Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the
daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem
less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
even as you have always accepted the seasons that
pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the
winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within
you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy
in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by
the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has
been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has
moistened with His own sacred tears.
In the summer of 1999, I came across an entity that was part superhero-part college student. I was walking to the South Hall dorm after studying and came across a circle of students. They were all watching two people battle. I walked up and the bout had just ended. People were so hype. Hands flailing, voices shouting, “Get ‘em” one student was saying no one could beat him, my guy is the truth. I stepped up and answered the challenge. The game was simple. The crowd would give you two words. The lyricists would connect those two words. In Atlanta and Tuskegee, I had made a rep for being a great storyteller and poet. I connected a story-weaving together cotton candy and machine guns in a freestyle that concluded with me telling him I would choke him with cotton candy while my nine mil spoke definition of pop rocks. The crowd frenzied. I folded my arms, grinned, and felt good.
Until he spoke, He destroyed me and my grin. He took my same story and wove an much more intricate tale of how he would melt the nine mil, lace it with cotton candy, and watch me die slow like a wilting colorless flower. He spit ether before ether was ether. He constructed a dialogue between me and the crowd linking us all to astro physic theory and then deconstructed the same argument before our eyes. He quoted Khalil Gibran, Langston Hughes, Snoopy, did an imitation of Bill Cosby, and then solved two high-level math equations all while linking each bar to the cotton candy. He spit for 15 minutes a capella and a freestyle with a cerebral vengeance and surgical skill set I had never seen. No one moved. No one grew bored. We just watched. I found myself becoming an audience member. After the battle, I asked him his name. He said Ennis but my friends call me Fathom 9 and I got a show if you want to come. He handed me a flyer and before I could say yes or no was gone: backpack in hand.
For the longest, I thought this verbal pugilist was a figment of my imagination crafted by my own ego as a way to humble myself. Until I saw him in the University of Memphis and so began our sixteen-year friendship of conversations. For two years under a half of my life, Ennis has been a big brother to my writing. Always poking and prodding me to think deeper than the surface, whatever accolades people attribute to my story crafting-I owe to Ennis. Any aggression or emotion I have-I owe to Ennis. Watching him give everything on a stage or rap with such a fury and controlled rage was inspiring to say the least. If you never saw him, imagine a Tornado in a glass, a beautiful controlled fury. More than that the love of hip-hop was what made Ennis: Ennis. Not the flash or money but the true culture of what hip-hop at it’s finest was meant to be.
Ennis was a man, father to a thousand young minds, giver, brother, emcee, rapper, producer, creator, visionary, mentor, educator, civil right activist, leader, follower, servant, artist, cornerstone of Memphis Hip-Hop and philosopher. A man that never finished his degree lectured this year at IVY league institutions of higher learning about the evolution of hip-hop, theory of relativity, and culture dynamics! His mind was exceptional to say the least. Truth be told, Ennis did not graduate because he couldn’t. Ennis did not graduate because he loved to study. He passed his classes. He just kept taking more and more. Sometimes I think confined places of his bedroom producing, stage emceeing, or classroom thinking were the only places he was truly happy. Ennis wanted to know the secrets of the world, nature, music, culture and life. He was not absorbed in the paperwork but the work. As is his life, as Fathom 9 was the brotherhood of doom, as was Dr. Anon, as was Ennis the Menace, as was a co-founder of the Iron Mic Coalition (IMC), as was Avenging Wind, as was The Blues Man: He was about the work.
He spent a lifetime finding the truth that many of us missed that, “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” (Khalil Gibran) He found the sweetness of friendship and learning. He manifested that into life each breath and we never figured it out. We were too busy watching him create to appreciate the art. To know him then you know that he was always giving. I watched a room full of choir teachers from all over the state of Tennessee and North Arkansas give a moment of silence to an emcee because of his dedication to serving as a mentor for under privileged youth and his mentor work. Many did not know that he was even involved. He just did the work.
I was so privileged to have witnessed the blues man final stage performance at the Word where he did a cover to a blues melody. He sang in deep guttural tones. He crafted each syllable, free styled a few rhymes, danced around the stage, gave a hell of a performance then politely left the mic on the stand. We all wildly applauded. The monday before he told me to be his HYPE man. I had never done it before but wanted to so bad. I learned in 1999 that I am not a rapper. We went in rapping and rhyming. I struggled to keep up with the last word or anticipate where he was going. He was too good. Afterwards he shook my hand and said that was hip-hop and let out a booming laugh. I was laughing too and Tonya Dyson was dancing. CCDE played and we all drew from his energy. He made a room come to life like no other emcee I have ever seen. I told him thank-you. I am glad I did. I have thought of this moment often because it reminds me of a question I asked him in the summer of 1999.
Young Tim Moore: Yo bro, Why do you perform like that it was just an open mic and it was 8 people there? Don’t you have a paid gig tonight?
Fathom 9: Who knows if I make it to that one? I wanted to make sure they saw the last performance like it was my last. To me-the room was full.
Well brother the room is full Fathom 9. I learned your final lesson to me. I’m listening and I promise you. I will perform each poem like it’s my last from here out whether one or one thousand. Each poem will be my last. I leave you with this last quote from Khalil Gibran which states, “A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?” Ennis you are a mountain. Brother we still see your work. We marvel at its craftsmanship. We applaud each note and melody. We still see you brother no matter how far you travel. One day I will travel the same road and we will talk once more. I love you and that my brother is the truth and it ain’t no blues in that just love.