for the past few years,
i have looked at my body with disdain–
blamed it for inexplicable pain,
glances from creepy men who refused to break stares
even after i shot the dirtiest of daggers with my eyes to say,
“get away from me.”
i have tugged my love handles unlovingly,
stood in the mirror jiggling parts
i’m too shy to mention through poetry,
cursed my skin for getting dry and scaled in the winter,
wished i was thinner,
wished i could trade this black woman body
for that of a girl named Molly
(with a big-enough booty to keep her warm on cold days),
wished bra shopping didn’t frustrate,
but now i recognize all the self-hate and laugh.
today, i look at this body
and see how much God loves me–
so much so that he hand-crafted me,
sculpted me without straight lines.
i am His design,
i am that divine living representation of Him.
i admire my skin
and every limb and curve it touches.
now when curious eyes land on me,
i smile to myself,
put myself in their shoes,
knowing that if i saw such a creation,
i’d stop and look too.
i still shiver
when fingers touch my neck without forewarning.
if a man tries to whisper in my ear,
my body freezes
like the temperature just dropped.
this body used to be
raw honey for black tea,
good music for a weary soul.
my voice used to sing simple songs
about my day or foods i like.
but this tongue grew numb
and i still get nervous
when the weight i purposely gained
i’m still suspicious of strangers;
plot escape plans
when i walk in alleys alone:
if i’m wearing heels,
i practice in my head
how i’ll stab a crazy man in the eye;
if wearing boots,
i plan to knock him down, stomp, and run;
if any other shoes,
then knee must be used.
all this preparation for a woman
who’s never been attacked by someone she didn’t know;
all these thoughts of violence for a woman
who thought love conquered all.
but i had one failure,
trusted when i should’ve been cautious,
stayed when i should have left,
entertained when i should have ignored…
and sometimes i still
pain, cramping, bloating;
blood clots, tear drops, emoting;
gas pain, headache, egg waste.
void of child and patience;
one more month of freedom;
emotional clock still works
(strong batteries run in my family).
caged body, sweaty forehead, foreign smell;
gross-feeling, penis-envying, horny as hell;
quiet, reflective, sensitive.
28 days are not long enough.
7 days are just too much.
but at least I’m still young enough–
either that or life has a slow way of catching up.
whatever it is,
whenever it is this time of the month,
my heavy breasts make my heart sink a little;
each body part that once was little
grows before my eyes
as my capacity to deal with it all shrinks.
potential life exits
only to recreate its possibility
again and again.
i resisted you for a while
and now that i’m letting you back in,
you seem to flood and nourish my insides
like much-needed rain.
old tricks no longer put me to sleep–
fingers can get sticky
and room can begin to fill with
aromatic citrus sweet musk;
body can relax,
but mind and heart fills up
now that my midsection is no longer concave
and my abs have relaxed and settled into a belly,
i find my reflection less appealing.
i used to take pride in mirror glances
and secret naked dances,
but now i change the subject quickly
after catching a glimpse of my nude body
after showers or other clothe-less activity.
regardless of how things might end up,
i’m thankful for now;
for my smile and the awakening
in my soul and body,
body and soul;
for jazz tones traveling up my spine
and dancing out of my mouth
through colorful, raucous laughter.
the world becomes pink and blue
as energy mingles together
in a soft purple violet
needing to be watered.
hardened as i may try to be,
i can’t run away from the fact
that i am in fact,
i am strong without a doubt,
able to do whatever i set my mind to,
but inside i am soft as tissue,
sensitive like scarred skin,
delicate as seraphim and cherubim
and spend my energy cherishing
everyone around me.
sometimes the weather gets cloudy
and i forget my anatomy,
think i have pecs instead of breasts,
a mustache above my lips,
and a voice deep and rich as chocolate.
but i am not this basic idea or definition.
i am the kiss on your forehead when your confidence is missing.
i am the gentle touch when trouble gets to be too much
and the loving ear that will always be there.
i am the mirror on the wall that tells you all,
the pep in your step to take you from one success to the next.
