Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “strength

Still Born


i feel frozen,
hard to do anything,
not justified in joy,
stuck in anxiety,
crying while running
because there is no time for stopping.

my mother,
example of strength,
template for beauty,
example of generosity,
standard of selflessness,
feeling of family,
antidote for insanity
is struggling.

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,
always praying
that our loud cries make it up to God’s big ears
that can’t possibly be deaf.


Victim vs. Victimizer


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–
they stunk.
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.

arch nemesis,
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.


Pointing Fingers


pointing-fingersif one day God had to point his
larger than life finger
at the group of his creations
that he considered to be
the weak,
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.

actually,
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
named myself
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.


Family Tree


my green-white-green flag superimposes with
red, white, and blue on
dark brown skin,
white teeth,
shining black eyes filled with pride.
i am a rainbow inside and outside
with clouds that try to block my sight
but i still manage to shine.
my heart beat is drum beats
and every time i move my feet,
i commune with the deepest part of me.

i am a little branch on a strong,
deep-rooted tree that has seen centuries
in the same manner i have seen weeks.
i blow in the wind and sometimes
get scared i’ll break away,
that i’ll lose my foundation and be
a lost and scrawny twig,
but stronger portions of my wooden family keep me
hanging on.

my family, wrinkled rings spread out
makes me proud.
i only know the branch on which i rest,
disconnected from the rest,
but estimate that we all share the same breaths,
releasing oxygen from our leaves
and giving life just by living,
turning brighter as seasons alter and get colder,
increasing in strength and resilience as we get older,
stretching ourselves and embedding ourselves into society
by growing from a fragile sapling
into a full-grown tree.


Two Sides


there are two sides of me
that live simultaneously
while dynamically,
diametrically opposed to one another.
they live inside and they fight,
bruising each other with shuddering blows
and when i wake up in the morning,
between my blackened eyes and broken nose,
i don’t even know
which one will show her pretty or ugly face.
there’s the side of me who
enters parties and lights up the whole place
with bubbly personality;
but then there’s the quiet side
who sits in dark corners while others dance wildly
and chooses to talk to nobody
as she writes poetry.

which one is really me?

one is open and the other is closed off.
one enjoys life to the fullest
and the other is always pissed off.
i want desperately to remove the sleeves
of these confused parts of me
but i need them to keep out the cold.
the one on the left is short
and the one on the right is long
but the experience of feeling varying degrees of warmth
has made me strong.
i walk around lopsided and unbalanced,
harnessing and throwing away my talent,
treating my body as a temple
and an alley with empty liquor bottles and blunt roaches
until that day approaches
when the fact that
there are two me’s won’t have consequences
and i’ll be able to look in mirrors
and recognize the girl i see.
and i will marvel in the beauty
and complexity of she,
one human being with different facets
that all make up
me.


A Prayer For The Stranger Who is My Husband


God, i pray for my husband–
that he will be logical
and strong enough
to handle
me.
sometimes i operate so emotionally
that i treat my heart with irresponsibility,
not only wearing it on my sleeve
but throwing it at the back of a man’s head
in moments of distress,
hoping that once it bounces off
and leaves a knot,
i will feel at rest.
i will need a husband
whose skull will be hard enough
to counter mine,
who will pick up my heart after it’s been thrown,
brush the dust off with gentle hands
and place it back in my chest
to beat calmly again;
one who possesses
a gentle enough face
for me to feel a twinge of guilt
for wanting to make him pay
unjustly for my
distorted perceptions of the truth;
a husband who
will love me out of the habit
of abusing the most crucial organ in my body
and give a long enough embrace
to keep my restored heart
in its proper place,
and pull me out of the way
of thinking that tells me
that violence is a way to be heard,
show me the true meaning of love
that in today’s society seems absurd.
i pray that he is a teacher,
a fighter,
a healer,
a lover,
a meditator,
a mediator,
a thinker
and a son
who like a piece of clay,
You have molded and shaped
into a pot
that even in my emotional states,
i am unable
to break.


Ode to Black Man


black man,
you are the still waters where bystanders pass time by
throwing pebbles on
with the hope that they will skip.
i see you as you ripple every which way
from that which is thrown at you
but still you manage not to break.
you are fluid,
cool, transforming when you need to
but still remaining faithful
to the form that is you…
beautiful.

your strength is like metal chains
that after time build rust
but still are solid enough
to keep the gates of innocent lives shut.
danger shakes when she sees you,
chooses to walk on the other side of the street,
shudders at your power
and that’s what it is about you
that captures me.

black man,
i love you despite the ones who look like you
who hurt me.
i’ve learned to treat them as exceptions
and regard you as excellent.
your smile
has the capacity to stretch my heart that once shrank
and let it cover all of me
so that beating flesh moves from my chest
and onto my sleeves.
you are as pure as guitar strings
strumming acoustic sounds
that speak to my soul.
you are a drug which relieves tension
and melts away all that i try to control.

i won’t go as far as to say
you fill the hole in me,
the one that nags at me late at night
because despite the happiness you might
bring to my life,
you are not God–
but you do look like Him,
like when you laugh,
i see His reflection
and when we embrace,
i catch a glimpse of God’s face.

black man,
you hold the world on your shoulders
with strong arms, solid legs
and a back that has been stabbed
and i see you bleeding.
i wish i had enough rags to stop the blood,
wish i had enough sand to stop your flood,
wish i had enough patience to wait for your love
and enough discipline
to not be sitting on the side of the water again,
throwing pebbles at you
with the hope that they will skip.
i see you as you ripple every which way
from that which is thrown at you
but still you manage not to break.


