if a woman cries rape and police don’t respond,
does the crime make a sound?
a drum beat,
a rushed “Psssttttt!”
a ghetto “Ay yooooooooo!”
a catching of breath,
or leaky faucet “drip-drop”?
does the clock even let out a “tick-tock”
or does time just stop
when a woman’s rights are denied?
with no batteries changed in the watch,
the year could be 5 B.C., 1964, or 2011.
does an angel cry in heaven?
does God send down thunder and rain,
or does he console her quietly through her pain?
is there even a sigh,
a Holy Ghost-filled prayer,
an explosion of violence?
or just silence?
homeless man feeds birds;
i’m full, yet still long for more.
who’s the crazy one?
some men give crazy love
that leaves women questioning “what is love?”
and if love is this feeling in my gut, then
what’s the big deal about it?
why do people chase it,
beg to taste in like a delicious gourmet meal
when sometimes it is sour?
some men are e. coli to the mind,
causing a disgusting purge of tears,
emotion and an intake of fear
that extending oneself always leads to sickness,
heart aches, soul breaks
and mistakes realized too late.
some men give crazy schizophrenic love,
have us talking to the air
as if they were there,
hugging pillows and kissing insides of elbows
and whispering words to their spirits
too shut down to even listen.
some men love us sane.
cause us to look in the mirror
and realize that we are enough
and always have been,
that we are not the cause
of everything that happened back then,
that we don’t deserve insanity
and that even though
we were crazy at one point,
it made us who we are today.
i think in life,
some people are just meant to go through things.
and for whatever reason,
one of those people is me.
even though he allows me to get beat,
i know he loves me.
even though my heart breaks,
only to be put together again
so it can fall apart in new ways,
i know he will always be there
with a roll of duct tape.
although he sees me cry
and is sometimes the source of tears,
i know that i am my happiest with him
and there is no one else i would rather fear.
abusive lover of my soul,
if only they could see the bruises i hide
behind make-up and made-up moods and affectations.
if only they knew how i face more mornings than i can mention
with hesitation, afraid
to even open my eyes to see the reality before me,
thinking that some days would be better spent sleeping,
dreaming of a better next week,
skipping over tomorrow;
longing for laughter louder than
the heaviness of sorrow;
hoping that my scars will one day heal
and one day you will
stop allowing me to get so beat.
but i think it mean just means that you love me…
i know the rules,
but i don’t care.
i have memorized the stipulations of life,
studied them to find out why they apply
but at the end of the day,
i just want things my way.
is that wrong?
what does your reply matter anyway?
i hate to be rude or hurt feelings
but i’ve finally reached a point
where i can decipher my feelings from fact,
can tell the difference between myself
and how i’ve been told i should act
and i only have enough energy to pretend on stage.
truth hurts others
but to me, it is freeing.
come smile at the sunshine with me,
who smiles for the self that was too scared
to even look out the window,
let alone step outside
to stare at the sky.
i feel frozen,
hard to do anything,
not justified in joy,
stuck in anxiety,
crying while running
because there is no time for stopping.
example of strength,
template for beauty,
example of generosity,
standard of selflessness,
feeling of family,
antidote for insanity
my soul is still connected
by an invisible umbilical cord
feeding me medication and hope
and faith and pain
and they course through my veins
as i try to maintain
with a smile on my face
but i’m losing some weight
and my mind can’t erase
how life shouldn’t be this way.
but what do i know?
i am a mere embryo
floating in a world outside of my control,
sharing the same heartbeat as the woman who birthed me,
questioning, wondering, still living,
that our loud cries make it up to God’s big ears
that can’t possibly be deaf.
i may get lonely sometimes,
question the love of those around me,
long for the feeling of arms around me–
circling, grasping, speaking in the form of squeezing
and making me feel safe in this dangerous world.
but i’m not alone.
i have known alone,
moved into a room in her home,
making my bed every morning
until i was evicted by joy,
pulled out kicking and screaming by love,
and left on the street disappointed by the affirmation
that at times,
i will be lonely
even when i am surrounded by love
from those around me.
loneliness doesn’t depend on the outside conditions.
loneliness is birthed when a piece of your heart is missing.
beats don’t occur at the same time rhythm
and if you stay there long enough,
you become a victim.
i may get lonely sometimes,
even cry sometimes
and i’ve wept sometimes
and i’ve wanted to die sometimes
but the love that i feel at times
make all those feelings a waste of time,
make me feel like if i just had some time
to count all the times
where i received love i didn’t deserve,
was reminded of my self-worth,
succeeded when life didn’t seem to work
and healed beautifully from pain that hurt me,
then lonely wouldn’t even be
i may get lonely sometimes,
but i am filled with love that pushes out emotion
and shines light on truth like
being lonely gives me time to think
and being lonely lets me discover me
and being lonely makes me appreciate company
and laughter and life and love
so here is to my lonely sometimes.
