TONIGHT! Poetic Memoir Intensive with #Ursula Rucker

This intensive word/ thought/ emotion, self-truth-culling, seeks to be a journey of healing, art, therapy, and authentic conversations about life that will result in the creation of individual works/excerpts of EPIC memoir poetry. Each student is invited to perform their created works at this live-streamed event.

Check out the live streamed event on the SIFT Media 215 You Tube Channel tonight, Sunday January 30th from 6-7:30 PM. It’s a creative masterpiece to heal your soul, with the finale by Ursula Rucker!

“Grief Waits” – Original Poetry by Toni Love

Grief Waits
Grief Waits

I read this original poem “Grief Waits” at The Collective All Artist Open Mic a few weeks ago at Rose Petals Cafe and Lounge and a few people asked me to post it. This was written a few weeks after my father transitioned, not for sympathy but to support the little girl inside yearning to tell her story. Not sure I’m finished with it, but here it is:

Grief Waits

She cries
Into makeup stained pillows when no one is awake
This single mother of two wants her own daddy back
But no time to be sad with taxi runs to baseball ballet and piano lessons
No chance to cry with the babies watching and counting on her strength
Even peaceful meditation is interrupted by children’s nightmares soaked in sadness
She greets the morning sun holding back the tears
Adorning sunglasses so the suburban moms don’t ask her “what’s wrong?” as she skips her child to school

Gotta make sure her offspring are happy and
Gotta make sure they keep up their grades and
Gotta keep their schedules consistent so they won’t feel the pain
Gotta keep a smile at the job and
Gotta search for the desire to
pay the bills, do the laundry and cook them a healthy meal

Gotta shield them from the rain

But who is taking care of the little girl who just lost her daddy
Who makes sure she eats and keeps the heaviness of her heart from sinking into the pit of her stomach
Who holds back her fear of the journey through life as an orphan and raising strong kids alone while the village is slowly disappearing
No grandfathers, no grandmothers, no great grands, no mother no father
No father

Who holds her at the end of the night when the kids are counting sheep and she can’t find enough energy to weep
Who takes her by the hand and lifts her off her feet to give her burdens a chance to sleep
Who says its gonna be okay and wipes her tears away
Maybe tomorrow will be a better day
Maybe then she’ll feel like going out to play
But not today

Because she’s tossed and turned all night
Living a nightmare until the first ray of daylight
Then its time to dab away the pain and push away the tears
Because its 7:15 and the school bus will soon be here
And no one wants salty tears in their lunchbox

Yet she rises once again meeting the morning with a smile
As grief waits behind every closed door

God Bless the Child

(c) M Tonita Austin aka Toni Love  5/30/2013

Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten

Soldiers TearsI can hardly remember his smell, but I will never forget his smile. Even his face is fading in my memories, but his physical presence has left an inexplicable imprint on my heart. On this day of remembrance and honor for those who served our Country, we often think of those brave souls most who laid down their lives to keep us safe. We memorialize most those fallen soldiers who fought in wars and in countries far away and did not come home alive. Yet we don’t always think of those who came home from war and touched our soil physically complete, but mentally and spiritually deceased. I write about these fallen soldiers because I loved Uncle Bay. His name was Robert Austin but his nick name was “Bay” so we grew up calling him Uncle Bay. He had a beautiful brown-skinned wife, my Aunt Barbara and she loved me as if I were her own daughter. She had a beautiful smile and contagious laugh and she and my mother grew close because they were both married to Austin men who also had a close bond. My father and Uncle Bay were both very charismatic and handsome men and were famous for the trouble they would get into when they would frequent the night clubs and speakeasy’s in Philly and South Jersey. For some reason I also took fondly to Uncle Bay. Maybe it was because I sensed his bravery, maybe because I knew how much my father loved him, or maybe it was because I knew he adored me, but I felt s special bond. I would see him whenever he came to our home or when we visited our grandparent’s and he always gave me a big hug, told me how pretty I was and like my dad would spoil me rotten. I was very young, not quite seven years old when I remember sitting, talking to him and he insisted on giving me a piece of his jewelry. I of course loved jewelry and the idea that he would want me to have what I thought was an expensive piece of jewelry it made me feel so adored. I chose a name bracelet that was not engraved, but had big beautiful silver links and I kept it safely tucked away in a box in my room.

