one day i’m gonna walk away from it all.
leave squeaky chair spinning in cubicle
and pictures on the wall
and expectations of success
and bill collector calls
and dreams that are too far to reach
and grab them as if all
was honoring me.
i’m gonna walk away,
maybe even run,
not caring if i break the heels on my black leather pumps
or get runs in itchy stockings that were never met to fit me.
i won’t answer phones politely,
won’t smile without meaning,
will cry when i feel like it
and speak the truth as if
life still depended on it.
i’m not happy.
i feel like walking,
jogging, or maybe even driving
til i run out of gas
and can no longer recognize the surroundings
outside of the glass
that separates me from reality.
one day i’m gonna walk instead of sit,
act instead of talk,
speak instead of staying quiet,
scream instead of staying silent,
stop living so publicly and
respect myself enough to be private.
tiptoes are all they see now
but in my soul
i am walking,
drowning but surviving,
heart faint but still thriving
and growing despite being
the uprooted plant that i am.
i don’t want to wait for “one day”
so maybe i’ll just
put one foot in front of the other today
and see what happens.
movement is innate
and i’m spiraling back to my own nature
and the essence of my humanity
crawling, crying, standing,
losing balance and falling
but taking that final leap
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.
if one day God had to point his
larger than life finger
at the group of his creations
that he considered to be
who would they be?
i would hope not me…
i would pray through whispers in his ears
that he would see
all he has allowed my back to bear.
like two full buckets of water
tied to a broomstick of over my shoulders,
i have done slave labor through pains
with each year i have grown older.
i’ve got a tree on my back from the plantation of life
and it branches out in the weirdest ways, like
how i laugh at things that didn’t used to be funny
and how i get used to postponed plans
due to lack of money
and how the only green on my leaves
stems from envy of those
who dare to move beyond the scars of trees.
God better not point that finger at me
because my strength is what has allowed me to be
where i am right now.
i think back to how i never thought i’d reach right now
and how i’ve mud wrestled with demons
who try to break me down.
even when the wet sticky dirt gets slung in my eyes,
i rub them and see past hopelessness,
let the stinging tears fall
as i envision all of my journey–
cobblestoned and unpaved,
slick and wet like unfinished cement
and full of more potholes and speed bumps
than i’d choose to drive over
and just when i thought it was over…
i feel fingers pointing at me
but they’re not from God..
they’re scrawny and dirty under the nails
and they come from the hands of this girl
who is trying to figure out her dwelling place
on the barometer of the weak,
not seeing that she doesn’t even fit
into this cage of mercury…
i burst past thermometer meters
because my hotness reaches temperatures
higher than hell during code red weather with
one million people dancing and vibing together while
all shouting at the same time with
sweat rolling down their backs
and they’re all wearing black.
i’m strong like every single mother
who has been disappointed but still takes care of home,
like the person on their deathbed
who pulls through and lives on,
like the girl in the mirror who asks a silly question,
hoping for confirmation that
God isn’t pointing fingers
but wrapping arms,
shielding me from my own extremities
that mean to do me harm.
at this point,
i can’t afford
to not live and just die.
i’ve invested too many late nights,
diversified the portfolio of my life
and made many deposits
in wells of joy and accomplishment.
i don’t care about the low economy and foreclosure.
i wish someone would tell me
that my life is not valuable enough to appreciate
if you knew how often i am on the brink of falling
and not being saved;
or if you knew of how often i have dreamt
of sleeping in my grave,
you too would be celebrating
the years i walk here.
i travel barefoot and dirt from cracks and pebbles
stick in my soul,
making my journey more treacherous,
but still i go,
trekking though life as if i were on a hike
through mountains of personal discovery.
maybe at the snow-covered peaks,
i’ll discover me–
me that i can only see
in between daylight and night.
i am only evident in the beauty of twilight
because despite my armor of control,
i got holes in me like fishnet stockings:
pretty on the outside but they let the cold in.
appear like one that is unified from far away,
but up close you can see
that my knees and ankles are ashy.
style can only take me but so far
and so can life,
but either way i hope that i’ll wake up each day
and have another chance to withdraw from the bank of yesterday
and invest the lessons and blessings
in accounts of tomorrow that will grow
just to impress you
i went out and bought some new clothes.
i figured if i dressed fresh enough, i wouldn’t have to be alone.
so i maxed out my credit cards and spent all my bread,
and when i walked past, you didn’t even turn your head.
just to impress you
i tried to lose weight.
so i went to the gym and tried to sweat away every curve in my shape.
i worked out for hours and my diet put me in the worst mood,
and then i found out your favorite thing to eat is soul food.
just to impress you
i got my hair pressed.
i figured maybe you didn’t dig my afro and thought it looked a mess.
so i got my hair done so silky straight that it bounced as i switched
and then i heard your last girlfriend was a natural chick.
just to impress you
i decided to perform a song,
so i called in sick from work so i could practice all day long,
i shook it like Beyonce and had soul like Joss Stone,
but when i looked out in the audience, you had gone home.
just to impress you
i decided to just be me.
and for the first time in forever, i finally felt free.
i stopped trying to trick you and allure you with lies,
and just like that,
i finally caught your eye.
*Written July 6, 2008*
i had a dream that God told me to paint humanity–
take my life and use it as an instrument
to capture all the colors of his children,
so i start this mission with me:
i explore the deepest blacks of my people,
the darkness of drum beats and culture coursing through my veins,
the brown of skin that is smooth and strong,
the purple of pride from my ancestors that in me remains,
the blue of depression, lost plans, loneliness, and failure,
the green of envy, peace, hunger for money, and nature,
the yellow of the consistent sun, joy, and energy,
the orange of the warmth that only comes from family,
the red of blood, passion, and rage,
the white of the oppressors who tried to kill my race.
my life is a paintbrush
searching the in-between hues of personalities,
the value of words,
the pigment of emotions,
dipping into the water of my tears
until everything becomes one color and runs together…
truth, lies, joy, sadness, laughter, confusion
all co-mingle in the bucket of my body
mixing with one another so that at times, i forget what i’m painting.
i realize that all of my colors are interconnected,
deriving from the same three primaries
while i’m a painter staring at a blank canvas
trying my hardest to determine
the formula of documenting and sharing,
of composing and communicating just what it is that makes
*Written July 2, 2008*
forced to hide a part of my identity as if i had a deadly disease,
i smile, divert subjects that would lead to a litany of lists
of how that passion really is my life.
but let me quiet that and explain just how much i am excited to be here,
how suited i am for this job,
pretend as if a crucial part of my life doesn’t matter
cuz no one really wants to hire an actor.
the stigma of instability and lack of dedication is attached to this profession,
so inevitably i will hear the question:
“If you’re presented with an acting opportunity that would
conflict with this job, which would you choose?”
now if presented with the opportunity to get paid for my art,
see the world, and change lives
or sit in a dusty cubicle staring at a computer screen all day,
and counting down the hours til i get off at five
it’s obvious which way i would sway
but the fact of the matter is that today
i need this job.
i need to pay these bills,
i need my independence,
i need to move out of my parents’ place one day
so if i have to slave for the man for a while and sit and smile
while that voice in my head tellin me i’m an actor is mumbling,
i remind it that you need money to keep your stomach from rumbling
cuz money makes the world go round
and until that day when money is no longer a factor,
i’ll sit and fake and gloss over the fact that i really am an