Self-Mutilation (Creative Expressions)

A Poem On Trayvon Martin’s Would-Be Birthday and the Day After the 15th Anniversary of the Killing of Amadou Diallo

21 shots

He never got to take

Surrounded by friends in a bar on his 21st birthday

That never came

Will never come

41 shots

He never got to take

His wallet out of his pocket

Before he was shot down with no

Courtesy

Professionalism

or Respect

And CPR couldn’t save him

From the neighborhood watch

That saw his hoodie

But missed his childhood

Feared his manhood

That he never got to see

Will never get to see

Did he ever get to eat his Skittles?

Was he munching on them on the way home?

Or did he decide to wait?

Wait!

Wait!

Don’t shoot!

It’s a wallet.

Not a gun

This is somebody’s son

Sabrina

Kiatou

Mother.

Mother of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world

If there is no justice,

Just iced tea.

What is it worth?

How much is the price of peace

Of mind?

Of knowing that you can walk home

Or stand in your lobby

Safely

Blackly.

Free from the stigma of being a former “Colored” boy

Who considers living life–to the fullest

When Trayvon’s rainbow Skittles

And everything in Amadou’s wallet weren’t enough?

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Mutations (Reflections on Life)

Lessons From My Younger Self: On Looking Back in Order To Move Forward

Photo Courtesy Of Wikimedia Commons

Photo Courtesy Of Wikimedia Commons

I recently found a box of my old notebooks, writing folders, and diaries. In it, I found entries and drafts of poems that I had written ranging from when I was as young as thirteen years old to when I was a sophomore in college. I’d come across scribbles of a first draft of a poem that I’d eventually ended up performing and marvel at how much the piece had ultimately changed. I’d shudder at the clever turn of a phrase or at the intensity of my own long-forgotten or purposefully tucked away emotion and think, “I wrote that? Wow.” or “Ughhhh, why in the world did I write that?” As I looked through them, I could feel the nostalgia running through my bloodstream. It wasn’t so much nostalgia for those times, as much as it was nostalgia for the girl I used to be: creative, innovative, bold.  I realized that I miss me.

Anyone who knows the current me may be a bit confused. Maybe they would still describe me as “creative, innovative, and bold.” But it’s not the same. I’m not who I used to be. For so many years, I’ve been on this path of “achievement”: school, school again, and soon my profession. And I’ve always been on this path, but it didn’t always take up as much of me. Or maybe it used to seem more compatible with my other interests.

I recently told a fellow writer friend of mine that I admired how open she was with the readers on her blog. I told her I was always wary of what and how much to share because of all the warnings I’ve heard about professionalism and how your social media presence can affect your career. But I never really thought about the impact that my career would have on my artistry, and in turn, my identity. I’ve written before about my difficulties balancing these different areas of my life, but this year I’ve resolved to actually do something about it.

Reading through my old diaries and notebooks also showed me change that I’m satisfied with. I saw the names of people who had taken up pages and pages in my diary, people to whom I haven’t spoken in years. Some of this distance happened by choice; some of it happened with time and circumstance. My mom has always told me that “people come into your life for a reason and for a season,” and I realized that she was right. Some people who used to be fixtures in my daily life were now names in an old record, and I was okay with that.

Not everything was different though. I saw names that I’d previously written about who are still fixtures in my life, some who had previously been more supporting characters and who over time had moved into more central roles. In a diary entry from when I was 15, I reflected on how much I loved The Diary of Anne Frank (which is still one of my all-time favorite books) and how much I could relate to many of Anne’s teenage sentiments. I quoted the following line from the book as a refrain that I had felt was applicable to my own life, “They keep telling me I should talk less, mind my own business, and be more modest, but I seem doomed to failure.”

“I thought that was just me,” I had written in response.

I laughed out loud as I read that line again recently.

“Some things never change,” I thought.

I also read an entry where I complained about me reaching out to people more than they reached out to me. To this day, I’m still trying to find the right balance between reaching and the respect and reciprocity that I expect and deserve.

