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Sole Variations

“I wish I could remember the one I loved.” A young poet from Brooklyn investigates his past, present and potential future in life and love through verse, melody, and New York City. A man, his relationships, his family, and his community all come together in this unique short film conceived from the poetry of Kareem Lucas, directed by Korey Jackson and starring the poet himself in his own words.

AIRED: August 27, 2021 | 0:27:28
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TRANSCRIPT

[ Birds chirping ]

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When I look in her eyes, a revival erupts from my chest.

Thousands of tents spring from the foreground of my bosom.

Soft fingers eagerly stomach a complicated repast.

Fresh palms preach sacred psalms,

beating brilliant gospels

throughout the valley of my breasts.

Salvation is discovered

the moment her pupils focus on me.

[ Chuckles ]

Teaching the son of Abraham.

the reason, the why is her.

Moments before were bread crumbs that led me to you.

I don't know what comes after. I don't know your name yet.

But you baptize me in the pools

located underneath your eyelids that you kind of smile with.

It's damn near stylish,

like her crow's-feet are wearing stilettos.

I think I fell in love with a girl.

I just don't know which one it was.

Her name escapes me.

Yet when she walked down the street,

her hips hovered over the rickety concrete

like fresh-blown smoke

swaying through the still night air.

In slow shapes of backward S's,

she would spell out her snake-like intentions

on the blank page of my face, which did not face her face.

In her, I saw something, so I had to say something.

Hey.

God didn't rest on the seventh day.

He created you for fun to beat his drum,

to warn all other entities,

if they come within your pull, they will have no other choice

but to continually curl their pathhhhhh

to orbit you,

damned to perform periodic revolutions

to celebrate your existence.

For instance, hell equals space subtracted by you.

[ Laughs ]

I wish I could remember the one I love.

Maybe it was the intelligent empath,

gifted with the charm and grace of a queen.

Whenever she was pregnant with a pause, she birthed a moment,

a stillborn memory that would grow until it became a legend.

By the end of our first communion,

we had begot about six or seven memories,

and then we named each one and cared for them

as if they were our children.

Nourished on nostalgia,

conceived in joy,

becoming lingering legends of our communion.

For what is a legend but a magical retelling of the past.

I have dated so many different types,

but only one has been close to my kind.

Her beauty was like a frown.

I only appreciated it when it was upside down.

So every time I looked at her right side up,

my straight thoughts became crooked,

being bent out of shape by the disproportionate amounts

of anger, frustration, and disappointment

I held towards her while I held on to her

during this breathing time.

[ Lighter clicking ]

Her head burrowed in the trenches of my lap

while I distance myself in the sniper's tower,

waiting for an open shot to prove my point as right

because she's always wrong.

Looking at this upside-down frown.

[ Chuckles ]

I miss the moments that grew into legends,

long for that slow smoke

that hovered over the rickety concrete,

yearned for a complicated repast.

Instead of Monopoly, we played monogamy and got bored of games.

I just wish she would smile for me.

I miss her smile.

I really want to see her smile.

But the funny thing is, if she'd smile,

I'd think it was a frown

'cause I'm still looking at her upside down.

♪♪♪

Don't worry. It wasn't you.

Maybe you.

And I don't know you. [ Laughs ]

So many yous.

Dead lovers that haunt my heart.

Single memories that ridicule the mistakes

that doomed my failed relationships,

setting the bar where boozy spirits

are mixed into one big cocktail.

I'm drunk in love,

hung over depression, wrestling with this question,

because I think I fell in love with a girl.

Then I stood up.

That love wasn't enough to make our relationship last.

Now she's a girl I barely remember from my past.

[ Sighs ]

Oh, wow.

We were too casual to be significant.

So now we date others,

and her smell still lurks underneath my covers.

Next time I fall in love,

I'm going to remember more than a frown.

I'm gonna write her name down.

Hey.

[ Laughs ]

Baby steps.

♪♪♪

[ Keys jingle ]

[ Door opens, closes ]

[ Breathing heavily ] [ Bed creaking ]

[ Moans ]

What am I thinking?

Nothing.

The truth would hurt her. So that's how I answer.

She finally rolls over after minutes spent investigating

the thoughts swirling through my mind.

The way she looks at me signals I've been caught in a lie,

yet she's too satisfied to untangle it.

