Fighter

I can’t imagine any other little black girl sitting in her room Waiting to be a grown up

just so that she can have some agency in this tension she’s feeling

this tension that wraps her like a constricting blanket of concentril circles

of spaces where she belongs…where she should belong

I dont imagine any little black girls dreamed they would have a career, a family, a tighr knit group of friends— and also a need to step into each space ready to advocate and fight

Back then, we didn’t dream of becoming Social Activists.

We dreamed of being.

So I don’t WANT to fight every day although, some days

I do want to.

But that is part of existing in my skin

in skin no thicker or harder or less vulnerable

than yours

I fight because I see my young black friends

and I see their eyes,

their response expressions in the workspace

and I know what it feels like

Like everyone around you has something…something you can’t tap in to. It’s in their voice- the tone. It’s in their posture, their confidence, their joy. It’s in their every motion. You see it everywhere all day, on TV, in magazines, books, advertisements. You see this something like a visible feeling.

And though you may exude the same energy- it’s different. And its perceived as different. And its treated different.

And that’s when you know

You are a fighter.

#blacklivesmatter

i’m embarrassed

because i am strong and resilient and I have pride in my lineage

of strong beautiful black men and women (and white, and indigenous….and much more)

who are surivivors

and who thrived

and I’m embarrased

to be so afriad

and have an anxiety attack driving in my car

when the flashing red and blue lights appear

and i wonder will i walk away alive…

and then pull over in shaky relief to a grocery parking lot

when it turns out

the police lights weren’t for me

and I’m embarrased

to admit that

that…

fear

because the fear comes from the knowledge

that my life matters less

that i could never explain

or show

or exemplify

anything other then what my skin color says

to someone

who holds my life in pendulum balance

and i’m embarrased

that i mean less

much less

far less

to society

then someone

with lighter skin

and the same wit

the same smile

the same sharp mind

and eclectic taste for music

I mean less

because of who I was born to be

and it’s embarrasing to admit

for me.

I hope to overcome that

before it buries me.

Notes on the Disappearing Act

When I was younger fear was synonymous with excitement.

I had a lot less at stake in those days, what with parents, older siblings, teachers, coaches, mentors. I had an endless loop of safety nets that allowed me to approach fear with curiosity and a sureness of spirit.

As I got older, the stakes of the game changed drastically. One bad fall could set me back mentally, emotionally, and financially for years. No one was responsible for sweeping up the broken pieces and putting me back together…..except me. So fear started to look like a flashing warning sign– YIELD or STOP.

I’m still trying to find out when it happened, and how I allowed it to happen, but eventually fear became my prison. It became my judge, jury and prison warden. Telling me when enough was enough, to sit down and be silent and avoid adverse consequences.

But one day I was exhausted. Standing in the middle of my living room, crying but not quite sure why I was crying. And I remembered me. In that strange moment I remembered the 18 year old me with a fiery passion who did exactly what I wanted to do. Who took her lumps and bumps, and still smiled through the tears and pain. I remembered that version of me and I turned around and smiled at fear.

And fear said “welcome back, old friend

My fear is a guide post, a beacon, telling me there is something important in front of me. Something that matters. Something that will put a lump in the back of my throat and an ache in my heart. It tells me that its time to buckle down and do what I do best. Trust myself and do the work.

Happy Endings

She sits on the dock, dangling her toes over the murky water, waiting.

Underneath her pristine porcelain mask her cheek itches relentlessly, but she doesn’t’ reach under to scratch. They could arrive any minute and she doesn’t want her mask askew. You never want your mask askew.

When you are a visitor in someone elses land, you abide by their rules, and you accept their customs.

She shifts in her spot, peering across the choppy water to the thick lushness of evergreen trees barely visible through the fog. Behind her she can hear the soft thud of footfalls. So she stands and greets her hosts. “Welcome to the Fey lands! We are thrilled that you are here!” Their smiles are toothy and wide. They each hug her warmly and send a chill up her spine. She tries not to shudder.

One with a slight dimple in his left cheek taps her mask, “seems nice and solid!” She nods. He continues, “You are allowed to decorate them you know, you don’t have to leave them in their polished white form?” She frowns, which her companions don’t see. “Why? It’s a mask. Why would you bother decorating it? What do you decorate it with?” The host shrugged, “your personality I guess.” The other companion chimes in, “Let’s get moving, we have so much daylight ahead of us.”

As they trudge to the vehicle parked in the lot, she considers the irony in decorating a mask with her personality. What colors would she use? Would the colors do justice to her rankling angst and simmering rage?

