Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “voice

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.


Sincerity


on my birthday,

i got a long voicemail from a friend.

midnight approached as i lay in my bed listening.

in the message, one thing she said was:

“I’m happy you’re alive…”

to my surprise came unexpected tears.

maybe it was how her voice cracked when she said it,

showing her sincerity

or just that

when someone who knows exactly how

close

you’ve been to death

acknowledges just how

far

you’ve come

simply by still being here,

life seems even more

extraordinary.


Never-Ending Poem


if i could spit a never-ending poem,
i would speak of black womanhood–
of a little girl whose dark-skinned father
looked at his dark-skinned seed and told her
that there’s a secret to erasing their skin:
“Here, wear this cream and the blackness will go away.
Boys will like you more and jobs will open doors
and people will let you in with smiles.”
i would speak of that little girl-child,
how she listened to her father
and observed her light-skinned, beautiful mother
and rubbed whiteness on her skin,
how lightness did not come,
but instead painful bumps and itchy rash
and tears in the mirror and her dad who said,
“Maybe that one was too strong. I will get you a gentler one.”
the girl who shook her head “No”
and accepted her darker fate…
kind of.

i would speak of that girl
who grew up with big titty-denial,
of the time her best friend pulled her to the side,
looked her in the eye
and told her “Your bra is too small.”
the girl who prayed and prayed for pubic hairs to grow,
who searched her mom’s medicinal herb books
for a recipe to start menses.
“Maybe if I drink a tea or take a vitamin,
blood will come and I’ll be a woman.”
blood came in its time
and so did boys
who ignored her face and got lost in her breasts.
as years went on,
they got lost in her booty, her hips.
more years went on
and they got lost in her smile, her eyes, her skin.
more years went on
and they got lost in her hair.
more years went on and they got lost in her “no”
that was too quiet.

i would speak of her insecurities
that helped men mold her like clay
into a woman who appeared strong with a mean face,
but crumbled like wet sand castles upon touch;
a woman who craved touch so much
that it hurt her
so she exchanged touch for God,
then back for touch,
then back for God,
then back for touch,
then traded it back for God,
and then back for touch,
and then back for more touch,
and then back for touch,
and then who was God?
there was only touch.
and then touch got too much
and then what was God?
and then touch fucked her up
and then where was God?
i mean “Who is God?”
i mean “What is God?”
i mean…”There is God!”
“Here is God!”
“Wait…where is God?”
i would speak of her questions
that rolled on and on,
her definitions that changed,
and how she got different,
but stayed the same.

if i could spit a never-ending poem,
i would speak of black womanhood,
of my own stories,
those of my sisters
and all the things we’ve seen,
felt, loved, cried over, laughed about,
screamed about,
of moments where death wasn’t near enough,
and then those times where love filled us up
but i’m afraid
time just isn’t enough,
our stories are too much,
my voice would dry up.


Despite Poetry


if i could drown in your sweat,
asphyxiation wouldn’t be bad,
appealing even.
i would swim in the bliss
that you’ve graciously given me,
salty water from brown skin
that despite poetry,
i cannot describe vividly enough–
strong like boulders, yet soft
as my hardened shoulders become
when you make me laugh.
tension releases as i breaststroke
through sweat flowing from your throat–
your affirming voice,
calmly speaking depths of my life’s meaning:

so THAT is why i had to cry,
experience heartache and shame,
renounce God’s name
and learn how to say it again,
this time honestly
so that when i saw Him in you,
i would recognize glory and majesty.

i am a queen in training,
but i bow to you,
create love to you,
create love for you
and me to share greedily,
that despite poetry,
i cannot describe vividly enough.


Medicinal Value


as much as i try to ignore it,
i am a writer at heart.
words are my medicine.
on any given day,
i can refuse to swallow the pill,
choose the little one,
or even the monster horse one
that hurts my throat
but makes me feel better.

words, like pills,
leave funny tastes in my mouth
right at the back of my tongue,
an area resistant to my efforts to rinse away
and mask the remaining flavor of bitter.

a quiet girl like me
finds solace in words
because they speak
what she can never say
on pages that give life
and voice.


Discovery Haiku


my tongue has been bit

for so long that when i speak,

my own voice scares me.


Why Cry?


when i
consider the amount of potential
that lives in my insides
and then wake up and see
what is really outside,
tears well up in my eyes
and i cry.

when i
think about all of the uncured disease
and all the money that’s made in pharmacies
and the people who live off of painkillers
instead of cures,
tears well up in my eyes
and i cry.

when i
think about how the boys in blue
are supposed to protect me and you
but when i needed them,
they treated me like i was the criminal
and my assailant walks the streets
and breathes the same air as me,
tears well up in my eyes
and i cry.

there is so much to cry about
and some days,
i have to search for laughter.
i have to remind myself
of other chapters in my life,
the dog-eared pages of past stages
when life was sweet
and love was constant
and happiness was not a long-lost friend
but something that lived in my pocket
that has now slipped away as easily as lint
in a pair of pants
that are too tight for me now.

some days i can’t even cry
like i have some strange infirmity
from all the fucked up things i have seen,
like my eyes no longer produce tears
so when fear mounts, i shout instead
with a poetic voice loud enough to wake the dead.
the dead live in my head.
their corpses rot in their tiny grave plots
and their headstones read:
INSECURITY,
JEALOUSY,
HEARTBREAK,
DATE RAPE,
MISTAKES,
and FEAR.
the soil is soft and pretty flowers live here
and sometimes their scents break through with pollen
that causes tears
and i cry
and cry.
and cry
until there is no more inside
and until i feel alive
and the frustration subsides
and then i can finally breathe
and finally see
that crying was a necessity
to move past all that is upsetting me
and live on.