I'll never tell her.

Every time I'm with you, I feel like a villain,

a horrible heel to your hero,

an unwanted robber who breaks your focus,

climbs into your bed, and steals your heart.

I rip you off each time we touch lip to lip,

these fleshy ministers of passion

attempting to save two sinning souls with a kiss.

The sweet taste of salvation we always miss.

No tongues come forward to confess,

so words are traded for movements.

This is the section of choreography

where I abduct your treasured organ while you lay asleep,

rolling through brave dreams distinguished by firm character.

I am not the right type to play the hero,

so I will audition for the villain.

I promise I won't break your heart.

I'll just lease it out at a discounted price

to those who seek to possess your love,

but no matter how much you try to be wooed or even subdued,

I will always receive your affections in perpetuity.

You are my bottom, bitch.

You belong to me.

Don't ever leave me.

That may be honest, but it's not very romantic.

So we spoon together and lie apart.

Her lines are improvised.

And what am I thinking?

Nothing.

I love old black women.

They're amazing, especially the fat ones.

They're just so happy to be alive.

Thank God for waking them up.

She baked a cake for you just 'cause she felt like it.

They are so kind to other people and nonconfrontational,

except when you talk back to them and they whup your ass.

They always have your back,

taking the time to listen to all the little children

because they've buried scores of familiar bodies

underneath the rocks of ages

whose pebbles clog their fingertips.

They've lived so long, their scars have scratches

grooved into the skin.

They love so often, it feels like a sin

not smiling when eyes meet.

[ Indistinct whispering ]

Her speech is laid out with a warm greet.

This life is a fashion show

in which she models new collections of old designs,

weaving together a style that honors our history.

She personally knows Mother Africa,

has traveled all over the world

and never left this place.

Each time she sings, it's a spiritual,

a link to another world that beckons you home.

She calls every day because it's not enough to pray,

showing up every day at hospitals, prisons, schools.

They learn to lose so frequently, it becomes a habit,

unconsciously performing this ritual,

how she says goodbye for the last time every time.

Death is a reality she doesn't have to watch on TV.

I love old black women

because they understand the angst of a young black man.

Whenever I screamed so loud that it scared people,

she would come over and hug me and say,

"Baby, you know, I'm just glad you got that out."

I love those wig-wearing macaroni-and-cheese-cookin',

diabetes-having, soap-opera-watching

bingo-playing, church-going,

always-nagging, pushed-too-hard,

know-too-much, loved-to-life, nursed-to-health,

been-through-menopause- but-still-got-them-sexy-panties,

praise-shouting, Jesus-loving, Oprah-listening,

Motown-singing, don't-trust-white-people,

been-through-hell-and-lived-to- tell-the-tale old black women.

I wouldn't fuck them, though.

That'd be creepy.

Until I'm an old black man.

Then I'm all in that coochie.

[ Women gasp ]

Hey, hey, where y'all going?

It was a joke, it was a joke.

I'm just trying to make a joke.

Hey, after Jesus wept, he laughed.

-Hmph. -Really? Okay.

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Hey.

[ Jazz music plays ]

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I was secreted upon the note of a B-flat,

and I've been thinning through paper ever since.

He was literate.

He could never write a "Dear John" letter,

or in this case, "Dear Jane."

So he left a tune, a soft song to which he danced a soft shoe.

Out of the door, out of her life.

But in the den, a misty melody filled that silent night,

bound together with musical bars that he composed

while drinking at black bars while she laid at home,

camped next to his empty boots.

He briefly returned to place his goodbye by the door

and quickly exited so he wouldn't get trapped

inside their broken home.

These pages were her official notification of dismissal,

yet sorrow stressed her grief so much,

she couldn't read what he'd written,

so she had to listen to the tune he left behind.

The melody migrated from her open ears

to her fractured heart.

Every major retired to become minor.

Tears honorably discharged themselves from her eyes

and drenched each note.

Mascara dripped on the time signatures,

drowning measures in puddles of sadness,

bruised accents swelling the meter.

She was too poor to pay attention to the tempo

until she got stuck at a repeat sign.

♪♪♪

Beating the same beat.

Beating the same beat.

Beating the same beat on repeat.

Her wails were so loud, she couldn't hear the needle

scratching on her emotional record.

Too hard to grasp.

