Mental Health Health

Poetry will always be my healing force

I was eight years old when I tried to write a poem for the very first time. We were just learning how read and write in school, and my teacher asked us to write a short composition. I remember how I reluctantly put pen to paper and drafted some verses that looked more like doodles than text. The topic was about spring, and I wrote about the little things that help you realize that the warmer season has arrived: the chirping of the birds early in the morning and the first bloom of the spring flowers.

Back then perhaps I did not realize it fully, but it was my way of noticing and reveling in my own happiness at the beginning of spring. Those simple rhymes were my smiles and laughter whenever I saw new life coming out of the winter cold.

I can connect every poem I have ever written to a memory and a feeling. When I had my first crush, I was too embarrassed to talk to him directly, so I would turn to my notebook and write. Reading these poems a decade later might be a bit embarrassing, in the way you feel when you’re forced to watch childhood videos. But at that moment, they captured my feelings and helped me process them.

I remember a summer sunset in Seoul, years later. Walking slowly beside the river, until the sun fell under the waves. The nostalgia for my town, and the love for that big metropolis that had welcomed me so warmly. And the realization that came with finally being a “grown-up.” The image is so vivid and colorful in my mind, with the hues of red and orange and the specks of cobalt at the edges.

After coming back home, I sat down on my bed, and tried to think about the reason why it was so clear in my mind. I mulled over it and I could not figure it out. I finally drew my pen and painted that summer sunset the one way I knew would help me. As I stopped to choose the right words, the ones that would build the right rhythm for the main picture, the feeling became clearer to me.

It is a bit like painting. You have to mix the colors on your palette until you get just the right hue for the sky. In the same way, you mix and pick different words and sentences until they form the exact rhythm of the feeling you want to convey. Having to choose them carefully, you are made to evaluate them and think of why one word better suits a context than another. That precise nitpicking is the one that I always found useful, especially when in doubt about what exactly I was feeling. Whether they were negative or positive, poetry has always made my feelings easier to understand.

I remember a cold winter night in Harbin, the snow flurrying around me in a deadly storm, the wind trying to scratch over any exposed patches of skin. I remember feeling lost and powerless, in a world that was too big for an 18-years-old me.

When I put down the pen, the page in front of me was full of doodles and words scratched off. The finished poem lay in front of me. And instantly, I felt very light.

To me, writing poetry is a cathartic process that starts with a picture, and helps me let go of feelings. A bit like when you do yoga and the instructor tells you to relax and let all the worries leave your body.

This what writing poetry feels like.

Letting the words wash away anything that was being kept inside me, and releasing them in another shape, ink on paper.

I have been writing poems since I was eight, and I’ve never stopped.

As long as I am living, breathing and feeling, I don’t think I’ll ever stop arranging words in short compositions.

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.

Culture Family Gender & Identity Life

I’m Kashmiri – poetry helped me embrace that

“I’m Kashmiri.” 

It’s a simple sentence – two words, to be exact. But it took me over a decade to say it with conviction. Or to say it at all, for that matter. Despite being raised to take pride in my ethnicity, it was something I never truly connected with. How could I call myself Kashmiri after everything that my family had been through because of Kashmir? 

I belong to the community of Pandits. As far as I’ve been told, our roots have been in the Valley since forever. That was, until violence cloaked its landscape in the 90s, and my kin was left with no option but to escape the land that was once home. What they hoped would be a week’s disruption lasted 25 years, and before they knew it, their lives would never be the same again. The destiny of their future generations had been rewritten forever; their sense of stability and identity had been gruesomely torn apart by politics. 

Growing up, I was a first-hand witness to the effects of this unexpected displacement. It was the little things that had the most impact on me, like the several times I caught my grandfather admiring a picture of the Dal Lake on his wall, to the way my grandmother wished she’d had a moment to say goodbye. There was this unspoken longing for home that seemed to linger just on the outskirts of every conversation we had. And throughout our talks, I’d wonder how they could speak so fondly of a place that reminded them of so much pain.

But it was perhaps years later, through the strangest of mediums, that I learned to embrace my identity. When I picked up reading poetry, I expected nothing but boring sonnets glamorizing love. To my surprise, I discovered accounts of women of color who had similar experiences and were using words as a medium to heal from their own transgenerational trauma.  I’d found my catharsis, and it altered my perspective on a lot of things, including what being Kashmiri truly meant. 

