Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Coming of Age

my fingertips stink of formaldehyde.
i have dipped them in a jar of “ALMOSTS.”
the container holds
truth that was on the tip of my tongue that
couldn’t escape when i chose
to keep my mouth shut.
in it also soaks
chances that could have been taken
but were not fulfilled due to fear.
swimming in the jar are dreams that seem
so far out of reach
that i’ve learned to not speak them aloud
for fear that i will be broken
by my own impending failure.

my fingertips stink of formaldehyde
because i am too timid
to stick my whole hand in
and way too polite
to pour all of the contents out,
hold them in my hands and soon discover that
these fingers are long enough
to wrap around my fear,
that this grip is strong enough
to sustain me even if i fall
and that formaldehyde is only there
to preserve all that seems out of reach
so that my dreams of being free can be maintained
until i am ready.

the process stinks
but the reward will be so sweet.
the smell lingers on my fingers–
my twiddling thumbs that inform me
that one day, i’m gonna get some courage
to break that damn jar.
forget reaching or gripping–
my hands can destroy too.
they can tear down, rip apart, smash away
that stupid wall that demarcates my happiness,
red-lines my life.
they can forge the path
and be the first step in my claim
that this world is mine.
these fears are no longer my oppressor.

i can fight back.


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