Sherrie Zantea

Sherrie Zantea (Candy) has been writing and performing poetry for over 28 years. Candy made the 2007 Dallas Poetry Slam Team, and to date has been on 15 poetry slam teams, the first woman to coach 10 and she is the current CEO of the Dallas Poetry Slam Organization. Candy is one of the Lead Instructors for the Literary Arts in the DFW School Districts, Program Director for The Writer’s Garret, Learning Partner for Big Thought, and the owner/founder of Poetchella International Literary Festival. Candy is the author of a poetry/recipe book Heirlooms, a spiritual chap book, Sherrie’s Sanctuary, and Oak Cliff-Hangers, Stories from a Snowglobe.

Oak Cliff

For Shavon Randle, a 13 year old girl found murdered in a trap house located in East Oak Cliff, a town of Dallas, TX.

I can still smell the dirt white sugar. It would harden after the sun made a hot plate of my face. My cheeks smoke smudge not rosy, black and red a palate of licorice and jolly ranchers.
My mother would later call this a “motley” look. Not becoming of a young girl, whose hair she pressed with a hot comb the night before.

As kids a sno cone, jump rope and water hose was our passage rights in the hood. The sidewalks transferred secrets of the night.
Became undertaker, smuggler, cartel for the nightwalkers
My brothers drunk communion wine jungle juice from the corner stores

Only 2 kids allowed in at a time, no backpacks.
The street was Kiest Blvd
I remember the thief who starred through my window with a butcher knife
A rip through the screen, static on my tv screen, I screamed, he scattered
To this day my momma said I made it up.
The bellows of the old woman being beaten by her old man, Before we knew to call this domestic abuse, we called this none of our business.
Oak Cliff was animated like that.
Too prideful to relinquish its own demons.
The roads aligned with shotgun house jail cells, bars on bars, for our safety, or slavery Keeping more in then we kept out
the candy house was our first trap.
The first store front cover up for the snow coke, grit, sleet,
We would later simply know this as crack cocaine.
Trap house defined as a place where illegal drugs are sold and drug dealers commune.
On a good day, yo mama was in there or your uncle, we just didn’t tell grandma.
When I was young this was called simply the dope house, but trap is befitting seeing
How everyone always gets caught, how it lures, pins down, make maggot meat of your brains and bones
How the wallpaper be bloodshot red
Oak cliff, the only part of dallas where gentrification ran from
Unless you resided in the “white neighborhood”
The east and south parts
Had gravel and glass for lawns
You went to school prepared to fight, get suspended and whooped when you got home.
My grandmother’s house got sprayed with bullets, thank God for the metal bars
The men were waiting for my uncle to come out to kill him
Thank God, he went to work that day.
Playing outside meant stay on your grass, on your street, in your backyard.
Suburbs were for shopping or visiting family that was middle class.

Fried Chicken and burger joints was what the hood offered you.
The inventor of the “99 cent” menu. It costs nothing to kill you and everything to keep you alive. Barrabas thieves broke into my daddy’s church on several occasions
We called these individuals crack heads.
The same sinners he saved, would come to church on Sunday only to steal prayers and pennies out of the sanctuary. Literally pennies.
We learned to stop blaming this on the mexicans
Of course this country brainwashes the minorities to segregate to divide and conquer and hope we kill each other in the process. We did. We still do.
White folk left Oak Cliff when black folk moved in, then black folk moved out when brown folk moved in…how American of us.
Hood short for neighborhood, but your neighbor wasn’t Mr. Rogers
More like Nino Brown
No one looked out for each other, but everyone looked out for each other.
9 year old girl, stole my bike out of my own backyard, It was either fight to get it back
Or it was gone.
This is the oak cliff no one here talks about.
It’s 10% theaters, arts, eateries and pie emporiums and 90% bail bonds, trap houses and inconvenient corner stores
There were no damn pies in my hood. The only pies had frito chips at the bottom chili and cheese wrapped in foil.
5 year old boys being manish
10 year old girls pregnant.
20 years later 13 year old girls named Shavon Randle murdered. Body tortured in the same trap house that was on the street I was raised on
I can’t stomach to drive down it anymore
I see her peeking through the window, screaming for help.
I lived in the same city her parents moved to, to escape the hood.
They took us back together that day.
The car ride was eerie
Phones dead, doors locked maybe this will be the day the cops would pulled a black man over for no reason.
Hoping a tire would blow out
I saw my hood
Wingfield hamburgers
The dope fiend walking down Overton rd.
Oliver Wendell Holmes middle school.
Rudys Chicken.
The line wrapped around the bldg,
Careless, unbothered that another child was going to die that day.
Kiest Shopping Center the VA hospital
Where the first DART rail ripped through our town.
We turned on Sunnyvale Dr.