It made me look beyond my angst and realize the resilience my people possessed. The kind of courage and tenacity they’ve had – to rebuild their lives despite everything being taken away from them. And just like that, I fell in love with the sheer spirit that ran through Kashmiri blood. We weren’t lost – we were simply paving another path for ourselves, overcoming obstacles and moving forward like never before. Eventually, it also dawned on me that the Kashmir my grandparents spoke so lovingly of was the one inhabited by these very people – ones with unparalleled resolve and strength – and it was the people of Kashmir they missed more than anything. 

In one of her poems,  Rupi Kaur stated that she was “the product of all the ancestors getting together, and deciding these stories need to be told.” Perhaps, I am also meant to tell this story. One about the indomitable nature of my people, one that I am still in awe of. 

Maybe one day the grey skies in the Valley will finally clear, and we’ll have a chance to go back home. Or maybe we won’t. But all I know is that the next time someone asks me about my ethnicity, I won’t shy away from telling it like it is.

After all, I’m Kashmiri. 

Books Pop Culture

These enlightening poetry books will change your life

As an aspiring poet and avid reader, poetry books are what get me through everyday life. Words are my happy place and I cannot explain how helpful some of these books have been for my mental health. They each hold a very special place in my heart.

Here are some of my favorite contemporary poetry books.

1.  Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill is both beautifully emotional and incredibly empowering.

Black book cover with stars in the background and the title, Your Soul Is A River, in gold.
[Image description: Black book cover with stars in the background and the title, Your Soul Is A River, in gold.] Via Amazon
Your Soul is a River is my all-time favorite. I adore Nikita Gill and her ability to use the weather and the infinite galaxy to make me feel things. She makes broken things and imperfect people sound so powerful. Whenever my depression is getting the best of me, I try and read a few of her poems to remind myself that I am more than what I sometimes feel like. This book has healing powers.

What people are saying: “Nikita Gill’s words are filled with understanding, courage, hope, loss, recovery, pain, healing, and love. Such an incredible collection of poems for everyone who’s going through rough times and think they’ll never make it. You can make it. You will make it.” – valreads

Price: $33.93

2. The magic that is Everything is Excruciating & Awkward in Doorways by Naveed Khan.

Black book cover with title, Everything is Excruciating, in white and red.
[Image description: Black book cover with title, Everything is Excruciating, in white and red.] Via Amazon
I love all of Naveed Khan’s poetry books. Honestly, the way he writes is magic; all of his books flow so beautifully and make me way more emotional than I would like to admit. But Everything is Excruciating & Awkward in Doorways, in particular, is special to me because it portrays mental health as a casual part of life.

Naveed writes about trauma and heartbreak in a way that is not romanticizing it but showing you that it does not define you. It was something that I really needed to read, and appreciated.

What people are saying: “Loved it.” – Aarti Nair

Price: $16.99

3. Nayyirah Waheed’s Salt addresses healing and embracing all the messy parts of yourself.

White book cover with title, salt, in black at the bottom.
[Image description: White book cover with title, salt, in black at the bottom.] Via Amazon
Salt is what made me fall in love with Nayyirah, but her book Nejma is equally as majestic. Nayyirah is endlessly talented and unafraid to put down raw feelings and turn them into art, and Salt does it by discussing heartbreak, colonization, and self-love

What people are saying: “Her work says what we’ve been thinking in the best, most beautiful way possible. My heart gushes over each page. She’s beautiful, clever, and encouraging.” – Renee McKenzie

Price: $22.50

4. teaching my mother how to give birth by Warsan Shire is a lot smaller than the others, but in no way is it less powerful.

Brown book cover with intricate art and title - teaching my mother how to give birth - in black.
[Image description: Brown book cover with intricate art and title – teaching my mother how to give birth – in black.] Via Amazon
It is intense, painful and brilliant. teaching my mother how to give birth explores many sensitive narratives such as immigration, loss, adultery, and womanhood.

As an immigrant of sorts, I can relate to many of the emotions although I do not claim to have felt things as strongly as her. It gives you short stories in the form of poetry and is just incredible to read.

What people are saying: “To understand yourself and where you are, you must first start at the beginning. This artist can take a situation and make it every woman’s story. If you are looking for a good read, read this. It could help you understand yourself or possibly someone else.” – smanson

Price: $7

5. Questions For Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo embodies all of the pain and loss of women everywhere.

Book cover with sunset background a silhouette of a woman's face surrounded by butterflies, the title, Questions for Ada, is in yellow.
[Image description: Book cover with sunset background a silhouette of a woman’s face surrounded by butterflies, the title, Questions for Ada, is in yellow.] Via Amazon
Questions For Ada for me is about womanhood and self-empowerment, using the pain and loss and turning it into something bewitching. It builds great respect for all the women who have got us to where we are in life. It explores sacrifices, diaspora, and harsh realities.

