Ernie McCray: A Poem – ‘I’m Just an Old Dude Trying to feel the Vibe’

by on September 3, 2010 · 13 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, From the Soul

Trying to Feel the VibePROLOGUE:  What follows was written as an appeal to our softer, more reflective and discerning greater selves as we seek a better world.

One day,
a bunch of stuff away,
I started
flipping pages
in an old
copy of VIBE,
a magazine
to which
I used to subscribe.
And that’s a fact
I would never try to hide

I’m just
an old dude
trying to
feel the vibe.

On the cover
there sits Lil Wayne
looking like he
ain’t feeling no pain
and there’s a little of
urrrrbody in Hip Hop inside.

Young millionaires
on incredible rides:

Wyclef Jean
hugging his baby;

doing his Shady;

Queen Latifah posing
in her natural hue;

“Flavor! Flav!” clowning
as only he can do;

Piddy selling  fragrances
wearing a Sean John face;
like the baddest flyest dude
in the whole human race.

Images flashing like crazy
like rap lines spit out by Jay-Z.

Fingers signing every which a way.
eyes droopy and hazy.

Common looking serious
as a heart attack.
Chris Brown doing Michael Jackson
like there ain’t nothing to that.

Jermaine Dupri claiming he “Ain’t gettin’ no respect”
like  Rodney Dangerfield.

Somebody’s looking
for the “real” Lauryn Hill.

There’s Ayo, Gorilla Zoe,
and Kilo: “Elbows up , side to side”  – leaning like a cholo.

Chamillionaire hyping
Chamilitary Radio.

A word or two about Mario
and a letter or two about Obama,
who had been on the cover
a couple of months befo’,
barely passed the get go
in taking on
the status quo.

And there was T-I and T-Pain and
a whole bunch of other T’s,
it seemed to me,

followed by the DEY the Fugees
and the Black Eyed Peas.

And I kind of semi-read just about
every word written inside,
again cuz:

I’m just
an old dude
trying to
feel the vibe.

But it was dizzying trying to
keep up with all the images in that VIBE.

I mean my emotions
commenced to swirling and rushing
and stirring inside me
like crashing waves at high tide,

on a
roller coaster ride.

I mean, .
as I pondered
all  I had
shuffled through,

I wondered if I saw a
a single soul without a tattoo;

if I saw a smile
or a  sunny mood
or any mood
without a gangsta attitude.

Looked like urrrrrbody
had put some
snarling enhancement drugs
in they food!

And, with all
I had just viewed,
there came some
quasi-scary feelings
that couldn’t be subdued:
feelings that can’t be denied;
feelings born from
knowing it’s a Hip-Hop World
in which I reside,
and knowing that the Hip-Hop Beat
World Wide.
I mean, hey, people
be wearing they long T’s
and they mile-wide trousers
down below they knees
World Wide.

Caps be on backwards
World Wide.

Dudes and Shortys calling
each other Niggaz
in just about every tongue in existence
World Wide.

Blinding bling?
Grilled teeth?
Fingers splayed
World Wide.
“You unnerstan’ what ah’m sayin?”
over and over again?
World Wide.

Grabbing the crotch
like it
stole something?
World Wide.

Lawd! Lawd!
Somebody help me understand
before I become
tongue tied.
Somebody give me some hope
before I take my last ride.
I’m just
an old dude
trying to
feel the vibe.

And here’s
a little aside.
One of the letters
about Obama
inside that month’s VIBE
issued this cry:
And, hey, that writer ain’t never lied.
And if the change Obama,
who now lives in that big White House
in Washington D.C.,
has prophysized
is ever to truly be realized,
then the Hip-Hop World,
based on some of the sad tales
of hood life
I’ve read about in VIBE
might need to try a
few new thoughts on for size.

Yeah, that just might  be wise,
considering so many of our
young folks are carrying AK’s
and taking other young folk’s lives;
considering that there
are a few too many
baby daddies
seeking pleasure
just for pleasure’s sake
all day and all night
and baby mamas
dropping little ones
sometimes out of spite,
sometimes even knowing the dude
ain’t ever gonna act right;
considering that too many of our children
be shucking and jiving
about how “getting good grades
is trying to act white”;
Lawd knows that ain’t right;
considering that everytime we look up
some superjock
in the NBA
and the NFL,
heroes our children hail,
are being hauled off to
the local jail,
packing heat –
sweating so much courvoisier
doing the rub a dub dub
with all the hotties
at the club
that they can’t pass the
DUI inspection
on their own two feet;
considering that
way more than a fair share
of our kids have been shipped
off to Afghanistan and Iraq,
returning home seething
and desperately needing
some kind of debriefing,
not too mention
those who come back
not breathing –

Oh, it just might be wise,
with all these
factors in our lives,
for our singers
and our rappers to make rhymes
that inspire our children’s lives;
rhymes about
how they might enrich their lives
beyond their wildest dreams
and come upon better days
if they learned to view the world
in more positive
life affirming ways;
rhymes about
how beauty
is sometimes as close
as a sunset
or a sunrise;
less rhymes
about “playas”
and the glorification of
drugs being used and abused
and more rhymes
about the freedom fighters
of yesterday
who paid the heaviest of dues
so we wouldn’t have to
walk in their shoes;
less rhymes
about our troubles and woes
and our booty shaking
bitches and ho’s,
and more lines
about all the mothers
and grannies
and nieces and sisters
and aunties
who are out here everyday
contributing mightily
to their families
and to the uplifting of our communities.

