i feel like i am
growing in to my beauty.
before, my skin was
confidence fading into cloudy horizon,
but bright morning has finally come
and when i smile,
i swear i can hear birds singing!
from all the yawning around me,
love of self
was a hard seed that just needed nurturing,
extra time soaking in the water of my tears
until sprouting occurred.
now it is flourishing,
deeply rooted like a tree,
arms stretched, strong enough
to hold the weight of the little children
i‘ll be responsible for
feeding reminders of their worth.
it’s as if i gave birth,
belly no longer swollen with doubt,
removal of morning sickness
to past, present and future experiences.
and i am
growing into my beauty,
hoping to be
an adult one day.
i used to think that
sunrise and sunset made days
but it is your smile.
So happy for no particular reason.
No inciting action,
but this is my season.
Summer in his smile
melted winter in my heart.
i now sometimes wonder where
the old me went.
did she die a miserable death
to match her painful existence?
or does she live in my chest,
keeping my heart beating
through reminders of what she used to be?
or maybe she still lives in me,
a skinny, emaciated girl
underneath the skin of a woman
who smiles even when she’s sleeping now.
her tears keep me hydrated
and her scars only make me more beautiful.
her pain i wear like a necklace of rememberance,
perfect pearls all unique. wherever she went,
i’m happy she’s not as present
when i look in the mirror,
glad that when i dance now,
she’s not stepping on my feet.
she kisses my feet now,
washes them with tears
and absorbs the fluid in her afro hair.
she serves me
and is near,
perhaps closer than i think she is.
i think she is me–
i’m a woman but
you got me giggling like a little girl.
i can be hard but
i have softened,
silly putty in your hands.
how profound that i got so used to my own,
forgot the sensation of fingertips
meeting the identity maps of others.
i am honored.
i am giggling girl-woman-baby
no longer pursuing
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.
regardless of how things might end up,
i’m thankful for now;
for my smile and the awakening
in my soul and body,
body and soul;
for jazz tones traveling up my spine
and dancing out of my mouth
through colorful, raucous laughter.
the world becomes pink and blue
as energy mingles together
in a soft purple violet
needing to be watered.
wishing for a kiss like
new toys on Christmas
or mom deciding to do the dishes
or a canceled appointment with the dentist.
i’m innocent but womanish,
beaming like a child
yet unable to control the power and magic
that lies in my hips
and these lips
and they’re asking,
“Will you meet me sometime soon
in the place where the full moon
reflects in the corners of our eyes?
Will you stand so close that our breath takes rides
on the same wavelength,
surfing and crashing
until we stop fasting from touching
and surrender to this feeling of something
not yet needing
but past the point of clean;
somewhere in between
like and want?”
but what are wants but
persistent whispers of the subconscious
with hot breath on our necks
and words of nonsense?
i will listen til they makes sense
or until the sound gets too intense–
whichever comes first.
hopefully i can tell the difference.
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.
man, how do i write about you without
writing about you?
i feel like poems are special,
and though i suspect you’re just that,
i’m not ready to admit that.
words are powerful and when they are teamed up
to make melodies that melt souls and water eyes
and wet tongues and underwear,
they can take over the world.
but i suppose if i had to succumb to anything,
it would be the pleasure of this feeling,
the curiosity that i’m keeling over with
like a cat drunk from exploration.
if anything should kill me,
let it be my quest to find out why my chest gets warm
from my heart jogging back and forth.
not feeling the burn yet,
just a little bead of sweat
starting in the middle of my forehead
and slowly falling to the top of my lips
and into my mouth as i smile
widely and honestly,
gently but guarded.
look at what you’ve started.
is it me…or did the boys not really notice me
until i woke up one day
and had a big ol’ booty?
this booty redefined me,
took on a personality all her own,
had me thinkin i was grown
from all the words thrown at me
as a result of my popular anomaly.
once, a man “hee-hawed” as he walked behind me
until i used my small hands to cover up my “donkey”.
often called “phat” even though i was skinny
had me feeling like i was living a double life–
sexy on the outside, shy on the inside;
woman with curves that seduce and scream “Sex me!”
