what my mama always knew about the dealings of grown men

When I was younger, a child, a preteen and into my teenage years, my mom would warn me about men – grown, adult men. She’d instruct me to never open the door for a man in her absence, even if we knew him, even if he was a neighbor, a friend, or an acquaintance. She even ran down the list of possible pleas they might make to get me to open the door: “your mom sent me,” “I have a package/delivery for you,” “could you help me study?” Never oblige, under any circumstance, she’d demand sternly. And I remember promising to follow her strict orders but laughing it off and thinking “there goes her paranoia again.” In fact, what I deemed to be her paranoia was often a source of laughter or embarrassment for me. I figured her to be overly careful, suspicious of dangers I couldn’t see or make sense of, unrealistic about people and situations.

Now, at 26, I get it. I get her, and her ‘paranoia,’ and her insistence that men, regardless of their marital status, relationship to us, or personality, are not to be trusted around young girls. She recognized the imbalance of power that exists between an adult man and a small girl. She foresaw the very real possibility of abuse, molestation, and the snatching of innocence. Especially in a culture like ours where our people are deafeningly silent on rape and sexual abuse. In a culture like ours where even if instances of rape and sex abuse are openly reported or acknowledged, it’s the girl child/woman that bears the brunt of blame. You probably seduced him. Why did you dress like that around him? Stop your lies, ekele _____ is a respectable man, he would never do such a thing. And just like that, the girl child/woman is handed her slut, fast, shame card and the male in question goes completely unquestioned and unconfronted. Our people protect our men like the fiber of the society depends on that protection. We make all kinds of excuses for them as if they are fragile china ready to break at any moment if we don’t coddle them. And worst of all, sometimes/often/too often it is women who maintain, perpetuate, and protect patriarchy to no ends.

I don’t know what my mom witnessed/experienced/knew about the secret, dark, inhumane things that happen between grown men and girl children in the unfortunate event that they’re left alone. She’s never talked to me about specific instances or examples for reference. But she didn’t have to. She knew, and for that knowledge, I’m grateful, even though it didn’t entirely prevent the possibility. But that’s for another time.

Disclaimer: I know not all men are pervs. Also, it’s not just/always girls who are victims and it’s not men who are just/always predators.

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for women who only rest when they die

a poem I wrote about my late auntie, who I remember always being in motion, rarely taking time to sit and be still for more than a few minutes. the greatest lesson I’ve learned from observing the way she lived her life is how important it is for women to take off their life and rest [to borrow from nayyirah waheed’s beautiful words]. it could mean the difference between survival and death.

premature women

premature women leave behind fancy tea sets
still in their box, stashed away for special days
they die with $800 in their bank accounts, combined
they look through old photo albums,
and pick the best ones to be displayed at their funeral
they leave no instructions for the care of their children
they abandon preteen daughters before showing them how to handle their first sight of blood
they leave their husbands without a map of the kitchen
they leave their sisters alone to decipher their own dreams
they become ghosts before they could live.

her most persistent feeling was fatigue
fatigue that seeped deep into her bones and seized her nerves
a daily, ever present fatigue
where even a deep sigh could make her head spin
because that was the longest oxygen stayed in her lungs.
so how could she tell at the end,
between fatigue and disease?
it had been lodged in her cells all along.

can you blame me for making a point of exhaling?

I did my first poetry reading!

hello lovely human. I’ve truly missed this space. I’m genuinely proud to share something that I did recently (just last weekend) – my first poetry reading. at the most intimate, cozy, independent, feminist bookstore. bookstores are magical places anyway but Bluestockings Bookstore here in NYC felt like such a warm place. in the days leading up to my reading, I was extremely nervous…because hello shyness and social anxiety and introversion, all melded into me. so I did my best to prepare. I decided on two poems to read, poems that are personal, beautiful, and vulnerable. I’m proud of what they have to say and how they allow me to open myself in incredibly new ways.

Sunday arrived faster than I could process. I decided to not do any last minute worrying because what good could that do? so I took a walk around the park and treated myself to frozen yogurt. any excuse to justify fro yo 🙂

something happened within me between the time I sat in the audience as a listener and the time I got on stage to read. a confidence and determination I didn’t know I had sprung up and I was able to deliver my poems without tripping over my words, blanking out, or doing a complete disservice to my pieces. I’m proud of the outcome and glad to share it with you.

    the audience was so receptive and warm and loving. not to mention that the other readers before and after me were phenomenal. wow, the amount of pure talent and heart I witnessed that night continues to inspire me. women have so many stories buried within us and when we start to unravel and reveal them, they make for sweet, purposeful poetry. I’m extremely grateful for the Grow Fierce online writing course I took in January, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for women who are ready and willing to dig deep and really go there and uncover the depths of their souls.

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my roomie recorded my reading, enjoy the video below and let me know if you have any thoughts. be blessed loves ❤

oh and if the idea of a volunteer-run collective feminist radical bookstore sounds as amazing to you as it does to me [there are only about 15 in the U.S.], consider donating less than $10 to keep it going. help by buying one or more of these pretty buttons:

$2 each, $8 for all 4
$2 each, $8 for all 4