you will not hold me down this time.
love will prevail
and so will i.
is there a happy medium between
fully following God
and running away from him,
fleeing desperately in the opposite direction?
if there is,
i think it is called
where would i be without love?
perhaps shivering naked in a closet,
never having experienced touch;
or sleeping on park benches hoping to get mugged
because violence is at least physical contact
and physical contact sometimes simulates
or at least emulates
where would i be?
mouth devoid of four-letter words
and heart symbols to connect others to me,
interactions without laughter,
days without passion,
existence without meaning,
living without being,
a heart that’s not beating,
a soul that’s not healing,
a mind without imagination,
exchange without compassion,
summer without sun,
winter without Christmas,
holidays with no family,
a brain without sanity,
bare bones and flesh without a body,
eyes without tears,
no fun in conquering fear…
how could i possibly live there?!
i will build a house of love even if
all i can afford is a cardboard box without a roof
and newspaper to stuff the holes in my shoes.
i will clothe myself in patience,
waiting for love despite
my wrinkles and creases in the wrong places,
chase it til it strikes me like lightning
and just as i’m dying,
my eyes will be shining and i’ll know
it was worth trying
because life without love is death
so as i take my last breath,
i’ll just float away to live in another land that is safe
and enter the gate for those who chose to take the risk
that always comes with love
and be home.
full of blank grief,
who cares about tomorrow?
it’s blank too
like the response to a question
that’s inappropriate and uncomfortable.
full of love, often too much.
i need some air
so my blank lungs can breathe here,
share the earth with blank eyes,
just like mine
in a world that is both blank and divine
and be full.
am i mad?
why do you ask?
think i am
but not mad,
just a little
in the head.
what really happened?
went on a couple dates
and now i’m
but it’s summer.
why am i so cold?
it’s hot in here
but i’m shivering.
i can’t believe
what just took place.
you invaded my space,
took advantage of my weakness and forced yourself upon me
like i was a pair of tight shoes
or a seat on a crowded bus.
you squeezed into my crevices and corners
and i’m sitting here cold
cuz i thought
you were a gentleman.
i live a life of close calls,
wondering if the line that connects me to this world
will one day get cut off.
i am a cat who falls far distances
but always lands on her feet.
each time my soles touch the ground,
something in my soul feels incomplete
and i can’t help but ask God,
“Why in the world did you save me?”
others in same situations or those less severe
had lives that ended too quickly,
became blurbs on the evening news,
so why am i still here?
i tear up to think of how careless i was and still am–
waking up in the nick of time as my car crosses the median,
doing 360s on I-95 during rush hour and surviving to breathe again,
learning i’m HIV-negative instead of positive again and again.
it doesn’t make sense
but my sight only rests on now and yesterday,
not knowing what the future holds for me.
i only know of lessons hard learned
and times i’ve been burned by mistakes
and ponder just what situation it will finally take
for my close-call life to be cut from God’s phone line
and what exactly will happen on that day
when this life is no longer mine.
i thought this stress was
but it seems to be
busting into the seams of my skin
i thought it packed a bag and traveled
but today i question if it ever left.
this feels like death
or maybe just illness to the happiness
that i had so much missed
because i was depressed.
but i won’t allow this stress
to control me.
love is so much more
so much stronger,
so i’ll dwell in houses of affection
until my heart no longer hurts,
til my body no longer rejects
foreign objects to which i’m familiar,
til there comes a time when God
heals the wounds,
the frustration, the hurt,
wiping away my tears,
calming my fears,
and whispering in my ear
that stress no longer lives
is blackness a curse?
they’re trying to kill us.
the darker brother and sister are put on display
in an open market.
they’re trying to kill us,
letting us choose our own death
whether it’s how we ingest, protect, or have sex,
it all results in the same effect.
Uncle Sam is the overseer,
lashing us with the whip of the economy,
sugar cane is liquor and weed,
cotton and tobacco is money,
our diet is poison
and we are our biggest enemies.
we are trying to kill us.
is blackness a curse?
a voodoo magic trick
to be put on display for the world?
as much as and as often as i
would like to deny
connection to what is plaguing us,
i am part of the family put up for sale today
and there’s no possibility of hiding,
my dark skin gives me away
and there’s no way to move past
calls from bill collectors every day
so i too am a slave,
moving between the field and the house,
moving between my dreams and security,
between reality and fantasy,
fighting the notion
that blackness is a disease.
but perhaps we are airborne
because parts of us spread into society…
we all breathe
in the blackness,
breathe out the oppression,
in the beauty,
breathe out the lessons,
in the answers,
breathe out the question:
is blackness a curse?