Humpty


maybe i’m pushing too hard–
past the limit where my feet
are barely keeping on the edge of the wall
and i’m about to fall like Humpty Dumpty.
but hopefully i won’t break into pieces, but regenerate
because it’s been a long time since i have felt anything.
even if circumstances end
with shrugged shoulders and shriveled expectations,
i’m happy that at least i have felt again,
strengthened my shell again,
without forgetting the beautiful soul within
and that my limbs have the ability
to push and even pull back
as hard and as soon
as i need.


My Insecurities


my face has a mind of its own
and it just so happens
that my skin is always
ANGRY.
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
but now?
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
and examining.
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
something as
temporary
as my body
is irrelevant,
not applicable,
but nevertheless always
beautiful.


Survival


every day i walk miles and miles.
my legs have seen more hills
and my feet have stubbed more toes on sidewalks
than i can recount. if i had to count,
estimate how many miles i ambulate,
i’d have to confess that most of my traveling time
is spent inside of my mind.
i may sit in a cubicle from monday thru friday
but my imagination flies through van gogh’s starry nights
and lands on romare bearden’s collages.
it stretches and contorts like salvador dali’s objects
and tries to remain sleek like the art deco movement
but it’s too rough around the edges to be modern,
too complex to be described by a simple period in time.
this mind is stronger than my muscular calves, which have ached
from the toll of rushing, tried to look too cool for running,
but settling on moving briskly, avoiding
those who choose to waste their days moving at a slow pace,
burning from the fear of always running late.
i look at these thick legs, scars and all
which each have stories of their own
and contemplate how much stronger
my brain must be.
yes, it is bruised by memories
but those same sources of pain have caused it
to become capable of dealing with any and everything,
expansive enough to see the past, present,
and future
and worldly enough to whisk itself away
on new journeys that arise and never cease to surprise
as the feet on my body and on the sidewalks of my mind
travel for miles in order to survive
each hectic day.


Vegetarian (Revised 7-9-08)


i was a vegetarian for 7 days,
walked around on a high,
bragged about the 5
pounds i lost,
the extra pep in my step in the mornings
and my glow that was noticeable to strangers.
but after those 7 days,
nourishment left
my body.
i was no longer fulfilled
because the food that i needed to fill
my belly
was not vegetables but
peace.
peace left so much that i needed a piece of a peace pill
just to make it through the day
and a whole of the peace pill so i could be sure i’d sleep the night away.
vegetables no longer sufficed.
i was hanging on strings like a marionette
head bobbing, soul vacant,
arms moving one way and legs moving another,
disconnected and needing to be pulled together
and still
no energy.

the vegetables were so good!
they gave me leverage and confidence in a
society that is fast food-fried, overrated and hydrogenated
but my nature was gone.
i was forced to turn processed because life is a process and i am in process and
i see little progress
just objects
that are normal to most people but affect
me:
books are too much, life is too much,
screens are too much, looks are too much,
closeness is too much, rain is too much,
truth is too much,
i tremble at accidental touch.
i need more peace.

my diet
was adjusted,
my daily life
disrupted
without warning.
if there was a sign to tell me that i would experience such things
i would have bucked a U,
avoided U
street,
made an illegal turn to
get the hell up out of dodge from hell
street,
but it was too late.
i got sucked
into suffering shivering solitude
scrutiny examinations hollow moods
and for what?

i was a vegetarian for 7 times 7 days,
then i became a pescatarian
because it was supposedly time to celebrate
but despite the cards and family and gown,
i did not graduate
from this experience.
they say experience
is the best teacher
so please, if you happen to see her,
tap her on the shoulder and tell her she’s out of control.
tell her i’m reporting her to the Board of Education because
i was a child left behind in the cold.
i was still shaken or maybe stirred
but somehow things got a little brighter.
i let love lead me
but less vegetables feed me
imaginary peace fooled me
and the quest to move on ruled me
i had to prove to everyone and me
that i had made it,
that i was strong,
but little did i know that this was not over,
that it may never be over,
and that the peace that once existed
was gone.

i was a vegetarian
back at a time when i had peace
and 82 days later, i ate a piece
of chicken and as i felt the grease
get stuck in my throat,
i realized i was unsatisfied with meat
because my life, my body,
my meat
was viciously stolen from me.
i identified with the chicken!
i was slaughtered
and ran around with my head cut off.
unsympathetically,
my case was wrapped up,
my vegetables were hidden,
i was robbed at heart-point
and i don’t know how to get my stuff
or my nourishment
back.