like a soul called by God out of its body.
remember the things welded by flame
like your mother and I.
The first time you are burned by the stove
forgive it like the first lover
who touched your heart with cold hands.
Forgive it like you know
the only alternative is to starve yourself.
Know that if hearts really broke
I would’ve wrote you this
from beyond the grave
and you would not even
have your mother’s face.
Sometimes you will cook
and no one will eat.
And that is not wasted love
that is how we learn to swallow
a feast’s worth of pride.
That is the time we take to cry
and feed all the people we are
on the inside.
silence is for soufflé
and you will never stop
the sound of someone’s voice
from collapsing your insides
on any given day.
If it is too hot, open a window
You stay but never stew.
Know your way around a kitchen
just as well as you know
your way around your face.
Shrimp and Grits
Before the sadiddy embarked on their pilgrimage,
in search for a more organic and gluten free oxygen,
to this part of hell that I am indigenous to,
before they stabbed the concrete to death
with flags for the right to sit curbside at bistros
on Sabbath days coating their throats with mimosas
and inhaling eggs benedict in peace,
or at least until the church benedictions
set free all those who did not die of broken hearts
or under the crushing weight of their housing bills
that caught virus and swelled past anything their pockets
could cure, when that first settler sneezed and plagued
their entire block, or at least it’s landlords with affluenza.
Before that dilemma, I knew brunch
Not as a celebration spawned from pandemic to bitter me
but as a ritual of the lazy morning born from yesterday’s insomnia
a sloppy feast of whatever survived the night’s hunger
and braved the skillet just to mate with the others
that were spared at breakfast.
This was way before I could either pronounce or cook “shrimp”
Before I knew how well they wed with grits
-that which the old folks called “hominy”
and always hit my young ears like “harmony”
Although there is nothing musical about how the prawns
surrender and sink into the thick of its maize quicksand
reminding me of how I am no longer on top of things
of how this city seems to be swallowing me,
but I am learning to forgive it and cope with it all.
Just the other day, I went to butterfly a shrimp
And wept at how a knife to its back, somehow created it wings.
Self-Portrait of Spaghetti boy
His smile, is a marinara stain
he gladly received from watching
episodes of “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”
until the point where maybe he believed
his spaghetti was made with monster’s blood
and thus needed to be wolfed down with no reprieve
or regard for neatness.
His skin so marbled and beautiful
that it summoned all the children
at school who never wiped their eyes
of the looks they saw their parents’
steal from out the sweet spot
between a cotton field and a kitchen,
the looks they gave to peculiar things
they knew not of how to translate into beauty.
The gaze that shattered some of their mirrors
and even the very children who saw in him,
a portrait of a pickaninny, who’s hair was twice
the kink of theirs, with each strand so tightly fetal
that his scalp looked more like a bed-less orphanage
with everyone sleeping on the floor
than it did the safe house of his thoughts
that it actually was
where he sometimes cursed his parents
for handing down to him his color
like an illness that ran through the family
and kept running off his body and scaring away
all the light skin girls who’s shine made
the ones plagued with the same skin of dusk as him
disappear into the combined hatred of everyone
and only allowed to resurface
once they set themselves
ablaze in bleaching cream
and arose a phoenix with the bluest eye
shed and clean of their hide of ash.