*Written July 7, 2008*
why do you play with my life, baby?
you enter and leave my presence as if my heart were an airport
and you have stocked up on frequent flier miles.
why do you play with my life, baby
as if i were a joyful infant
anxiously awaiting your face, your touch, your care?
i am not a toy, i am not a fly outfit,
i am not that old favorite pair of sneaks in the back of your closet
that you pull out from time to time because you miss them.
i am a woman. i have needs
which don’t include riding on your every whim,
hanging on to your every word,
adjusting to your every mood,
answering your every call,
accepting all of your mistakes.
i am no fool, at least not anymore.
i refuse to stay stagnant, to allow my heart to jump
when you decide to pick up the phone and check on me.
my life is worth so much more than an “I miss you” every three months or so.
my life is worth love, companionship, acceptance, encouragement, sacrifice,
love, love, and love
not your poor excuses for life, for your mishaps in the past
that to you were just slips but to me stabs.
go play with someone else’s life or better yet your own.
look in the mirror and put yourself down,
neglect you, lie to yourself, require and demand too much of yourself,
take up all of your own time, ruin your own credit, cheat on yourself,
get locked up and visit yourself every weekend,
disappoint yourself, ignore yourself,
insult yourself and make yourself cry and then
after you’ve done all that
ask you to get back with you and see what the answer is.
play with your own life, baby
cuz mine is too serious for that.
it’s much too precious for me to get involved in your haphazard games
so despite all you have done, i will love you but from a distance
you cannot play with my life, baby.
*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
*Written July 1, 2008*
i promised myself that i would write everyday
but i see that positive habits are hard to make
and negative habits are hard to break.
somehow living with addiction is the only way some can be consistent.
i bet if i was a porn addict, i wouldn’t skip a beat–
i would tune in to the action,
rub myself for satisfaction as if my life depended on it.
if i was a crack addict i would be on the corner like clockwork,
searching for my dealer for the prescription to heal
the screams underneath my skin that influence my brain
to make my feet walk to where i need to get a fix before i go insane.
but somehow a positive habit doesn’t become an addiction.
it turns into a hobby at the least,
or that thing that you say you’re supposed to do but never get to.
talking to God becomes an afterthought
and somehow important questions like where you’re gonna go when you die
become items on the to-do list with a priority of 5
when number 1 is get money, call this person, pay this bill, send this email.
now don’t think i’m in any way being accusatory
because i am simply using this poem to tell my own story,
a confession of my confused mind that would prefer to stay stagnant.
i don’t want to face the serious questions, the doubt in my heart
because somehow i feel like knowledge would tear my world apart.
ignorance is bliss, ignorance is this
wisdom is in the distance and i wave at it like a kite flying in the sky.
ain’t it pretty? too bad i don’t possess it.
oh well…maybe tomorrow.
i’ll tap that into my palm pilot and even program a reminder
so that i can remember to find the
answers to the questions that plague me
like God, are all people who don’t accept your Son going to hell,
even the good ones?
cuz in my mind it don’t make sense to think that
Anne Frank, Ghandi, members of my family, Rumi, Kuti, and countless others
who possessed enough power to change the world You created
are burning in hell, and if they are, then well…
is it that bad a place?
God forgive my blasphemy, i’m just a little g and next to you i’m so small.
next to you i have no knowledge at all.
next to you i feel safe, but at the same time lost in this place.
forgive me for my sins and even voicing what lives inside
but this is only an attempt to invite you to permanently reside
in this confused Christian’s mind.
*Written June 18, 2008*
a crazy black man
in the midst of mumbling madness
and missing teeth
called me a BITCH!
cuz at that moment time stopped
my heart dropped
my jaw popped back
about to reply…
but i shut it
chuckling at what the man uttered
not in a private disagreement
but directly to a stranger
entering the train station
i could have
let out a cry
i could have in the spirit of U.N.I.T.Y. replied
“WHO YOU CALLIN A…”
but instead i’m sitting here questioning why…
what went wrong
in between this man’s departure from his mother’s hips
to this rainy evening in tattered clothes and dirty lips,
nonsensical phrases, broken dreams,
daymares and lack of sleep,
no pillow to rest on, just a trash heap,
to the point where death is a fantasy
and life is a disease?
what went wrong
that a black man the age of my father
tries to break down a girl the age of his daughter
and commit generational slaughter?
but little did he know
that a wise woman taught her
to redefine what once brought her
now that i look back,
i wish i could have
expressed gratitude for his expression
for in his effort to insult, he reminded me that
B-I-T-C-H is no longer my oppression
cuz this blossoming black beauty