The poem that stood out for me is “First Generation”, an ode to all first generation immigrants that made me fall in love with Ijeoma Umebinyuo.

What people are saying: “I loved this book from beginning to end. As a twenty-something, Nigerian-American, I can really relate to a lot of the poems Ijeoma Umebinyuo used. I think a lot of women of color are able to relate as well because so many of us face the same issues growing up in one culture at home and another one outside of the home. Her literary talent had me completely enthralled from beginning to end. I plan on buying this for all of my sisters.” – HELEN

Price: $11.99

6. Heterogeneous by Anthony Anaxagorou is simply revolutionary.

Black book cover with white and black shadowed pattern and the title, Heterogenous, in white.
[Image description: Black book cover with white and black shadowed pattern and the title, Heterogenous, in white.] Via Amazon
Anthony Anaxagorou is one of my favorite poets in existence.

He is better known for his spoken word and seriously if you haven’t heard of him – YouTube him. It will change your life. Anthony has a way with words that is so eloquent that it is almost inhuman. I have yet to find someone contemporary who his work can be compared to.

Heterogeneous is a stunning collection of poems that tackle a range of important issues in this day and age.

What people are saying: “Saw him live and he blew my mind. If you can, get his book. Even better, of course, is to see him perform his pieces live.” – Illi Syaznie

Price: $12.76

7. Key Ballah’s Preparing my Daughter for Rain reminds me of conversations I had with my older sister about love and the world.

White book cover with a photograph of a mum and young child, the title, Preparing My Daughter For Rain, is in black.
[Image description: White book cover with a photograph of a mum and young child, the title, Preparing My Daughter For Rain, is in black.] Via Amazon
Preparing my Daughter for Rain is a collection of stories and lessons to teach future daughters, and is written in the form of poetry. If I could describe the way this book makes me feel in one word, it would be calm. Key Ballah discusses so many important issues but everything is written with a touch of self-love. It is an important book that I hope to pass onto my daughters, should I ever have any.

What people are saying: “Kay Ballah’s words are more of a fight song, born from pain, struggle and experience, all of which are described with unparalleled beauty and rawness. She writes to the daughter inside each of us.” – gloombunny

Price: $17

8. This Is How You Survive by Lana Rafaela Cindric is an emotional rollercoaster.

A turquoise cover features a pink-purple-blue circle with the title, This Is How You Survive, on it.
[Image description: A turquoise cover features a pink-purple-blue circle with the title, This Is How You Survive, on it.] Via Amazon
This beautiful collection depicts the gritty, resilient sides of ourselves when having to deal with a world that isn’t always going to be kind to you. These poems range from soft and soothing to tough and breathtaking – every single one makes me feel a different emotion that I never want to stop feeling.

Lana Cindric is one of the most talented poets of our times and I cannot wait to see what more she produces.

What people are saying: “I wanna be this book when I grow up. The poetry in this book is so alive it’s like it’s breathing with you. I’ve found so much inspiration about life and living in these pages.” – Jill V Abernathy 

Price: $4.94+

9. Samihah Pargas’ Early Mourning Hours is fifty shades of emotional pain.

The book, Early Mourning Hours, features a pale yellow, abstract cover with an orange sun and bluish-green ocean waves.
[Image description: The book, Early Mourning Hours, features a pale yellow, abstract cover with an orange sun and bluish-green ocean waves.] Via Amazon
Have you ever had to grieve a love? The ending of something that you thought would last forever?

Because I have, and one of the things that provided me solace was in the pages of Early Mourning Hours. It is an emotional book which portrays heartbreak, finding yourself, and having faith in God in a way that really leaves you speechless. Many a time, the words were so raw that I couldn’t keep reading through my tears.

But it was worth it because everything I felt, I saw reflected back at me through these words. It is a special sort of talent to make the reader feel as though you are rummaging around in their brain.

What people are saying: “Thoughtful, self-aware sentence poems reflecting mainly on the author’s emotional pain as she moves into adulthood. Somewhat reminiscent of Rupi Kaur, perhaps because the writer is also a young woman. However, Samihah Pargas has very much her own voice, which I’m sure will strengthen over time.” – CE Dawson

Price: $11.11

10. If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar is going to be studied in schools one day.

A purplish-gray book featuring three brown women sitting cross-legged in their cultural clothing. Flowers bloom behind them and above them is the title: If They Come For Us.
[Image description: A purplish-gray book featuring three brown women sitting cross-legged in their cultural clothing. Flowers bloom behind them and above them is the title: If They Come For Us.] Via Amazon
I mean, this cover is a stunning enough reason to buy this book.

