Martin Gilmore and Jovan Mays - Make a Home / Nana's Cages

from by Martin Gilmore

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I met Jovan when he was a student at Chadron State College. He and my cousin, Ben Treffer, lived down the hall from each other in the high rise dorm at the college. Jovan ran a great concert called "Release" which was a celebration of the performing arts and over the 5 years that I have played that concert we have become close friends.

We have been collaborating for a few years now. Our collaborations have led to some cool results, both musically and poetically. I played a show with him where slam poets backed up an aerial dance (trapeze) group. I've played with him at Poetry readings and his feature shows, and he has accompanied me at concerts.

When it boils down, our art is not so different, and though he uses spoken word and I use music to convey our ideas we find a common mind and similar ideas about the world and our experiences.

We didn't begin in the same world, but we come from the same place.

Please visit Jovan's website at and support his poetry team Slam Nuba when you find yourself with free time.

Also, please feel free to share this music with people and direct them to Jovan's website as well as my own website ( Thanks for supporting this project and tell your friends. Looks for me on Facebook.




Make a Home / Nana's Cages
by Martin Gilmore (Timtomtodd Music, ASCAP, 2012) and Jovan Mays

Seven, that’s how old she was following a wagon through the sand
From Amarillo to New Mexico that’s the way they traveled back then
It was nineteen fifteen and her family was struggling headed west to chase the hope of a dream
To the land of enchantment hoping the best would happen along with their family
She told me when I was younger “Son the way that you make it through
Keep your nose pointed to the brightest horizon keep your feet falling and rising
Don’t worry about what you left back east you won’t get nowhere if you don’t move your feet
You know, that’s how you make it home.”

She wasn't the Bengay and Matlock type.

Nor was she an expert on house hold chore techniques or chocolate chip cookie recipes.

She doesn't have an OVERSIZED grumpy cat or an undersized chirpy dog.

But there were parakeets within her heart that kept her company when loneliness set in.

Her friends called her Mari-lee
But we called her Nana

She grew up in Pendergrast.
Somewhere in North Central Georgia,
So just DEEP enough in the South that one could actually see the surface.

As a child she would love to observe the flight patterns of turkey vultures.
She loved the way that their feathers frayed through the southern sky.
Because where she was from, they were the only things breaking the Color Line.

Experts say that these buzzards share the same soaring shadows as bald eagles.
So sitting there feeling like a carcass,
Simultaneously she found freedom.

So her mother put her and her sister on the 1st feather that they could up north.
Because they heard that up there Jim doesn't clip his Crow's wings.
So her mother became the first Nubian in Queens to own her own palace.
This was back when there was enough BIG APPLE to go around the table.

In 1995 on a family vacation I visited this house for the first time.
Upon anticipation of patio rocking chairs, bear claw bath tubs and cypress floors
I was greeted with a hoarder’s paradise.
Priceless papers were piled to the ceiling.
The only place to sit was on the back patio.

And there, surrounding all of us
Were stacks upon stacks of bird cages?
Hundreds of them, NO BIRDS.
Just wrought iron bridged by welding joints in Victorian fashion.
All these devices of entrapment constructed were in such beauty I didn’t know what to think.

Last week, I was in a thrift store and I came across a vintage bird cage.
I stood their staring and wondering why there was so much beauty here.

& that took me back to my Nana
and how she must of felt
losing her Son, Husband & The Civil Rights Movement at the same time.
& I began to think
What better way to defend someone’s freedom then to collect the things that bind us?
By leaving just one less cage in the world
& ensuring another scene of formless flight.

So I started to wonder,
How many people did this woman set free?

Was this why my father
With a 1 way gray hound ticket in hand
& sunglasses on the back his neck
preventing him from pausing in the past
could head to the Mile High so he didn't have to feel that low again

Was she the miracle that made my mother follow him to the mountains?
Did she lift my grand father out of cancers misery?
Does she hold the keys to my throat?
Did she stitch my cousins into the Blue Angel Air Force Falcons that they became?

Could you feel like you won the Civil Rights Movement in your own back yard?

When your time comes, how many people will you have selfless-lee unshackled.?
How many doors did you leave open?
How many bars did bend or file through?

Did you make sure that the perches around you went unoccupied?
Did you tend to their feathers?
Did you feed them enough wisdom before their take off?

When the caged bird sings
Did their hymns rattle the locks or did you just swallow their tunes?

When the doves cried
Did you give any weight to their tears?

& when the rooster crows
Did you empower it to fly?

When we sat around your coffin
I think we knew that your soul was soaring above us.
Your feathers, they must have been fraying the sky
Everyone in attendance was just a cage
That you collected.

She married young by the standards today raised twin girls in the hardest times
Her husband built roads and the Horsetooth dam and trapped coyotes to make a life
Twelve years her daughters were in school was never in the same one more than eight months
The lived in trailers and stone wall houses sometimes their floors were dust
She told me “Son don’t you ever regret, take any break you ever can get
Happiness isn’t dollars and cents, hard times came and hard times went
But you can’t build a life out of money and stone you build it from love
And that’s how you make a home”


from Martin Gilmore and Friends, track released November 14, 2012
Martin Gilmore: Vocals and Guitar
Jovan Mays: Spoken word



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