Donte Collins- Live at Honey

Curated By Ralph

"The Road Not Taken" is a source of inspiration for me, because it encourages me to seize opportunities and chart my own course in life.

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Donte Collins, performing at Honey in Minneapolis, MN.

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Oh hey What's up okay we have to give another Round of applause for everyone who Performs please yes I'm not even gonna lie I am in my Feelings I am feeling everything I'm Sitting there and I'm thinking that a Lot of my bravery Um and my courage to come up here and Perform and share is the imitation of my Friends you know like they're bravery Like they can do it or I could I can do It so thank you for performing Um All right can you uh help me with Something I just need to call in Response it gets me grounded um yeah Just repeat after me I am alive I am alive In this space In this space Therefore this space Must be alive Thank you My mother moved out of her body Decided it was no longer Worthy it Couldn't contain her laughter she Couldn't obey the house rules of human Her spirit that young and fresh fever Wanted to call the night her dance club Wanted to try on new clothes Stay out later My mother now wears the world

Dresses herself with the tall grass Blushes her cheeks with red clay She laughs and the forest fire awakens She laughs and every Mountain bows to Her sharp Thunder She laughs and each cicada begins to Sing Last night Saint Paul was cloaked in Steam Fog traveled from some distant heat no I Think You've got it all wrong Someone must have asked my mother to Dance [Applause] All right Orphan The lawyer says you are not orphans as Long as you have each other Like any good orphan he took up Gardening attempts to forgive the Earth The orphan mothers his own origin Autopsy They would have found dandelion seeds Had they done the autopsy They would have found a field of burning Lavender had they cut her open Other things they would have found Vineyard of charred candle wicks Fraying wicker broom Grocery bag of unopened letters Garage of rusting tap shoes coffee Stained divorce papers divorce papers Stuffed in a shoe box divorce papers

Framed on the wall Garden of swinging dandelion basement Brimming with box cutters wedding rings Singed beneath Ash wedding rings severed At the mouth wedding ring bent and to Bobby pin grocery bag of other rolled up Grocery bags an oak foot-powered sewing Machine two antique hair dryers Washboard and elbow grease grocery bag Of clean Rags Forest of ripening plums Cupboard of chipped plates collection of Cast iron skillets instructions on how To properly play sequins rusted tin box Spilling with recipes receipts Court Gavels one for each child ass tray of Such pennies a badge and a bad hip White Flag stained red two infant black girl Hands Extended longing to be held Um [Applause] So I'm really bad at banter 2 Fatima we Share that um I'm better at poems than In my banter so I'm Gonna Keep it keep It short And I'm super awkward too I hope that's Okay Um word Um also I was supposed to time myself Oh you That's oh okay cool Seriously I was supposed to give like a 15 minute presentation for my uh history Class and I talked for like 45 minutes It was bad it was really bad

Um Thank you thank you You asked for a beginning I speak to you of a ship Sailing my blood There was a continent mistook for a Country mistook for a cake and then a Feast Ghost white hands licking Brown bodies From their fingers Auction Swelter Fade to Black And then my birth a red ocean coughs up A kicking boy and then the ocean recedes You ask for more specific biology I Speak of wind Of invisible blood of moon lit flight of A boy floating from hospital to foster Home to foster home until finally a Woman picks the boy made entirely of Sand until finally she teaches him to Spell his tired name in you ask for a Name you ask for an ID a certificate a Photo you ask and ask listen once I said Adopted and the class fainted with Laughter once I called a stranger my Father because the lunch table began to Grow teeth I know Because the lunch table began to grow Teeth The good thing about having a book is That if you forget the poem you can pick Up the book

[Applause] If I can find it There it is What happens after the lunch table Begins To grow Teeth I know I have a body It is solid I have a navel like an x on a map easy Evidence of some lost country some Removed mother some Unearthed grief a Voyage away from that song Drunk land Adoption the most beautiful Erasure the Most successful punchline a lineage Snapped at the neck the nurse back to Flight look at the boy with water for Blood look at the boy twice removed from His identity do not ask me if I know to Whose body I belong do not ask me which Are my real siblings if blood is thicker Than water than love must be thicker Than both must be some new soft country Some damp fertile dirt perhaps I was Born and then Born Again perhaps I am Here without a language without a Lantern to lead me home but look At the Moon making sugar of its light And look at each hair of grass and Aiming themselves and sure I exist like A gust of wind the truancy of some slow Erasure sure the orphan mothers his own Tongue sure I am here like everything's Busy child like a handprint left in the

