Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “freedom

Life as Hair

i like the freedom that comes from changing my hair.
i went from afro
to short relaxed
to boy cut
in a span of three months
and wish that i had enough bravery
to change things outside of me
that had more impact
than outgrowth from my skin.

what if i could cut off unhappy situations
and let stress dye
black then part orange
then whatever color my next whim desires?
what if i put chemicals on my sadness
until they turned straight and burned like fire?

what if my life was hair?
would i take care of it
or spray products on it for a quick fix?
this oil sheen is actually
the job i meant to leave a year ago
and this pomade is the pay raise i was expecting
that never came.
this shea butter is the love that comes from my mother
and this comb is the tough pulling feeling
that comes from wanting to leave home.
and when i run my fingers through it,
there is love.
i relish at what grows out of me naturally,
choosing to be content in whatever state
or texture
i choose or am forced for it
to be.


i wish i could take
the sensuous gravity of this night
in my hands and place it softly inside a clear jar
to keep for our remembrance.
we innocently brush one another like fireflies.
i cautiously beg you to look at my light
and i flicker in ways i thought were shut off.
let’s not let our air supply get cut off.
this jar has holes cut in its lid;
hopefully reality still finds its way in
so that we invite our brains into our hearts’ decisions.
this encasement, although small,
does not feel like prison,
but freedom.
free me as you hold me,
hold me,
hold me,
and when it’s time to let go,
do so
and let me fly
until we meet again,
my more than friend.fireflies

A Rethinking of Wrinkles

dear Elizabeth,

as i close my eyes and imagine an age
that seems so far away
(which in actuality
is not so),
i realize that my youthful thoughts
fail to hold
all the meaning and significance
of wisdom.

wrinkles are evidence of freedom
because they show that the wearer of them
broke down heavy barriers and walls, saw
many rainy nights and wind-whipping days,
but survived all of them
like war-heroes who wear medals of age
on their faces and skin.

i pray i will make it to that time
and that i will celebrate when my smile lines
sink in to the corners of my eyes
and when the veins in my hands rise
like mountains to show my strength.
i’ve almost died so many times
that life almost seems too unkind
to allow me to see look into my future
without hope being jaded and blind.

i equate age with loneliness
because as i have grown older,
i’ve looked to my left and my right
and find that old friends have dropped by the wayside
and this is when i’m in my prime!
so when i’m just an odd number
that can be divided into many factors,
i wonder what amount of so-called compadres
will remember my birthday;
how many will be there to rejoice in my victories
and to console me when all i have
is tears to wash over me.

it’s a scary and curious thing,
and in my age of questioning,
i can’t help but wonder and appreciate
a wrinkly old woman who has changed
my perspective,
shown me that there’s more than one route
to approaching life
and that there is value
in the poems i write.

thank you…


i desperately want freedom.
i perspire to cool myself off
from the heat of being imprisoned
by mental bars and walls.
the correctional officers are clocks
and the keys on their waists go
as they walk down D-block.

“Who we rep?!”


“Who we rep?!”


“Who we rep?!”


“Who we rep?!”


we waste away our youth in jail cells
and tattoo our dreams on ourselves
for days when we’re not feeling well
so we can look down at our skin
to remember the inspiration within.
sometimes pictures are all we have
because our commissary consists mainly of
could have, should have, and would have
which keeps our stomachs empty.

why oh why
is time working against me?
the judge gave me 15 to life and sometimes
i fear i’ll be a prisoner until
i can retire at 65.
the other day a lifer laughed at me
and said i’ll never get out
and i shook my head and smiled.
he doesn’t know that when the lights go out,
i stay up and plot my escape.
one day they’ll wake up
and i will be traveling far, far away.
i’ll shed these prison clothes
and today will be yesterday.

Sexual Freedom

for reasons unanticipated and uninvited,
sexual freedom has become
an oxymoron to me.
perhaps because i am locked in a cage
of celibacy.
or more truthfully,
because the freeing of this pleasure
ended with a nightmare turned memory.
it’s nearly impossible to enjoy events
that are now associated with pain.
one who loses a loved one on a holiday
always feels bittersweet feelings–
birthdays and thanksgiving are not the same.
and that’s how i feel.
passion runs through me
but the thoughts of actually releasing it
die before conception.
my body is no longer aroused
and sour memories are housed
in the roof of my mouth
and the flesh of my heart.
i understand how i arrived at this ending
and it pains me to think of my start:
daring to be curious,
thriving off of taking chances,
naive without worries
and most of all,
the possibility of trust
now cuts my brain.
my warning alarms go off
and my eyes sprinkle rain.
i watch others who claim to be free
and shake my head in sadness
and reminisce on when
they used to be

Poetic Petition

i don’t wanna write another “woe is me” poem.
i don’t want a poem that’ll glorify my pain
or complicatedly complain and explain my emotional angst.
i don’t want a poem that’ll stay stuck in my deepest, darkest thoughts.
i don’t need any more stanzas to express all that i lack and desperately want.
but i will say,

i want a feel-good poem–

a poem that is a prescription for self-wallowing,
a poem that will feature all of the following and more:
phrases that will make me smile so hard that my face gets sore,
letter combinations that will invite me to get on my feet and dance,
concepts that will break past the barriers of pain and romance,
verbs that take me out of this world and onto another plane,
word play so crazy that makes men in asylums appear sane,
along with laughter and lightness.
i want a poem that highlights the brightness
of life, the joy
of living,
a poem that relishes in giving,
offering syllables as gifts and tenses as present
and past frustration as ribbons
to tie all fantasies in a pretty poetry bow.

i want a feel-good poem–

not one about controlling the views of its witnesses.
i want a free poem,
one that inherently contains second chances and forgiveness,
a poem that flies in sun-setting skies
and lands hard but still never dies,
allowing it to beat on…and on.
i want a poem that’s as beautiful as a love song.
i want a poem that is allergic to exclusion–
one that makes every human being know that they belong
and have meaning and value in this world.

i want a feel-good poem–

i want to feel good,
i want a poem,
i don’t want a woe,
i don’t want a “woe is me” poem.
give me a poem that reflects the utopia of life,
give me a poem that eliminates struggle and strife
but i don’t want no poem that reminds me of why
i should be depressed and how i’d be better off if i died.
i don’t want to write another “woe is me” poem
even if woe is me
because i want to feel

i want a feel-good poem–

one that warms like hot cocoa on a snowy day,
one that softly and smoothly takes my breath away,
one sweeter than kisses and hugs after years of loneliness,
one that washes away tears and thoughts of hopelessness,
a poem that alleviates all that has plagued my heart,
a poem that gives me the freedom to fall down and feel free to start
i want a poem that feels so good that i never want it to be over.
i want to write a poem that gets me so high that by the time my buzz wears off,
i will actually be wiser and older
and still feel

no more “woe is me” poems, at least for this moment in time
because through carefully crafted lines and the creativity of words and rhymes
i can beat these troubled times.
but the first step in this fight
is to erase the desire to feed the fire of “woe is me”
so here and now, in the steps to finally becoming free,
i say for the benefit of both you and me:

i want a feel-good poem.

Independence Haiku

living here is hard–
i need freedom so much
that i am itching.