They drive in silence to a charming apartment. Filled to the absolute brim with things. All sorts of things. Most of them entirely useful and neat. All of them storied and important to the thing owners: her companions. “Welcome home” the male companion waves a hand across the space. She feels strangely drawn to the odd collection of furniture, art, and valuables. She tells herself its the making of societal culture, that in order to understand her hosts, she has to identify with their “things”.

She settles into their spare bedroom.

She shares meals with them.

She paints a tapestry on the wall in her gifted bedroom, at their request. She fills the swirls and loops with magnificent jet-streams of colors.

She begins to collect things, similar to thiers

They gift her some of their things to complete her collection.

Her compansions compliment her and uplift her with messages of kindness. They ask her why she hasn’t painted her mask, as vividly as she painted their wall.

Without warning, the wind shifts.

The air feels thick with unease.

She comes home everyday to hot tight air in the apartment and no one laughs over the magnificent collection of things anymore

The colors on “her” wall start to fade long before she drums up the courage to leave.

She stands on the dock feeling empty and hollow. Waiting for a way back out.

The water is calm and listless, like a sheet of lazy glass and the fog is too thick for her to see the other side of the lake

There are no happy endings.

And she takes her mask off just as the rain begins to fall.

A Monsters Parable

There’s a knock at the door.

You are sitting by the fireplace, curled up on a rug with the cat in your lap. A few of your friends lounge leisurely on the sofas and armchairs scattered about the cozy hearth.

“Who is that?” you ask out loud to no one in particular. There is a book in your hand, a political thriller based on a true story. and your friends are lazily gazing at the tv or thumbing through magazines. You don’t want to look up but no one answers your question. “Are we expecting someone?”

You’re brown eyed friend clears their throat, “Yup, I know who it is, their okay- you can let them in.” You raise an eyebrow, “you invited them over to my house?” The friend fidgets in their seat, “oh, i’m sorry i thought that was okay, you said we could bring someone to come enjoy a cozy night at your place?” You sigh and retract your bristles. That is an accurate report on what you told them, and you don’t mind new people and visitors. It always makes for an interesting night. You open the door.

There stands a monster.

On the concrete step under the decorative eaves that cover your front door frame. The monster is so tall, that they must peer down through the ivy vines that lace and weave through the brackets. The monster speaks, “Hello.”

Your throat is dry and you can hardly move or take a breath but somehow something comes squeaking out, “Hi?”

The monster chuckles, “I was told this was the address…I’m here for the cozy hang out?” You stand stiffly before them clutching the door to help hold you upright. Your heart is pounding and everything feels surreal. “I’m sorry what?…. You..You want?” There is cold air pushing past you both and seeping into the room where your friends sit contendly. You can hear them yelling, “Let them in!” “Close the door, its cold!” So you yell back, “It’s a monster!” and one friend responds, “Yah, its fine, I know them, we are very close!”

You’ve started regaining your composure so you look the monster in their yellow eyes, and try to ignore the large gleaming fangs (as long as your fingers) dripping silvery saliva to the ground. “Okay, but I have house rules.”

The monster nods, “of course”.

“I have a rabbit, a cat, and a bird. You have to leave them alone.” The monster nods, “of course, I wouldn’t harm them”

You continue, “Please don’t take anything. And be respectful of anyone who is in my house.” The monster grins wider, “Absolutely, please don’t worry. I get it.”

You let the monster in.

They sit on the ground near you and ask to borrow a book to read. You acquiesce and pour them a glass of wine. Every now and then you accidentally brush against their illustrious black-grey fur when you stretch out your legs in front of you. They make conversation with your other friends, and the cozy evening turns to stimulating conversation broken in with moments of gazing into nothingness.

You put a cello playlist on.

The cat has disappeared but you think nothing of it.

You head to the bathroom to take out your contacts, and when you step past the kitchen you hear a smacking sound, and a crunching sound. The hair on the back of your neck arises, and you pause to peer around the corner.

The monster is standing beneath the flourescent lights holding a bright red dripping pile of bones and ligaments in their hands. Hanging off their pinky finger nail is “thumper” – your rabbit’s nametag. The scream sticks in your throat as you realize what has happened.

Time passes, and your friends have helped you grieve, and allowed you to rail, blame, and shout obscenities at whatever deities can hear you. Your friend who is close to the monster doesn’t talk about what their friend has done. They support you and hold space for you and drink many bottles of whiskey with you . The monster exits your life at this time, without a fuss or fight, as if they weren’t there at all.

Months later, you are sitting on the floor across from your friend playing a board game. You’ve both had 4-5 drinks and the mood is jovial and light, finally. It’s been too long since you felt this freedom in happiness. The doorbell rings

You are tipsy at the door, and its the monster.

