Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “writing

This Ain’t About You

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.


Me and the Letter P

I’m not one for chain emails and such, but I came across a writing prompt through one of my favorite bloggers, Elizabeth. This is how it works–you read a blog of someone who has written about 10 things they love that begin with a certain letter. Anyone who leaves a comment will be given a letter to keep the writing exercise going. I was given the letter P:

hedonistic from my heartbeat to my palms,
from my palette to my jaws,
to my sensitive sexy spots,
i love being hot,
love the feeling of sweat beading on the small of my back
and rolling my eyes back
at feelings that prompt me to enter this state of being.
not always sexual,
pleasure tickles my navel
and makes me knees quiver
like code red hot weather days
sitting under the AC and starting to shiver.
i get turned on by that which is forbidden,
dangerous, good feeling,
and pleasurable.

the unknown,
like a stranger you wish to know
has so much promise,
so much potential,
so much mystery.
which way will it go?
where will i be?
when will they call?
what will i see?
it’s quite exciting,
the not knowing,
the questioning that occurs in the unsatisfied mind
and unfulfilled eyes,
unable to cry
but hoping for inspiration,
a spark or twinkling
that comes from what
might be coming.

frozen moments of what was once alive
and breathing
and somehow still breathing
and sometimes bleeding
in images that stain minds like gasoline.
they smell sweet to some
while others wish to forget the scent,
they marvel and sometimes lament
at what they see,
the capturing of what used to be
but no longer is.
pictures tease and inspire
and remind and bring fire
to dry eyes and spirits
and if you listen for a voice,
you can hear it softly.
it whispers

since i was a little girl,
i knew i wanted to be a star.
never mind that i was skinny
and awkward
and dark.
the flashing lights, the applause,
the focus on me
is what brought me to the stage
and continues to be
a source of joy.
but that alone does not make me complete.
to transform,
to leave my sometimes sad life
to become someone full of life
feeds me during moments when i am empty.
to learn from my own imagination
and explore my own limits
and discover more of me
and how i impact them
through art that changes lives
is what i wish to do
until the day i die.

when i was little,
i adored them.
as i grew older,
i wanted to be nothing like them:
overly careful, worrisome,
and frequently quite annoying.
but now that i am growing,
i want to be just like them.
two people that have given more to me
than they could have dreamed of
giving to themselves
because they look at me
and see their heart traveling outside of themselves,
running into traffic at rush hour
with the risk of getting hurt
as they keep quiet and wait patiently,
praying that i don’t
and that i will always return.
even when i don’t know God,
i know love,
have seen it and touched it with my bare hands
and have named it
mom and dad.

she wakes me in the midst of my sleep,
beckoning me to come and play,
to explore the possibility of word play
and wrap myself in similes and metaphors
like blankets on a cold day.
i often wonder “what for?”
looking at her like just a hobby
like collecting stamps
but she whispers to me softly
and takes my hand,
dragging me to places within my soul
that i never would have dared to go,
showing me the beauty in simplicity
and complexity
and identity.
she completes me–
i am the caterpillar and she is spring
and through her,
i am awakening,
growing wings and color and rarity
and i see myself flying,
and finally breathing.

the shade of my femininity;
the brighter it is,
the more i see me.
when they look at me,
they see
brown skin, black eyes, black hair
and frankly, there is not much brightness there
so i wear this color
as a reminder that i am woman,
see me roar
as i am blushing-baby-magenta-hot,
sexy, luminous, image of estrogen.
cliche it may be
so just call me
“you don’t know what you got til it’s gone”
or “i told you so”
or “when opportunity knocks, you open the door”
or “a bird in the hand equals two in the bush”
and all that other bullshit
but truth is,
that pink is the color of my spirit,
showing itself in the two parts of my body
that reveal what is inside of me:
my tongue which sets me free
and that other part that exists secretly,
that no one barely sees;
it makes a house right in between
my hips
and on top of the hill of my thighs
and rests until seen by my husband’s eyes,
pupils that will one day see the color pink
and think of me.

whoever said that we need to adhere to rules
to take things by the book
ought to look in the mirror
and slap themselves.
what the hell?
who said life had to be so boring,
so full of commitment to that which robs us of contentment?
protest brings change
and conformity turns brains to mush
and if we were all oatmeal minded,
then i think Gandhi wouldn’t have minded
the injustice of his people.
and if we all had brains like mud,
then maybe Jesus would have changed his mind
and decided to keep his blood.
if we all had brains like soft sand,
then Huey P. Newton and the rest of the Panthers
never would have raised their hands
and turned them into fists
and before them never would have existed
the Civil Rights Movement
and after them,
there would never be this moment in history
when Barack Obama is changing the course
of what was seen
and turning tradition into a thing of the past,
a chapter in a book that is ending.
the acknowledgments profess that in order to not
have to read the sequel,
we must protest.

once i used to search my Bible,
scanning frantically and trying to find something
that resonates within me,
or at least read of a person who can relate to
what i’ve gone through
but many often seem too holy
and i look at what i used to do
and still do when doors are closed and no one is looking
and close the book and end up thinking,
“is this religion thing really for me?”
but i remember the day when i read the words of a man
who in his honesty, showed me
that i don’t need perfection for God to love me
and that there is a possibility
for my broken soul to heal and get better.
as i read his letters,
encouragement fills me and tears fall from my eyes
and i thank God that a sinner like me
can look of at a real example
of one who didn’t have it all together
but still saved lives.

the PAST:
at a young age, i have lived a full life,
cried as much as i have laughed,
begged God to give me and take away my breath,
to just give me the gift of death,
but i am thankful to still be alive,
to remember the times when i was five
and ran to my daddy’s arms
as he waited for me after school
or the time when i was nine
and learned that i was smart
or the time when i was twelve
and had my first kiss
or the time when i was sixteen
and kissed goodbye to my virginity
or when i was nineteen
and said hello to heartache and suicidal tendencies
and when i was twenty one
and learned the meaning of passion
or when i was twenty three
and a man assaulted me
and when i was twenty four
and art saved me.
my history is beautiful
and i only hope
that my future is as rich,
as flavorful and full of memories,
more that will teach me
and revive me
and remind me
of the times that made me
who i am today.