This free-write from my teen-something self reflects the self-assuredness (with a little creative bravado thrown in) that I was beginning to develop at that point (can you tell that the theme was writing?):

I speed past on a shiny soliloquy

Thoughts transporting me through my day so fast that all you see is punctuation

There are no periods in my world

Just commas, colons, semi-colons, exclamation points, and question marks

Syllables for speed bumps

I don’t see the signs–I make them

Then ignore them

What are traffic laws to a New Yorker?

I write the rage on the road you walk on

Radiant, radical run-ons with no end in sight

My poetic license can never be suspended

I have the write of way every day–every block’s mine

I blow my horn at inaudible decibel levels 

So you never hear me coming

But the impact’s always lethal

So don’t get hit

Cause I don’t yield to pedestrians

Wowww. Aren’t you glad I’m not a teen anymore? I am.

Much of that girl that still resonates with me. She has grown, matured, gained some finesse. This year is about figuring out how to make that girl and the young professional woman forming in my mirror compatible. As I continue to find my way through this maze called adulthood, I hope to find a way to merge the things I miss with the things I must do.

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Self-Mutilation (Creative Expressions)

Sappy Poem Alert: Dear Future Husband

Image Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

So, I started writing this poem on Valentine’s Day. Surprise, surprise. Since then I have repeatedly picked it up and put it down (probably because of my love/hate relationship with my own sappy poems), and I decided to finally finish it this weekend. Again, because I’m a performance poet, it’s really meant to be performed, but who knows when I’ll see an open mic again, so I thought I’d share it with you because people are always asking me to put more of my poems on my blog. *Warning* This poem is probably as sentimental as you will ever see me get with the work that I release into the blogosphere, so I hope you enjoy it.

Dear Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

Nestled within the crescent-moon cradle of God that trails me with no footprint

I scan the night sky for a glimpse of you, to no avail.

Star-gazing is a useless pastime in the life of city-slicker.

A brazen task, best left to the extremely patient, and I’ve never been one of them.

Still the thought of you is the lullaby that sings my heart to sleep

So, I talk to you in my dreams in anticipation of your descent into reality.

Warning you of your fate, while you still have time to prepare for me

Future Husband,

I am a wordsmith.

At any given moment I will vocalize the many creases of my mind like fast balls into the catcher’s mitt of your ear canal

You will hear me

But don’t be deafened by my artful amplification of empty syllables

Lectures are the love letters I’m too emotional to compose

The truth lies in the space between the words I write on the page that folds into the smile I flash for society’s cameras

My inscriptions may be indecipherable to the outside world

But you will know my heart-writing

Please take the time to read it.

Future Husband,

I am a sappy, weirdo nerd.

Hold my hand as we block the aisles at Barnes and Noble trading books like whispered secrets meant for our ears only.

I will know we are forever when you can choose titles for me.

FYI, I read the news in the wee hours of the morning

There will be times when you awake in the middle of the night to the sound of me crying, smudging the print of The New York Times as I reflect on the state of humanity

Dry my eyes and promise we’ll discuss it in the morning.

Future Husband,

I am an ambitious perfectionist

So I apologize in advance for my schedule

Know that my restlessness is not a commentary on your manhood

It is a manifestation of my womanhood–respect it.

Never mistake my ambition for ambivalence

I am always in search of more

Striving to make you proud to tell the world that I am yours

Future Husband,

I am insecure

Spent most of my life avoiding the runway life

Uncomfortable with my own stride, even as I strived to live my life in flight

Hoping that maybe if they saw me soar, they’d forget about my broken wings

And I could be fly by choice, if not by commercial design

Because although I know my beauty goes beyond the surface

I also know the value of appearances

And most days I’m not sure I can keep up

But because I know you came from where God lives

Hopefully, you’ll love me regardless of my physical flaws, lack of fashion sense and acne scars

Future Husband,

I pray that you are strong enough to be weak

Big enough to never need to make another feel small

Rich enough to pour yourself into the service of others in gratitude

Selfish enough to share yourself with me completely

Humble enough to be proud

Proud enough to seek and accept help

Confident enough to laugh at yourself

And grounded enough to soar

But most of all, I hope to be all of these things and more to you…

Sincerely,

Your Future Wife

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Self-Mutilation (Creative Expressions)

Dying to Write: A Poem In Recognition of the Price of Speech

Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

I performed this piece called “Dying to Write” at an event last week. After the show one of the audience members told me how much she appreciated it and asked if it would be possible for her to read it somewhere, like on my blog. I have just recently started featuring my creative writing on my blog, and I have yet to post any of my poems, so I guess this one will be the first.

