Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “America

My Five Stages of Grief in 2015 © Farah Lawal Harris


in psychology,

the Kübler-Ross model describes the five stages of grief

as a series of emotional stages one experiences

when faced with their own impending death

or the death of someone else.

the five stages are:

denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

here are mine:

 

1.

my mom and dad are immigrants

who came to the U.S. on their own volition,

got student visas to go to college

because it was a smart life decision.

i was born in this country, but Nigeria is in my veins.

now, more than ever, i cling to my ancestors’ names:

my great great grandfather, Herbert Macaulay’s face

is on Nigerian currency;

his grandfather, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s life

has been covered in documentaries.

and then there’s me–

akata-loving girl with an African-American studies degree,

stranger to my parents’ homeland

and i am hated in this country.

 

2.

i am hated in this country.

not too long ago, some whites

used to lynch niggas at night,

leave mutilated statues of souls that used to be

full vessels of hope

emptied

for the hot sun and maggots to eat

until their families cut them down from trees,

trying to revive them

with saltwater tears.

but tears have never been rain.

today, some whites

kill niggas in daylight,

leave mutilated statues of souls that used to be

full vessels of hope

emptied

until the community calls out overzealous police,

trying to revive them

with justice.

but justice has never been rain,

so we get devoured

every 28 hours.

 

3.

every 28 hours,

i or someone i love could die,

but fear overtakes you

when i pass you at night?

i wish you knew how afraid i was of you–

we are marionettes whose strings are pulled

by unpredictable Geppetos

who with one false accusation,

one New Year’s Eve at Fruitvale Station,

one wallet mistaken for a gun,

one day at the playground trying to have fun,

one bachelor party before my wedding day,

one hoodie to protect my head from the rain,

one jaywalk in the middle of the street,

one individual cigarette sold cuz Newports ain’t cheap,

one nap on the couch as the SWAT Team busts in,

one hip-hop song played loud as i hang with my friends,

one knock on the wrong door for help,

one afternoon at Walmart holding merchandise they sell,

could turn my family’s life

into a living hell.

Gepetto, when you wore a white hood instead of blue,

i recognized you.

Gepetto, i wouldn’t be so scared

if you saw me too.

Gepetto, why don’t i matter to you?

 

4.

why don’t i matter to you?

black lives matter

when we rob, rap and rape.

the only time you see me is when

i make you money or take food off your plate.

i can’t breathe–

i’m in an illegal chokehold.

i can’t breathe–

blackness is incongruous with hope.

i can’t breathe

cuz he was handcuffed when you shot him in the back.

i can’t breathe

cuz our justice system is out of whack.

i can’t breathe

because so many no longer do,

i can’t breathe

because no Declaration holds me in its truths.

wake me when i matter to you.

 

5.

but then again,

who cares if I matter to you?

i’m a proud black woman and i won’t go away,

Nigeria and America simultaneously

run through my veins,

i am black–

i matter.

they were black–

they mattered,

we are matter,

protons, electrons and neutrons

by the name of Trayvon,

Amadou, Renisha, Sean;

Oscar, Jordan, Michael, John;

Tamir, Ezell, Kajeime, Yvette;

Eric, Aiyana, the list ain’t done yet…

their names live on because

we are immortal,

we are black;

we are priceless,

we are black;

we are resilient,

we are black;

we are beautiful,

we are black.

we are black.

we are black.

we are black.

and we matter!


History Unstuck


on November 4, 2008,
the evening of election day
CNN projected that Barack Obama
was the candidate
who had won.

surrounded by cheers, i couldn’t celebrate,
sayin, “these suckas done stole the election once”
so i’ll scream and shed tears when this whole thing is done–
afraid to get my hopes up
because hope takes audacity
and when i look at history,
we were dismissed.

defined as inferior,
spent days familiar
with crops, working fields,
rarely seeing interiors,
unless it was the interior
of slave shacks, you know,
nights with master on slave woman’s back,
birthing babies that lacked
a sense of family
because brokenness was the system,
spreading confusion so that to be black
almost equated with being victim;
pulled from homelands and sold on blocks
was the way to do things,
auctioning off humans like art or antique rings.
we were beaten,
scars forming shapes of trees on backs
with branches not long enough for us to climb
but deep enough for them to find
their way into souls that birthed generations of babies
still feeling the sting of whips.

we were whipped into shape
on the day emancipation came
so slaves became men,
no longer four fifths
just always dismissed,
debt staying constant
no money in pockets,
still poor but at least there was a trap door
that could be closed and opened at night
to see crosses burning at night
who knew shadows could be white?
“Mama, they look like ghosts…”
threatened hearts beat with fright
and sometimes they even cry
but you can’t hear them as well
when vocal cords are constricted by ropes
as unprotesting eyes look forward.

but we had to look back,
thirsty, but certain water fountains would lack
the fluid to match our skin color;
so we had to look back,
to learn what happens to dreams deferred and wonder if they fester;
so we had to look back
to brave souls like soldiers who sat at segregated lunch counters;
so we had to look back,
to hear the voices of prophets like Dr. King,
turning our ears to the past
so that we could hear freedom ring
and echo in our dreams and perhaps become fact.
look back to Malcolm X and his place in history,
even if you don’t agree,
he inspired our reality.

we were beautiful,
growing stronger with each casualty,
pulling strength from the act of burying,
being replenished by hoses with water pressuring
us to stop
but the clock ticked on.
we were beautiful and so was black
and we were vocal, using platforms to speak so many truths
that lies got scared and shook in their boots
and found a way to crack us–
crack broke some backs of us,
money ruled some of the best of us,
and soon our scariest enemies were…us.

but us wasn’t all bad and never was,
because all that there ever was
to identify us was our skin
and that one drop of blood,
like light rain on a window pane
romantic to some, but to others
it’s just rain,
without which the earth couldn’t survive.
showers on our heads keep dreams alive,
but sometimes i stay dry,
feeling that it’s better to suffocate hope
than try to keep her alive
but on that night,
November 4, 2008
tears filled my eyes and the weather changed
and the course of history finally turned the page.
no longer did i have to look back,
thinking of the way we were
but i had to look forward.

i had to look forward
with binoculars on my eyes,
seeing the prospect of a black president
the spirit of yes we can, yes we did
and we’ll do it again;
fueled by inspiration,
truth defying times are in my eyes,
joy fills my heart
and my soul cries out with gratitude
oh the magnitude
of what we used to be
and what we have become.


