Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “work

Wanted Ad

i’m seeking new employment.
i’d appreciate any leads.
i am looking for a position that
would be a great fit for a
hardworking, free-spirited
actress and poet
who is unable to compromise on
what she believes.

and it would be great if i could
come in around 11 or 12 every morning
and no one would look at me crazy.
and if it was a place where
i could put my iPod down and play my music out loud
and my coworkers will sing and dance with me
as we knock down cubicle walls
and other barriers that separate humans from
making genuine connections with each other.

i’m seeking new employment
that‘s not just about me.
you see,
i really want to help people.
i want a job where people
walk in one way
and leave out another,
where i influence lives for the better.

i want a job where i go home better.
and one that pays me well enough to
live nicely
and not worry about if i’ll have enough
for groceries
and keeping up with student loan payments.

i want a job that makes me feel like
all my student loans were worth it,
like my debt has meaning.
and i want my employment there
to have meaning.
i swear,
i’m dying for meaning.
and passion.
and sincerity.
and money.
and better credit.
and less time staring at a computer screen.
and more time expanding as a human being.
and no time losing me.

Life as Hair

i like the freedom that comes from changing my hair.
i went from afro
to short relaxed
to boy cut
in a span of three months
and wish that i had enough bravery
to change things outside of me
that had more impact
than outgrowth from my skin.

what if i could cut off unhappy situations
and let stress dye
black then part orange
then whatever color my next whim desires?
what if i put chemicals on my sadness
until they turned straight and burned like fire?

what if my life was hair?
would i take care of it
or spray products on it for a quick fix?
this oil sheen is actually
the job i meant to leave a year ago
and this pomade is the pay raise i was expecting
that never came.
this shea butter is the love that comes from my mother
and this comb is the tough pulling feeling
that comes from wanting to leave home.
and when i run my fingers through it,
there is love.
i relish at what grows out of me naturally,
choosing to be content in whatever state
or texture
i choose or am forced for it
to be.

Ambulatory Announcement

one day i’m gonna walk away from it all.
leave squeaky chair spinning in cubicle
and pictures on the wall
and expectations of success
and bill collector calls
and dreams that are too far to reach
and grab them as if all
that mattered
was honoring me.

i’m gonna walk away,
maybe even run,
not caring if i break the heels on my black leather pumps
or get runs in itchy stockings that were never met to fit me.
i won’t answer phones politely,
won’t smile without meaning,
will cry when i feel like it
and speak the truth as if
life still depended on it.

i’m not happy.

i feel like walking,
jogging, or maybe even driving
til i run out of gas
and can no longer recognize the surroundings
outside of the glass
that separates me from reality.
one day i’m gonna walk instead of sit,
act instead of talk,
speak instead of staying quiet,
scream instead of staying silent,
stop living so publicly and
respect myself enough to be private.

tiptoes are all they see now
but in my soul
i am walking,
even climbing,
drowning but surviving,
heart faint but still thriving
and growing despite being
the uprooted plant that i am.

i don’t want to wait for “one day”
so maybe i’ll just
put one foot in front of the other today
and see what happens.
movement is innate
and i’m spiraling back to my own nature
and the essence of my humanity
beyond infancy,
crawling, crying, standing,
losing balance and falling
but taking that final leap
and walking.


i desperately want freedom.
i perspire to cool myself off
from the heat of being imprisoned
by mental bars and walls.
the correctional officers are clocks
and the keys on their waists go
as they walk down D-block.

“Who we rep?!”


“Who we rep?!”


“Who we rep?!”


“Who we rep?!”


we waste away our youth in jail cells
and tattoo our dreams on ourselves
for days when we’re not feeling well
so we can look down at our skin
to remember the inspiration within.
sometimes pictures are all we have
because our commissary consists mainly of
could have, should have, and would have
which keeps our stomachs empty.

why oh why
is time working against me?
the judge gave me 15 to life and sometimes
i fear i’ll be a prisoner until
i can retire at 65.
the other day a lifer laughed at me
and said i’ll never get out
and i shook my head and smiled.
he doesn’t know that when the lights go out,
i stay up and plot my escape.
one day they’ll wake up
and i will be traveling far, far away.
i’ll shed these prison clothes
and today will be yesterday.


at night, i feel hesitant
about the confines
of tomorrow’s business suit.
i’d rather be barefoot
or better yet swimming,
traveling laps as i count
the waves of the sea.
but we don’t always get what we want,
do we?
my pinstripes are jail stripes
and i wish to break free
but it’s hard to wave goodbye to benefits
with today’s economy.
so to my cubicle cell i report early in the morning,
knowing that the stars will soon come
and i will join my nebulous family
in the galaxy–
we will soar past impossibility,
bursting in the heavenly skies to be seen
by everybody.
right now i am discrete
as to not alert those around
that they have a comet in their midst.
i keep a low profile, smiling politely
all the while knowing that when evening comes
i might be flying…
in my dreams i am climbing,
eyes closed because even i
am not yet adjusted to the shining.
i am stepping on the footstools of regularity,
grabbing onto the rope of extraordinary,
making my home high up in the atmosphere
and saying goodbye to everything
that rests here.