i am a woman,
mother of creation,
removed from your rib so that your stomach is a little empty
so that when you get hungry, you’ll know that you need me.
i am the appetizer, main course, and dessert,
the one that you love but still tend to hurt,
the one who loves you but still likes to search
for herself outside of your help.
i am not the same as you.
we complement each other like orange and blue,
like honey and dew,
sweet and tickling.
oh, what a feeling
to stop pretending
and start claiming
i need a hug.
am i wrong to say that i don’t trust the people around me
to hug me long enough,
to grip me genuinely enough?
i don’t need one of those from-the-side one-arm
“i don’t really feel like hugging you, but it’s the nice thing to do” type hugs.
keep your arms to yourself.
i need chest against chest
until we exchange breaths.
share your burdens with me without talking
and i’ll do the same.
nothing sexual, just being humane,
relational as we were meant to be.
even a tree stretches its branches away from itself
despite being climbed on,
arms being chopped off, sometimes broken by storms.
it keeps growing, stretching, pushing past comfort zones
until its undying effort is seen even in shadows.
we should be more like trees–
reach out even we are tired,
grow closer to others even if our hearts are solid as wood.
let nature guide us,
honor what’s inside us,
honestly, desperately, generously,
i want you to love me,
not in that agape unconditional love type way,
but that “please baby please baby please” type way,
that get on your knees and pray
that God answers and allows us
to cross paths again type way,
that you remember my birthday
without Facebook or Myspace type way.
i want to be the last thought on your mind before you sleep
and that hot, sexy dream that wakes you
to make you change your sheets.
i want you to love me,
to wanna meet my mama, my daddy,
my siblings, friends, teachers, coworkers, distant cousins,
neighbors, acquaintances and fellow students,
not so you can stalk me,
but possibly learn how to have an influence
on my life so that one day,
you’ll be in that repertoire of
people to meet.
i want you to love me past my body
and baby, i know it’s banging
and you want to bang me
but here’s a thought–
make love to my insecurities and fears;
thrust your love deep inside to make me cum so hard
that they shake and disappear.
make my soul and future curl so tight
that if this is wrong,
i don’t wanna be right
and if this is dark,
then God shouldn’t let there be light
and because you always make my day,
i never want it to be night.
i don’t even know who you are yet
but i want you to love me,
to confirm that love lasts and exists
outside of stories and movies.
show me the positive side of life
that accompanies love
and maybe you’ll reaffirm my faith
with the Lord above
if i can see right before my eyes
just what it is that He does
and be able once more in my life
to let go
and let love.
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
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,
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.
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
sometimes i have the urge to sell myself.
not on a dusty shelf
to be picked over during the holidays,
but to be on the market in such a way
that i take the time to explain the reasons why
someone should love me.
i am so far from perfection that it scares me,
but my soul makes up for it.
i can be difficult to deal with at times,
but my smile makes up for it.
occasionally, i’m beyond reckless,
but my heart makes up for it.
i ask a lot,
but my love makes up for it.
there are plenty of other women out there,
but i make up for it,
so much so
that i shouldn’t have to sell my treasure,
yell like an auctioneer for the highest bidder
because truth be told,
there is no dollar amount high enough
to satisfy the desire that lies inside of me.
inside i am rich, exotic,
and last but not least
sometimes i let these qualities spill out of my body
and cover the shy nakedness i walk around with,
hoping that someone will see
that i’m no longer streaking
and uncontrollably grab hold of me.
but i’m learning
to hold on to myself,
to use my heart as a gate rather than an open door,
one that can only be unlocked with a special key
that is not for sale,
but destined to one day
and fit perfectly.
i run so much that i miss out on touch.
oftentimes, i brush past shoulders of those i know
as to not fully forget
what it feels like when flesh connects.
my sense memory is not enough
to carry me from one day to the next anymore.
my proprioception blinds my perception
so that my sixth sense seeks love by senselessly banging
on unanswered doors
and as a result, my affection bank is overdrawn–
i’m so poor;
surrounded by people,
but i’m so lonely;
loved by many,
but i just need someone to hold me,
to reteach me the meaning of skin meeting skin,
to turn my stone heart and body back
to beating warmth: soft, slow, and genuine.
i want to move with purpose
rather than sprint from here to there,
ignoring the simplicity of something as simple
as touch to let me know i’m still here
and that somebody cares.
