Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “jail

The Overdue Goodbye


i often wonder if
when you sleep at night in a room by yourself,
you still feel as if
you’re locked down in a cell.
no longer 6 x 6 x 6
but really, what is your existence?
my heart feels trapped in jail with you
and i miss visiting hours often–
sometimes i get turned away because
my clothes are too tight or my attitude just ain’t right
or i can’t beat the traffic of nightly rush hour.
this sentence is sour.

you are free, but an inmate
and if i remember correctly,
your # was 98028618
but i don’t remember the exact date
when i decided i couldn’t love you anymore.
at times i feel torn,
knowing that you walk free and i am lonely
and that your dream is you and me
and as a result,
my curiosity fuels me to drive down dark alleys
that are dead ends.

i can no longer pretend that we have a future.
i look at the present
and see the ramifications of the past
and cry over wasted youth and good times
and silly mistakes and getting by
and tattooing our skin to show our love lines
and covering up the one of you that was mine
and replacing you,
erasing you with new memories and new guys,
some who hurt me worse than you
but at least they are fresh wounds.

baby, i miss you
as much as i act like i don’t
but i missed me more,
didn’t even recognize myself after i walked in doors,
was an empty shell whose spirit was piss-poor
and i ain’t rich yet
but i ain’t fully switched yet
and when my new channel comes through past the static
i won’t forget what we had.

my first love, free jailbird,
my old siamese twin lovebird,
if i could say one word to you right now,
as much as it hurts me inside,
i would finally say
the overdue
goodbye.

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Incarceration


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
tic…toc…tic…toc
as they walk down D-block.

“Who we rep?!”

“Diligence…”

“Who we rep?!”

“Disappointment…”

“Who we rep?!”

“Determination…”

“Who we rep?!”

“Damnation…”

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.


Incognito


at night, i feel hesitant
about the confines
of tomorrow’s business suit.
i’d rather be barefoot
or better yet swimming,
traveling laps as i count
the waves of the sea.
but we don’t always get what we want,
do we?
my pinstripes are jail stripes
and i wish to break free
but it’s hard to wave goodbye to benefits
with today’s economy.
so to my cubicle cell i report early in the morning,
knowing that the stars will soon come
and i will join my nebulous family
in the galaxy–
we will soar past impossibility,
bursting in the heavenly skies to be seen
by everybody.
right now i am discrete
as to not alert those around
that they have a comet in their midst.
i keep a low profile, smiling politely
all the while knowing that when evening comes
i might be flying…
in my dreams i am climbing,
eyes closed because even i
am not yet adjusted to the shining.
i am stepping on the footstools of regularity,
grabbing onto the rope of extraordinary,
making my home high up in the atmosphere
and saying goodbye to everything
that rests here.


Forget Hancock!


Justice League, Fantastic Four, X-Men and Spidey,
all kind of cool but for Hancock i have no need.
i can’t say i was truly surprised to see
that the only black superhero just had to be angry,
constantly sippin, constantly trippin,
ruining everything he touched,
constantly cussin, threatening violence
and i thought it was all a bit much
that he couldn’t get it together until
a white man came to change his life
and after all the man did for him,
Hancock still ran up on his wife.

does anyone else realize that Hollywood is pimpin us?
luring us with stereotype candy wrapped in jokes,
banking on the fact that we will remain unprovoked
by what we see on the silver screen,
blind to the fact
that in a film based in L.A.,
the majority of the Latinos and blacks
were not walking down the street, but inmates
and that it is no mistake
that the Middle Eastern store-owner’s English
was not so great.

i don’t need a black superhero
crafted by an industry out to get paid
because in real life, black superheroes
walk around every day
they
fight adversity and still find strength in them to pray,
they
face temptation to take shortcuts but still choose the right way
they
go to work so they can take care of their families
and raise their children so that the next generation could see
brighter days.
bullets may not bounce off of them
but they still can save the world because
their superhuman power is to survive
so forget Hancock!
real black superheroes don’t have to leave the ground
to fly.


She Didn’t Want to Be the Cause


she said
she didn’t want to be the cause of
another black man goin to jail.
she said
“my men have come from such a tough journey.
their rights
have been taken from them
and they have been stripped
of their masculinity.”
she said
“he is a victim.
i don’t want to be another factor.”

now i can understand
where this woman is comin from cuz by all means,
black men have not had it easy
but
as i stared in the mirror
at her scratching her stress-caused hives,
observed her fidgety movements, how she
shivered
even though it was warm outside
and saw tears welling up in her eyes
that she refused to cry,
i begged her,
implored her
to think of herself,
to consider her mental health
and the effects
of not speaking up.
i asked her
if she wanted to continue to cry in fits
and pray for the end of her own existence,
if she wanted to live in fear of re-experiencing this brutal sin
or be so afraid of men
that even gentle touch made her cringe
and she was silent.

she couldn’t think straight.
she couldn’t breathe
but she mustered up enough courage to see
that even though she didn’t want to be the cause
of another black man goin to jail,
she could no longer stand
the heatstrokes and dehydration from living in hell.
she felt bad
because he is a victim
but she had to admit that she was a victim
too
and that if she didn’t speak out,
the victim she tried to love
could potentially create a mass of new victims
who like her
were terrified to tell
because they didn’t want to be the cause
of another black man goin to jail.


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.


Black Nostalgia


old black men love me
when i appear in their view,
eyes get brighter and burdens don’t feel
as heavy,
the corners of their mouths awaken because
when they see me
they see the 70’s.
i am reminiscent of another era,
of times of relaxation, groove, and black pride,
a time when black women took pride
in how they were born and contemporary times
hadn’t yet made them ashamed of their backsides.
hips celebrated while struttin down streets in hot pants,
quality music rotating on records so smoothly that life was a dance.
i wish i could go back
to this time i never knew,
pull out some afro sheen and a pick and
not have to feel like my hair and personality is too big and
exchange my stretch jeans and MAC lipstick for
a leather jacket and hope that my people would never forget
that black is beautiful!

i wish i could be a soul sista,
you know the type of sista
who lives on movie posters like Pam Grier
rockin sexy outfits and not scared
to walk alone at night.
you know the type of sista
who lives in documentaries
like Angela Davis, rollin with revolutionaries
to serve and protect the black community,
standing up against the ills of society,
willing to go to jail if it means
keeping up the fight.

i wish i could be a soul sista,
providing more than just twinkles in eyes
and smiles as my elders sweetly say “Hi”
not to me, but to their past.
i wish i could go back
to that time i never knew and retract
all the wrongs of today and extract
all the joys of yesterday,
using my afro and skin to honor and celebrate
the black nostalgia in old black men
who love me.