They are smiling and holding a bottle of wine.

You stare at them. “Why are you here?”

“Well I heard that you were having a chill night, and I wanted to get together. I brought you that bottle of wine we talked about last year.” Your mind whirls, when you ate my rabbit, you want to scream in the gleaming grinning face. “I don’t think…” you begin to explain as calmly as you can, but the monster interupts, “I know, I think we could really enjoy a nice cozy evening. You went to Spain last month right? How was that?!”

You are taken aback, “Well actually it was Tuscany, Italy- so beautiful and peaceful. Thanks for asking. But…. But I don’t think you should be here.” The monster looks slightly perplexed, “Why is that?” You lick your lips and raise your voice a decibel, “Because you ate my rabbit. And you didn’t even apologize!”

The monster says nothing.

They just look at you.

Your friend comes to the door, probably wondering about the hushed tones and why you’ve been gone so long. “Oh Hi!” your friend says. The monster looks at them and the smile returns. “Hello! I’m so excited to see you, its been so long and we really need to catch up! Oh and I have a gift for you!” They wink and pat the bag in their hand. You speak up again. “This isn’t a good idea.”

The monsters face falls, and their yellow eyes well up with tears. They don’t meet your eyes. Your friend frowns. “Well, listen..’ you begin, but the monster interrupts. “I’m really just looking forward to spending some time with you all. It’s been a rough time.” Your friend gives the monster a hug and looks at you, “we should let them in, its cold out, and its the right thing to do.”

Before you can respond the monster looks back at you, “I understand the rules, I am not to harm your bird or cat, and i shouldn’t take anything or disrespect anyone. I won’t, I promise.” You can’t tell if the monster is being sincere, but you are weary of trying to explain yourself and understand them. “Okay.” you say.

The night is lovely. the conversation seems authentic, although when it steers in a direction the monster doesn’t want it to go, they redirect with practiced smoothness. The monster lights a firelog, and plays a hauntingly ethereal song on your violin. You open the bottle of wine they brought you, and its wonderful. The monster explains why their fur glows iridescently in moonlight and the story is incredible. When the night ends, you are sure that the monster is not at all bad. You decide to invite them to your birthday party.

The monster arrives with a generous present, a brand new violin. You hug the monster, offer them a slice of cake and spin the room talking to friends and family. They sing to you, tell stories about you and enjoy each others company. You go upstairs to put your violin away. It’s getting late, and people are getting drunk and you don’t want to break the monsters gift. As you turn on the light to your bedroom you notice iridescent black hair in the corner. When the lights flicker on, you see the monster huddled on the floor with your cat in their arms. The cats belly is sliced open and the organs are pulsing out and spilling into the hands of the monster. You look into the monsters yellow eyes.

They are empty.

We’ve Always Been Here

I am working on something. A piece or a collection of pieces about BIWOC existing in spaces invisibly.

I’m not yet sure what form it will take, and I’m sure this will take me quite a while to put together, because it will take MANY interviews, stories, and exploration of experiences. But I am writing my intentions to help me stay committed to the process.

Invisibility is something I am quite familiar with.

I call myself a social chameleon. By this I mean my empathetic, Libra, ENFJ personality drives me to connect, collaborate and create balance. I can morph and mingle with the best of them. However it does mean I take a hit in visibility. You don’t create consensus by taking charge directly. You do it slowly and authentically by uplifting quiet voices and softening loud ones. You add in voiceless ideas and planting grains of thought.

But invisibility has led to a slew of articles complaining of the lack of BIWOC in specific spaces, with little or no acknowledgement of those of us who have existed here happily and continue to do so. So I want my angle to be illuminating and resolute and contemporary

So. Stay Tuned

We’ve always been here.

Disarming

I disarm people sometimes. And I won’t deny that sometimes, I do that on purpose. When asked where my family is really from (meaning have I traced my roots back to Africa)?

I respond- Ireland (full stop).

There is a pause, and I can see the gears turning in my inquisitors mind… (if I push and ask any follow up to that– will I seem racist? But there is no possible way she should be Irish, she doesn’t even look mixed).

Honestly, I don’t know exactly where on the African continent some of my ancestors are from. And the chances of you knowing anything at all about any region or nation or country or custom on the entire continent of Africa is probably null. So if i knew, and if i shared…your blank stare would remain.

But most importantly, I don’t believe you care. I do know that it makes you squirm to think about my enslaved ancestors being whipped on plantations down South, way before the colonies joined together to create the United States. And I do know you’ll rack your brain just a little bit trying to figure out where I get the Irish from.