Sand [Applause] Um so this poem I'll be parts of it um The entire poem is uh 13 stanzas 13 lines per stanza and then 13 Syllables in each line and it's after Patricia Smith who's amazing can we make Some noise for Patricia Smith she's Awesome I was like young and stalking Her videos on YouTube and I saw she was Giving a lecture and she said that she Gave her students for the final was to Write this poem with the with that sort Of um with the numbers All around the age of 13 and what it Means to be 13. and so I was like I'm Gonna do it too because why not uh cool So I'll read some sections of that Cool They ask you to prove it Describe its pink perfectly You are lying and looking down you are Thinking of clever ways to creep out of The conversation they ask if you used a Condom you consider your options think It cool to say no because you're too raw For that to acts cologne and black Muscle shirt more shirt than muscle more Mask than masculine you say soft it felt Good went in one hour and the games Begin how straight can you pretend to be What new sex story Can you steal from TV And wear like padded muscles you soft Knuckle boy with question marks for

Teeth you lunch table magician spinning Tails from thin air the thing about Masks is someone always sees the string Behind your head Neon green skinny jeans Fro Hawk died hot Cheeto red the new Boys just released I'm a jerk in seventh Grade burst into a carnival of cut up Khakis spiked glasses Clorox bleach Goodwill box polo shirts we glue glitter On frazzled handmade capris and dance as If trying to escape the devil craft Death defying routines of knee drops and Gliding spin recess choosing teams and Battling to music made with our mouths Gender doesn't exist when everyone wants To move their hips grind prance wobble And wear their sisters tight denims you The class conductor the color queen of Rhythm with Kool-Aid in your hair are Finally free I found a way to squeeze Fagotry into a year-long fad Foreign You can't come over unless you pass my Mother's background test unless you're Unless my mom spoke with your mom two Months before and plan to cook a meal Together unless your mom makes you wash Dishes with hot water too unless your Mom make unless your mom has checked for Lice and don't mind Marvin Gaye sobbing To the stereo unless my mom knows if Your mom washes her greens before they Touch the stove unless your shoes stay

At the front door too unless your grades Are better than mine you can't come over Unless it's a weekend and your homework Is checked unless you brought church Clothes and a face towel unless your mom Voted for Obama both times unless you Know how to pull a weed from the root Unless you know my mother don't play Mm-hmm 13. And everything is a mirror And you can't decide what to wear How to please everyone and still like What you got on Your birthday two months away and Mom Can't find her lipstick things aren't Charlotte took it the same summer Sherman tells you to throw away your Purple scarf and you do and you laugh Less because Uncle Paul say a smiling Boy is a sweet boy so you flex your jaw And you watch your walk become a weapon To protect your sisters with 14 is a Shirt too big for your meager shoulders Your journals and private browsing 14 Ain't got no room for your pretty words Or clean nails Role models of mechanical tools give you A hammer to become So you throw yourself at the glass [Applause] So I have the complete honor of being The first youth Poet Laureate of Saint Paul which is super super cool

And with that I um I got to write Another chat book it's small it's also For sale Um it's in conversation obviously with My first one Um it's called softer and I think I'll Read some from that if that's cool yeah Um so I'm adopted Wild and Um I recently met my birth parents and that Is so strange for me because I literally Thought my whole life that they're like I don't know either ghosts or like God Or like dead you know like just like but From you know from thinking that to like Seeing them is super strange so I wrote About it and yeah I'll share that piece Um it's a crown of sonnets and it's it's Called the crown for my birth mother Hushed in a lilac gown You dare show up in your body You did not appear fog cloaked and Cradling the Atlantic not wind spun and Soaked in champagne shells you did not Brilliantly float in above the hardwood Rain haired and singing nor did you Ascend like sweet smoke from damp Furwood not Moon bathed or beaded with Stars you did not unfold one loosened Bone at a time from beneath my tongue Bewildered to my younger giraffes you Not Thunder mumbling my name you not the Slick morning field or the Blue Jays