It would be not even a year later that I would be told of my uncle’s passing. My Uncle was a Vietnam War Veteran. He was fortunate to be one of the ones to come home alive, but the person who left never really came home. He was sad, he was depressed, he struggled with the choices he was forced to make at war and never really felt comfortable in his skin when he came home. He was a walking casualty of war. I remember the newspaper article and feeling so angry that his precious life could be ended in a corner bar brawl. I was seven but I wanted to know where it happened and I didn’t feel right until I saw the place myself. I wanted to find someone to blame. I wanted my Uncle Bay back. I couldn’t wrap my head around it; how some strange person could have the right to take the life of a brave soul who served his country so easily and quickly. My uncle wanted to escape from himself and couldn’t wait for my dad to come to the house to pick him up so he went out on his own. My dad never got over the guilt and the anger. I am no longer angry because I understand that back then they often did not diagnose post traumatic stress disorder, nor provided the necessary help, especially to Veterans of color. I understand that Uncle Bay felt the only relief was to provoke someone to take him from this life. I understand that he is in a better place watching over me and my family. I understand that he did not choose to serve in Vietnam. I understand and because of that I have never forgotten.

I love you Uncle Bay. Happy Memorial Day!

Keeping it Real – Original Poetry 12/15/13

“What can I do for you?”

What can I say

My patriarch has left this realm

And as they say “he’s passed away”

Could you just turn back time

Raise his body off of that floor

Breath life into his weakened lungs

Give him a heart that pumps strong and not stress his body even more

Can you make him change his diet

And leave the pork and ‘Jack alone

Can you tell him that I love him and that we want him back on the throne

Will the calls and cards and letters

Soak up every grief-stained tear

Will his grandchildren cease to miss him

At graduations and weddings from year to year

I appreciate the sentiments

The comforting calls, hugs and texts

But now that I’m officially an orphan

There’s nothing to seal this broken heart until I leave this life and meet him in the next

So thank you for asking but there’s nothing you can do.

I’ll miss my daddy forever cause I’m a daddy’s girl through and through.

(c) M. Tonita Austin 12/15/13
Broken heart

So Deep, Part Two – Original Poetry

934113_10201098201966040_1503897564_nNever thought I could feel this way
Laying next to you thinking of how we’ll start the day
Feeling your arms falling gently around my waist
Pulling me closer as the depths of our souls embrace
Trying not to wake you as I softly kiss your face
Yearning for your lips and hands to once again take me to a higher place
How did I let you get

so deep

Are you putting something in my water while I sleep
Or is it the electric you inject when you press play, pause and then repeat
I close my eyes and trust you as you sink further into me
My heart cries so joyously for the genuine love that you lay at my feet
Pushing tears out that it no longer wants to keep
So deep

Is this what it feels like to be in love
Rising up with the soul mate sent to you from above

Can’t wait for you to awaken so I can explode
Honey-filled rainbows folded deep inside of my soul

So erotic the words you use to describe your love for me
They replay in my head and I’m so aroused I can’t even sleep


Is love really supposed to feel this way
Entranced yet terrified that it could just as easily go astray
Don’t want to admit how in love I am with you today
So I close my eyes and pray that your love will always stay

So deep

M.Tonita Austin a/k/a Toni Love  7/20/13

Sick and Tired; Confessions of a Reformed Junk Food Junkie


I will be the first to admit that even with my Ivy League and boarding school education, I did not want to believe that fast food could be that bad for you. It’s not that I grew up on it, because McDonald’s was considered a splurge when I was young –  frozen Pathmark beef patties and government cheese was our normal burger fix unless we were lucky enough to be invited to someone’s house for some good old barbecue. My mom taught us early how to drop some frozen fries into the deep fryer and it was as close to McDonald’s and Burger King as we usually got! In boarding school, we had a cafeteria, and at Columbia University, I usually could only afford cereal for lunch or whatever my roommates and I could siphon from the cafeteria during normal dining hours. Fortunately for me, I had a jock boyfriend who loved to cook me steak and eggs for breakfast or we would all meet up at the local diner after hours, so “Mickey Dees” as we affectionately called McDonald’s was not frequented.

As an independent mom, I found myself the past few years relying on the fast food restaurants way too much. It was so easy as we rushed from one after school activity to another to just drive through somebody’s window, order, and shovel it in, in the car on the way to the next place. My kids loved it, and I’m not sure if they were more addicted to the food or the toys. I had a lot less dishes to wash, and could spend more time with the kids, so it seemed like a win-win situation.

