You Tried It (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations: Love Poems”)

You are less empty than you pretend

You are no cup air drying on the counter
You are no tablet, factory reset successful
You are not the first page in the sketchbook of an undiscovered artist

You are far less empty than you pretend

You are:
A crescent moon peaking from your whole self,
The beginning of a hidden forest,
The living scripture spoken by God
punctuated by revelations.

You are full and splashing over the hard edges of the Hoover Dam
unable to be contained
by concrete, steel, and man’s intentions

~Rahk

#art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #egos, #faith, #hope, #life, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry

The Text Read: “I need u to write me a poem…”

When the text came in, I was overjoyed. As an avid advocator of self-expression, I insisted that she was perfectly capable of writing it herself–she, of course, begged to differ but sent her thoughts anyway. She would not let me convince her that her thoughts, as they stood, qualified as a poem. She laughed me off and insisted that I take the wheel. Using her original poem/thoughts as a guide, I composed a new poem. It was as exhilarating as always! Here is her original:

Happy,
I don’t want your so-called happiness
I don’t want to be so happy
that I strain my physical astigmatism
To adjust my minds eye to the blindness
of my deceitful figurative heart
I don’t want to be happy anymore,
knowing that when I turn the corner
I’ll be blindsided by a breathtaking blow
I don’t want to be happy anymore
ignoring the push of your pain
and the pain of your push
I don’t want to be happy anymore
when u ask for I do
but show me you don’t
until you do again
I don’t want to be happy anymore
if it means extreme highs and bottomed out lows
I don’t want to be happy anymore w/ you…

~Anonymous

Poetry, for me, has always been conversation. A conversation between the heart and the mind, or between the writer and the subject, or with no one in particular. The next poem is my side of the conversation, my response, which I see as a sort of translation.

Your so-called happy
don’t spell itself out for me
for us
for this we I faithed
into existence
This happy you preached
to my congregational heart
This happy you requested offering for
only to frown at my 2 cents

You are not familiar with kneeling
You do not understand altars
Your happy knows nothing of repentance

I don’t want no happy
that requires a sermon
before I can eat
I can’t rejoice over no happy
that disturbs my astigmatism,
changing how I see myself
I can’t use no happy
that hurts to smile through
for us
for this we
I feared into existence

You can no longer sway me
with charismatic words
and open arms
I’m keeping my last 2 cents
You’d misplace ’em anyway

~Rahk

Ahh. The joys of collaborative expression. Who’s next?

#art-therapy, #gender-norms, #hard-conversations, #heart-break, #life, #love, #love-poems, #poetry, #raw, #relationships

“She’s Like Eve, One of Those Seeing Women…” (Excerpt from Copperhead)

Everyone in Eddenton, even the infants, knew not to offer anything more than a quick “Good morning” or an “Evenin, yall” to Armina Washington and Salve, short for Salvetta Fairmont. Even a sprite “Hello” could come back to you as The Tale of Two Snubs. It all depends on Armina. Armina, a proud entrepreneuress (a term she coined the day of her salon opening), is serious about her business despite its nominal appearance. And careful to keep her business a privileged enterprise while shamelessly selling your secret family recipe to anyone with the lucid dream of a restaurant. 

It’s been said, not to Armina’s face, of course, that the crows stay away from her properties; she has a few plots of land in the modest, but growing, town. They say the crows got tired of carrying all the trash Armina would tell them after luring them in with scraps. The scraps were likely provided by Salve, Armina’s hopeful wings. Lifting Armina up just so she can sip a cloud one of these old mornings seems to most to be her life’s work. Naturally, Salve took out a second mortgage on her inherited home to invest in Mina’s Nail Spa on Main. And just as naturally, she anticipates Armina’s Hot Topic of the Hour. 

“You know, they say, she’s like Eve, one of those Seeing Women. They say, when she was in her mama Bullie’s womb, that Bullie couldn’t eat nothing apple-like. No pears–” 

“No plums and no peaches either!” interrupts Salve. Armina, annoyed at the interruption, cloaks her frown in earnest sisterhood. 

“Mmmhmmm, that’s a sho’ nuff sign right there,” she coos. 

“Oh shut up, Armina,” said the woman whose hands Salve just refurbished with a flawless french tip. Biddy was a faithful customer, despite her disdain for needless gossip. “You’re  always seeing signs where anyone with good sense sees a rumor, and a fantastical one at that.” Biddy stood, saying, “Pregnancy affects every woman differently, no matter how much of the experience is the same. Every woman is different just like every child is different. Difference doesn’t warrant all this vain imagining.” She handed Armina her payment rather gracefully. Armina received it rather indignantly. 