Fatimah Ashgar explores important issues of being a Muslim woman, the partition, grief and so so much more. Through her own unique lens, Fatimah allows you into her life and I cannot thank her enough for this honor. This collection goes through a variety of emotions, some which you connect to and others, which you feel just as intensely.

What people are saying: “A debut poetry collection that looks into what it’s like to be a Pakistani Muslim woman in America. Filled with anger, joy, confusion and love.  For such a short book, it packs a wallop.” – Amber Garabrandt

Price: $6.32

It was painful to write this because to narrow down my favorite poetry books to 10 felt like a betrayal to all the other amazing works out there. Have you read any of the poetry books above? Do you agree or have I missed a crucial book out?

Gender Inequality Interviews

Speaking out against sexual violence through poetry: An interview with Stephanie Lane Sutton

Stephanie Lane Sutton is a Midwestern poet, performer, and interactive media artist. Currently, she is a Michener Fellow in the University of Miami’s Creative Writing MFA Program. Previously, she lived in Chicago, where she was a teaching artist with After School Matters and a co-facilitator for Surviving the Mic, a workshop and reading series for survivors of trauma. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Day One,  Tinderbox Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Dream Pop Press, and littletell journal. She is a co-founding editor of |tap| lit mag. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and her personal blog. 


after Jan Beatty

this is for the hecklers/my stage time soiled with their catcall of approval/what did I expect being friends with male poets/this is what happens when you write good poems/for the man who asked my permission to stay silent/because it made him feel safer/because it wasn’t his rape in the poem he’d written/& for the man who took the poem about rapists personally/it’s ironic you feel victimized/it’s ironic you said it’s my fault/because there are men who show up/& call that organizing/& feel fine taking credit for work done by a woman/this poem is a gravesite/get yourself a shovel/here’s one for my former mentor/the one who fucks his students as soon as they’re 18/he said they’re old enough now/did you count down the minutes until midnight on their birthdays/& for the one who didn’t wait, with or without her permission/with or without sincerely trying to teach her anything in the first place/& for everyone who said I should be grateful for male approval/& the women who are grateful for male approval/as our tongues got minced or led to the slaughter/as we were shot by the man on the other side of the door we knocked on when we had nowhere else to turn for help/& our unconscious bodies were raped into a party trick/& laughter slammed us against the lockers every day/the only ones who showed up were the cameras/& all the histories we’d written got voted out of the cannon by a panel of men/yet our arms stay in the booth selling merchandise/yet our legs stay in case we’re asked to stand & be recognized/since whether or not you’re listening you won’t have to live it/this poem is your tombstone/get yourself a chisel.

The Tempest: When did you realize that poetry was your passion; was there a moment when you just knew that this was a part of you calling?

Um, no (laughs). I don’t think there was one moment when I knew I was going to be a poet, it kind of just happened for me and I think that a lot of people who are poets have this experience where they’re interested in other things and then they start writing poems maybe in a high school English class or in college or just because they see someone else doing it and want to give it a try. I started writing poetry in my diary when I was in middle school, really emo, angsty stuff, and I just kind of kept doing it and then I ended up going to college and doing it more. I think that poetry has always been really challenging for me. There are always ways to challenge yourself in a poem, there’s always a more succinct way of describing something, and that’s the thing that kept me writing. And now I just am a poet, yeah it just kind of happened over time. I just like to think I couldn’t have done anything else, maybe I was just meant to be a poet.

The Tempest: Can you please give us some background on your poem, Slammer?

Yeah, so Slammer is a hard poem for me to talk about, it’s not a happy poem but a lot of the poems I write are not happy. But when I was in my early twenties, I was sexually assaulted and I ended up turning to slam poetry to cope with that. I was living in Chicago and slam poetry started out there and it was just such a huge, vibrant community so I found my way to the slam in the youth community and I kind of grew up in it. Then, as I got older I became one of the adults on the scene, I started teaching younger poets and talking to other women on the scene and I started to learn how rampant sexual assault is in the poetry slam community and not only that I just started to have my own experiences with misogyny with things that made me feel traumatized in a way that reminded me of my own assault. So I ended up writing this poem, as I was inspired by Shooter by Jan Beatty. What I love about that poem is that she takes the violence that she’s experienced at the hands of men and makes it into a metaphor. I wanted to write in a way like that so I wrote about all the things I had experienced in the slam community and that other people had told me they experienced that had made them feel so powerless. I wanted to sort of call that out and metaphorically dig it a grave and bury it. So that’s where the poem came from. It was a poem that I had to write; I don’t think that I could have kept being a poet if I didn’t put that experience into words. 

