Strange Fruit (You Will Know Them)

1.

You say you love me

(For the Bible tells you so)

You say you love me

(For you are a child of God)

You insist you love me

But your love hits like hurled stones

But your love stabs sole of foot

It’s hard to walk

It hurts to walk

When your love vehemently rejects my shared need to breathe

2.

Such a peculiar love to offer sour fruit to starving children

Then stand repulsed, willfully withholding aid, when their bodies inevitably protest

How have you not choked on all the dust your love collects?

~Rahk.

#2020-election, #equality, #faith, #god, #hard-conversations, #history, #hope, #human-rights, #love, #poem, #poetry, #police-brutality, #relationships, #spoken-words, #stop-killing-us, #voter-suppression

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 independence.

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

Revised for clarity on November 9, 2020.

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

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

Still, I Let You In (A Soliloquy)

I’ve seen the back of heads and asses switch to a goodbye beat too many times to count.

Said farewell in every language except happiness and left tears smudged on so many doorknobs I’ve lost count in the aftermath and still, I let you in.

Let you stop on the stoop, drag your feet across the plain old mat to keep from dragging grass across the carpet, and eventually, I’ll see those same feet dashing in the other direction, and it’s so depressing.

Still, I let you in. Still, I offer you a cool drink of water, or something stronger, but you’re never up for it. I sip alone.

Maybe these spirits won’t haunt your footsteps in the morning or the evening or the yesteryear I’ve come to live with…

#black-stories, #divorce, #gender-norms, #grief, #hard-conversations, #heartbreak, #love-poems, #soliloquy, #spoken-words

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

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

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

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

Choose Again (Excerpt from Hard Conversations: A Collection of Love Poems)

It’s possible that I found God
on a lonely road to damnation
where my GPS guided me with
words of discouragement

If only I were David instead of Jonathan
If only my love was inherited
instead of ordained
If only my psalms were sanctioned
by chosen men and recited in times of turmoil
rather than demonized

It’s possible, that I walked by God
on that lonely road to damnation
Likely, that I didn’t even see God’s hand
My eyes weighing my feet
with each laborious step toward hell

I felt a hand on my shoulder
I heard a voice telling me to turn right
I smelled a burning bush
but I did not feel worthy
to remove my shoes
I could not stand bare
on holy ground
or so I’d been preached

I kept walking on that desolate road
I kept looking down in resignation
I kept overlooking God
so busy focusing on my steps

My feet too sore to continue
My legs quivered with the strain of the cross
nailed to my mannerisms
My eyes, forty days and nights of storm
My prayers, overtaken by thunder
or so I assumed

My God, a hand to anchor my soul
My God, an arm across my shoulder
My God, a chest on which to weep
My God, a finger lifting my countenance
My God, a rainbow of liberty
on the road to internal damnation
Urging, urging me to turn back

Turn back for once
Back toward Me
Turn back, and run.
Your steps are now redemption
Your tears are now baptism in My Name
Your eyes are watching Me
This is the path that they have given you
It’s the path they taught you to choose
Choose again
This is the path that they have given you
It’s the one they taught you to choose
Choose again

~Rahk.

#black-stories, #christianity, #church, #god, #hard-conversations, #homosexuality, #lgbtqa, #love-poems, #poetry

To The Karens

It’s like your family stood
Just a few feet away
Camera rolling
As your neighbor smirked
When his foot cracked
Benji’s ribs

It’s like you filmed your neighbor
drawing his gun
as you scream for him to “Stop!”
Crying, “Don’t do it, sir, don’t do it!”
Benji’s a good dog!”

It’s like your neighbor
Placed his knee on Benji’s neck
Smirking all the while
As the breath left Benji’s body

It’s like you pressed charges
and your neighbor’s sentence was a paid vacation
It’s like you pressed charges
and his punishment was a charity raised
It’s like you protested outside his door
And the president sent the military to his aid
It’s like your Benji, your dog, wasn’t family

But it’s not like that at all if that neighbor is Black
And you call 911 to complain about the laughter and music
Blessing your neighborhood at 6pm
Rather than letting it slide
Like your neighbor did for your family BBQ just last week

And after the call you carry on
Until the gunshots sound
And you peak through the blinds
Blue lights flashing
And you see your neighbors son on the ground
Legal bullets in his chest
Because he startled the officer
Dispatch sent at your request

~Rahk

#america, #art-therapy, #black-lives-matter, #black-stories, #hard-conversations, #mourning, #poem, #stop-killing-us

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

Closed Letter to Racists

Because you are human, I greet you.

But because you are racist, I do not greet you dearly.

Because you are racist, I cannot appeal to your sense of morality.

You have spat upon the flag of freedom. You have denied the pursuit of happiness. You are no patriot.

Having tainted history, both past and living, with the bile of your existence in a world that was never your own.

You do not seek to reconcile. You do not seek to understand. You hold on to the hoods that hide you from yourself.

You are no godsend. You are not divine. But you are a spook, preferring to possess people rather than truth.

Oh racist, no patriot holds you dear. But how can we when you are ashamed to show your confederate face?

Remove your hood.

What do you have to fear, don’t you claim a god is on your side? Don’t you have righteousness burning crosses inside you? Remove your hood.

A born American would.

#art-therapy, #black-lives-matter, #christianity, #hard-conversations, #history, #hope, #literature, #poem, #poetry, #stop-killing-us

Grandpa, Does This Mean Civil War? (Possible Addition to “Hard Conversations”)

I see stained glass families

Smashed to the ground by presidential decree

Then separated shard by shard

Shredding the American flag

I see impatient rivers of blood
Wandering wildly from brown rainbows
Gunned down in neighboring homes

I don’t see no whips
I don’t see no rope
I don’t see no canines
Just soldiers cradling rifles
In inner city malls like land mines

And I see civilians teargassed
In social media posts,
Not yet riddled with bullets
But uniformed handprints on brown throats
Live recordings of homicide notes
Claiming no foul play exists

The Whites Only signs
Camouflage as red lines
Around neighboring hoods
Brown faces appear as viable goods
And we’re still marching
for colored lives
Still deemed uncivil and disobedient

I see war cries against voter suppression
I gape at documentaries by white people
Discussing their privilege

But still
I see people snatched from the front lines
I see obituaries for innocent women and men
I see Jim Crow puppeteering all the party lines
I see warnings of white hoods again
And new Columbines
And the Charleston 9
And the Pulse of 49

I don’t see no whips
I don’t see no ropes
But I see presidential tweets
Threatening military force against black lives

In 2020, the most malevolent mobs
masquerade as ardent allies

#art-therapy, #black-lives-matter, #hard-conversations, #poem, #poetry, #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