I’m just
an old dude
trying to
feel the vibe,
knowing that
the children
are trying to feel it too
deep down inside

and that makes me wish
upon a star
that our wordsmiths
whomever they are,
seen by our children
as gods
way up high –
I just wish they
would give it the old college try,
when they show up on
or VH1,
or MTV
or BET,
to do something
that’s truly fly:

Sing the children
love songs;
Sing them to them ever so softly;
Sing them to them ever so tenderly;
Sing them to them ever so sincerely;
and soulfully
and frequently
and so lyrically
that they can’t help but dream dreams
with their eyes opened wide,
dreams that enable them to realize
that they can rise above
the troubles in their lives
and not only survive
but thrive.

Oh, they could grow
to mesmerize
the world,
today’s little
boys and girls.

That’s the vibe
I’m trying to feel,
the vibe that has eluded me
for a lifetime,
the vibe that
has to resonate
if there’s ever to be
the good times.
And there could be no better time
than these times
to create a world
that has both
reason and rhyme.
Because the Planet Earth,
when we look around,
is running out of time.

But if the Hip-Hoppers,
with their words and beats
in four/four time,
help the children view their minds
as something truly divine,
rich resources
to be mined
for answers
to all the dreams
of love
and peace
that have been
deferred or denied
to humankind
throughout time –

well, if we start on this venture,
in this very moment,
we might just be
in the nick of time.

And, as for me,
I’ve written these words
in a spirit of hope
but I haven’t lost touch
with reality.
My emotions still
swirl and rush
and stir inside me
like crashing waves at high tide,
roller coaster ride.

I won’t live to see
what I yearn to see
but, you see,
I’ll appreciate
whatever progress
unfolds before me
down to the puniest degree.

I guess
I’m now
an old dude
trying to
feel the vibe,
no matter
how intense it is
or how great its size.
Just let me
feel a vibe
with any amount of upside
that could make
the world
feel good inside.
That would
be some kind of vibe.

I’m just
an old dude
trying to
feel the vibe.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dave Sparling September 3, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Excellent poem, you should come down to Winston’s Drunk Poets Society meeting this Monday and read it. We web stream all our meeting now. 6PM to 8:30 every Monday.


avatar Ernie McCray September 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for the invite. Can’t make it, though. Sounds like fun.


avatar Dave Sparling September 5, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Some other time, I know you love to write, and this is a great collection of local and San Diego writers. Hope to see you there sometime.


avatar Pam Rider September 3, 2010 at 5:58 pm

He’s white and not hip hop (yet), but a true blue poet and singer. Your stiring work reminds me of the chorus of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.” “There’s a crack, a crack in everything–that’s where the light comes in.”

One can only hope.


avatar Sunshine September 6, 2010 at 8:11 am

ernie, as you continue to write the words so many need to hear, a tear falls down my cheek. a tear of sadness for what is. a tear of hope for what could be. a tear of thanx for all you say and do. a tear of gratitude for what I know iives inside. a tear of appreciation for the shared hopes and dreams of a better world for all….oh, to see it in my lifetime would be a joy indeed.

no matter what ‘they’ do, i will continue to live in peace within, help those without, and hold on to the hope that love reigns supreme.


avatar Ernie McCray September 6, 2010 at 10:58 am

Hey, you wouldn’t be “Sunshine” without holding “on to the hope that love reigns supreme.” And it does.


avatar Lauren September 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Dear Ernie,

I LOVE this poem – it is poignant and beautiful. I already see the crack in everything where the light comes in. May my gaze remain focused upon the light the crack allows in. It’s always present.

You are wonderful and a presence of light.

Thank you for being you.



avatar OB Joe September 13, 2010 at 10:01 am

Too awesome to describe!


avatar john brooks October 7, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Ernie, I definitely want to set this to music, and possible animate it!


avatar Ernie McCray October 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Let’s do it.


avatar Brenda Prantil October 5, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Ernie…this is absolutely awesome! I don’t think ANYONE could have said it better or with more love and conviction for a better world and hope for our children. Thank you, my friend, for sharing such beauty with me!!! ?


avatar Ernie McCray October 5, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Oh, I just loves sharing beauty with you, Brenda P.


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