Category: prose

Luna

Under the coolness of night, the insomniac insects fly frantically under the lamp post. Neon white orbs poking circles throughout the campus, I pass the posts one by one unafraid. Perhaps I am silly for not having fear on an all-woman campus. Perhaps I am allowed to quiet my breath, as I loop through the cycles of my frenzied thoughts. Out there, my mind flies in and out of the light like those by the lamp post.

Pouring back into the street, my friend’s scarlet red car pulled away from the diner two hours earlier. Through the car window, I sighed “the moon is my wife.”

Perched highly away from the world, and a face contoured with the light reflecting the sun – I admire her from a distance. I love best from afar I think. With the blare of punk rock, I sometimes fool myself in believing that I’ve already met my love. She is high – weaving dreams under other people’s pillows. She is high – with NASA’s expensive telescopes admiring the pock marks on her face.

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New school racism cloaked as old school roots

Remember sitting at the cafeteria table and one person would leap up announcing that they had a joke to share. That person might have said something along the lines of “you’ll get a kick out of this” and “you guys,this is hilarious” while following with a rebuttal that they in fact are not racist.

We sat side by side in many classrooms; homeroom, math and biology. I looked at you with my eyebrows tightened. In one minute, I would have to decide whether or not I would look past your “indiscretions” or retaliate that I was anything but amused. The jokes ranged from how we never saw black guys in the dark but when they smiled we saw their flashlight teeth. There were jokes that said the lawnmower crooned “run n**** run n*****” and each time you told it people slapped their knees how funny it was. Outnumbered and alone, I laughed falsely not because I wanted to. The need to feel safe lodged a sword in my esophagus and I said nothing then.

Remember tracing the binds of books with your fingers and wondering if there were places where racism did not exist. The quaint bookstore with wire mannequins wearing wool shelves could not be untainted. In fact, men who are indeed average bloat themselves to be larger than life. He stood close and I remember feeling crowded and cornered. Out in the open, my mother side steps closer to his other side because she knows of men like him. The many fathers and mothers with black skin know him too. As the children grow up, prejudices are born alongside of them. As our people give birth, as the doctor pulls out the placenta, out comes the stigmatization that again we must say we have worth.

Blood ran through the streets. Bullets laced the sidewalk. Evidence began to disappear when it was there before. The eyes of witnesses  were plucked out. The eyes of witnesses  silently strained with pain with reddish clouds. 

Before I took a secondary education course, I knew psychology. Children, do not touch the shelves. Do not longingly look at things that are not meant for you and nor should you ever need them. Your worth. Your compassion. Your softness. Your entity. 

Remember the women who wore fabricated ambition, stringing fake pearls above you when they looked down at you. As fast as you run-chasing a life that is pulled away from you, remember who they call fast. “Do you want to know why racism does not matter” they utter yanking you by your hair. “That was a long time ago but it’s over now.” I stood in a house where the water gushed in from every side and seeped through the windows. I stood there hoisting my dress up so I could wade through murky waters but when I did they said I was fast. 

Remember how you thought love could be bought and you tried your hardest to become what everyone wanted and needed. You contorted in all sorts of ways and every night to undo all of it was a chore. Remember sitting in the classroom, and the people who had snares in their mouth too said anyone could say n***a as long as it meant paying an ode to hip hop. Yet, what is an ode if uttered with false pretense that the lash has whipped you. The searing gaze has pushed you into the corner. The red hot stove is a gigantic furnace and you’re handed a tong to keep the fire burning. The pushback when going forward. The stance where both of your fists are up, but you’ve been taught to be the bigger person-so you do not swing but block reverberating blows. The ode to hip hop of I won’t take it anymore, but I must leave where I am now and go where the birds who have trackers hooked to their leg are. I must go where a bird once caged sung, and ask myself too if I carry a tune.

Remember sitting where you are now, and recalling countless times how you gave yourself the short end of the stick. Remember getting up from that good, old, dependable chair and saying “I have waited for peace but now I will claim it for myself. I have waited to be treated right, respectfully, while speaking of past scars. But now I swing with a closed right hook and swiftly fly with my wings over hot coals of fire.”