God, please make me skinny.
remember when i was little girl
and i had long limbs like Twiggy?
well now i got a big ol’ booty, wide hips and overpowering titties
and i just wanna be skinny.
remember when i was younger
and i had long limbs like Twiggy?
and i asked you for some sexy, my period and titties?
well i take that back–
just make me skinny
so i can walk without the guilt of curves,
the memories built in to the angles of my hips
that remember hands that sat there and lips that kissed
and arms that grabbed and hearts that beat as one
and the fun i used to have watching my womanhood blossom.
now i wish i could be a little girl again,
pre-pubescent so i can start over again
with the knowledge of today wrapped around my head
like bandages to control the bleeding
from lies i’ve been fed
like “growing up is fun”
and “you should try everything at least once.”
God, please be kind and rewind
and remember the time
when i had long limbs like Twiggy
and make me skinny.
you strain your voice, calling God incessantly.
if you spoke quietly, you would hear that he’s already
talking to you.
he operates rhythmically like your heartbeat,
coursing and consistent as the blood being pumped
throughout your whole system.
like oxygen in your lungs,
he is airy and light and moving,
waiting for the point when we are attentive
instead of missing him,
by choosing talking over listening,
picking ignorance, which is life threatening
and our own words,
which are deafening.
i don’t sleep anymore
and i’m scared i’m gonna crack.
my body is slowly decomposing;
my mind is dry, thirsty soil
and my pillow is fertilizer but the smell
keeps me away.
..gotta stay busy…
gotta gotta gotta gotta
get goals accomplished.
who cares if i have been awake so long
that i can no longer focus?
even though i can no longer see straight.
every time i check the time,
i see that it’s too late
but i can’t seem to get my feet to touch the floor
to walk to bed.
plans rule the insides of my head
and i suffer from unfinished ones.
they are barrels to guns that rub my temples
and trace the outsides of my mouth.
i’m so tired that tears won’t even come out.
they stay in to assist in the caging in
of the insomnia that has overtaken me.
this altered state is pressure-filled
and i don’t know where it’s taking me.
all i know is that i feel verrry verrry sleeeeepy
and it’s already morning.
their fingers range in colors
like shades of lipstick at a M.A.C. counter
and each tried to count her tears
but fell asleep with puddles of misery
seeping in her ears
and when they awoke with matted hair
stuck to the sides of their faces,
they realized that memory doesn’t erase itself
but only is kind and rewinds for new days of reliving
that which women wish were forgotten.
you should see their fingers…
some blackened by lighter flames,
some blistered by working many days, and some so soft,
you’d think they never worked a day in their life.
they use their fingers in many ways,
to touch the skin on their own bodies
or to point them at thieves who tried to reprogram their use
to only hush their own concerns and stay folded and numb.
their fingers are beautiful
but afraid to reach out because reaching out
sometimes results in someone pushing in;
being nice sometimes results in violation
and sometimes tips of fingers get bitten so that they are ineffective
and can’t redial the police when necessary
or wave together at bystanders who could offer assistance.
their fingers sometimes get limp
but are able to dance late at night when sleep should dominate
and able to scratch and sniff good times
and magic erase tragedy and blur together evenly
so that fingers make up women survivors who learn to smile again
and band again and move again
and be again and be even more than
but whole persons, complete humans
ranging in shades to create
a beautiful prism of survivors
i am a troubled woman.
tears flow from things that should make me smile
and i’m enamored with that which causes me pain.
i have a sadomasochistic brain
and my body feeds off of the punishment
inflicted by mistakes.