I remember Prince Hall Apartments on this street
That cried gunshots nightly when I stayed with my aunt. I didn’t like it then. I don’t it now. Forced into that trap house. Yes this one. That everyone knew. All of us knew what went on in this house.
I didn’t smell the fresh bleach my momma was washing clothes with.
My brother wasn’t cutting the grass.
There were no kids playing hopscotch
I didn’t recognize it.
Them streets in Oak Cliff don’t snitch.
This is the first time I wish gentrification found a home in my living room.
This is the first time, I wish voice wasn’t a writing prompt
I wish I could have saved Shavon.
I would have told her it wasn’t that bad when I was growing up.
I would have told her I survived. Baby girl, you can make it out the hood,
You can blossom into a beautiful poet, black girl magic really works.
That you can be bad and boujee not dead and dismantled.
I would have told her mama, yall aint gotta live like this,
That we got out this time. That one more black women made something out of her self.
That Kiest blvd, wasn’t no crime scene all the time.
That Oak Cliff is just a safe haven for the misfits and outcast, when Dallas don’t want us no more.
When black and brown have to coexist
I want to tell Shavon, I’m sorry
For leaving and not coming back to save her.
Or that time when I returned and it was too late.
It was too late. It’s too late. She’s gone.
They found her swallowed by this town. Buried beneath the chalk outline. Right by that Candy house. Candy’s house.
I can still smell the dirt white sugar on my face.
It was from all the candy I had to sneak and eat. My jaws sticky and smudge.
A childhood I will always remember.

Generational Curses

My son Quenton is 17 years old.

We found out 5 years ago that he can play 4 instruments, by ear
His favorite is the viola.
Stringed instruments seem to be something he clings to.
He tends to pluck the strings before he applies the bow to make sure he is in tune. This makes me think about his grandfather.

Who found his heroes in heroine
Who plucked veins before he applied needles to make sure he got the right hit.
My son is smart, intelligent
And we wonder which part of the family tree will he embody the most.
Like his mother, a poet
His father, a comedian
His grandfather a preacher
A musician like his uncle….
Then I think
Maybe he will be a crack addict like his grandmother
Drop out of school at 16,
And struggle like his grandparents with
with no high school education
These are his
Generational curses.
Uncles who are manic depressives who have made love and death with the same hands Plaster semen in open wounds
Conceiving bastards like his paternal grandfather
Be a rolling stone that rolls stone
Who develops insecurities like his father
That breaks glass when he gets upset, because as a child all he saw was broken glass South side of Chicago
Only provided peace that
Sounded like fists
Against cracked window panes
Skulls that carry crowns
Beaded with the shards of glass and broken beer bottles
Crowned thieves and gangsta disciples
Rites of passage says
They will place this crown Upon my son’s head
This is his circle of life
Lifted on his mountain of broken dreams
Overlooking a promised land
That he will never have the knowledge or opportunity to reach,
No wonder the first song he learned on his own was somewhere over the rainbow

As parents we bring our children into this world and pray for them That they live better lives than us
In this day, longer lives than us
Don’t make the same mistakes we made

But he already has a habit of breaking promises Like Mama I will clean up my room
Mama, I will do good in school
Maybe he won’t grow up to be a liar

Or like me
A woman who wears pride like foundation
Only covering up the flaws that are imprinted in her skin
But I’ve learned how to wear this skin well
Because like me he was born 2 weeks late
So folks like us, are always playing catch up with this world.
I tell him son, your destiny doesn’t change,
You do
And you were predestined in my womb
I believe if God is in me, he’s got to be in you
And the truth is
I can’t take you to heaven with me, even if I wanted to….
He practices on his viola hours in day
To perfect an imperfect thing.
Maybe that will be
His way out of being generationally cursed, with every note, sound and vibrato He will break every chain. He breaks every chain. He’s broken every chain. My son will not be a
On drugs, in jail, a murderer, a manic depressant, an alcoholic,
Broke, crack addict, a teenage father
Because yall he’s 14 years old
Smart, intelligent, a prodigy
He can’t grow up to be just like us.