The piece was inspired by this article by Eliza Griswold which appeared in The New York Times Magazine a while back about women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to write poetry, particularly the story of one young girl who committed suicide. As a young woman, and given my own background in spoken word, I was particularly moved by the article and what it revealed to me about the value of both free speech and women’s rights. 

I was reluctant to post the poem because I’m usually wary about analyzing and interpreting global news items through my strictly “Westernized” and “Americanized” lens. So, with that in mind, I will say that this poem is my individual reaction and fictional re-conceptualization of one article. The poem is not based on tons of research, and I don’t claim to be an expert on Afghan women’s rights or foreign policy. It is simply my creative response to what I read. It is intended to be a tribute to women who risk a lot more than just vulnerability in order to express themselves. It is written in the style of The Diary of Anne Frank, one of my favorite books which also reminds me of the importance of young women’s voices.

Dying to Write

8.1.11

Dear Diary,

I have to be more careful.

Brother noticed an ink stain on my hands during dinner this evening.

Mama glared at me and then looked away.

Papa waited for an explanation.

I told him it was dirt.

Must find some of brother’s pencils.

 Paper is a mirror–the lid over my voicebox.

8.2.11

Dear Diary,

I saw him today when I went to hang the clothes out on the line.

Only Mama was home.

I pretended I was having trouble reaching so he could come to assist me.

He asked how old I was and I told him: “I am a peach plucked in March: ripe before my time.”

He smiled.

I did too, but I was not being coy.

It is true.

It is only a lid, not a seal.

8.6.11

Dear Diary,

I’m sorry I have not written in a couple of days.

Brother has been taking my pencils and using them for school.

By the time I find them, the points are all dull.

I hate dull points.

I want to write everything SHARP!

Like I feel it.

Only I’m not supposed to feel.

Whenever I remember that, I read this record, so I can forget it again.

In my voicebox, treasures are hidden. Some people are unworthy of treasure, and others can’t recognize its worth.

8.7.11

Dear Diary,

They tell me that I am to marry my cousin soon.

I want to tell them that I don’t love him, but the lid over my voicebox is not to be removed.

Nor does it matter

Papa already suspects that I’ve been getting too advanced.

He says my words are not like me

But he is wrong

My words are me.

They are the real me, the screws that loosen the lid on my voicebox.

Some want my treasure for themselves, but I keep it for me. And for you, diary.

I may shut my voicebox, but never my mind or my heart.

8.8.11

Dear Diary,

I saw him again today.

He must have heard that I am to be married because he did not smile at me.

He did not even look my way.                                        

My voicebox is silent. My heart is loud. Can’t he hear it?

Dear Diary,

You are missing.

Where are you?

I must collect my thoughts on scraps of paper to keep from going crazy with fear that you have been found.

Papa already says my words are not like me.

What happens when he finds out what I am really like?

My voicebox has been stolen, my treasures pillaged. Who will protect me from my voice?

8.9.11

Dear Diary,

You were on my bed when I returned this evening.

I know Papa has discovered you because I am not allowed to leave the house anymore, not even to hang the clothes on the line.

The wedding is fast approaching and then he will not have to worry about me anymore.

He need not worry.

I will protect me from my voice. I will protect them.

8.10.11

Dear Diary,

I saw him today.

I had to say goodbye.

I snuck out of the house while mama was napping.

He congratulated me on my coming wedding.

“You are a peach plucked in March: ripe before your time, and before I could pick you,” he whispered.

I have poked a hole in my voicebox to match the one in my heart. They are both leaking their contents onto this page.

I hope that I have finally put my pencil to a use that Papa will approve of.

 I will protect me from my voice. I will protect them. My silence will save us all.

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