Poems that are strengthened by the ancestors

I hope you enjoy these poems and will, perhaps, be inspired to write a poem of your own.

© 2018, J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford, 

The soul of humanity

speaks through poetry.

Eternal and unending,

she sings of generations

past and yet born.

We hear her song clearest

when we listen with our hearts.

What is poetry saying to you?


Such Splendor (for Jordan)
© 12/27/2018, by J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford

Two traveling by highway
Enjoying laughs and love
Anticipated reunions and hugs
The soon to arrive Special Day
We snacked and joked our way
Through towns, past landmarks
Learned anew about each other’s world
Things we’d both forgotten
Or never knew
No snow
As could be expected
This time of year
Hence our impromptu road trip
A chance end-of-year retreat
From routine ritual and concern  

Then, oh what wonder
Just before journey’s end
What glorious awe to behold
Such an exquisite golden orb
Inordinately large, orange and full
Resting just above horizon
Initially partly hidden by trees
Until there – there, in unrestricted view
Welcoming us with a moment
Of hushed wonder
The perfect salutation
Creating a forever memory
Of a special journey
Shared by grands
Traveling to celebrate with loved ones
The birth of Christ


Words (The Battle)
© 2018, J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford

Words sometimes glide from my fingertips
Appearing on computer screens that scream
Back at me.  I want them to say soft things
Warm wonderful enriching things
But such is seldom word or way in this world
This increasingly degenerative place
In which generations have been coerced
Compromised and killed, and many more
Continue to navigate from a posture of fear.

Creeping from under my fingernails,
Words spill onto white screens
Through whisper, plea or shout.
Revelatory gems awaken ancient echoes
As long dormant touchstones build 

Vigor and fervor within me.  
Exigent issues connect sinew with synapse
Call me to task, remind me that
Generational faith resides inside me.
Such has prepared me to be
Witness, bridge and word warrior
For much has been given me and
Been given up for me.

More than my own mortality,
Humanity’s moral trajectory
Reminds me that time is fleeting,
That chains upon which pendulums swing
Seem indeterminately long, but
Are not indeterminately strong.  
Let them not break from the weight
Of my delay or he rightful rage
Of oppressed people.

Warfare is no way to experience life.

But ‘til need be filled, I will navigate this wasteland
Imbued with strength of truth and power of word   
I will don breastplate and swing machete
Against the empathy-barren, genocidal and indifferent.
In warrior mode I shall seek sanctuary
Or create one for the innocent if none be found
I will work skin to bone, brittle and broke
Stand before dragon and demon
Slash with word, prayer and blade
All who would strive to victimize or annihilate
For our village is essential.
I understand this now
And have come to honor, revere and protect.  
Anything less leaves me defeated and disgraced.

I have been assigned and equipped for this task.    
So while these words on my screen
Often scream back at me
I have accepted the assignment.  
My words will not be silenced.
I will wield them well to ensure
They are heard, known, felt 

Beyond the whiteness of screen and page
Til word, though black, run red
Like blood in my veins
Pouring through each page
And stage of my life.


Bluiett’s Beat When Jazz Is Right
A tribute to Hamiet Bluiett, world class
Baritone Saxophonist who transitioned on 10/4/18.
J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford  

Syncopation, improvisation, big words  
Better for me to just feel the sound

Cause, when its right
Jazz feels like it sounds
And sounds like it feels  
I watched a Jazzman
Make magic flow from his lips
Conjure sultry sounds smooth as silk

Watched 'em dance right outta his finger tips  
Sweet and sour notes down real low
Cascade then crescendo into my soul
All in a single heart beat
Mysterious sounds pourin' outta his horn
He be doin’ that circular breathin’ thing
No I’m not gettin’ turned on
I’m just diggin’ the Jazz, 

Can't you see, he be kissin’ that sax
An' she be kissin’ him right back
I swear I heard her call his name
Just before the room started to sway
What kinda game he be playin’ anyway?
Teasin’ folks with notes that don’t exist
Playin’ a game we can’t resist
Playin’ that Jazz so right

Don’t tell me them tremblin’ sounds
Dancin’ round my head  
Was just notes on a chart
I know I’m gettin’ hot  
But that’s just cause it’s done got 