Prostitute


i remember the day when
one of my theatre teachers proclaimed
in a his usual loud, harsh yell of a voice:
“You’re all prostitutes!”
i took it as a joke,
cracked up about it
like the daily comics
but now it’s no longer funny
as i try to figure out
how to use my art
to make money.

am i selling my body?
maximizing my curves for that role of a vixen
or encouraging my unhealthy addictions
for “character research”
so that on that day
when i have to be vulgar and curse,
it’ll come out naturally like it’s been with me
since birth?

am i offering blow jobs
in the form of words
accompanied by sweet smiles and mediocre verse?
do i even know my self worth?
i shudder at the thought of becoming a whore,
at throwing my talent out
for whatever it gets me
because i’ve seen so-called artists do so
and believe me,
it’s disgusting.

one particular street poet,
seeing my afro and dark skin got me
by being conscious when he first met me,
spittin’ lines about the black man’s plight
and how America don’t really treat her citizens right
but after he caught my eye,
he would whisper to me poetry about sexual fantasies,
paint rhythmic pictures of what he wanted to do to my body
and how his tongue would make my hips dance
and ultimately tried to use his art
just to get in my pants.

negro please!
i refuse to be a trick to an artist’s self-seeking antics
and can’t muster giving myself up
on a dirty squeaky mattress
or walk the streets at night
for the purpose of filling my veins
with fortune and fame.
so i’ll hang on tight to my goods
and respect what i do
and die before i can be labeled
an art
prostitute.


Family Tree


my green-white-green flag superimposes with
red, white, and blue on
dark brown skin,
white teeth,
shining black eyes filled with pride.
i am a rainbow inside and outside
with clouds that try to block my sight
but i still manage to shine.
my heart beat is drum beats
and every time i move my feet,
i commune with the deepest part of me.

i am a little branch on a strong,
deep-rooted tree that has seen centuries
in the same manner i have seen weeks.
i blow in the wind and sometimes
get scared i’ll break away,
that i’ll lose my foundation and be
a lost and scrawny twig,
but stronger portions of my wooden family keep me
hanging on.

my family, wrinkled rings spread out
makes me proud.
i only know the branch on which i rest,
disconnected from the rest,
but estimate that we all share the same breaths,
releasing oxygen from our leaves
and giving life just by living,
turning brighter as seasons alter and get colder,
increasing in strength and resilience as we get older,
stretching ourselves and embedding ourselves into society
by growing from a fragile sapling
into a full-grown tree.


Anniversary


45 years later, who would’ve thought
that the dream that was once described
could be seen right before our eyes?
i am in a state of amazement,
filled with hope and on the verge of tears,
knowing that even though we have a long way to go,
we are making steps toward being there,
walking a route of change
that bonds the white man and the black man,
the Christian and the atheist,
the man and the woman,
uniting the black family and showing previews of what could be
and should be happening in this nation.
with dedication i pray for a brighter day,
one where character outweighs skin and
one where i will be proud to be an American
until then
i will be filled with pride deeper than i can understand
which leaks out every time i lift my voice and shout
“Yes We Can!”


Black in America


is blackness a curse?
they’re trying to kill us.
the darker brother and sister are put on display
like slaves
in an open market.
they’re trying to kill us,
letting us choose our own death
whether it’s how we ingest, protect, or have sex,
it all results in the same effect.
Uncle Sam is the overseer,
lashing us with the whip of the economy,
sugar cane is liquor and weed,
cotton and tobacco is money,
our diet is poison
and we are our biggest enemies.
we are trying to kill us.
is blackness a curse?
a voodoo magic trick
to be put on display for the world?
as much as and as often as i
would like to deny
connection to what is plaguing us,
i can’t.
i am part of the family put up for sale today
and there’s no possibility of hiding,
my dark skin gives me away
and there’s no way to move past
calls from bill collectors every day
so i too am a slave,
moving between the field and the house,
moving between my dreams and security,
between reality and fantasy,
fighting the notion
that blackness is a disease.
but perhaps we are airborne
because parts of us spread into society…
we all breathe
in the blackness,
breathe out the oppression,
breathe
in the beauty,
breathe out the lessons,
breathe
in the answers,
breathe out the question:
is blackness a curse?


Monkey Babies


*Written July 5, 2008*

i was watching TV the other night and i saw
rich people buying monkeys to raise them as babies.
what ever happened to adoption?
as another black child or baby is in foster care crying or getting abused,
rich white people are buying colorful satin dresses to put on little monkeys with diapers.
they’re “part of the family” and go everywhere with them.
they get fed lollipops and McDonald’s french fries even when they’re bad
and i wonder about that suffering child watching TV wherever they are
and seeing a monkey getting fed fries and
wondering when they’ll get their share.
grabbing at the screen,
they realize too that a monkey is preferable to them,
more desired company,
then they see a three minute commercial about protecting the dog community,
sigh,
and realize that this world has no concern for human beings.