A couple of stacked boxes

***Forcing myself to write through the writer’s block…

My mind became a storage unit similar to the ones the POD companies dropped off, in parking lots of apartments and giant yards of suburban homes. Neatly, the cardboard boxes aligned the walls and started to fill out the middle of the confinement. Boxes soiled with the thoughts of last year wouldn’t close all the way. Limp cardboard flaps would not contort in ways similar to origami. Some days, I sat on the stone cold floor and folded myself in again. The air siphoning under the space between the door had numbed me then.
This is for my own well being.
Childhood flashbacks of building blocks laughed at my acquired cubes. Boxes tucked away from the world surrounded me. As I laid my head against one, my outstretched legs rubbed against other boxes. The smell of old books permeated the air, entire renditions of my life and familial history brought little or no comfort. With my past words, the tunnels I crawled through slowly closed – as does the light exposure in 35 mm cameras. Seventies style wooden furniture, bulky and clunky as platform shoes, filled each corner. On top of each piece, scattered papers of my identity were across them. Some folders were completed and stacked as tall as the ceiling in other areas.
With my knees hugged to my chest, I wondered if I would be found. Would I find myself in the wreckage? Does the recluse befriend it’s other side of being a participant?

The Garden Tilled By Those Who Have Left Us

As a child, I grew in brief sprouts of mobility. Although I had passed the stages of suckling for a way of comfort, fear nursed me through the rest of my years. How time tormented me when I laughed too loudly and hugged at my ribs. How it sat quietly in the back of the church humming a low, soft tune reminding me one day I must grow older. One day I’ll have to muster up strength for those who scurry under me, whether they are children or birds settling in what is the now and present.

At the loneliest hour, my feet aggressively kicked in my sleep, running away from things that cannot be touched but can touch you. Death, loneliness and uncertainty; all of their names I have worn fastened to my breast unsure of their lumps. I threw the covers off of my body and my eyelids fluttered open hoping to see something not of this world but who knew far too much of it to be foreign.

I came alongside the others growing fast and untamed. I had shouting matches with those who could teach me when I decided I would be taught. Their tries tired of my wickedness and slowness to forgive, yet they reached for me like the sweetest slice of fruit. As a child, I learned quickly that I must fold myself in half and once again to live. In order to survive, we must learn to grow and retract when we have stopped sucking for warm milk. In order to survive, we must place our hands on sister and brother so-and-so’s back during the altar call prayer and bow our heads. In order to grow out of the shanties, shacks, slums and the ghettos we must heat the skillet before we pour the cornbread batter in.

How time had left us awestruck that our years have paraded right in front of us. We bent down to cup with our hands some of the running water out of the faucet to drink. Its tap taste had made no difference then, we had no thirst for filtration. Our souls had been purified as we waded through the baptismal pools or closed our eyes shut when the minister sprinkled water on our face. I thought too that I had been purified to make it another day learning from yesterdays. I thought too that individuals who could recount their youth as if it had cheated them at cards would speak. Their words firm but doughy, kneaded in wisdom retelling the sorrows and the sunshine glean.

Time did not heal what was mine but it made me hold it closer afraid to lose it. I felt my skin. I thought of trekking back home hoping to make it there before the door closes. I’d hope to set my foot in that familiar house before I am quickly snatched out of it only clutching my memories when I go…when I go to bloom like seeds repainting the earth.