“Oh, here she goes, Salve, with her professor tongue. Ain’t no lecture hall around here, Biddy. Save all that fancy talk for them white folk at that university that fired your All Knowin ass.” Armina said with all the glory of someone receiving the attention they never got as a child, or a teen, or a blossoming woman, or a wife. Biddy paused, keeping a steady gaze.

“Armina, you can bring up my hardships all you want. You can wave them around like bright banners of triumph and you can even make me feel a little low everytime you do it. But you can’t make the truth sting no less.” Stated Biddy matter-of-factly as she stepped, self-satisfied, out of the one bedroom home masquerading as a nail shop large enough for just five appointments at a time, and a “No Walk-ins” sign fastened to the door beneath the business number. 

As Biddy left the judgment of the nail shop she passed the peculiar young infant, now woman, at the root of such fanciful speculation. They locked eyes. Biddy smiled. She’d never noticed how stark the woman’s features were.  Her face was a multisyllabic word spoken by a loving God. Her skin glowed dark, like the moon and the sun aligned behind her back. Copperhead did not smile back, nor did she frown. Biddy suddenly felt naked, her heart pulsing as if an open door had found her exploring herself. Her feet matched her pulse and Copperhead entered the salon with a demeanor comparable to her namesake. Biddy was certain the ladies in the salon would have a few wounds to tend double what they caused her just moments ago. She smirked, reveling in the thought. Right then, Biddy wished she was one of those Seeing Women just this one time. She turned and reached toward the door to her gray 2013 Toyota Camry, her french tips invoking a smile.

#black-stories, #copperhead, #eve, #excerpt, #prose, #story-telling

Holding On

Absentmindedly, I clenched thoughts of you in my fist– forgetting the point until I bled.

I hid the wounds, but not well. They were palm-sized riverbeds, overflowing.

I did not intend to bathe you in blood. Nor did you mean to break the skin between us.

~Rahk.

#hard-conversations, #letting-go, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry

On The Day That Marriage Was Honored Equally (From “Hard Conversations: Love Loems)

On the day that marriage was honored equally
I got into a bit of a debate with
A young minister
About the context of things
About how it would make sense
To know what a forest is before you decide you can see through it

Context was revealed
But I’m sure he only saw through it
Trees compose a forest just like people compose a marriage
And weddings are forests in autumnal garb
Brilliantly reflecting sunlight as newness fades

And people thrive in the context of love
No matter the clothes they put on
Or the measure of their melanin
Or the fault in their constellations

We are and have always been zodiacs.
Dusted destinies and big bangs
We are and have alway been celestial bodies that will die long before our light fades

From forests riddled by winter

From forests lacking petty concerns like

people sleeping together

night after night

We are both trees my brother,

But I would never vote to prevent your forest
So long as it grows and nurtures

I see your forest, my brother
I see your forest
Yet, you begrudge me mine

#art-therapy, #black-stories, #christianity, #church, #divorce, #god, #hard-conversations, #homosexuality, #lgbtqa, #marriage, #poem, #poetry

A Reminder

Don’t give up when it’s right,
When your soul becomes sky at the notion of success.
Don’t give up when it’s right,
Even if your body quakes at the hint of failure.
You have withstood Tsunami
You have withstood Hurricane
You have withstood Pharaoh in his many forms

Don’t give up when it’s true
If, when you speak it, you are humbled
As if that truth is a mountain you must climb barefoot
As if that truth is a bullet you must catch by hand
Don’t give up
When it is water after generations of thirst
Don’t give up
When it is a sun rising on a new day
And it will rise
Because you waged war to see it

#art-therapy, #black-lives-matter, #faith, #life, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #stop-killing-us

Favor (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations: A Collection of Love Poems”)

SMS Draft: Ma says I look like you. I take her word for it–it’s hard to compare memories to reflections.

[delete]

SMS Draft: Man, what can I say to you besides hey and happy new year, besides one day soon, besides I love you too, besides mama’s doing fine, besides silence?

[delete]

SMS Draft: Dad stands hesitant behind my teeth–Barred, and though there is this gap, Dad does not slip through despite a gentle push from my tongue.

[delete]

Mama raised me to be careful of namecalling.