Dire call you did not emerge moss Covered in hatching no gold or Remorseful God to help you down marble Stairs no You use the door No You use the door You want to know how I have been how Have you been you want a picture in the Garden you want a picture near the stove The table the back steps you want to Stand in the middle Smile Smile another You are wearing 21 years of distance you Want a picture for every year you want Each picture sent to your phone I I'm watching the saliva gather at the Crease of your lips I think of crawling inside Linda don't you know your bones are Greedy moons tugging at the Sea of My Blood At the Sea of my blood at the foot of The copper Oak at the bend and the Autumn Road the boy names each departing Leaf the boy touches the bark and Becomes it the boy blooms a nest and Waits translation I looked at my hands I Thought the mapping my Palms stood for Mother a note she left saying she'll be Back don't worry silly I know I was Seven in searching sitting in therapy With no language for longing you have a New mother Dante look at your mother Your mother loves you I don't believe

Him I look away I bite my tongue I want To ask where are you from when you are Made almost entirely of leaving Thank you [Applause] Okay so Donald Trump I just want to Say that Coca-Cola And I feel like people are so like Ambivalent or vague about it I'm like no that like him you're right Like Um cool uh Lately When asked how are you I respond with a name no longer living Rakia Jamar Sandra Philando I'm alive by luck at this point I wonder often if the gun that will Unmake me is yet made What white birth will bury me How many bullets like a flock of blue Jays will come carry my black to its Final bed Which photo will be used to water down My blood Today I did not die and there is no God Or law to thank the bullet missed my Head and landed in another today I Passed a mirror and did not see a body Instead a suggestion

A debate a blank Post-It note there Looking back I haven't enough room to both rage and Weep I go to cry and each tear turns to steam I say I matter I matter And the ghost White Hand appears over my Mouth [Applause] Okay I'll read this one I haven't read This one in a while so I'm gonna have Fun with it it's called whiteness shops For a prayer and it's Um Yeah After 9 11 George Bush told people to go Out and shop Um That's weird How do you pray does it involve a Keyboard is it in 140 characters or less Does it have a barcode does it have a Wikipedia page is it in English is it Tax deductible Does it include all lives Is your prayer gluten free is it safe Around children is there an Abridged Version is your prayer an all-purpose Cleaner natural selection can it get out The black can it clean up the tough Stains of your prayer running for President can your prayer run does it do Yoga is it active I don't understand can

You translate can you teach me can you Teach is it articulate where can I get One where is it from is it in right now Is it spicy will it burn my tongue does It come with anything else compound Interest buy one get one free is it Exclusive can I join do I have to close My eyes or can I just post it does it Hang well polyester silk is it safe Online does it have a Facebook option Paris filter does it love it's country It has to love its country was it born Here is it pre-washed will it attack my Opinion does it come with a leash how Much is it reusable which religion can I Crop it one size fits all where was it Made can you prove it is it carbonated Is it domestic is it domesticated is it Sharp is it natural where is it from Does your prayer have papers does it Come with instructions how does it look Does it bite how does it look does it Fit how does it look how does it look How does it look does it come in white Thank you [Applause] Um Thank you How am I doing on time Oh cool okay cool Awesome 10 more minutes I'm so bad at times Okay I'm gonna do I'm gonna use just Random poems usually I try to add some

Whatever but I I'm gonna do poems that I don't Usually read out loud yeah okay Um So this is called teething a crumbling Pantoon In my worst dream All of my teeth fall out I awake like a fire choking on air teeth Are the hardest substance in the human Body suddenly I am the boy defined by What he has lost I awake as a fire choking on air and the Mother sharpens my name with her tongue Widows it down to suddenly I am The boy defined by what is given to him What is a dream if not the mind pulling Ribbons from my throat the mother Sharpens my skin with whittles me Down with Leviticus the uncle says one Gay nephew has flooded enough what are Teeth if not the telling of which parts Of you most easily soften when sweet to Be queer and black is to walk out of the Closet into a casket my queer says my Black is flooded enough the mother says Confession says communion drink the Blood says to be straight to be calm to Pray to kneel eager with a ready mouth Before God and what is left to do but Pluck the Bones from my face [Applause] This next poem what the entire book is About usually it's mostly about the