when really, i was just a little girl whispering:
“Protect me…Respect me…That’s not me.”
but this booty
has expanded to be more than just a distant relative.
i have grown to love her,
the sister i got from my Nigerian mother.
now both of us smile when necks turn to admire us
or when girls ask if we know any butt exercises
or when every pair of jeans we try on that fits our waist
can’t make it past all of this
because blessed we are
and forever we will be–
me, the young woman,
and my sister–
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.
at a dinner for my job,
after 4 glasses of Pinot Noir,
i wonder in my tipsy honesty
what exactly it is that is stopping me
from cutting out the unnecessary and pursuing my dreams.
what is it that keeps me pretending
to be happy where i am?
waiter, put another drink in this girl’s hand
as she stands in the place she never thought she would be
too afraid to run after what she wants
because of insecurity.
numbness and buzzes are easy to achieve
through the laughter and smiles and stability
but my real future and true desires
keep calling me.
i used to be so afraid of you, man.
my biggest fear for so long
was running into you on a dark street,
alone and scared with no one to help me
and no options of what to do;
that i would be forced to be victim once more
to the fleeting whims
you love to succumb to.
but you looked so weak–
more like a house mouse than a dirty rat,
more afraid of me than i am of you.
as you stood staring at me, i smelled that
fear was seeping out of your pores
and your pheromones filled the air,
and just like how you treated me–
but they gave me strength to continue
to stand taller
and feel stronger
as you stared at the woman whose life you ruined
for a little while but whose smile
now lives on.
i have become superhuman.
i am stretching back to the size
i’m supposed to be in this world,
reclaiming my territory
that you so selfishly stole,
and now you have no control.
what you did
has no control.
the pain you caused
has no control.
growing my strength and power
is my ultimate goal
and i am closer to it now
more than ever.
i’ve fantasized for many days and nights
of the different ways i could end your life,
but now i laugh at you.
you thought you would ruin me,
tried to take the best of me,
but now if finally see
that God was just preparing me.
where i’m going
i gotta have my powers to know
that whatever blow comes my way,
i’m meant to feel the pain today
so that i can see tomorrow clearly.
tomorrow, i will look at the scars of tears and sorrow
and not repeat the mistakes of yesterday
but fly away without looking back.
thank you for helping me
sprout wings on my back.
i listened to a grown man with a breaking voice
attempt to maintain masculinity
as he told the story of his six-year-old nephew
that left me questioning you.
as he showed a picture of a cute tan boy
with black hair and a wide smile
and bright brown eyes,
tears grew in his eyes
as he recounted how one week before,
doctors found cancer in the boy’s right eye
and this morning, that eye
was successfully removed.
how could you?
lately i find myself spitting in your face
because you let people spit in mine
yet still find it a worthy cause
to preserve this body of mine
while a little boy
has to learn to live with one eye.
disproportionate grace keeps me
from wanting to get the facts straight,
that if you were to sit back
and reflect on all i have done,
you would wash your hands and move on,
leave me in my mess
and work to save little children again.
i have had sight but chose not to see,
been given many warnings
that i chose not to heed,
smiled many bright smiles
but never had my picture shown for an audience
as a story of tragedy.
my heart aches for that little boy,
feels the heaviness of the crookedness
that may soon accompany his smile.
i have rug burn from the rough voice
of a grown man trying to hold it together
while his family falls apart.
i do not understand and perhaps should not.
i just see the sad story of an child who used to smile
who now no longer has his right eye
and on the tip of my tongue burns the question:
my face has a mind of its own
and it just so happens
that my skin is always
even when i am smiling, it revolts–
causes insurrections in the form of blemishes,
never ceasing to take out its frustrations
on little old me.
and then there’s the question of my belly.
a little pooch was cute and
i felt sexy with my belly ring
my mid-section has gotten comfortable with its present personality
and in turn,
takes up more space when it enters rooms,
makes itself known
when i prefer to be low-key.
this gut has taken advantage of me.