The Tempest: What has been the most challenging part of being a poet?

A part of me feels like everything is hard about poetry. and at the same time, everything about poetry brings me so much joy. There’s no money in poetry really. You can find a way to teach poetry or you might get paid for a reading, maybe there are other ways to make money that I just don’t know about. You really have to be in it because you love it. For me personally, the most challenging thing has been finding my authentic voice, because when you do poetry slam competitions, there’s a lot of pressure to write poems in a certain way which will get you to win. I’m in a creative writing program MFA right now and in academia, there’s a different kind of pressure that I’m seeing now. Because sometimes my professors want me to change a poem completely and write it in a different way and I think that’s just something you might experience in whatever context your writing is that people want you to be more like them or what they think you should be and you have to learn to take feedback but then to also learn how to push back against that.

I feel it’s especially hard if you’re a woman or you’re queer or person of color because there are always these boxes that you’re being put into anyway. I feel like I am constantly pushing back in all these different ways but in the end, the purpose of that is to find who I am in a way, how I express myself and how I think. It’s difficult but it’s very rewarding and I guess that’s the challenge that drives me forward. There’s no formula for writing a poem, there are no rules. I think that’s part of the thing that makes poetry so valuable. It’s what makes writing poems hard but also what makes poetry matter so much.

The Tempest: Can you give some words of advice to anyone who is thinking about trying poetry, and yet has some fears holding them back?

I don’t think being afraid is a bad thing; I feel afraid all the time that at the same time if you are afraid of something you can also confront it, and that feels very brave. Feeling brave is the best feeling and that’s kind of what you have to strive for. I think if you’re afraid to write poetry, start there. Write a poem on why you’re afraid, or write 10 poems on why you’re afraid! I really believe that writing is transformative and if you put it down in words and confront it, you will feel brave and will transform. You’re going to find inner strength and that’s a magical thing that poems can do. Embrace the fear and move forward.

The Tempest: What do you hope readers take away after reading your work?

I think the most important thing for me right now is for other people who are sexual assault survivors or been through abuse to know they are not alone. I think Slammer might have been the first poem I wrote that was so direct about rape-culture, and right now that’s a lot of what I write and just stories about our culture and things that have happened throughout history and I just want people to not feel alone. And I think that if you’re not a sexual assault survivor or someone living with trauma, and you read my poetry, I want to offer a different perspective on what a poem can be and what a poem can do, whether that’s in form or content. I want anyone who reads my poem to feel that poetry isn’t dead and that it still matters and can make a difference! And if I ever write something which inspires others to write poetry like that that would be my marker for success.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Love + Sex Love

This is the moment when my heartbreak ended

We used to try.

Then fight.
Then try again…
To be better versions of ourselves…

Scapegoat egos.
Oh! –
What a match for a fire…!

Strangled your devoted drug doll –
Dropped her into beggars drawers…

But now…
We’re being.
Better versions of ourselves…

Artifacts – set. stationed. in museums
You aren’t even allowed
to touch the dust.
Let. Alone.
Unchanged. Unmoved.
Separated by that thin glass of trust.

And that’s the manner of memories…

More surreal as time passes
Exaggerated semi-lies
Never to be relived
…Rusting sublime.

So –
Stay there.
Just fine….

I hope –
Than the people we were.

I used to peek under layered covers
To ponder the shadow of those dreams

Now –
I don’t want to dream of your shadow…

No more.

This heavy coat of olden days
Must hang in the place
In which it was laid to rest

I crave enlightenment…
The phosphorescent life
I take a fresh bite
Of all that’s new
And refuse to taste the salty-sweet pages on our complicated past story


To everyone.

A variation – out of tune.
Hues of all colors…
But oh!!!! –
Those greens

And –
…Those purple bruised blues!

They split.
So all that’s green.
Can come.
From it.