Two trembling hands

partner-dancing in the crevice of her lap,

wiggling, jiggling, giggling.

It was too soon to flip the record over to the B-side.

Flashbacks of vacations at the seaside.

She still smelled seashells, sinking in the couch,

sitting close to the wayside,

singing the blues on repeat,

beating the same beat.

Beating the same beat.

Beating the same beat.

Her wails were so loud, I could no longer ignore them.

Curiosity caused me

to investigate the jam session I wasn't invited to.

Only to behold with my babe-like eyes

the sight of a dethroned queen

who had become a lady singing the blues,

sinking in a couch, sitting close to the wayside.

I'm not Sondheim, but I gave her company, sat by her side.

Those adolescent poems of mine calm the wiggling,

the jiggling, the giggling with stillness.

Then, with my innocent fingers,

I picked up the notations he composed at black bars,

she drenched with water saved from the seaside,

and helped her find her B-side.

By playing his soft song at her bare black feet

to the rhythm of her repeat.

To beat a brighter beat.

To beat a brighter beat.

To beat a brighter beat on repeat.

Somewhere in the misty melody of that silent night

while listening to this remix, she sampled a smile,

composed herself, decided to fast-forward,

erase the repeat to beat her own beat.

To beat her own beat.

To beat her own beat.

Then she pulled me from her bare black feet,

cradled me in her regal brown arms.

The tears stopped. The music stopped.

But she never stopped singing the blues.

While she worked,

while she ate, while she screamed,

that sad, heartbroken soundtrack

echoed in the background of her life,

accompanied with sudden bursts of agony.

On random.

She taught me that song when I was little.

Then I finally learned I could beat any beat.

On random or repeat.

♪♪♪

But I had to learn to sing my own song.

A sacred tune that my mother couldn't teach me

and my father couldn't leave me.

Just because I was secreted upon the note of a B-flat,

did it mean I still couldn't be sharp?

♪♪♪

[ Click ]

[ Rewinding ]

♪♪♪

♪♪♪

Hey.

♪♪♪

♪♪♪

I don't know if I believe in soul mates,

but I believe in you.

You're real. You came true.

I wished upon a page and, years later,

I met the woman of my poems.

Locking eyes with this familiar stranger,

stuck in a stare, couldn't move.

Our hearts were the first responders

before our brains caught up with the crash.

An accident became alchemy.

Philosophers' stones will contain volumes,

transforming the subtext of our base silence

into a golden substance.

I saved your favorite drops of summer rain to wash your body

so your image might be cleanly expressed in a fresh metaphor.

Girl, you must be tired because your feet have been fluttering

through the fields of my dreams all day long.

God built you.

And finally I came -- in the length of one glance,

I've written you ten million songs

which all have the same melody,

rhymes with your given name and intuitive inspiration.

Your soul is my favorite creation.

Your smile is coated with that rare brand of angel's glow

that lights the stars.

One soft simple kiss transports me to Mars.

You must be an Aries -- a God of war

that found peace in a fertile land.

Let's birth a nation on a bed made of celluloid

and curve death until we last past eternity.

By my thoughts are rivers that you bathe in daily.

The only heaven on this Earth -- the sound of your mirth.

You could instruct the fires on the sun to burn with passion,

that's why I regret my lack of action.

♪♪♪

The greatest crime of my heart is that we are so far apart.

I redeem each day with the death of an inch

to kill this prolonged divide and bring me closer,

closer to that light that flickers bright.

You are the life at the end of the tunnel. You are...

Pardon my pause, left room for God to complete the space

between my mouth and your heart -- that silent instrument

which bears no affection toward the weak words

drowning in my stomach. These soggy ministers

which stain the page with blue sermons,

only to defeat my purpose.

You excite me.

[ Laughter ]

You inspire me. You are my muse.

All nine spirits revealed in one --

sing to me of love and happiness.

Erase this old language from my mouth

and teach me a new way to speak.

Oh dear muse, tell me how to win your stubborn heart.

♪♪♪

After a shy smile skipped over a long silence

while looking in my eyes, she told me...

"Love is not enough."

♪♪♪

I replied in awe, That's -- that's true,

That's true, love is not enough.

But... it's a good start.

Shall we begin?

[ Laughter ]

[ Kiss ]

[ Birds chirping ]

[ Wind rushing ]

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