the escalator cried and moaned
like a mother who lost her son,
and the sound grew
on and on.
machines lack inspiration
and even knowing this, human beings become them:
ungreased, rusty-hinged, slaves to routine,
lacking color–
even the palest of us turn brownish-green.
i’m already dark-skinned
but pray every night that i won’t turn
into that extreme…
groaning every morning as the world steps on my face,
continually working knowing
i’ll never leave that place.
i’m more like a roller coaster,
going up and down, curving around at times
and eliciting reactions from others in the form of
screams and smiles of laughter.
no crying, just laughter,
coming straight from the belly
and sprinting out of tear-filled eyes.
i cry and moan inside, but pray that i’ll
never be that dead inside one day.
one day this speculation won’t even matter anymore.
when i don’t have to hear weeping machines no more,
mourning over lost sons who succumbed
to the machine of complacency,
rolling back and forth and never walking
with a sense of
to live out dreams.

An Actor’s Angst

i thought i’d be OK just
living a normal life
for a little while.
but i’m abnormal like 6 toes
and backwards clothes–
i kris kross emotions
like it’s in vogue,
haute my job
as i lean uncomfortably to fold
myself into a box
i was told
i’m supposed to fit in,
knowing that i’m too large
to be contained.
i just wanna work somewhere where i
could walk around barefoot and talk to artists about
motivations and
all day–

not office work!

this is not my life right now.
underneath my skin i sense a scream building up,
a bravado in the back of my throat.
aspirations knock on the inside of my forehead
and slide past my eyes so that
i can’t see what’s in front of me clearly.
what do i do now?
i got bills to pay.
i can’t move–my feet are glued
to an office floor
with brown carpet and on three sides of me
are bluish-gray walls with pictures
of what makes me happy
so that i can maintain my sanity
for 40 hours of a week
that i spend feeling weak
but appearing strong.

i should be happy–i perform all day long.
it starts around 6:30 in the morning when my alarm goes off
and i play someone who really cares about
getting to a 9 to 5 on time.
then on my train ride,
i read books and listen to my ipod,
attempting to blend in
with other discontent, dressed-up people
with heavy eyelids.
then i arrive at the office.
if i were just playing a character, i’d be on this.
but the truth of the matter is
that i desire to be on stages,
in rehearsal rooms and in classes.

i am fire and this life is ash.
and it’s cold.
i shiver in my too-cold cubicle
and figure that maybe i’m not
cut out for this climate.
i’m too warm for this cold shit.
too alive for this dead shit.
too smart for this bullshit.
too passionate to live as if
i really have to settle for this.
i got 3 degrees from 6 years in a university
and have experienced trouble
for as long as i can remember
so this simple series
of 8 hour days, 5 days a week
should be nothing.
i’ve dealt with bigger numbers than this,
been through days where i wanted to quit on life,
wished i would flat line
but even that extreme seems more alive
than the gray i live in now.

how did this happen?
when one lives in dreams
without intermissions of reality,
all they really are is asleep.
waking moments are really life.
and all this time i thought that the
existence behind my eyes
was already mine.


there’s something freeing about admitting
that what you’re doing
isn’t working–
even if there’s no solution in sight
and it feels uncomfortable like
your shoes are too tight,
like this environment is too narrow
for your dreams,
which like toenails,
can grow too long with neglect.
i object to being constricted by these shoes,
by these rules that dictate what i can’t and should do.
maybe i’ll start breaking them and then i’d be free–
only then could i untie
these laces that hold me.
i’ll walk around with bare feet
and ignore the rules of society
cuz my soul and heart have been ripped apart
with callouses and corns
from trying to squeeze myself
into maintaining the norm.
to hell with these shoes–
the right is on my left foot
and the left one is on my right.
to hell with this boring, mediocre life
that really doesn’t fit me.
i don’t want to resist me:
the actress who prefers to be on stage
than in a cubicle during the day,
the poet who has learned to write her pain away,
the woman who is declaring that today,
it’s time to stop delaying her plans
and allow her feet to be
as naked as her hands.

Just to Impress You

just to impress you
i went out and bought some new clothes.
i figured if i dressed fresh enough, i wouldn’t have to be alone.
so i maxed out my credit cards and spent all my bread,
and when i walked past, you didn’t even turn your head.

just to impress you
i tried to lose weight.
so i went to the gym and tried to sweat away every curve in my shape.
i worked out for hours and my diet put me in the worst mood,
and then i found out your favorite thing to eat is soul food.

just to impress you
i got my hair pressed.
i figured maybe you didn’t dig my afro and thought it looked a mess.
so i got my hair done so silky straight that it bounced as i switched
and then i heard your last girlfriend was a natural chick.

just to impress you
i decided to perform a song,
so i called in sick from work so i could practice all day long,
i shook it like Beyonce and had soul like Joss Stone,
but when i looked out in the audience, you had gone home.

just to impress you
i decided to just be me.
and for the first time in forever, i finally felt free.
i stopped trying to trick you and allure you with lies,
and just like that,
i finally caught your eye.

Job Interview

*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