i look at my insecurities and can’t help laughing.
what i complain about in the grand scheme of things
is silly of me.
i am a creature of beauty
but my faults are like monsters
that wake me up in the middle of the night.
they live in the closet, stuffed away
for moments alone standing in mirrors
if only i could squint at my strengths in the same way–
stare really hard at myself and count
all of my triumphs,
squeeze them from my head and into my heart…
if i could just grab at my ambition
and relish in how much it spills over my reality,
wish for it to grow and grow so i won’t
have to stare at my reflection to know
that it exists.
imperfection is true beauty and i’m happy that i have qualities
that separate me
from every one else.
for every insecurity,
there are thirty three reasons for me to smile
and smiling is more worthwhile so while
my skin chooses to complain
and my stomach
(which really isn’t that big anyway)
drives me insane,
my cheeks will raise high toward the beautiful sky
and pull me and every insecurity
into open air
to float above the earth where
as my body
but nevertheless always
can i be the cause
of the corners of your mouth rising?
my body feels like hiding
while my heart feels like seeking
and my mind feels like peeking
into the pandora’s box of possibilities.
allow me to reintroduce myself…
not as scared girl but brave woman,
lady of strength without having to build walls,
image of femininity,
beautiful love child,
possessor of the ability to make you smile.
stick around for a while and see what comes next–
if i can move from your facial expression
to where you tell me to go.
for now, i diminish my obsession
to control the past and i’ll hold on to the future
without anticipating disappointment.
where will the smiles go?
only God knows…
so i’ll trust and be me happily ever after
and glow from the laughter
and simple words all the while
being the cause
of your smile.
i do not belong here in this world.
there is no real place for me.
if there is one, it is probably in between
the cracks of a brick building
where no one could see
and i feel pressure coming
from all sides.
i have so much brewing on my insides
that i could open up a factory
and produce emotions unknown to most
on an assembly line of mundane days
and fake smiles
and going to sleep with the hope
that tomorrow will not be as sad
and waking up the next day disappointed that
i do not know where i belong–
perhaps in an ocean where waves crash and hit me
so that i can wake up swimming and feeling
so my bruised and atrophied
muscle of a heart can beat
with some sort of energy,
so that numbness will no longer be
a defining factor of me.
i am out of place in this atmosphere where daily
i walk around without my body.
i do not wish to exist in the spirit realm
where the shell of me is lying and trying
to convince others that she
i do not belong in a world where
i constantly have to control
my moods and curb
i do not belong in this mental state
and i am hoping that one day
i will find my spot where life feels safe,
where grief and hiding abates
and i can finally step
and look in the mirror
at my own face and see
that there is purpose to this pain
and i do
in this world.
i am so frequently on the edge
of inconsiderate acts
that if i got my act together,
i’d get my facts together
and proceed to jump off the cliff
of “I don’t have to take this”
and lightly land in a place
where foolishness doesn’t exist.
i am so tired of being taken advantage of
that i yawn disappointment
and dream resentment
and if i were a cartoon, i wouldn’t snore Z’s
but a never-ending sequence of “Negro, please.”
i don’t want to be a mean but
i’m so used to the hurt person being me
and i wonder just what about my identity
causes me to be more prone to this activity.
is it my smile?
perhaps it is too inviting.
or maybe it’s my honesty
honesty is so rare these days that
most people treat it as if it were fake
or hold the truth-teller to the same standard
of that lie-teller who played with their mind the last time.
so here i am left feeling
when that person has moved on
to the next interesting pawn
in the chess game of their intentions.
i don’t want to be captured anymore.
just let me be
because these arms are sore from extending love.
this throat is raw from opening up.
this mind is exhausted from pondering the possibilities
that could never be
and my heart is bewildered that i even bothered
to risk again.
so goodbye, my friend.
i bid you farewell for
it is time for me to depart from this height
to a new land where i demand
to be treated right
and hopefully one day you might
muster up the courage, consciousness, and capacity
to be able to join me.
old black men love me
when i appear in their view,
eyes get brighter and burdens don’t feel
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.
*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