Sunday, November 11, 2018


born November 18, 1958
died November 3, 2018

Mosaic (NightBallet Press, 2013)
Onomatopoeia (NightBallet Press, 2015)
Dream Catcher (NightBallet Press, 2017)
Tongue Shakers: Interviews and Narratives on Speaking Mother Tongue in a Multicultural Society (Hamilton Books, 2016)
Playground (Hidden Charm Press, 2015)
Throwback Thursdays (NightBallet Press, 2018)

I first met Margie Shaheed when she read for Poetry in the Woods at the Shaker Heights Public Library. Here are several photos from that night. The reading changed both our lives forever. 

(photo by John Burroughs)

(photo by John Burroughs)

(photo by John Burroughs)

On February 14, 2013, at 10:14 pm, I wrote to Margie on FB Messenger:

"Hi, Margie, here I am: Dianne Borsenik, NightBallet Press. LOOOOOOVED your reading tonight! You RAWK, gf! Can't wait to hear more. Let me know when you're reading in the Cleveland area...will try to be there!"

Margie immediately responded:

"Ok. So nice to meet you. I hope we can do a chapbook together. You have a nice looking product. I'll check out your website and we'll talk. Glad u enjoyed the reading. I had fun too."

By March 14, 2013, she had sent me her manuscript of poems, which became Mosaic, the first book NightBallet Press published for her.

(Mac's Backs, Cleveland Heights, OH, 2018,
photo by Chandra Alderman)

                                                                         (Ohioana, Columbus, OH, 2014
                                                                               photo by Julie L. Moore)

(Shoreway Poets, Cleveland, 2014,
photo by Dianne Borsenik)
She sent me two more manuscripts, which became Onomatopoeia and Dream Catcher.

Margie Shaheed was a remarkable force of nature. At the time Margie died,

Dream Catcher was in its 9th printing, in August, 2018.
Onomatopoeia was in its 29th print run.
Mosaic was in its 44th print run.

To the best of my reckoning, with the three titles combined, Margie sold at least 1,800 copies of her NBP books.

A friendship was born that first day we met. She was intelligent, proud, and funny. Although we saw each other only occasionallyshe lived/worked between Cleveland Heights, OH and Memphis, TNwe were in frequent contact. I last saw Margie and heard her read when she visited Cleveland for Kleft/Crisis in April, 2018.

We worked together very well. She trusted my design skills and editing implicitly. I loved her unique Voice and the way she wrote about the African-American experience so clearly, honestly, and poignantly. Her poems were true gems, and I am honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity to publish them.


(Appletree Books, Cleveland Heights, OH,
photo by Dianne Borsenik)

(Guide to Kulchur, Cleveland, OH,
photo by John Burroughs)

From Mosaic:

Nostalgic Hair Affair
for Eula and Alicia

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where today I see you sitting on the porch of our Hough
Avenue apartment in a ragged turquoise dining room chair.
Cotton sticks to the back of your housedress whenever you rise.
Barefoot, your toes wiggle against the warm concrete floor in cool
satisfaction of a large jelly jar filled with ice cubes and Pepsi-Cola.
The heat of summer and cornbread and pinto beans cooking
have long pushed you out of the kitchen.

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where I hear you call me in from the dirt yard.
Poised for my next shot, I look up at my friend
because now we must abruptly end our game of marbles.
Armed with a brutish Afro comb and hairbrush,
you sit me down between your legs;
your familiar scent settles me.
As you grease my scalp with Dixie Peach
I can't help but remember the first time I met my friend Silk
       "Do you know why dey call me Silk? Cuz, Ah'm sooo Black.
       If you was to rub some Vaseline on mah skin right now,
       I'd look jus' like a pair of black silk stockin's."
I recoil from the pain of teeth
dragging through my resistant napps.
You hit my hand
with the back of the comb
and tell me to be still.

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where I feel you momentarily break away from your task
to sing along with a stactic-version of the Temptations
song blaring from our hi-fi.
Although I dare not turn around to look at you
I know your head is bobbing up and down
like an apple in water to the beat.
When the last lyric fades into radio announcements,
your knees tighten against my shoulders.
I wipe the beads of water from my neck,
the sweat that has dripped from the jelly jar,
and I fearfully brace myself for round two.

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where my hair eventually loses the fight
                to six plaits intersected by crooked parts.

From Onomatopoeia:

Rhyme and Rituals (Part 1)

We are poem with story to tell 'bout how in Newark Brick City
we hit rhythms hard-pounding beginning from the nature of
rhyme we maintain essential breath dead center of mama's
heartbeat we are rhythm background melody humanity's
collective memory swingin' in the womb rockin' us time-
thrusting forward we are life's ritual voices unleashing
saxophones of pure language yeah soul-stirring music telling
the world what must be told we paste paper to the wall
penning poems and stories in single breaths we are books
breathing pages of tongues loosened & sharpened Piscean
visions blowing we become mouths of air awakened
renewed a-pant of hopes and fulfilled roundness & when
despair and pain come a-creepin' we invoke our warrior
selves to redirect the beat cuz we are notes bent on writing
rhymes rhymes that reaffirm the ritual of telling it exactly like
it is so read our words as we unroll oil dust & silver beats
from underneath fingernails of blue matter contained in
native selfwe seek to understand the compositionblood
is thicker than water & knowing a belly full of gritty hot fish &
buttery grits, a philosopher's stone & a city's bricks it is the
passion from where we live holding it all down keeping it real
like mama's heartbeat background memory humanity's
melody the only rhyme we know we are poem with story to
tell the ritual swingin' in the womb readying to be born

From Dream Catcher:

Age Has Found Me

Age has found me with a tube of red lipstick
a missing front tooth and a partial I had to put
in the layaway cuz it cost too much to buy outright
Got pesky moles removed from my face an early
Christmas present from my friend who told me my skin
would look like the excitement I felt the first time
I went roller skating

Age has found me with a pair of red stilettos
an unused membership to the Y and the good sense
not to have my grandchildren sewn into the hem of my skirt
I've seen this in women I've known beforevoluntarily raising
another set of kidsmakes you forgo the fruit
that makes this old woman shake

Age has found me with a bottle of red nail polish

five bottles of pills a handful of supplements
and doctors' appointments disguised as social events
Mama's wisdom once elusive as an eclipse
canvas stretched over my chest
soft flames fly from my mouth
cuz now I turn my face to hers
as I repeat what she always called truth

Age has found me with a red laced mini-dress
books of blank pages a calligrapher's pen
and a palm full of brown sugar
thrown into a pot of boiling corn
My back is sore my right knee aches
but my strokes are bold and long
penning scripts exploring landscapes
walking the terrain anticipating what's next

No one could deny that Margie Shaheed read her poems slowly, sweetly, truly, from the heart. Her poems were a part of her very being, and everyone who heard her read knew it.

(Mac's Backs, Cleveland Heights, OH,
photo by John Burroughs)

(Appletree Books, Cleveland Heights, OH,
photo by Dianne Borsenik)

Margie phoned me on Friday, September 7, 2018 to say good-bye. I can't believe she's gone. Her daughter Aqueelah has give me permission to publish one last book of poems for Margie. The forthcoming Throwback Thursday will be my tribute to this dear, wonderful, passionate friend.

(Nancy Gerber of Mom Egg Review has also written a tribute piece to Margie Shaheed; you can follow the link to it here.)

 Peace & Blessings to you, Margie. Rest in Peace. I love you. I will never forget you.
                                                          (photo property of Aqueelah Shaheed, 2018)