the heartache reminds me that i am alive
and though i double over at times because of it,
my mind can’t stop doing this.
i run away from love
and chase after infatuation cakes covered with lust frosting
and like it off my fingers late at night like a guilty pleasure
and watch as the number of inches around my loins measure
to be something greater than i can count.
i recount all the calories and grams of fat consumed
by situations i should have left sooner,
“NO”s i should have said with certainty
and people who i have allowed to hurt me,
those who entered my life like
there was a green light on my forehead
and i didn’t have the sense to put up a yellow
so at least they would slow
on the narrow, winding lanes of my heart’s road.
i wish it was not so–
glutton for dessert and hurt;
if pain was a designer,
i’d own the t-shirt
and walk down runways called my day,
strutting my stuff for all to see.
become the premiere spokesmodel who doesn’t need
make-up and glamor to illustrate me–
completely confused, conceived baby
pushing through the birth canal of life
like a newborn who chooses to arrive feet-first.
my life hurts
but there aren’t band-aids large enough,
no peroxide bottle big enough,
no doctor smart enough,
no evidence strong enough,
no love deep enough,
no tears salty enough,
no laughs long enough
to sustain the pain.
so i remain
a troubled woman.
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!
there are two sides of me
that live simultaneously
diametrically opposed to one another.
they live inside and they fight,
bruising each other with shuddering blows
and when i wake up in the morning,
between my blackened eyes and broken nose,
i don’t even know
which one will show her pretty or ugly face.
there’s the side of me who
enters parties and lights up the whole place
with bubbly personality;
but then there’s the quiet side
who sits in dark corners while others dance wildly
and chooses to talk to nobody
as she writes poetry.
which one is really me?
one is open and the other is closed off.
one enjoys life to the fullest
and the other is always pissed off.
i want desperately to remove the sleeves
of these confused parts of me
but i need them to keep out the cold.
the one on the left is short
and the one on the right is long
but the experience of feeling varying degrees of warmth
has made me strong.
i walk around lopsided and unbalanced,
harnessing and throwing away my talent,
treating my body as a temple
and an alley with empty liquor bottles and blunt roaches
until that day approaches
when the fact that
there are two me’s won’t have consequences
and i’ll be able to look in mirrors
and recognize the girl i see.
and i will marvel in the beauty
and complexity of she,
one human being with different facets
that all make up
naked as the day i was born,
i am alone.
there is no one to touch and play
and most times when i’m clothed i say
that this is ok.
but as i lay in my cotton sheets in the buff,
i know that my solitary existence is not enough.
i feel like doing a dance,
not one i can do all by myself.
with this choreography,
i’ll need a little help.
when i put my feet down here
and my knees out there,
you groove your movement
to make sure the dance floor is clear.
then we will find the tempo and key
of our soundtrack.
i believe it begins
in the falling and rising
of the small of my back,
the beat can be found in the rocking of my hips
and the melody lives in the curve of my lips.
our ballroom dancing is like none other
because it a dance that occurs in no other place
than my idle imagination.
others do this dance,
but not me.
i move alone and trust nobody
to two step with me.
my nudity is no longer a performance
but a mode of relaxation,
devoid of the sensation
of movement penetration.
i have dancing shoes in my closet but
won’t put them on.
hopefully by the time i do,
they’ll be playing my song.
all of what is me.
my booty holds the power
in this butt-clenching society.
in a world that is straight and narrow,
my backside is characterized by curves.
it stays full even when i am empty,
keeps me conscious of what’s behind me
as i move forward.
this big ol’ booty of mine,
a source of self-consciousness at one time,
is now where i hold my pride.
each cheek is a container for my accomplishments.
i am woman all the way
as this convex cavern of flesh sits heavily
between the stretch of my hips.
oh the miles we have seen
as we traveled one step at a time
and sometimes sprinted
on journeys of discovery:
stopping to rest on sex
and then rising on beauty,
making trips again and again
to find and redefine my identity.
today this version of me
loves her big ol’ booty.
i embrace it in all of its round glory
and know that i don’t need
affirmation or compliments
to be content.
even when i want to be stiff, it shakes
causing an earthquake that makes heads turn
in the aftershock of my presence.
i used to call it a curse
but now unwrap it like a present.
