Guest Writings
 05/11/03 Today At The Graveyard, A Poetical Prose Letter Essay by Shaikh Ibrahim Al-Jahizz M'Backe

(for my Photography Queen and Sister, Sharon Farmer)

    "What lies behind us and before us
    are small matters compared to what
    lies within us."

    - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sharon, everyday i try to get physical and spiritual exercise by taking a long walk through the rolling hills and on the sometimes sharp winding roads of the Indianapolis Crown Hill Cemetery. Today, Rabia and Ali were with me. When i returned home, i found your voice on my answering machine. i had to listen to it twice before i realized it was my sister, My Photography Queen. After being here all day working at things on this crazy jack-leg computer i have, i realized that as soon as i had left the house you must have called. 

Yes, i often walk in the graveyard... There, i don't have to worry about some stupid idiot walking up to me talkin' ‘bout, "hey man, you lookin’?" And i have to respond by saying, "naw man, i ain’t lookin' at nothin' but this crack in the sidewalk as i try to hurry up to get away from your dope peddlin' stupid meddlin' ass! ...Come up’ta me lookin' like Count Dracula, Frankenstein, the Werewolf, and the Mummy, or some modern day existential version in surround sound DVD of the Creature From The Black Lagoon, now a living reality — whisperin’ whistlin’, runnin’, walkin’, stalkin’, and talkin’ on miniature lookin’ cell phones with earrings in both ears and their noses - should be academy award nominees, low-life gangster wanna-be’s, actin’ all important, though ignorant and self impotent - while creepin', fartin’, stainkin’, jerkin’, lurkin’, laughin’, smirkin’, cursin’, and pissin’ in beeen apartment buildings, on the side of people’s front porches, on and in bushes, front and back yards, on sidewalks, up against trees, out in the open air. ...Pants hangin’ all down they’ legs with they’ behind and filthy skid-marked drawers in full view, sometimes crawlin’ on their hands and knees in the Black Community like the dog eat dogs they are... for real! ...Hiding up, in, and behind abandoned houses and garages, sneakin’ in and out of trash-filled alleyways, low-dow olloween caricatured goulish lookin’ creatures, proud and shameless, arrogant and defiant, disrespectful and disgraceful, distasteful and most hateful. ...Hip-hoppin'ta prison, and quickly dyin’ta be graveyard bound, fly by night entrepreneurs, tryin’ta sell me some life defyin’, self denyin’, mind paralyzin’ drugs! 

In the graveyard, i can think most clearly in the profound silence about what is most real in life for me without worrying about who wants to rob me or challenge my dignity and manhood; or without having to impress someone with where i went to school, how many degrees i possess, how much money I’m making on my job, or how many important people i know. In the graveyard, i always come to realize that the only thing we leave this life with is our good deeds or evil deeds. That here in the graveyard, we don't take any of our poems, songs, clothes, money, fame, notoriety, sexuality, houses, or land, or even any of our family or friends. In the graveyard, the air is unpolluted by city traffic and second-hand cigarette smoke; no delectable char-broiled T-Bone Steaks, no Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey with gorgeous rich brown unlumped gravy, no Smothered Curried Lambchops with Portabella Mushrooms, no exquisite Filet Mignon, no delicious Shrimp Scampi or Steaming Oysters on the half shell, and no Cherry Cobbleor Lemon Meringue pies are being eaten and digested here; no Sleepy Time Tea or wake me up early in the morning Folger’s Hazelnut Flavored Coffee; no Cannabis Sativa, no Heroine, Psychic Mushrooms, or Peyote is served here; no Angel Dust, LSD, Ecstasy, or Methamphetamines; no Mad Dog, Ripple, Thunderbird, Wild Irish Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Dom Perignon Wines; no Scotch on the Rocks, Rum and Coke, or Long Island Ice Teas are being tasted or swallowed; and no drunkards are stumbling around here. Inte graveyard there is no cursing, pornography, child molestation, serial killings; and no presidential elections are being held. In the graveyard, there is no Muddy waters, Roscoe Gordon, Howlin’ Wolf, or B.B. King Blues, no Lionel Hampton or Kenny G., no Avant Garde John Coltrane, or Pharaoh Saunders Saxophone’s blowin', cryin’, or wailin’; no basketball playin’ by the Los Angeles Lakers; no late great Josephine Baker or Nina Simone Solos ringing; no Harlem Boy’s Choir is sinin, or Sweet Honey In The Rock acapella folk melodies prophesying, blending, and righteously ascending; no Duke Ellington Jazz or Sacred Concerts are being performed, no Punk-Rock, Rap, or P-Funk Brides of Funkenstein base lines to wiggle and squiggle to; no Amos and Andy re-runs to view, no Heavy Metal or Head-Banger music to listen through; no Rave, no distractions, no debates or arguments, no racism, loud banging discordant noises, screams, or yells; no Strenuous Onus here; no prostitution, and in this lac of space and dimension, no guns are being bought or shot and no wars are being fought, lost, or won. And what is most real and ubiquitous is right there before us - our very own ominous individual mortality. And here, in the graveyard, there is another beginning to this end - to what most folk think and live, as though it is the Great Grand Forever. In the graveyard, i realize that what is most necessary and absolute is the ability to love and forgive; and that without having realized these two most imortat virtuous qualities which blot out negative frivolities, we were dead before we died and never really lived at all; that without these two sacred and righteous attributes, we just spent a lifetime among the living walking dead.