Keep it going!  I’ll assign you a letter if you leave a comment. (Note: it doesn’t have to be poetry)


this poem won’t be remembered.
i guarantee it won’t be a masterpiece
but it very well may be
the most honest piece
of writing i have yet to complete.

there’s a passion burning in me
so strong and fiery
that i can’t do daily activities
because my fingers are singed with third degree burns
of what God whispered to me.
i would do it for free,
scour the streets looking for pennies to sustain me
and eat crumbs that fall from heaven
if that was all there was to feed me…

the truth is that my pride consumes me
as does fear.
i lack faith that i will ever do any better
than what exists here
and can’t trust that which i don’t see.
does that make me faithless?
or more frankly,
i lost trust in a God that i loved because
He disappointed me
and i can’t help but think that if He,
all knowing and loving
let me face such pain and anguish,
that life can’t get any better
than it is now.

i am Atlas,
pushing a boulder that threatens to crush me.
i am Jonah,
stuck in the belly of a whale of irresponsibility.
i wish i could be Jesus
but sacrifice seems just too much for me.
the passion burns me
and i possess the hose to put myself out
but don’t believe the water will really shoot out.
so i walk with half empty buckets
held by a broomstick across my back
and earn splinters in my shoulders and neglect that causes death
all because i am too scared to live.

what kind of punishment is this?
what kind of nonsense is this?
ruled by fear,
ignited by dreams
that seem too far away to touch
because i am afraid to reach.

I Feel Like Fighting

i feel like fighting but all i got
is fingers for writing.
they move to formulate melodic phrases,
but when it comes to making fists
and swinging on enemies,
they are loose branches on an uprooted tree.
how can individual fingers be soldiers?
i know my middle ones are as i raise them in the air
whenever the feeling hits me.
but what about the pinky?
can this extremity that can’t do anything on it’s own
make a difference in this war?
can my opposable thumbs oppose the force
that attempts to squeeze me in?
can the finger for my ring
bring about the independence
i have been waiting for impatiently?
i don’t think these wishes are for me
because i write stories
but still haven’t found the characters or plot to set me free.
i am still imprisoned by ideas that are afraid to leave
the comfy living room of my imagination
for fear of cold cemented floors
and no doors to open.
me and my fingers keep hoping
for better days, for hours when fighting
won’t dominate our desires
because the water to put out the fire
burning my chest will be abundant
so my soul will finally be at rest.

Poetic Petition

i don’t wanna write another “woe is me” poem.
i don’t want a poem that’ll glorify my pain
or complicatedly complain and explain my emotional angst.
i don’t want a poem that’ll stay stuck in my deepest, darkest thoughts.
i don’t need any more stanzas to express all that i lack and desperately want.
but i will say,

i want a feel-good poem–

a poem that is a prescription for self-wallowing,
a poem that will feature all of the following and more:
phrases that will make me smile so hard that my face gets sore,
letter combinations that will invite me to get on my feet and dance,
concepts that will break past the barriers of pain and romance,
verbs that take me out of this world and onto another plane,
word play so crazy that makes men in asylums appear sane,
along with laughter and lightness.
i want a poem that highlights the brightness
of life, the joy
of living,
a poem that relishes in giving,
offering syllables as gifts and tenses as present
and past frustration as ribbons
to tie all fantasies in a pretty poetry bow.

i want a feel-good poem–

not one about controlling the views of its witnesses.
i want a free poem,
one that inherently contains second chances and forgiveness,
a poem that flies in sun-setting skies
and lands hard but still never dies,
allowing it to beat on…and on.
i want a poem that’s as beautiful as a love song.
i want a poem that is allergic to exclusion–
one that makes every human being know that they belong
and have meaning and value in this world.

i want a feel-good poem–

i want to feel good,
i want a poem,
i don’t want a woe,
i don’t want a “woe is me” poem.
give me a poem that reflects the utopia of life,
give me a poem that eliminates struggle and strife
but i don’t want no poem that reminds me of why
i should be depressed and how i’d be better off if i died.
i don’t want to write another “woe is me” poem
even if woe is me
because i want to feel

i want a feel-good poem–

one that warms like hot cocoa on a snowy day,
one that softly and smoothly takes my breath away,
one sweeter than kisses and hugs after years of loneliness,
one that washes away tears and thoughts of hopelessness,
a poem that alleviates all that has plagued my heart,
a poem that gives me the freedom to fall down and feel free to start
i want a poem that feels so good that i never want it to be over.
i want to write a poem that gets me so high that by the time my buzz wears off,
i will actually be wiser and older
and still feel

no more “woe is me” poems, at least for this moment in time
because through carefully crafted lines and the creativity of words and rhymes
i can beat these troubled times.
but the first step in this fight
is to erase the desire to feed the fire of “woe is me”
so here and now, in the steps to finally becoming free,
i say for the benefit of both you and me:

i want a feel-good poem.