A Poem for Yourself (Rough Draft)

Tell yourself. Tell yourself. Tell yourself
That something you’ve been needing to hear for so long
Let it be an additional payday
For your self esteem
Let it be a sweet kiss on your right cheek
In the concave of your dimple

Tell yourself. Tell yourself
That giving up is an option,
But not for someone as unicorn as you
So spread those effervescent wings
Let their sparkle brush bold colors across the sky
And the people will shout aurora
As you pass by
On hooves of silver clouds
Tell yourself that you are a marvel
That what your flesh cannot mend
Your spirit must renew
For you are a marvel
And no storm can triumph over your will
For you silence thunder with your smile
And tickle lightning with your lashes
Your godly locs congressing in the wind

Tell yourself that you are God’s
That you belong to the love that begat your sense of self
Gather yourself, gather yourself
And stand on that makeshift stage within
Face your phobia of public speech
Speak your truth across that mic
And stir the selves you’ve gathered
Like a magnificent pot of your great aunt’s stew
And tell yourself to be okay
With not being okay sometimes
Because at all times, life demands integrity

To thine own self be true
To thine own self be true

And then there’s no mirror that can haunt you
And then there’s no slander that can slay your legacy
And there there’s no reason to doubt
That you are no prisoner
Though your wrists may be rubbed raw
That you are no martyr
Though you have died one hundred gruesome deaths
That you are no villain
Though you wear a patriotic badge of civil disobedience

Tell yourself
Tell yourself
That freedom is not a gift to be given
But a revelation that freedom is and always has been yours
And at any time
As a free agent
You can choose revolution
And rewrite the constitution of your indendence

Tell yourself, tell yourself
That you are a new testament of faith
That douses burning crosses
With the tears of antisemitic arsonists
For every devil weeps
When its hate is stilled
By the hopes you tell yourself
For every devil burns unholy and red
When its blasphemy does not lower your head
To glare it in the eyes as a colleague of hate
Tell yourself its not too late
Tell yourself its not too late
To breathe

~Rahk

#black-art-matters, #black-lives-matter, #hard-conversations, #hope, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry

Currently (Excerpt from “Hard Conversation: Love Poems”)

I am that I am,
But so are they.
Still they hate.
But are they the devil?
They do turn red
With so much new blood
Staining their hands
Even as they vote.
They are that they are.
But so am I.
Am I forgiveness
At the same time that they
Are knee crushing necks?
Am I forgiveness
At the same time that they
Are propelling arsenal at unarmed citizens?
Are they forgiven
At the same time that they
Are standing back and standing by
While more of us live maimed, or die?

~Rahk.

#activism, #all-lives-matter, #america, #anti-racism, #black-art-matters, #equality, #human-rights, #poem, #poetry, #police-brutality, #sars

Before 30 (a poem from “Water”)

Looking back
the questions I had
were more a proclamation
of autonomous
maleness

More affirmative
than outcries of “Punk!”

More nurturing than
“Hold it in. You bet’ not cry”
when you withstand hit after hit
when your body
is a faucet and an 
unsuspecting wall
built to withstand hit after hit

My questions were less interrogative
than sexual inquiries
and voyeuristic requests 
to witness bedroom theatrics 

Less deviant than conquest
Not as fearful as religion
Inconsequential to pink polos
and Mariah Carey in headphones

Innocence does not master sports
nor does it demand a wide stride
or pants that give in to gravity

Self-awareness counts
the notches in chastity belts

Looking forward
the answer is far more curious
than wandering eyes – 
Here be the island
which nurtures life
I’ll build here
with questions shifting my shore

~Rahk.

#art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #black-stories, #journal, #life, #manhood, #masculinity, #poem, #poetry

Play

u paused
frozen, but still whirring
and complaining
like a DVD

u are no machine
yet u let life control u
remotely

stop


Rahk.

#black-art-matters, #black-stories, #hard-conversations, #love, #love-poems, #poem, #poetry

thus far (Excerpt from Hard Conversations: Love Poems)

you’ve spent your life
giving in

life runs out
change does not

empty your pockets


Rahk

Hard Conversations in American Homes

1. It’s ashamed these businesses just reopened
And now they have to pay for damages

Yeah, Philip said his shop looks like a skull, all shadows and caverns.

And daddy always told us that floor-to-ceiling windows catch the eye…

I told Philip he should have chosen that other location…

2. Lord, have mercy! Why is this still happening?

I don’t know, bae, but it’s got to stop, it’s got to stop.

But how can it when this country is rich with graves,
smoothie shops as tomb stones?

3. I did not march with a million men for this.

I did not withstand hosed tsunamis for this.

I do not carry the teeth marks of Officer K9 for this to still be America.

4. What are they protesting? People die all the time.

But at the knee of police? But unarmed?

Well yeah, sure. They can’t all be black.

And are any of them white?

Who knows? But those police officers certainly aren’t black.

I suppose you’re right, but what can we do?

Yeah…this is America.

Yeah, this is America.

#america, #black-art-matters, #black-lives-matter, #equality, #hard-conversations, #history, #hope, #human-rights

An Awkward Pause (excerpt from “Hard Conversations: Love Poems”)

The parts of self we smother

To keep silent

So that we are not falsely accused

Of over-reaction

So that we are not falsely accused

Of being

“Soft”

So that we are not falsely accused

Of (un)professionalism

Of protest

So that we are not falsely accused

Of inserting an “I” where “I” does not belong

As if I, as if we, don’t belong in front of feelings

As if I, as if we, don’t feel

The phantom knee on my, on our, necks

The parts of self that hold tight to our chest

That clench almost painfully behind closed lips

The parts that resent us for pressing the pillow exactly where other parts asked the pillow to be pressed

The parts that never run out of breath, that don’t submit to the attempt to suppress, even when breath falters

The parts that care nothing of status quo and take sustenance from passive resistance

The parts that cry out, that raise up, that stand proud, that hold firm

The parts that find air to breathe despite the knee

Those parts understand

They understand that sytemic silence is not survival

But acceptance

~Rahk.

#america, #art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #black-lives-matter, #black-stories, #equality, #gender-norms, #hard-conversations, #human-rights, #masculinity, #poem, #politics, #raw

Rest

Go to Baptism Lake

Sit on the water, take a seat

Dip your feet

That hand on your scarred back

Is an inquisitive wind

That coolness is the sin of your obedience washing away

That warmth is praise for your skin

That sunlight is not a whip

That bird song is not an alarm

That splash might be a tear

But that’s okay, it’s okay

Rest does not require strong arms

~Rahk.

#art-therapy, #black-art-matters, #black-stories, #faith, #history, #poem, #poetry, #rest, #water

Maaan

1. Maaan, you must be crazy

To think that I’m going to hold it all in

To reflect your blurry image of masculinity

You ain’t no mirror of mine

Light does not bounce between us

When I stand naked

Before a modest vanity

2. It makes no sense for rock to float

It makes no sense for water to dig graves

It makes no sense to know you are vast yet refuse to acknowledge your sky

Don’t hold it in, not when ocean water presses its skin against sunrise

I won’t hold it in, not when rushing water wears solid rock like old garments

3. Why should I hold it in?

Bruh, for whom would I be saving face?

I know who I am

I know Jesus wept

Why can’t you? Why can’t I?

Are we not vast? Are we not sky?

Maaan, gone and cry

~Rahk

#black-men, #black-stories, #fathers, #grief, #hard-conversations, #hope, #letter, #lgbtqa, #love-poems, #manhood, #masculinity, #mothers, #poem, #poetry, #raw, #relationships, #rock, #sons, #toxic-masculinity

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