So crowded in here -- right?  
Then, when I think I’m 'bout to explode
He hit a note that pierced my left earlobe
Sounds I can’t begin to describe
Got me quakin’ with spasms from brain to toe
Makin’ that horn screech, belch and bleet,   
Sounds be anything but sweet
Folks be bobbin’ they heads an' pattin’ they feet
To his mean riffs, scats and beats
Droppin’ fives and tens in the tip jar  
Right about now you can't recall
Where you parked your car
You know it’s just about time to go
But there’s one thing you know for sho’
You know the Jazz is right

Jazz has undressed you with her sultry song
Then clothed you in her own tune
Helped you remember to forget
Took hold of your soul and reminded you
She ain’t so much about melodies, as memories
And this time you got more than you bargained for
"Jazz, no middle of the road"
That’s what The Jazzman said
Forever controls your soul
Once it gets inside your head -- Jazz!

The Burn


The pain

Inside my bones

Blazes red hot


Like midnight 


And nooses

On necks 



Poplar trees  

Or urban streets



In Praise of Bridges

We praise the bridges
And thank God for them
They helped us get over
Created for such times as these
Built and strengthened by ancestors and elders
Long and strong
Or short and uncertain
There they were
Some remain
Some were carelessly or selfishly burned

Build new bridges young people

Travel purposeful  and strong

Create and carry your gifts
Rejoice as you lift more than just fists
Lift your sisters and brothers as you go
To new heights of pride and accomplishment
Honor yourself
Embrace this new thing
Let it dwell in your hearts and minds
It is here we find our power
So we build and cross bridges
Praising while growing strong
Celebrating life and loving who we are

Remembrances - A Memorial Day Poem

Written for and presented at the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church
2008  Memorial Day Celebration,
“Holy Spirit – Bring All Things to Our Remembrance.” 

Reaching back 

Spiritually embracing absent family and loved ones

We will mourn our loss of them forever

But on this day we pay homage and honor their memory

We thank God for them and all they gave us

And, as graciously as we know how, 

Thank them for their sacrifice 

We recall daughters, mothers, foremothers 

And our sons, brothers and father warriors, ancestors all

Who stood tall ‘til time, 

As measured by eternity’s hand,

Released them from their labor


Memories handed down one to another 

In ways that anchor and reassure us 

Keeping souls safe through prayer and faith

Those who came before 

Paved the way, opened a door 

To which only they held the key

In the meanwhile they have left us remembrances

May we ever be comforted by this gift from God 

This feeling, this yearning deep inside 

Remembering absent, yet forever present caring hearts and hands

Warm smiles, strong backs, gentle hugs 

Given then to build fortresses within us 

Shields of love that comfort and cradle us

They soften tomorrow’s blows, enrich our spirits 

With lullabies that echo in our minds and soothe our souls

In ways that only love can comprehend 


Special and treasured memories of different times and places

But mainly of family and friends, precious and delicate

Somehow, despite losses, we grow -- always 

For the legacy must continue

We lift little ones to places of understanding

Through stories and family photographs

Keeping alive their connection 

With folk gone long before their time

Some gone so long even elders struggle to recall their face

But their place in the family will always stay strong

Just like the love and the strength they shared and dared to give 

At times, it was all they had

Now we remember, with love, that they gave their best

And their best makes our tomorrows better 

Remembrances, through smiles and tears

We thank God, despite our pain and sadness

Our souls are made glad when we remember


For Their People
This tribute Poem was written to honor the life and legacy of Edwin H. Brown, Sr., a great
Prince  Georgian who wore many hats of service, including that of newspaper publisher, photographer, founder and host of the award-winning Ed Brown Show.  He was a staunch
civil rights advocate, a community leader and a passionate voice of Prince George's County.  

© 9/27/2018, J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford, 

There are some we come to know by their deeds
We see them making things happen
Their footprints marking the pages of history’s notebook

They more than witness, they document
Help those of us with less clear vision to see
Tell us to pull up a chair, listen in
Teach us about life’s more meaningful things.