Passing of my mom and uh being raised by Her and I I don't have any other Language to describe that Um My childhood so I'll use my brother Lamar he says he says it wasn't love but It was beautiful and I think that names It and I think and I hope the book uh Captures that Um but I didn't know that my mom Couldn't have children she adopted 11 Children before she passed and uh I I Only knew that and like you know she Told me casually uh maybe like three Years ago at dinner or something so I Wrote a poem Say Father And each letter becomes a bird fleeing My mind's nest Ask where and the F will curl itself Beneath my mother's chin Waiting for grief that chewed and still Kicking worm to drop into its ready Mouth Ask of the divorce and the a hurls Itself into every window of that house Each thump a cracked an unanswered neck Carpeting the lawn divorce how pretty a Name for such a sloppy wreckage and Maybe it was a slow decision one letter Collected for every new child he found My mother's my mother nursing in the Kitchen didn't like all of the Stray

Cribs crowding the entry must have Curled his lip as she offered adoption As she would as she would soup a second Option when all the good meat has gone Sour when the good woman body is said Spoiled for what it cannot produce when A black woman body is not a body but now A napkin he uses to wipe his mouth full Of what my Mother's Hands have made [Applause] How much time do I have left Five minutes cool I'm gonna I'm gonna do Two more poems cool awesome thank you Thank you this is amazing Um I have to say I have to share a small Story that the so thank you to Button Poetry and the first time I performed Here was that Aziza Barnes book release And that was the first chat book I Believe that button put out yeah so That's wild for me to like be a you know Opener to having a book thank you I'm Grateful I'm grateful for that thank you Okay so this poem is for my brother Lamar Um he's amazing uh and the story is that My mom always said that she dreamed About him before that before she adopted Him and so when she saw him for the First time she was like oh my God I was Dreaming about you and it was beautiful And so I wrote a poem about it and my Brother he's like I don't know he just Thinks that's like a small story but I'm

Like that is so beautiful so I wrote a Poem about it Okay it's called adoption day coming Home If to die means to dream forever To live among the shapeless and hovering I know what story keeps my mother's com My mother company if you knew her you Knew about the dream the one where her Fruitless body wished for the Plum-skinned boy and then the boy walks Through her front door if you did not Know her here It was like she saw a ghost just like That a ghost jumped up and everything Damn near jumped out her skin hollering About some dream just like Mary ain't it Dreaming of ghosts just like her damn Near damn near scared the children damn There made the social worker send your Back hollering like she was said she's Seen him before your brother jumped up His bones said she labored him every Night for nine months every night she Said crying like she'd be and it like Mary always crying always took his face Between her Palms real tight like she Was praying like his face was the New Testament weeping like she was and she Was examining his face like fruit Looking for a bruise some birthmark some Evidence only she could understand your Mother child child your mama boy your Mother must have found it must have seen

What she was looking for must have fell In love must have wept the Red Sea and That's when she jumped she did flame Like screaming like she was it's him Kept saying it's him her tears Drawn Lines on his face his face wide-eyed and Puffy his face a fruit rinsed clean held Him close held you too breathless and Sweating like she just gave birth like Y'all was blood or panting uncovered and Hers he was there don't you remember was Nothing but two years old couldn't have Your mother was Boy your mom child your Mother was all something else I don't remember this bloodless birth Our second mother holding our small Bodies to her breast but I know what Happened I've seen the photos I've met The strangers who I hear took turns Carrying me on their shoulders and I Will not beg you to believe this gentle Miracle this impossible bedtime story Shared whenever we needed a reminder of Who we belong to how strange now that She is gone and we are the ones rushing Home to sleep hoping to lay down our Grief hoping if only for a moment she Appears laughing in our dreams [Applause] All right I have one more poem and I'm Out [Applause] So this poem is the last poem in the Book it's called long story short and

Now I've heard that phrase before long Story short so my mom when my mom told Long stories And she would say long story short but This story would not be sure and she Would say it like many times within the Story so it's like you know so I wrote a Poem called long story short it's after My mother Someone who is dead now taught you how Best to clean up your blood Then how to clean up blood when it is Not your own How to push from your elbow properly Sweep a floor spell continue three Syllables Dante go on and like a god or A bird or a boy salted with grief you Want the Earth to kneel for you want Every clock to confess its slick motive To say suddenly that death is only a Joke the Earth's biggest punch line She's been gone fifteen thousand eight Hundred and forty minutes and you have Felt the Godless storm of each of them Are waiting for your mother to walk into Her funeral to sit next to all of her Children at once to lean into the soft Of her shoulder for her to whisper it's Okay son I'm here now I'm here Thank you [Applause]

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