Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “black

Crabs in a Barrel


lack of love for one another
makes dark skin
break.

wins become
wounds.
wins dig up
wounds.
words cut skin and wait for
blood.

dark skin cutters have words for
razors;
they feel pleasure in
pain
as they watch what makes us all the same
seep out
and scab over
and scar.

and only then do they applaud.

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Aunt Sarah’s Chirren


Photo by Brandon Allen Photography

what are my chirren’s names?
i done had so many,
seen lives blow through wind like ragweed, mm hmm.
my woman-parts at one time were like
a train station–
men whistlin’, comin’ and leavin’.
i never loved the ones who came,
but the ones who left?
chiiiillle,
they carry pieces of my heart with them in their pockets,
pull me out of their wallets like crisp dollar bills at the liquor sto’
and roll me and smoke me in their funny cigarettes.
baby, i am like ash,
shakin’ free,
black and grayish-white,
once on fire
but lookin closer to death than life.


Never-Ending Poem


if i could spit a never-ending poem,
i would speak of black womanhood–
of a little girl whose dark-skinned father
looked at his dark-skinned seed and told her
that there’s a secret to erasing their skin:
“Here, wear this cream and the blackness will go away.
Boys will like you more and jobs will open doors
and people will let you in with smiles.”
i would speak of that little girl-child,
how she listened to her father
and observed her light-skinned, beautiful mother
and rubbed whiteness on her skin,
how lightness did not come,
but instead painful bumps and itchy rash
and tears in the mirror and her dad who said,
“Maybe that one was too strong. I will get you a gentler one.”
the girl who shook her head “No”
and accepted her darker fate…
kind of.

i would speak of that girl
who grew up with big titty-denial,
of the time her best friend pulled her to the side,
looked her in the eye
and told her “Your bra is too small.”
the girl who prayed and prayed for pubic hairs to grow,
who searched her mom’s medicinal herb books
for a recipe to start menses.
“Maybe if I drink a tea or take a vitamin,
blood will come and I’ll be a woman.”
blood came in its time
and so did boys
who ignored her face and got lost in her breasts.
as years went on,
they got lost in her booty, her hips.
more years went on
and they got lost in her smile, her eyes, her skin.
more years went on
and they got lost in her hair.
more years went on and they got lost in her “no”
that was too quiet.

i would speak of her insecurities
that helped men mold her like clay
into a woman who appeared strong with a mean face,
but crumbled like wet sand castles upon touch;
a woman who craved touch so much
that it hurt her
so she exchanged touch for God,
then back for touch,
then back for God,
then back for touch,
then traded it back for God,
and then back for touch,
and then back for more touch,
and then back for touch,
and then who was God?
there was only touch.
and then touch got too much
and then what was God?
and then touch fucked her up
and then where was God?
i mean “Who is God?”
i mean “What is God?”
i mean…”There is God!”
“Here is God!”
“Wait…where is God?”
i would speak of her questions
that rolled on and on,
her definitions that changed,
and how she got different,
but stayed the same.

if i could spit a never-ending poem,
i would speak of black womanhood,
of my own stories,
those of my sisters
and all the things we’ve seen,
felt, loved, cried over, laughed about,
screamed about,
of moments where death wasn’t near enough,
and then those times where love filled us up
but i’m afraid
time just isn’t enough,
our stories are too much,
my voice would dry up.


Newborn Baby Tears for My Old Self


sometimes i still cry for the old me
and i feel guilty cuz
the new me is
happy.

but i miss the old me’s extremes–
blind faith and concrete
black and white ideals
until evil jet black pushed into petrified pink
surprisingly, painfully.

suffering isn’t ideal.
neither are tears and grief
for a version of myself
mummified by cries that came so often
that when tears ran out,
a new woman appeared:

tougher skin,
sharper words,
deeper melancholy buried in
soft soil of smiles
and brutal honesty.
she is beauty all while
crying internally,
confused at her existence:
a newborn baby
with a 25-year-old body.


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.


Video of Me Performing “Exotic Beauty”


Hi everyone!  Here is another video of me performing.  This is my poem, “Exotic Beauty” (click here to read the poem) at an event in Washington, D.C. I did last week called “Women, Words, and Power!” (done in association with The Essential Theatre).  I was one of nine female spoken word artists who performed.

I’ll warn you that the video quality isn’t great, but hey… 🙂 Enjoy!


Ode to Black Man


black man,
you are the still waters where bystanders pass time by
throwing pebbles on
with the hope that they will skip.
i see you as you ripple every which way
from that which is thrown at you
but still you manage not to break.
you are fluid,
cool, transforming when you need to
but still remaining faithful
to the form that is you…
beautiful.

your strength is like metal chains
that after time build rust
but still are solid enough
to keep the gates of innocent lives shut.
danger shakes when she sees you,
chooses to walk on the other side of the street,
shudders at your power
and that’s what it is about you
that captures me.

black man,
i love you despite the ones who look like you
who hurt me.
i’ve learned to treat them as exceptions
and regard you as excellent.
your smile
has the capacity to stretch my heart that once shrank
and let it cover all of me
so that beating flesh moves from my chest
and onto my sleeves.
you are as pure as guitar strings
strumming acoustic sounds
that speak to my soul.
you are a drug which relieves tension
and melts away all that i try to control.

i won’t go as far as to say
you fill the hole in me,
the one that nags at me late at night
because despite the happiness you might
bring to my life,
you are not God–
but you do look like Him,
like when you laugh,
i see His reflection
and when we embrace,
i catch a glimpse of God’s face.

black man,
you hold the world on your shoulders
with strong arms, solid legs
and a back that has been stabbed
and i see you bleeding.
i wish i had enough rags to stop the blood,
wish i had enough sand to stop your flood,
wish i had enough patience to wait for your love
and enough discipline
to not be sitting on the side of the water again,
throwing pebbles at you
with the hope that they will skip.
i see you as you ripple every which way
from that which is thrown at you
but still you manage not to break.