God put His foot in it when He made me
sweeter than molasses and thick as an oak tree.
each curve on me
represents the hurdles i complete.
one day all women
will turn their necks to look
at what rests between their backs and their legs
and re-awaken that section
that we all at one time
allowed to be dead.
there is power in resurrection
and in the connection to my beautiful body–
my skin, my smile, my hair,
my breasts, my eyes, my hips
and even my belly
but most of all
this big ol’ booty.
my face has a mind of its own
and it just so happens
that my skin is always
even when i am smiling, it revolts–
causes insurrections in the form of blemishes,
never ceasing to take out its frustrations
on little old me.
and then there’s the question of my belly.
a little pooch was cute and
i felt sexy with my belly ring
my mid-section has gotten comfortable with its present personality
and in turn,
takes up more space when it enters rooms,
makes itself known
when i prefer to be low-key.
this gut has taken advantage of me.
i look at my insecurities and can’t help laughing.
what i complain about in the grand scheme of things
is silly of me.
i am a creature of beauty
but my faults are like monsters
that wake me up in the middle of the night.
they live in the closet, stuffed away
for moments alone standing in mirrors
if only i could squint at my strengths in the same way–
stare really hard at myself and count
all of my triumphs,
squeeze them from my head and into my heart…
if i could just grab at my ambition
and relish in how much it spills over my reality,
wish for it to grow and grow so i won’t
have to stare at my reflection to know
that it exists.
imperfection is true beauty and i’m happy that i have qualities
that separate me
from every one else.
for every insecurity,
there are thirty three reasons for me to smile
and smiling is more worthwhile so while
my skin chooses to complain
and my stomach
(which really isn’t that big anyway)
drives me insane,
my cheeks will raise high toward the beautiful sky
and pull me and every insecurity
into open air
to float above the earth where
as my body
but nevertheless always
are a manifestation of the heart exploding.
my dreams have nowhere to go
and they grow
as my capacity to achieve them feels
i wish i was a little bit taller
so i could reach up and grab them
as they bounce up and down,
starting at the ground from which they grow.
they travel through my toes
and up my calves which walk paths
in the opposite direction.
they stop in my hips and feel cold
from lack of affection.
they strive to reach my heart,
which beats for them
but these tunes or not in tune–
my dreams say “i’m ready now!”
and my heart says “too soon.”
so up they go,
trying to enter my brain
as my consciousness of how far away i am
drives me insane.
my soul can’t take
the screeching halt of my dreams’ brakes
so it retaliates
by giving me an extreme headache.
migraines are revenge
for every time i ignore what’s within.
my dreams yell in my head
to remind me that they are not dead.
and as the pain dissipates,
i get another chance
to achieve them again.
i want to
infiltrate your central nervous system like a drug.
i want to
be a muscle relaxer so that your heart will feel
at ease with me…
so that you can chill
and be free with me
as i slow down your breath patterns until
you’re conscious of just how much you have needed me.
i want my voice
to raise your blood pressure,
the blues and purples of my tones mixing
with my bright yellows so
that when you close your eyes to sleep,
all you see is my shades and hues,
confusing you so you don’t know
whether you’re warm or cool.
i want to wrap around your senses
like an eternal death sentence
but instead of filling your veins with poison,
i would fill your soul with passion.
allow me to control these senses because i sense this
game turning into somethings serious
even if all i want to do right now is play
with what you’re hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling
watch me as i dare to be air,
as i strive to be as fundamental as oxygen itself
for the sake of you humbling yourself
to acknowledge that you are in me…
love is who i be
and i wish to control thee.
watch as i lure thee
with smiles and stares that last
a while longer than they should,
gestures that could be easily misunderstood,
words that sound too good to be true
but that resonate deeply with you.
look around and before you are through,
i got you.