Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “prison


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 or B?

my dear, well-defined friend asked me
if i was A or B
and i laughed softly,
trying to find a way to explain
that i am neither of the rough-edged two
but if i had to choose,
i would be the the X that is barely used
at the beginning of sentences.

definitions are sentences–
mandatory minimums that require us to stay
locked in the rusty bars of identity
that we ourselves possess the key.
my heart repels labels and embraces individuality,
fights against the nominal definitions of humanity
and oh, how i feel free.

i want to pull you with me.
so for every:
heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, “try”sexual,
transgendered, opposite gender,
black, brown, Latino, Hispanic,
African, Asian, American, foreigner;
for every Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim,
atheist, agnostic, traditionalist,
African religion believer, and seeker;
for every hipster, trendy, preppy, yuppy,
ghetto, classy, bourgeoisie personality;
for every rich, poor, in between finance’s doors
and every other title, classification, and variety,
all human beings breathing the same air as me,
i beseech you to break free
from the labels of identity.

we are all making ourselves too small
by covering our hearts with words
that aren’t big enough to capture
all of who we are.
who we are is critical
if we are going to influence the future.
we are tomorrow’s past and it is time we get past
division in the form of labeling prisons.
forget A or B–
choose C or E
or a symbol not of the 26,
blend them together until categories no longer exist
and we are stripped down naked
to the essence of who we really are
because we need who we are
to be who we are.

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

I Feel Like Fighting

i feel like fighting but all i got
is fingers for writing.
they move to formulate melodic phrases,
but when it comes to making fists
and swinging on enemies,
they are loose branches on an uprooted tree.
how can individual fingers be soldiers?
i know my middle ones are as i raise them in the air
whenever the feeling hits me.
but what about the pinky?
can this extremity that can’t do anything on it’s own
make a difference in this war?
can my opposable thumbs oppose the force
that attempts to squeeze me in?
can the finger for my ring
bring about the independence
i have been waiting for impatiently?
i don’t think these wishes are for me
because i write stories
but still haven’t found the characters or plot to set me free.
i am still imprisoned by ideas that are afraid to leave
the comfy living room of my imagination
for fear of cold cemented floors
and no doors to open.
me and my fingers keep hoping
for better days, for hours when fighting
won’t dominate our desires
because the water to put out the fire
burning my chest will be abundant
so my soul will finally be at rest.


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.

I am Running

as much as i run from it, i can’t escape it,
this sacred obligation assigned to me
by the deity i choose to follow.
sometimes i don’t want to follow,
thinking that i can be exempt because
to put things simply,
my life is hollow.
a path that used to be full of hopes and dreams
is cut off and dammed up by confusion and screams.
hate has caused my levees to break but
my flood of tears is tired of trying to release itself by crying
so instead i shake
and run.

this obligation used to be fun,
used to be my number one choice
but how can i share stories if i have no voice?
my course has been interrupted because my throat is hoarse
and don’t you dare tell me to just drink water,
don’t hand me your suggestions
because you can’t answer the questions in my mind,
you can’t pull away and hide the remote from God and press rewind
to revert back to my past.
my dreams were so vast and wide and now
they are locked in the prison of my insides,
banging on my chest,
burning behind my eyes,
building bars to barricade my heart,
bringing lumps in my throat and those
inmates keep me up at night.
they want to escape,
they want to be free
but they can’t since i’m still trying to pick up the pieces of me,
pick up the pieces that he
may have scattered inadvertently,
still trying to hide the signs of stress and the fact that i’m depressed
from showing.

i am running,
dodging, sprinting from my calling,
trying to rise up, yet still i keep falling
and somehow through all this i still hear God calling
but i’ve reached a point in this race where i just want to push “Reject,”
turn off myself and send all calls to voice mail cuz this female
is busy moving her feet on a track that never ends
and it’s hard to carry genuine ties when i live having to pretend
so my God and my dreams sit on the sidelines
until the day when i cross that finish line
and by that clocked time,
i pray that i’m not too late to reclaim the mission of mine
that i painfully left behind
because i searched and tried and the only solution i could find
was to keep

Prison of the Mind

*Written June 25, 2008*

i believe the phrase is “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”
but on the real, a mind is a terrible thing to escape
when horrible memories chase your dreams
and stalk your waking moments
and taunt the creases of your smile
and knock on the wall between your skull and forehead
as a constant reminder of plans deferred
what happens to a mind deferred?
does it cease to function on a level of normalcy
or does it minimize itself to feelings of numbness
because it hurts too much to think
even more to acknowledge
that a mind is a terrible thing to face
when the mirror of the subconscious reflects back
your worst nightmares in 3D vision
that a mind is a terrible thing to taste
when poison seeps in with no antidote
bitterness covers hope
where is the rope to free the mind?
my hands are blistered but i have to climb
have to elevate past this confusion
push past these delusions
enter a point where the mind no longer dictates
no longer dominates
no longer becomes something to escape or waste
but to embrace
because a free mind is a free life
so i’m tryna free mine so i can find life
find the keys to the door
and feel the sunshine on my face
and begin my first day as a free woman
and not an inmate.