Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “childhood

Shadows


when i was a little girl,
i was not afraid of the dark,
but of shadows.
cluttered closet in Mama’s room
influenced the curious mind of a girl
too soon scared of the unknown.

i saw witches,
evil ones with big noses
and if i closed my eyes for long enough,
i could kind of hear them cackling.
maybe they concocted brews
and poured them into my orifices
once my restless eyes were rescued by sleep.

that is the only reason i can think of
as to why twenty years later,
shadows in my cluttered bedroom
make me turn on night lights.
shadows turn into figures in my overactive sight
and figures transform into men
lurking on the corners of my memory.
only this night,
i win.
i will sleep.

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Happy Birthday, Daddy


over the years,
i’ve had many friends
who grew up without fathers,
seen too many who only knew
the love of their mothers.
in them, i observe a hole that is never filled.

i thank God that i have never known that feeling.

one of my fondest childhood memories
consists of running from the school bus
to hug you who
stood smiling and waiting for me.
even today i am still that little girl,
the one who feels safe in your arms
with my face tickled by your beard.
Daddy,
i thank you for always being there.
in a crazy world,
you are stability.
in my childishness,
you know what i really need.
you inspire me to reach higher–
to run past mediocre
to the finish line of excellence.

i pray for the time when i will reach success
so that i can finally have the chance
to give back a portion
of what you have given me:
long nights with homework,
sincere prayers in the mornings,
large doses of wisdom,
generosity with everything.
your love is priceless–
one that sparkles whenever i call.
your love is a safety net
that always catches me when i fall.
your life is a treasure–
even in this falling economy,
your stock continues to grow
and on this day when you have grown
to becoming a more youthful old,
i honor you.

hallmark cards written by strangers
no longer have the power to say
that which i wish to tell you
on special days such as this.
even my own words seem inadequate
when it comes time to express
how much you mean to me.
so here is my attempt to say it in my own way:

for loving me,
i thank God for your birthday.
for raising me,
i thank God for your birthday.
for taking care of Mommy,
i thank God for your birthday
and because you’re my Daddy,
i thank God for your birthday.


Limbo


childhood is so scarring
and adulthood is so boring.
i like living on the in-between,
gliding between the fun times
and the dull times,
the playful
and the serious.
but mediocre can only be satisfying for so long
before it’s time to move on
to something new.
maybe i can keep aspects of both,
make a recipe for the present,
mixing in the ingredients and flavors
of the seasons of my life until this point
into a pot with the future,
swirl, stir, stew, and sauté them
until they combine
into a fabulous concoction
of now.


Back in Time (Revised 7-16-08)


why can’t rain be cotton candy
and thunder be gumdrops
and clouds be licorice
and lightning be lollipops?
i just want to stick out my tongue and be pleased
i just want to eat sweets
but i don’t want the rain,
i don’t want the insane and i don’t want
the mundane i just
want.
there’s a blank following that statement
because the blank represents
that which i do not know.
i wish i could grow
as quickly as my hair
but with each five minutes added to blow-drying
i find myself crying
and upset over the same things.
people talk about life and the joy it brings
but all i can think about is me and the song i want to sing.

am i selfish?
if i am, i can’t help it.
i spent so much of my life neglecting me
that sometimes
i walk past mirrors and ask
“who is she?”
and then i look back
and observe parts of myself i never knew were there.
you know those dreams when you’re naked
or standing in your underwear
while everyone around you is covered?
i feel that bare when i’m awake in front of others,
maybe overexposed to past lovers,
or maybe still hurt by betrayal from past brothers
or sisters or friends
but the innocence in me has gone
and it takes a while before i can play pretend again.

i wish i were five, i wish i were truly alive,
not just on auto-pilot like a drunk pilot
who gives announcements without thinking
or considering the lives he’s risking.
let’s pretend!
let’s play on the monkey bars,
let’s even roll in the dirt
and wear down our jeans at the knees.
mama might get mad but she’ll understand
that it’s normal for children to play freeze tag.
chase me without the intent of hurting me.

let’s hide and go seek our identities,
our own persons,
find ourselves and tap them on the shoulder
and shout “you’re it!” to make them real.
let’s engage with our future selves–
stare them in the face and admire the bumps and bruises,
admire the smoothness
in places that are rough now,
and the sagging
in places that are firm now,
and the wisdom
from things that are learned now.

life is kind of serious sometimes
maybe that’s why it’s hard
to locate my childhood mind
i wish i could press rewind
and reverse and stay
back in time.


The Miracle of Inspiration


have you ever been so inspired that your body goes into shock?
like regular thought becomes as difficult as
a mandatory marathon to run right after
stuffing your face at Mickey D’s
and regardless of how hard you lift and drop your feet to
move miles away from the inspiration,
it chases you and reminds you to breathe
in and out the fresh air of new ideas.
ideas are like sewing machines,
systematically stitching together
the ripped up pieces of my life.
it’s simple–
that break-up was a zipper and
that trauma was a button and
graduating from college was a French seam,
a rare kind of luxuruy.

after receiving the aforementioned inspiration,
i came home to find that my diploma arrived that day–
evidence that after 6 years of undergrad,
i finally did graduate.
the diploma sat in a slim cylindirical cardboard cage
tightly locked by metal on both sides like a jail cell,
showing me that the things worth fighting for
are often attained by busting through doors.
my father pried at this almost impossible-to-open container
with a knife barely able to contain
his excitement
to witness firsthand the evidence
of his oldest daughter’s accomplishment.
he noted that he was more anxious than me
and worked carefully,
cutting around the metal circle on what he guessed was the up-side.
when he finally gets it open, he slides
the shiny thick piece of paper rolled up like a poster out
and begins to read each Old English font typed word out
loud.
his eyes tear up when he gets to the name
that he gave me almost 24 years before:
Farah Lolade Lawal,
which literally means
“Joy” “Wealth has come” “The first”
and i stop being stuck on my earlier inspiration.
then i realize that i am his inspiration
and that i am living out dreams he never could.
i too get excited about the piece of paper that was paid for
by thousands of dollars, tears and sleepless nights.
so reading in unison with my Daddy like we did when i was 5,
i begin to appreciate every letter, word, phrase and signature
and i vow on this night
to continue to reach for greatness,
to not only be inspired by others but
to be inspiration.


Who Speaks for These Women?


*Written June 20, 2008*

who speaks for these women?
who speaks the voice that contains the words
that contain the hurts
that contain the actions
that contain the lack of
attention?
who releases the tension that has been building
past the point of concealing
the scars from the pieces of broken glass from the ceiling?
where’s the peace for these women?
who speaks for these women?
these women
those women
not hoes, but women
some were once girls but forced to grow,
forced to settle for the leftovers of their lives and move on
cuz it’s not easy to be a child anymore
it’s not easy to laugh anymore
it’s not easy to live anymore
when your life has become fragments…
drop a glass on the ground and you’ll see that
no matter how long you sweep
you still risk cutting your bare feet
cuz shattered shards still remain
and some pain can’t be covered by socks so it
cuts the brain, cuts the joy that was
and may possibly never come back
so these women, solemn women are reminded to smile
and think back to when they used to do that,
so these women, scared women
learn the world is dangerous and they have to watch their back
so these women, stoic women
stop dreaming, stop speaking,
stop expressing, stop addressing,
and once uniqueness dies, so does the voice
so again i ask,
who speaks for these women?