Cycles of My Being

A song cycle that centers on what it means to be an African American man living in America today, premiered by Lawrence Brownlee

Date: 2018Composer: Tyshawn SoreyText: Terrance Hayes

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I. Inhale, Exhale
America – I hear you hiss and stare
Do you love the air in me, as I love the air in you?
Black boxes of cargo
Black boxes in holes
Hysteria, Hysteria – I hear you hiss and stare
Black eyes and blackouts
Blackjacks and nightmares
America – do you care for me, as I care for you?
Do you love the air in me, as I love the air in you?

II. Hope (pt. 1)
When walking hope is a swagger
When breathing hope is oxygen
When drunk hope is wine
When dirty hope is water
When unfilled hope is a well
When unwell hope is medicine
When impatient hope is patience
When lonely hope is company
When poor hope is money
When hungry hope is meat
When hunted hope is a knife
When sleeping hope is a lullaby
When angry hope is a blade
When wounded hope is what heals me.

III. Whirlwind
Lord, I’m trying to break myself open; this song of mine wants to be a whirlwind.
You are both religion and assassin.
I am both assassin and religion.
My armor is made of flesh and spirit. I am your story. I am your lyric.
Lord, I’m trying to break free of prison; this song of
mine must become a weapon.
You are both compass and situation.
I am blindness, rumor, insight, vision.
My courage is made of flesh and spirit. I am your story.
I am your lyric.
Lord, I’m trying to break free again.
This song of mine is made of love and skin.
This song of mine must become a weapon.
This song must become a whirlwind.

IV. Hate
Tell me, what causes one to hate?
Hate takes on many shapes.
It is subtle, overt, passive, often wrapped in disguise.
Hate wears white sheets, black suits, high heels, and boots.
Hate is powerful, all encompassing, and enrapturing.
Tell me, could it be that you hate me because you hate yourself?
The very essence of me you despise.
But why, when I am in the state your ancestors helped create?
…and that, being magnified, only breeds more hate.
You don’t know me. Still you hate me.
Your contempt for me does not allow you to see me for who I am.
I am God’s creation, flesh personified, in His image.
You hate the God in me, and the God awful too.
You don’t know me. Still you jeer me.
Your hate becomes a shackle you cannot break.
You nor I are born with hate, but hate flourished
because you chose to cultivate your hatred.
Your hate lies in wait until you choose to activate hate.
Make no mistake, hate leaves carnage in its wake.
I hate that your hate can decide my own fate.

V. Hope (pt. 2)
When weary hope is a hymn
When uninspired hope is vision
When perplexed hope is reason
When unsettled hope is peace
When lost hope is direction
When frustrated hope is calm
When unsure hope is certainty
When worried hope is serenity
When betrayed hope is forgiveness
When depleted hope is reserve
When dancing hope becomes grace
When fatigued hope is a second wind
When dead hope is life.

VI. Each Day I Rise, I Know
Each day I rise, place foot to floor the weight of consciousness I know.
Each day I rise, I know…to always say hello.
Sun glow tooth-snow hair flow
Mirror blows a flute of crows
Each morning glow at the window
I have something to praise
Sunbreak toothpaste hair glaze
Mirror gaze a flute of blue jays
Moaning, amazing & misbehaving
Each day I rise, I know
I have something to love
Sun-dusk toothbrush hairbrush
Mirror blush a flute of thrushes
Each day I rise, I know.

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