I think Facebook can ruin relationships, and a lot of people use it for their own promotion and sometimes vanity, but I can say that the one good thing that has come out of Facebook  for me is exposure to healthier ways of living, thinking and eating. I’ve reconnected with old friends ; some from childhood, some from college and in-between and started reading a lot more about juicing, organic foods, exercise, yoga and meditation. I started to put two and two together. I was getting tired of the same old fried and dyed foods and I saw the scale slowly inching further and further to the right. Each day I vowed to get to the gym, and even with the gym, it hardly nudged. I was always sick and tired and every time I went to my doctor’s my blood pressure was high. She mentioned the words “if it continues to stay at this level we may need to talk about medication”, and my heart stopped. Diabetes and High Blood pressure runs rampant in my family. So far I had escaped the gene and I did not want to succumb to having medication regulate my body if I could help it, so I bought a juicer. And I joined a Facebook group that supported a healthier lifestyle, and I got honest about my eating habits, my exercising (or lack of), and I started to do what they suggested, even if I didn’t believe it. I started replacing my Wawa egg white, sausage, egg and cheese sandwich with a fruit smoothie, and I couldn’t believe the effect on my energy level! I felt instantly energized by the powerful antioxidants and vitamins that I consumed and the pounds started dropping like water rolling down an icicle after the temperature starts to climb.

I stopped having a desire for fast food. If my kids had a taste for burgers and fries, I would make them myself from scratch, add a salad and if they really wanted the latest toy that the fast food chain was offering, I found out that I could purchase it from the store for $1 and everyone would be happy.

This all started last summer. I am now 15 pounds lighter, my blood pressure is back to normal, I am not dragging through the day, and I honestly cannot stomach fast food any more. My FB group told me this would happen – the body will reject what is bad for you, especially if you are feeding it all that it needs – and  I honestly didn’t believe that my french fry addiction would ever be challenged, but it is indeed true. I had an incident recently where this theory was tested. I was STARVING the other night. I had one of those busy days and didn’t get a chance to have dinner before I headed out for a night on the town. By the time the festivities were over, every restaurant was closed except for McDonald’s. I have to honestly say that if I ever get that desperate, I can usually get to a Chick Fil A and have at least real chicken, or a yogurt or carrot-raising salad, but this was the ONLY place open for miles. So I ordered – I figured I’d try to consume the chicken strips since it had no pink slime. All i could smell was the grease, but I dug in, peeling the layers of fried whatever off the top and going in for the meat. After a few bites and a few fries, I literally felt nauseous.

I was starving, and yet I couldn’t take one more bite. I was shocked that my body was turning on me and not just lost its appetite, but was rejecting the food! Luckily I had water and couldn’t wait until the next morning to have a hearty, healthy breakfast!

It really made me think about how important it is to feed my body and soul with good, wholesome things. I can’t say that I eat perfectly all the time, that I do Yoga consistently and sometimes I can go a week before I realize that I need to take time to meditate, but knowing made one big change that extended the days I will have here on this earth, I feel damn good about myself! I still love some fried fish, but I make sure it’s wild, it’s fresh and it’s made slowly, with love and care by ME!

The time is now friends. We don’t get another body in this lifetime. What are you feeding yours?

But for the Grace…


I know there’s been so much that’s already been said about the senseless killings of the Sandy Hook Elementary School children and staff, and so many early judgements about the killer, his family and why it happened. But I feel like I need to share the fear that came up for me and maybe for someone else who is reading this. It scares me that it could have just as easily happened at the elementary school across the street from my home where my daughter attends school, but what scared me even more was the profile of the shooter. This young male was described by his classmates as nice, quiet, didn’t talk much, didn’t say anything bad about anyone…obviously brilliant…parents had recently divorced and he lived with his mother in a quiet town and no one would have thought in a million years that he was capable of such a thing. They were describing my first born word for word. Quiet, brilliant, keeps to himself and maybe quietly stuffing emotions that a “tween” experiences as a result of separation or divorce. It removed all judgement from my heart when I realized that but for the Grace of God and awareness on my part, this could have been my own son.

And if I didn’t pay attention to his emotions, if I didn’t keep the communication between us open, if I didn’t try and keep positive role models (especially male) in his life, encourage him to stay involved in sports, show care and concern about what concerns him- even if I think it’s senseless – and hug and kiss him every chance I get even when it embarrasses him, there but for the Grace of God would he be.
I don’t assume to know the family dynamics, but it did confirm for me that I was doing the right thing just hours before the news broke.

