Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “violence

Crabs in a Barrel


lack of love for one another
makes dark skin
break.

wins become
wounds.
wins dig up
wounds.
words cut skin and wait for
blood.

dark skin cutters have words for
razors;
they feel pleasure in
pain
as they watch what makes us all the same
seep out
and scab over
and scar.

and only then do they applaud.


Shiver


i still shiver
when fingers touch my neck without forewarning.
if a man tries to whisper in my ear,
my body freezes
like the temperature just dropped.

this body used to be
raw honey for black tea,
good music for a weary soul.

my voice used to sing simple songs
about my day or foods i like.

but this tongue grew numb
and i still get nervous
when the weight i purposely gained
slips away.

i’m still suspicious of strangers;
plot escape plans
when i walk in alleys alone:
if i’m wearing heels,
i practice in my head
how i’ll stab a crazy man in the eye;
if wearing boots,
i plan to knock him down, stomp, and run;
if any other shoes,
then knee must be used.
all this preparation for a woman
who’s never been attacked by someone she didn’t know;
all these thoughts of violence for a woman
who thought love conquered all.

but i had one failure,
trusted when i should’ve been cautious,
stayed when i should have left,
entertained when i should have ignored…

and sometimes i still
shiver.


A Rape Deferred


if a woman cries rape and police don’t respond,
does the crime make a sound?
a drum beat,
a whisper,
a rushed “Psssttttt!”
a ghetto “Ay yooooooooo!”
a moan,
a scream,
a gasp,
a catching of breath,
a clap,
a stomp,
a hiss,
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?


Retrospect for God


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…
right?


History Unstuck


on November 4, 2008,
the evening of election day
CNN projected that Barack Obama
was the candidate
who had won.

surrounded by cheers, i couldn’t celebrate,
sayin, “these suckas done stole the election once”
so i’ll scream and shed tears when this whole thing is done–
afraid to get my hopes up
because hope takes audacity
and when i look at history,
we were dismissed.

defined as inferior,
spent days familiar
with crops, working fields,
rarely seeing interiors,
unless it was the interior
of slave shacks, you know,
nights with master on slave woman’s back,
birthing babies that lacked
a sense of family
because brokenness was the system,
spreading confusion so that to be black
almost equated with being victim;
pulled from homelands and sold on blocks
was the way to do things,
auctioning off humans like art or antique rings.
we were beaten,
scars forming shapes of trees on backs
with branches not long enough for us to climb
but deep enough for them to find
their way into souls that birthed generations of babies
still feeling the sting of whips.

we were whipped into shape
on the day emancipation came
so slaves became men,
no longer four fifths
just always dismissed,
debt staying constant
no money in pockets,
still poor but at least there was a trap door
that could be closed and opened at night
to see crosses burning at night
who knew shadows could be white?
“Mama, they look like ghosts…”
threatened hearts beat with fright
and sometimes they even cry
but you can’t hear them as well
when vocal cords are constricted by ropes
as unprotesting eyes look forward.

but we had to look back,
thirsty, but certain water fountains would lack
the fluid to match our skin color;
so we had to look back,
to learn what happens to dreams deferred and wonder if they fester;
so we had to look back
to brave souls like soldiers who sat at segregated lunch counters;
so we had to look back,
to hear the voices of prophets like Dr. King,
turning our ears to the past
so that we could hear freedom ring
and echo in our dreams and perhaps become fact.
look back to Malcolm X and his place in history,
even if you don’t agree,
he inspired our reality.

we were beautiful,
growing stronger with each casualty,
pulling strength from the act of burying,
being replenished by hoses with water pressuring
us to stop
but the clock ticked on.
we were beautiful and so was black
and we were vocal, using platforms to speak so many truths
that lies got scared and shook in their boots
and found a way to crack us–
crack broke some backs of us,
money ruled some of the best of us,
and soon our scariest enemies were…us.

but us wasn’t all bad and never was,
because all that there ever was
to identify us was our skin
and that one drop of blood,
like light rain on a window pane
romantic to some, but to others
it’s just rain,
without which the earth couldn’t survive.
showers on our heads keep dreams alive,
but sometimes i stay dry,
feeling that it’s better to suffocate hope
than try to keep her alive
but on that night,
November 4, 2008
tears filled my eyes and the weather changed
and the course of history finally turned the page.
no longer did i have to look back,
thinking of the way we were
but i had to look forward.

i had to look forward
with binoculars on my eyes,
seeing the prospect of a black president
the spirit of yes we can, yes we did
and we’ll do it again;
fueled by inspiration,
truth defying times are in my eyes,
joy fills my heart
and my soul cries out with gratitude
oh the magnitude
of what we used to be
and what we have become.


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.


Time for Revenge


she brandished a gun without fear.
fear had fallen out her bedroom window while
reaching out and grabbing for her trust of humanity.
so now she relished in the feel of cold steel.
it warmed up the steam coming out of her ears
and the fire that burned in her heart.

now was the time for revenge…

prescription pills could never give her this feeling.
unanswered prayers could never provide the healing
that she so desperately looked for
so shakingly she knocked at the door,
brandishing a gun without fear.
she no longer cared,
she was no longer scared,
no longer normal.
whatever normal means was erased by her rape.

now was the time for revenge…

time to claim what was lost,
time for this segment of her saga to end.
she was no longer a victim but victimizer,
no longer the controlled but the controller,
no longer lost but herself like God with plans
because here at this moment, she had life in her hands.
“Funny how the tables turn,” she chuckled
as she turned toward the man
who had stolen her future without knowing.
she laughed some more at the tear running down his right eye,
elated that his true coward colors were showing.

now was the time for revenge…

she brandished a gun without fear finally feeling
like she was achieving her freedom.
her finger on the trigger trembled from excitement
of actually having a chance to fight back,
but when she finally pulled back,
all she heard was “CLICK!”
and then the beeping of an alarm clock
and a feeling in her belly that made her sick.

dreams of killing were the only thing
that satisfied her desire for winning back what was taken.
she couldn’t do it in real life
and she hoped that in her dreams she might
carry out the bloody plan that played over and over in her head,
but here she is lying in bed,
still subject to screams of silence
and inward anger growing more intense
and the aftermath of life events
that leave her tortured, tense
and truly terrified of tomorrow.

she brandishes her nightmares with fear.
she brandishes her life with fear,
fearing that
there is no real time for revenge.