Science Now + Beyond

Cockroaches and I have a love-hate relationship

I said at one point how much bugs terrify me, and I wasn’t lying! However, as much as I despise roaches like how I despise other bugs, I have a sense of respect for them. A long time ago, I saw a large roach on my bathroom sink, and I didn’t do anything about it. I just tried to stay as quiet as I could, escaping the bathroom, so that I wouldn’t cause it to move. We tend to give cockroaches a lot of crap, and I wanted to change the conversation. Weird, I know, but actually, kind of interesting too. Plus, this poem has a funnier theme than my last poem.

In the corner of the room,

A dark figure takes head in its dominance.

Whether it’s real

Or avoiding the humiliation about to be written in

His life’s story book,

Doesn’t matter.

Cockroaches can be quite noisome.

What purpose could they serve other than to creep

In the deathly hallows of faulty garages

And unruly bathrooms?

Isn’t that why they’re meant to be stomped on?


I haven’t seen many people willingly kill a cockroach with their feet.

Whether they invade dirty spaces,

Or even clean spaces.

The size of the crunch is too unbearable.

We would rather be pansies and use disinfectant,

Or other forms of spray.

So does that make us the filthy ones?

We’re cowards for opting to shower at the gym

Whenever we witness their presence.

Think of them

As the Robin Hood of all insects,

Taking left over food from the privileged Homo sapiens

To feed the souls of your poor roach

Brothers and sisters.

Could be a biased statement at this point,

But who cares?

The cockroach can survive longer than other earthly species

With its head cut off.

Obviously it knows not to sink low into the shallow waters

Of a shattered mind when it loses its head.

Not only does it die with grace,

But it lives with it too.

So, dear cockroaches,

As much we don’t like you,

Consider this as a sign of respect for you.

A call for you to continue dominating the room.

Love Life Stories

My pain runs raw through me

When our insides are out,

Split open and raw –

The gritty sand reveals

the true woman’s song.

We take pain and wrap it up pretty with bows

and put it gently away where all bad memories go

She has shined pearls at her core in the depths of the night

Washing the spots with strength – they will see her light!

She won’t give up.

She – grown up.

Stacked up layers of shell.

To crack her open,

first cross those fantastical frontier fields,

Of sharp bladed grasses that leave cuts at your heels

And attempt to carry the burdens of all rivers in passing,

And give-give-give without even asking,

Oh a ways to go

Before you know how she feels.

A life to live

Before you know what she knows.

She’s almost unreal.

A chief of the land.

Nicks and pricks,

Hidden hits to her heart –

The constant change in commotion –

Sacrifices enough to fill an ocean –

Holds them in wisely

But swells up under tides,

Releasing enough-Not to spoil inside

Keeping her safe. Keeping her well.

Refusing to bury herself in her own personal hell.

She’s strong, but a mortal.

There are times. She is soft.

So in her parallel nature –

Under the thickest of shells-

Is the woman of women

Unheard of, unknown.

Who covers the world

And the pain

She knows –

so well.

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Race Inequality

The Gospel of a So-Called “Oreo”

Why am I not allowed to sing?
Why write this poem now after rounds and rounds of tip-toeing covertly in the back row
Of the sanctuary on Sundays?

Lord, let these words give me solace
In the body my mother told me to refer to as a temple, yet I do not
Worship it enough.

I have not praised my autonomy properly.
Not enough holy water has been sprinkled to keep certain demons at bay.

To the human error in the middle school kids with kindergarten ignorance
Who called me an “unknown species”
Sparking more fire in me against
Your incendiary logs of binary thinking
When you ask, “What are you?”

I am not the remnant of your decapitated Oreo
From your lunchbox, ready for your consumption.

To the adversary in the white boy who
“Didn’t like me enough to date,” but liked me enough to dance in rivers of temptation
For finding my appearance “exotic,” you should have stopped petting me.

I am not a sight for your jungle fever wonders,
Nor is my caffeinated mocha complexion for you to stir through without your permission.

I believe that this gospel is not preached enough,
I believe the choir does not turn to these pages of unrecognized hymnals.

I see the strong black woman raising her arms to call tenors to attention,
Then the altos bloom as baby’s breath does in the background of red roses.
Their garden of song overwhelms me to walk up to the alter,
Only to have the director make the swoop of her arms halt the choir,
Halting me,
Because I am not welcome to the front of their labeled purity either.

To this angelic black woman,
Who fell
Into her slap across my face mistaken for a tolerable hand shake
When she says, “you are not black enough,”

We still have more to talk about for us to hold hands
Like we’re supposed to.

Lord, am I to ask for forgiveness for not crawling to one identity over another?

I cannot control the bloodlines in my veins, but I have controlled the songs I’ve sung and

Haven’t sung.

Why am I not allowed to sing?