Our Remains

Sometimes love is a whisper of defeat

clinging to your threadbare bones

so exhausted

so depleted

the skeletal remains

hardly resemble love

at all

But woven

deep

into the dried up

brittle marrow

peeling from the inner ivory

shell

is destiny breathing shakily

Sometimes love

survives the night

by burning blue

and conserving whats true





Destiny

I don’t know that I believe in the concept

the concept of the idea that something is waiting for you

something that you need but don’t know you need is waiting for you

and will approach you at the time you need it.

That something or someone is drawn inexorably towards you

pulling towards your soul

the idea feels to me like a reverse concept of revenge.

Revenge lies in wait,

watching you

marking you

waiting for that exact moment

to obliterate a piece of you

the soft underbelly that you left unprotected.

Either way

I felt a surge in my spirit

as I signed away the last vestiges of my former last name.

The name that has been passed down for generations

the name that covered all manners of sins and secrets

the name that was never ours

the name of the family that bought and owned whipped and chained sold and degraded ripped us apart from our roots and replanted us in barren soil.

I signed it away and became lighter

floating on a crystal clear river like a weightless feather

I took my new last name as I held the hands of my anscestors

and felt their breath on my shoulder

as they whispered, “Be Free, child. Shed our chains”

a name that i was forced to carry like the scars of the lash across our backs, now laying lifeless on the page.

I took up the name I chose

a name that reflects the kind of love that envelopes, supports,

and allows me to swell, grow, change, and be.

a name of intimacy and partnership and freedom.

And when I stepped out in the world with my new last name, I felt the subtle wind of revenge, and destiny united in time.

Rest well ancestors.

Skeleton Days

Where my joints seem to rub endlessly against one another and I live in a dull body of ache.

Eve picked at the rough edge of nail close to the cuticle. But she stared straight ahead, fixing her eyes on the tree in the distance, not bothering to look down at her pointer finger jabbing away are her thumbnail.

It was a bad habit.

A habit that Adam often berated her for. But he berated her for so many things “You shouldn’t pick at your nails…. Lift with your knees, not your back…..You should read the directions next time…”

Her thumb suddenly felt a bit wet, so she stuck it in her mouth and tasted the metallic earthiness of blood. Damn, went too far. The slightest hint of blood always incurs

Pssst. She ignored the soft hiss at first. PSSST, but it got louder the longer she ignroed it. PSSSSSSSSSST

She looked down at the coiled black snake next to her boot. What could it possibly want now?

The snake just looked at her, its tongue flickering out, testing the air, sensing the possibilities. She looked back up and across the lush fields of soybeans and poppy flowers to the gnarled fruit tree in the center of their old fields.

The snake slithered part way up her boot, entwining itself in her laces nonchalantly. She recoiled internally but managed to stop herself from kicking it off and stepping on its beady little head.

Another thing Adam would berate her for, “You shouldn’t kill spiders, they eat the bugs. You shouldn’t kill snakes, they eat the locusts…”

She glared at the tree, thinking venomous thoughts. Tastes like shit for being the pinnacle of knowledge. That could be the lesson here… The font of earthly wisdom is hard to swallow

The snake chuckled lightly, now lazily curling around her ankle.

Adam would be back soon. He could only grovel at the gates for so long, eventually he’d return hungry, sour and anxious.

She licked the droplet of blood from her thumb and pressed into it with her index finger to quell the bleeding. The golden fields of fertile abundance lay before her taunting her as they soaked in the sunshine. From the rocky overhang where she sat, every inch of crop she’s help till was visible. She could count the rows of maize down to each stalk.

Behind her was her new barren homeland, dry and dirt caked. A hardy patch of earth meant to try even the hardiest souls.

The snake cleared his throat to draw her attention elsewhere.

She glanced to her left, just in time to see a blue jay perch momentarily on a branch nearby. It cocked its head curiously at her let out a low whistle and flew away.

The snake coughed.

She sighed, picked up her bow, notched an arrow and trained it on the blue jay now hopping in the brush chirping at a wriggling earthworm. Her aim was impeccable and the arrow pierced the neck of the bird, a painless end.

Adam never did complain about her hunting prowess.

She glanced at the tree one last time, at the proud white bark boasting bright red apples dangling precariously from each limb. The snake chuckled again.

She grabbed it from around her knee. Pinching tightly at its neck right behind the jaw. She plucked another arrow from the quiver on her back and easily slid the arrow head through the snake tail. It shivered and squirmed as she notched the arrow, aimed and let loose. The arrow struck true, piercing the heart of an apple then lodging itself in the trunk of the tree. The snake dangled precariously from its tail now symbiotic with the apple, arrow and tree.