Often i visit the soul of the great poet James Whitcomb Riley, who lies holy framed and immortalized forever within the laws of Divine Cosmic Masonry; concretized, enshrined systematically, and hermetically sealed - schematically, symmetrically, mathematically, and astrologically perfect, on the highest point of this Graveyard's landscape, where the sun, moon, stars, and planetary equinoxes move and groove in unified mystical celestial song and praise - high up above the horizoned hemisphere, biosphere, and stratosphere, throughout the eternal solar years, within the open white pillared enclosure where i often have profound spiritual and political disclosure, as i sometimes meditate, sleep, dream, and recapitulate my own poetical verses.

But today, i visited the tomb of John Hubert Dillinger Jr., the notorious gangster from Indiana, who helped a lot of poor folks with the money he stole from the rich white folks and their banks. He was really a 1930’s Robin Hood. Yes, that’s how strong he stood. Of course, when they tell his story, they don’t talk much about that part at all; and not many people visit his grave because they think he was such a terrible individual. i think that’s awful and terribly pitiful, on behalf of the judgments that people make without knowing anything but partial facts. Like who in their right mind would eat a half baked cake? i told him, i understand; it was the depression, things were tight, and that he was really a great warrior who might have gone in another direction if someone had been there to show him a better way. I told him, i realized that he was courageous, and a real hero that the FBI was terrified of, and that the only way they could deal with him was through the betrayal of a false feme friend who jived and connived in red dress deception and multiple lies - who helped them to shoot him down in murderous fashion, like a dog on a polluted Chicago city street as he emerged from a relaxing visit to the Manhattan Melodrama Biograph Theatre cinema show. i asked Allah, The Majestic and Glorious, who truly knows, to forgive him and keep his soul covered with Mercy and Grace, and to allow his good deeds to outweigh his evil deeds. Yes, i prayed for John Hubert Dillinger Jr’s soul in my vistto the graveyard today.

In the graveyard today, i was also thinking of you and how true friendship doesn't have to be qualified by what you can give and do for someone materially - that true friendship is a gift from the Holy ONE and belongs to the heart, spirit, and soul, and cannot be destroyed by the vicissitudes of time, space, place, and distance. And when i emerged from the graveyard today, i realized i was once again in the midst of so many living-dead, selfish, and insensitive folks, who as of yet don't realize how short time is and that each day is another opportunity to make the world a better place by replacing injustice with justice, falsehood with truth, hate with love, darkness with light. And that even beyond a civic responsibility, they most definitely have a spiritual and human responsibility to do everything in the short span of their little lives to make these things a definite reality for the generations that are yet to come.

In the graveyard today, i measured the dashes between the time people are born and people die. You can’t see this with your physical eyes though or measure them with a material ruler. Today in the graveyard, i saw something with the eye of my heart and soul - that if i want my dash to extend forever, i must live as though i belong to a state and condition called forever... ...That i cannot be afraid of life or death and have a long dash - that a long dash can only belong to those who give their lives for the sake of humanity, who know the meaning of karmic reciprocity, sincere sacrifice, and profound redemptive suffering, and who are sensitive and true to what is most real about being an authentic human being. In the graveyard today, i saw that some dashes were extremely short and that some dashes were extensively long.

Today, when i returned home from my walk in the graveyard, i realized i had missed a phone call from a very special beautiful living friend, who has touched us all with her essence in photography and music. i was sad to realize that i had missed talking directly to her, but she has received this writing from me instead. It is the authentic word of her friend's experience called, today at the graveyard, and i already know she will find something meaningful for herself therein. i know she realizes as i, that if we try hard enough in this life, we might, and can end up, taking a few exceptional pictures with us when we have to leave.


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