-Rahk

#art-therapy, #brainstorming, #fathers, #hard-conversations, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #relationships

Built Like A Cross (Excerpt from “Copperhead”)

She said I was conceived inside a church, that’s why my body built like a cross. I’m just straight up and down and I like it. I like it ’cause I can be free. Many of these women bound. They are bound to service a man’s desires in one way or another. Whether they want to or not. If a man asserts that a woman ought to present herself prim and priss and she acts to fill up that thought or rebels against it, she’s adhering to that man’s demand on womanhood. And if she spends her life presenting cactus when she is a delicate flower she is still servicing his desires. Giving him dominion over her present self as if Adam didn’t nibble that forbidden fruit as well.

Pastor, at the old dusty, block church down the street, preached a talltale about Eve’s body seducin’ the man to go against God. Proclaiming that’s the reason women gotta walk around in a winter coat, even when the sun feelin’ extra proud. That’s why she gotta avoid temptin’ the man, so he don’t go against God. But woman was made like that, and man was made to want her just like that. Well, most men.

Mama once told me men are selfish.  I theorize man’s so attracted to woman because she was made from his leftovers, and he wants those leftovers back. So he can’t listen to God because he’s too in love with that piece of himself the woman got. (That’s half of what I took from mama’s daily Bible lessons, whether she knows it or not depends on the day.)

That pastor must not listen to God for his word ’cause I don’t know what told him to preach that nonsense. Now, devout women can’t wiggle a toe without worryin’ whether some man is gonna be able to control himself during service. Sounds like man got a handicap to me. And God gave it to him, maybe on accident, when he tore that rib from his chest.  Like I said, man so selfish he got to feel himself again and he can’t do that without the woman. And he lusts for that missing piece of himself so bad that he’d bone a woman in the usher board room if his body mirrored his thoughts.

Adam nibbled that fruit because he wanted to. Women tell men to do things all the time that they don’t do; like be truthful and don’t outright lie about cheatin’ when our chests are bleeding from the wound the deed left. I’m a woman, I ain’t gotta catch you in the act. I love you so I feel the piece of yourself you gave away. Because I’m selfish, too. I got one part of you, and I want more. I want it all. I don’t just want to be made- I want to be created. I’ma create myself by building on that rib–give me a hand too, and enough of your heart to keep you living, but half because of me. God gave Eve that rib and that’s where man’s selfishness lies. Because the ribs protect the heart. They’re meant to protect your own vitality, not separately, but together. So to take a piece of a man’s chance for prosperity– he can’t stand it. He just gotta get it back.

And we, we women, protect his heart because we know he’s missin’ one bar from his steel safe. And we feel that we need more of him just to be strong enough to protect him. That’s only because we forgot that God spat on us, too. Doesn’t matter whether a rib was our womb, or not. God put His hands on us, too. We can protect ourselves. God gave us an extra rib because the man, on top of being selfish, is arrogant. But we know better. God made us more humble, that’s why we allow men to govern our lives. That might not have been intended though.

We ought to use that extra rib to protect our pulses from him, too. Man can’t see beyond himself, and woman can’t stop loving man more than herself, because she feels guilty about having his rib. That’s what God told me at least. If I walk in a church naked as a jay bird and a man decides to play with himself during devotion then that ain’t got nothing to do with me. That’s just how God made him. So one day I’ll tell that pastor don’t make Eve to be the problem, when God the one who took Adam’s rib.  

And many of us women are bound, like I say, because we want men to want something from us. Be it a way to feel connected to common misconceptions of man-ness, Darwin’s capitalism, or to religious perpetuations. The man don’t know how to do nothing ‘cept use a woman or control one altogether. Ain’t all that well no matter what the intent: be it modesty or lasciviousness. A woman ought to be something for a man– submissive, sexy, virtuous, a momma or a sister or a mistress; in every case the woman’s supposed to bend if she’s going to be considered loving.

But mama said I’m built like a cross because I was thought of in that church. That’s the moment I was quickened, before a self could even call a name. I don’t bend. It just ain’t in my makeup, being angles with no give. This ol’ head being polished from the last push mama mustered before she decided against being a mother also contributes to the fact that I can walk right up to a badgeman all bare up top and he won’t twitch to arrest me. He’d rather pretend his eyes have been boiled in bog water when all he can see before him is places the sun doesn’t tend to. But the badgeman don’t know that I can hear the screams such a torture would elicit, were he not pretending.