She could hear Adam calling out in the distance behind her.

She turned away from the tree. Her bones ached, and her stomach churned with hunger pains. They had a few more months to try and fertilize the land and survive from the offings of their forsaken garden. After that they would starve and become the dust they’d fought against.

She lifted her thumb to her mouth and bit into the tender skin until she could taste the richness of blood again.

A small green snake slithered among the rocks near her feet.

I’m not dead yet.

That Moment When…

This is for the ones who had to break through in order to become.

There are many reasons that I find religion so troubling

but all of them stem from my intimate experience growing up in a religious household, attending church and summer camps, and youth seminars, and Sunday school.

It is a lovely community when you are part of the crowd.

Just like any community, if you don’t fit in, then you don’t find peace and belonging.

There can be no peace where there is no radical acceptance.

I learned to be a chameleon, to change my colors based on the needs and requirements of my surroundings.

All the while jealously admiring the beauty of the peacocks who dared to show their brilliance and be shunned.

My true moment came in college.

That was when i realized my horizons were pencil drawn and my reality was a translucent bubble.

All along I had been screaming and scratching inside that bubble

but to them my screams sounded like youthful rebellion

and were promptly silenced or ignored.

I sat on the floor of my room sobbing my tears into the floor

itching to tear apart this life that didn’t fit, didn’t feel like mine.

My existence, a ghost within a cloak.

and so i wrote.

In one long song of pain and rock bottom misery, I wrote my heart

and peeled back my cocoon to breathe the fresh air.

I felt the beauty of true fear, and the excitement of possibility.

Most of the time parents and adults do the best they can to build little humans into fully functional responsive and sensitive beings that can hold responsibilities and interact with kindness. We all live with the results of the mis-steps and mistakes, but at some point- we each have to take ownership of our lives and ourselves, and grow into the people we feel inside. Terrifying and challenging, though it may be. I promise you- it is entirely better.

Children of the Universe

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you, but not from you and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. – Kahlil Gibran

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching and self awareness study lately. Trying to uncover the root of some unhealthy weeds in my life. Why am i so bad at accepting criticism. Why does have a difficult conversation put a pit in my stomach. Why do I knee jerk rebel to any authority figure…

The kinds of behaviors that seem so ingrained we pass them off as personality traits. But I want to be a better person, and I want to be healthy and un-bothered. So I’ve got to examine and root, or I’ll fester and get worse.

One thing I’ve been paying close attention to is parents. And I’m not parent bashing, because god knows that there is enough of that going around and that it is a tough often thankless job.

I remember my first knee jerk rebel response. I was arguing with my dad over something so unimportant (even in my 11 year old mind it was trivial) and he got frustrated with my arguing and told me, “you’re just a child” and I was indignant, “So! I know what I’m talking about and this is what I want and feel.” And his conversation ending response: “You are MY child, and I will tell you whats good for you.

Yah. Not his best parenting moment.

But from a traditional and societally-encouraged perspective, it wasn’t far off point.

I’ve read remarks by licensed psychologists asserting, “your kids are your manifestation in the world” and from woke and aware parents stating, “they are my heart and soul being put out into existence”.

It all comes down to that same reaction. “You are of me, and therefore you are mine.”

And I’ve been a rebel ever since. It took me years to figure out what value drove that– indendence, freedom. But at that moment– I knew exactly what I wasn’t. I am my own.

Yes my parents created and birthed, and raised me. But I don’t owe them for my life. That kind of thinking leads to a lifetime of guilt and servitude.

I love my parents, and absolutely would give every vital organ to them, would take care of them, would love and support them to the very end of my days. Whatever they need to be, live, and exist and pursue their dreams– They have but to ask and I will do my best to give.

But I am not theirs. I have my dads sense of humor and my mom’s assertive nature. But I have my own will and my own soul and I’ll chase that horizon as far as it takes me. Because that’s me. A child of the universe same as them.

And here it is– where children and adults alike of enmeshed families start the gut wrenching mind clenching guilt ride. If you’ve been there, you know exactly what this means.

But know this– people who love you, truly love you, and want you to be happy and healthy– don’t want you to feel guilty. They don’t benefit from it. The guilt you feel does not improve their place or get them what they want. Anyone who thrives off your guilt, or “wins” off your guilt response, is manipulating you.

I am a knee jerk rebel. When I feel a high sense of anxiety with that, the rebellion stems from the feeling that someone is stepping on my autonomy and I’m afraid of losing parts of my independence and self. But when it comes with a sneaky sense of anger- it’s just plain old childlike angst at being told what do to (and in those cases I need to suck it up and be better)