Skipping stones: an existential crisis

Mindlessly, we kicked our legs back and forth sitting on the chair. How many times had we gathered around here just to sit and make peace with ourselves. We never said anything besides static between conversations. Did you see how high the winds were? This year I’m done letting people walk over me. How have you been?
I know how it’s been with you because I’ve been the same, once happy and then distraught. Our emotions tethered behind us and we let our rags wrap up our arms as to hide our scars. We’re really tired of trying to pinpoint our whole lives but we continue to do so.
Mindlessly, I stared into distance. Everything began to blur and the colors collided into one another. They looked the same as when someone takes their glasses off. The whole room is fuzzy and while you can make out the couch and the windows it’s not the same. I knew this summer would be like the rest, a temporary high.
Our days became numbered, as we counted the years off of our fingers. I envisioned how this year fled away from us and the next five years were too close. I wanted things that I felt I wasn’t ready for but I wanted them still. I wanted them to feel right and fill the holes in my life right. All of these things I spoke of with you during the static. Our silence said a lot about us and our dreams formed haphazardly. We drew near to the river, skipping stones across the pond that seemed much deeper when we were kids. Sometimes during the humid nights, we waded out holding our pants and skirts above our navels letting the cool water envelope us. I wanted to shiver off my fears, watching them fall around me.
Between our white noise,  I said to myself more than I ever had whilst speaking.

Oppression, never at arm’s length

The older I get, the angrier I am. It’s not just singular things creating chaos in the world. No, in fact,  it is trying to pry things out of people who will never care if certain oppressions do not happen to them. The older I get, the more I wanted to tear at the screen dividing some from really feeling what is in this world. I wanted to cut out the screens in windows and make all around us see the destruction. See how people weep while their blood runs through the street like ominous rain. See how the churches are set ablaze with the hymnal pages incinerated and faith tested. See how the living still call for the dying or ones who have passed on, while clutching at their insides. See how the Black and Brown children hold sadness and anger in their chest, all the while their lips quiver and shout that they are hurting. See how people hold their hands on both sides of their face and go through life, a tunnel vision gaze. See how the uneasiness is questioned. See how the “let us take action” is questioned. See how they are both are housed in each body who has not seen a world without persecution.

Listen,  the children are laughing in their neighborhood and suddenly their laughs turn to terrorized screams. Listen, how the newscasters are standoffish. The news network pride themselves that they have initiated clarity on what “these people” have been through. “Let’s listen for forgiveness.”
Listen closely to our parents retracting their grasp, then suddenly pulling us back, afraid. Listen to how we must emboss our children with what has happened before to know they deserve to be here.

The older I get, the angrier I am at the on/off switch to what is important. The older I get, the angrier I am that “opinions” have been fought for but they have never been mine. The older I get, the angrier I am, that I must be intentional in not being boxed in as a play-thing or that “one black friend.”
The older I get, the angrier I am that my people’s tears are cupped and filtered as we cry through our drought.

The reasons why I am no longer afraid

I am no longer shivering from the slight cold breeze, nor shrinking away in discomfort that I have wasted time. No, in fact I look to my right and then to my left, smiling. I am no longer taken away from my wills to survive such as a manipulative tug of the hand to come this way, and not that way. I have shaken my hands up and down, tightening and then not. I have climbed up steep stairs, rotating escalators and arrived here. I am no longer afraid that I am not brave enough. For I have cried; heaps into the laps of my mother, wiped tears in front of my piano teacher and stumbled my words in front of acquaintances. I am not weak. I am not the pressure point so firmly deepened into my back where crumbling is a weakness.
No.
The reason I decided that it was worth it…that I was worth it was because, well…
I am force. Deliberate and cautious. I arise as the world. Carefully stroking my sword in its worn sheath, I steady myself for combat. The clanking of swift gestures, I purse my lips as if to say “I am not giving up”.
I have swallowed butterflies and savored their thin wings on the roof of my mouth. I am stark naked attesting to myself this is the body that harbors my soul. For I am Rousseau recollecting that I am honest…honest enough. I am Maya Angelou rubbing the thighs that allow me to stand upright. I am brave enough. I am my bad posture and grammatical mistakes. I am the goodness of my intentions, and the bending backwards to shield another from the hailstorm.
I am no longer afraid of the thick, humid air that plagues the Spring and Summer upstate. I await it’s warmth clutching to my face.
I am brave and honest enough, at this very moment. I am what I am.
Brave.