“That’s all that I really want….for someone to call me their girl”. Okay, deal!
That’s my girl, my girl, I can’t come out because I’m writing this bomb ass review about my GIRL! You go, GIRL!!!
The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega, the book by the poetically talented Vanessa Hidary, was unlike anything you could have expected. Then again, when dealing with Vanessa, to expect anything specific or standard is already your first mistake; she comes without instructions or a road map but will guarantee you a wonderful journey outside of your limited expectations of life. The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega read like Vanessa put to page. Her voice sprang from the pages so clearly that I thought I was hearing things; she IS the last Kaiser roll in the Bodega.
-noun: a rounded, unsweetened roll, formed by folding the corners of a square of dough toward the center, often sprinkled with poppy seeds before baking
Her life experiences, via what I have read in the book, have shaped her edges, rounded them from their original square corners; one experience folds into the next. And if you have ever seen a Kaiser roll, it looks like a swirl. And if you’ve ever seen or heard Vanessa, she is a swirl of viewpoints, of experiences, of challenges…placed in a “Bodega”, on purpose, by destiny. Much like the Kaiser roll, she doesn’t come sugar-coated. She comes as she is and you either like her work or you don’t, but she will continue to be placed on the shelf for others to come and taste her, become full from their intake of her, and be thankful that she existed as a substance to keep one alive if they so choose to partake. Also, there may be other Vanessas in the world, but the seeds sprinkled on them will never fall the same. I could be thinking too much into this, but I don’t think she chose the Kaiser roll by accident, I think the Kaiser roll chose her….lol.
From the moment that I read the foreword by Vanessa’s mother, I knew that I would be in for something unique, special, almost forbidden, yet, granted an oportunity to view. I had already promised Vanessa that I would keep this copy to myself,even forbidding the Holy Trinity to view over my shoulder, and I held true to that promise as I felt like I was reading her diary (even though I think she’d write in a journal to keep her hood credit). The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega read like a biography; poetry and monologues blending rather seamlessly, weaving an intriguing timeline. Portions of her one-woman play Culture Bandit gave the most insight into who she was as a person and not just as the poet that most of us have come to know and love. I could hear her voice as I read and even though she wrote “culturally greedy”….. I put this on everything I love….I heard ”culturally greeeeeee-dy” and understood the poem better now having read the excerpts from her one-woman show. It wasnt just a poem any more, it was a page from her life. And here I was, all these years, just thinking it was just another fabulous work of art, never knowing it was Vanessa put to page, transported to memory, and dangled before us as she stood behind a mic. Tricky shield that mic can be.
To name one poem, excerpt, or monologue that I liked more than another would betray my love for the work as a whole. This was something that I swallowed in its entirety, digested as a complete entity, and was nurtured by the overall essence of what was being spoken. Yes, I do have parts that stick out in my memory, but that doesn’t mean that any other part spoke to my soul any less. I think we’ve all had a “Papo” and miss those days when we “didn’t let men get too deep in our blood stream“. I took to heart her grandmother’s advice of ” even when you heart is bulldozed in the desert….you get up“. Brilliant. But nothing made me laugh as hard as, “Motherfucker, I was ready to wear a bob wig for your ass and chop cucumbers. Are you buggin’?” Outside of my ignorance of Vanessa’s obsession with cucumbers….I still understood. Substitute her cucumber for chicken, greens, or black-eyed peas and you would have me. Yet nothing spoke the words I had been unable to convey, even to myself, better than the words from the poem Everything but Nothing You Wanted that said “…you didn’t even sweep me up. I had to reach under your couch to find my own chin.” I thank her for that.
There is sooooooo much that I could continue to say about this book, but I won’t. I wish not to taint your experience by my more than obvious love for the words found within its pages. I say this honestly and not just because I am acquainted with Vanessa. It also has nothing to do with my Wendy Williams-ish obsession where Vanessa is my big sister in my head…lol. Yet, it may have something to do with the first time that I sat on the couch and flipped the channel to HBO and saw her on Def Poetry Jam and loved her performance and now have come to the realization that it wasn’t a performance, but a retelling of experiences. And maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the time I met her for the first time in D.C. at a poetry event and saw her love for life. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that she autographed a copy of her CD for me and it has stayed in slot 2 in my truck’s CD changer for the past 3 years. It may be the reason why I reached out to her a year in advance asking if she would come be the feature at my poetry slam. She even performed Ga Bless You, Ma which foreshadowed my own Ga Bless You, Ma moment while walking down the U Street Corridors an hour after she backed away from the mic. HILARIOUS. I told her this when she came to feature at my show……she touches people with her real-ness. You get this sense that she has no reason to pretend when she comes into your presence and you’d be wrong if you thought that she would ever apologize for being exactly who she was designed to be. But I thank her for that. I thank her for writing The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega. I thank her for speaking so openly. I know for a fact that she will be blessed. After all, being blessed for blessing others “is the price you pay for putting yourself out there.”
If you’re looking for my Siskel & Ebert/Roper, then you’ve come to the wrong blog. It is not my place to judge it, but to tell you my experience in the wake of reading Vanessa’s experiences that she chose to share. Yes, I love it. Yes, I would suggest that you read it. But that is just my opinion. I suggest you get your own copy and make your own opinion.
~*My Mother’s Daughter*~