Because my Ex is dealing with his own childhood trauma (or rather, not dealing with it), he has begun to distance himself from our children’s lives. This type of abandonment can be devastating to young children, and has shaken up our lives a bit. The ironic thing is that just an hour or two before I heard the news I was on the phone with my son’s former and my daughter’s current Guidance Counselor. Fear and shame keep a lot of people, especially in our culture, from seeking outside help for family and emotional trauma. And there are some who have told me that just loving them is enough, but sometimes it isn’t. I have always been open-minded and willing to choose support over suffering, even if I had to fight through the shame. It takes a lot of courage to expose your most sensitive and private thoughts to a stranger; but if it meant that it would save my son from suffocating in quiet pain and anger and my daughter from seeking unhealthy sources of love and comfort in their tween/teens, then I was ready and willing. Sometimes as a parent you have to be proactive.

After the uncomfortable phone call I felt a little more encouraged, supported and equipped with the knowledge and resources I could utilize to support my kids. They say “things happen for a reason”. I pray these lives were not lost in vain. I pray comfort for all of those heartbroken. I pray this country will make a serious effort to keep our kids and communities safe. I pray that it will bring a global awareness that will save our country and all of our children from suffering in silence. I know that just one parent will be doing a little more than just hugging her children a little tighter at night. It’s time for Action – for all of our children. What are you willing to do?

Just a Little Thank You Note… Original Poetry 5/3/84

 Just a Little Thank You Note….

 [Warning that this was written after my first heartbreak in college, so it is expressing those raw emotions….. ]

I just wanted to

thank you

for the sweet pain of a first love affair

thank you

for the soft melodies that made me forget

that we had no protection

if these three months hadn’t happened,

there would be no Miles, no Klugh, no Spyro Gyra

no Marsalis, no Brubeck, no Franks, no ‘BGO

without this final semester of false lovin’

there would be no jazz

no duets in the shower

no passion at5am

no nights alone

no “real” thing, no “you mean more than”

no “IDO care”

no “sorry but I won’t be home tonight…”


other woman

no heartache, no confusion, no hurt

no faked emotions, no hate, no frustration



no cold, empty nights, no lonely mornings, no sympathy

no apathy, no excuses, no wounded egos, no memories


so thank you

for the missed classes

and for teaching me how to scurry across campus at 1AM

to fulfill your needs and to find my own

thank  you for the use of your towels, your soap, your q-tips, your cocoa butter, your washcloth, your shirts, your stereo, your typewriter

thank  you for using me

for losing me

in your arms, in your kisses and in your thoughts

for losing track of my existence

for having no brain of your own

for loving and leaving me for your best friend’s girlfriends’ girlfriend

for forgetting about our ‘something real’

for the lies

for cutting all ties

sooooo graciously

for not being MAN enough to tell me about her

for making me realize that some men have no right to my loving

and are only out to please


for letting me see the reality of a relationship with a basketball player

who snorts, tokes, drinks, brags boasts and


but really



for the strength to start over again

and to take the time out to love someone WORTH  loving…


Original writing:  5/3/84

For My Girl Bev (found the poem!)

Beverly F. Thomas

In my earlier blog post about my dear friend Bev, I referenced a poem I wrote for her. Well, I just found it and I guess that means I am supposed to post it. Here it is:

Me,you and Lisa
Singing in the basement
(Well I thought I could sing)
Playing slow jams, smelling the sweet incense
We thought we were stars that hadn’t been discovered.

Hanging on the steps, up and down the street
I loved hanging with you girl
Because everybody knew the Queen B!

You were the star that hadn’t been discovered.

There was always fun and laughter with you and
No matter what trouble you were in, that bright smile would get us through

We partied all night long
There wasn’t a place we didn’t flo
But when the party was over, I always had to beg you to go

You were a shining star waiting to be discovered.

You wanted me to come your way, To hang out until the break of day
But my momma wouldn’t let me stay
I needed to walk another way.

Why didn’t you come with me girl?
I hate to say goodbye this way.
Why couldn’t you have walked my way Bev?
I prayed for you each night and day.

We were stars that soon would be discovered.

I love you. R.I.P.

Written the morning of her funeral 2/23/06

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