Many people scream in the back of their minds rather than out of their mouths so, by the time the words get out, they don’t resemble words at all; they look more like avoiding eye contact, disingenuous smiles, a stiffness in the jaw– and they don’t sound like words either. No, they sound more like gavels striking polished blocks of wood when you, yourself, have been found guilty by a jury that never recognized you as a peer.

The screams people orchestrated about me tend along the lines of me being a ‘shim’, so they all but boil their eyes in bog water to avoid the PC Nazis and courtrooms. To appear tolerant and progressive. But they can never rid themselves of the incessant gnat that draws their attention away from self-righteousness: truth.

The rest of the screams translate to “That’s just a pretty boy that survived some kind of malignance in his life” to “She just sick, that’s all. Them treatments take your hair and your dignity as an adult; as a child it must take your sense, too.” But, to a learned eye (and ear), the screams people try to muffle with etiquette look and sound just like what they are: lies.

I ain’t ever been one to focus on screaming, no matter the disguise. That’s a big part of that freedom I talked about: knowing things not because a man told you, but because you know yourself. They’re so conflicted about me because they don’t know what to do about themselves. I got them casting question marks at their surest laws. I make them ask the Lord to help them be more like Him. Just because I am who I am, they can find comfort in who they are not. That ain’t what the mistranslated screams will gossip, but that’s the sun shining right on you at midday, merely the sun’s reflection at midnight. Laying out bare in the noon daylight is the fatherly kind of sun, because it’s direct.

Excerpt from Copperhead Manuscript

#copperhead, #excerpt, #faith, #gender-norms, #prose, #short-story

You Do It Different From Me (Excerpt from “Mannah”)

Banjo tasted skin. Not his own skin. Soft, though. Warm. Urgent.

“What in Gabriel’s Moon…” thought Banjo, hazily. He inhaled. The wind forced into his chest roused him gently. Drearily, Mannah filled his vision. He jolted upright. Dust clinging, obsessively, to the back of his old T-shirt. “What happened?”

“You blacked out. You stopped breathing…” Mannah stared like he could meet the sun’s gaze.

“Blacked out…?” Banjo, now aware of his surroundings, searched for his guitar.

“It’s in the spirit world.” Mannah stated knowingly.

“Mannah, what the hell are you babblin’ about now? Where’s the guitar?” impatience strengthening his limbs.

“I just toldja.”

“You’re makin’ about as much sense as a Christian revival. Speak plain just this once.” No longer grounded, Banjo stared down at Mannah. Still half-clothed. No shoes. No dust, except on his fingers from drawing in the dirt as Banjo revived.

“The guitar. It ain’t here no more.” Mannah kept a steady gaze on Banjo. As if he were conversing with a water moccasin during mating season. “How’d you do it, Banjh? I saw it but I didn’t see how you did it. You do it different from me.”

“You sure I blacked out? I think maybe you hit your head and I’m trapped in your hallucinations. I don’t have the cleanliest idea what you’re talkin’ about. I just need that guitar. I gotta return it. Ain’t nothin’ supernatural ’bout getting cussed out.”


#christianity, #excerpt, #gender-norms, #prose, #scenes, #short-story

Numbers (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations”)

i sat between your feet counting
the hairs on your legs
(two hundred thousand twenty-four)
rather than the number of times you frowned
when looking to me for answers

(once…)

one time.

i never asked, that one time,
why your head shifted in rhythm to revolution
why doubt tilted your axis
why you couldn’t trust your world in my hands
i couldn’t God for you
i couldn’t God for you

~Rahk.

#faith, #fathers, #gender-norms, #hard-conversations, #love, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry, #raw

Scattered (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations”)

like sunflower seeds and cigar ashes and Bic lighters in college apartments

like a new mother’s worries, single or not

like

like my father’s children

sunflower seeds and cigar ashes

Bic lighters in college apartments

dust in the suburbs dust in the hood dust in the pews of full churches

new mother’s worries new father’s misconcerns

good cops good politicians honor among priests

the right to due process

privilege among thieves

sunflower seeds and cigar ashes

Bic lighters between bishops

Walmarts and cockroaches when the switch is flipped

dandelion seeds in Franklin county fields

Wafflehouses and hip hop clubs in the city

cigarette butts and futile scratch offs

like

like our Father’s children

like my Father’s children

~Rahk.