These are God-fearing, educated, honorable men
Who take time to do what is necessary,
Important and right – for their people
Demonstrating excellence in all they do

Never a stranger to discipline or service
They take the time, forge and pave the roads
Build the bridges that make life better for their people
Share knowledge that enables others to grow
With firm foundations, first and foremost,
Of family, community and faith
Their stories are our stories
Our history, our culture, cutting through to the core
Of the truth that they know we need


They are the pathfinders and pioneers
Who carried our stories in their hearts
So when they shared them,
They were sharing part of themselves
That’s a beautiful pure Black love legacy
One that honored all who’ve fallen along the way
Lifting and teaching through struggle and strategy

This will forever be their legacy
For unlike the rest, they never took the easy path.
But served as griot, historian,
And when needed, warrior
Sharing the news with passion’s voice
Allowing others to understand
The significance of a thing.


They were ours because we were theirs.
They had much to give. Their capacity,
Like their character, was great.
Wearing our souls inside their hearts
That special, safe, warm place of love
For their people 

Strong Hands of Mother Africa


Strong hands of Mother Africa 

Awaken places deep inside me 

where my ancestors dwell

Like distant echoes, your heart-beat 

reverberates off Kilimanjaro’s mountain-tops

pulses down the Nile

crosses the Sudan

and flows into my soul

Strong hands of Mother Africa

Call my absent spirit

To return and commune with the elders

Those who sojourned before me

now light my path

and await my homecoming

Strong hands of Mother Africa

Reveal to me my history 

Teach me the ways of my true homeland

Unmask the mysteries and tragedies 

of this altered consciousness

Awaken in my mind and body 

the unripened seeds of truth, power, and pride

Solve for me the paradox of my mortality


Strong hands of Mother Africa

My soul dances to your ancient rhythm

pulsing, ever pulsing through the veins of time

Teach me to beat Africa drums

so that I, too, may guide

another absent spirit to your shores

So that I, too, may guide

Another absent spirit 


I Come With My Drum

What message can I lift
To help heal the sick
Comfort the orphan
Bring peace to the world

​What message can I lift
To open doors and hearts alike
Bring joy, power and discernment
Defeating strongholds 

Building bridges despite 

Wildernesses whose darkness
Would defeat my quest

What message can I lift
To shine God’s light
Bring justice and love
To empower 

During midnight’s hour
What message can I lift
To please my God
Build faith and trust
Despite unlikely victories
Countless disappointments 

And tragedies

Adversity means nothing
To a God who can do all things
So like David 

I come with my drum

The Gift of Time  

The gift of time is precious
That thing given us which
Despite our most fervent desire
Cannot be kept   
That thing which, when spent
Becomes the calendar upon which
Our story is told, and
Through which our history unfolds
Unique for each of us  
We are her centerfold  
Naked truth fills the pages
Where she, time, reigns supreme

Inside her book we look at our lives
With celebration or sorrow
Decades dance, prance or drag by
As we fill each hour-glass of every today
Creating tomorrows from choices
That make us who we are

So dance deftly and with boldness
Embrace vigor and compassion along the way
Each is required to complete the course
For if nothing else, life's two-step teaches
That regret has the greatest memory
And can be vanquished only by virtue
So let her gossamer wings lift you
To realms of trust, truth and happiness
Where time is always on your side

Excerpts and links to more poems by Sistah Joy

"So we look back  
Name and claim our mournings,  
As freely as we seek
the glory and glee of victories  
Not to dwell in yesterday  
Nor she in us  
But to gain from her legacy,
good or bad  

Ancestors, elders, and
tomorrow’s seed yet born  
Each has or shall witness
With earthly short-sightedness
That which limits vision to all this side of Jordan..."  

To view this poem, Reflections, in its entirety and 4 other poems by Sistah Joy, visit  http://danmurano.com/featured-poet/sistah-joy

"With faith that flickers   

Like fireflies in the night  

We wander, float  

A seemingly aimless   

Reaching out   

Seeking to take   

More than give   

Survive rather than live 

Unaware of the beauty  

And brightness of our own light   Reflections are few  

When those around you  

Only cast shadows  

That challenge, ridicule   

And dim the radiance of right..." 

To view this poem, Souls Seeking Light, in its entirety, and 22 others by Sistah Joy, visit  



Poetry by Sistah Joy

Poetry by Sistah Joy