#art-therapy, #christianity, #hard-conversations, #history, #relationships, #spoken-words, #talking-to-myself

It’s Okay (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations: A Collection of Love Poems”)

Be the man
that grows beyond
what people presume.

They mostly mean well,
claiming to know
how certain roses bloom.

Men, too, are enchanted flowers
Blossoming during monsoon.

~Rahk.

#hard-conversations, #personification, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #scenes, #sons

You Were Not Old (Excerpt from “Hard Conversations: Love Poems by Rakeem OneVoice Person”)

Lil bruh, I thought
maybe you’d rise
on the third day
after a releasing of purple and gold balloons
confirmed you had
in fact
died at 28

But you did not rise
You did not rise
from your sick bed
in the certainty of youth

When did you grow old in body?

I did not know.

I could ask why
but what are petty reasons
when you, Lil Bruh, simply did not
have strength to rise
three days after
laughter and normalcy
outhummed the motor
of your oxygen tank

I thought you’d breathe again
on your own
considering
how much we laughed.
I thought:
What is hospice to your little brother soul?

You were not old
We were not old
and even if we were
would hardearned wrinkles
have remedied suspended time?

I do not know
what more solace a silvered crown
would have bestowed.
I am not old
and I remember you clearly.

Sometimes my laugh echoes yours
as if my body is a canyon.
Other times, tears carve fresh streams
toward healing.

I wonder:
What is death to kinship?

You were not old, and your little brother spirit
still blesses the laughter
between my tears

I am not old
Though I fear I have aged
without you

Where do I start?

#art-therapy, #cancer, #death, #faith, #grief, #hard-conversations, #hope, #life, #loss, #love, #love-poems, #mourning, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #relationships

2020 Preview: Introducing “Hard Conversations”

These Are The Facts:

  • Writing the poems for this collection healed me from a major heartbreak.
  • I discovered a desire to rekindle my relationship with my father.
  • I stopped working on this collection because I didn’t believe I had enough people who’d take the time to experience it.
  • This collection of poetry can inspire you to start some hard, but necessary, conversations with your loved ones.

Stay tuned for excerpts from my first collection of love poems [in the works].

Confession 1: Poem Against Terror (Excerpt from “The Pulse in the Pews”)

Originally published in print August 2018, “The Pulse in the Pews” is a knee jerk reaction to the terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub and a particular church’s response to it. It expounds upon a pivotol period in my spiritual journey. One that sought to mediate religious doctrine with personal revelation and tragedy. One that sought to distinguish God’s voice in a sea of loquacious voices. The following is the first entry in “The Pulse in the Pews”, originally entitled “For Gay Christians Who Consider God When the Church is Not Enough” as an homage to Ntozake Shange. Comments are welcome. You can also message me through my Contact page. Enjoy.

Poetry enables us to speak the truths we may not readily communicate in common, everyday language. Because of it’s nature, poetry empowers the individual who harnesses it to discover insights ordinarily hidden in everyday language. As a spoken word artist and published poet, I had performed poetry on numerous occasions in bars and nightclubs, schools, parks, etc.. But one particular venue used to terrify me because I felt as though that place would not receive who I am as I am.

Poem Against Terror

And I’m afraid to perform in church.
In my truth. In my As I Am.
In my burdened and heavy laden
Which weighs more like angel dust and
defeating Satan-
As I Am
I’m AFRAID to perform in CHURCH
Because I am with Pulse
Because I am without my rib and
C R E A T E D
Because my faith has challenged mountains
Because my faith has challenged me
Because my love is created by God
I am with PULSE
And sometimes I CAN’T BREATHE
And sometimes I BELIEVE
that God is so GOD that even ME
Even me
He doth LOVE as I AM
As we are created
As we are hated by the love of god
As we are berated for the will of God
As we are related to the children of GOD
As we are
As we are
As we are
I am no longer afraid to perform in church
I speak those things that be not
as if they be
I am NO LONGER afraid
to perform in church
As I am
I am beloved by God
I am with Pulse
I CAN breathe
And I must breathe whispers
Into the soul
Because whispers are seeds that grow
Because I am a seed I know
Can move mountains
And walk in the valley of the shadow of churches
Because He leads me beside still bodies
that should not be without pulse
They should not be still
We should not be still
We should not be afraid
to seek God in church AS WE ARE
We, too, are BELOVED by God.

#black-lives-matter, #death, #excerpt, #faith, #gender-norms, #grief, #history, #hope, #journal, #lgbtqa, #love, #memories, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #spoken-words