Guilty Guilty Guilty for actions that took my sympathy Shackles around my wrist shackles at my feet Prom and high school graduation these eyes will never see My heart said, Oh well At least you will no longer have to endure your daily home abuse I grew into a woman unbalanced behind those wire fences Recall (3xs) that’s all I knew Always committing some illegal offenses straight to the SHU These eyes have seen the bottom of boots, Mace in the face, The heavy blue dress while people watch you 24hrs a day, A lock in a sock, Shall I go on? My heart was always heavy when I constantly placed myself back in the same abuse I thought I would escape I knew I had something in me worth showing the world, but what? Fighting my demons was real tuff A peaceful life didn’t feel so ruff I opened my mouth and people was shocked That I could read, count, think, understand, listen, play chess, learn a trade They started to see my worth My eyes have seen a life the majority would have failed surviving Rape, abuse, homelessness, parent-less, drugs, prison, mental health, failure My heart became strong enough to finally love myself And I finally looked up to the woman in the mirror
Copyright © 2019 by Cheleta T. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I wake, doubt, beside you,
like a curtain half-open.
I dress doubting,
like a cup
undecided if it has been dropped.
I eat doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.
I go to sleep doubting myself,
as a herd of goats
sleep in a suddenly gone-quiet truck.
I dream you, doubt,
for what is the meaning of dreaming
if not that all we are while inside it
is transient, amorphous, in question?
Left hand and right hand,
doubt, you are in me,
throwing a basketball, guiding my knife and my fork.
Left knee and right knee,
we run for a bus,
for a meeting that surely will end before we arrive.
I would like
to grow content in you, doubt,
as a double-hung window
settles obedient into its hidden pulleys and ropes.
I doubt I can do so:
your own counterweight governs my nights and my days.
As the knob of hung lead holds steady
the open mouth of a window,
you hold me,
my kneeling before you resistant, stubborn,
offering these furious praises
I can’t help but doubt you will ever be able to hear.
Copyright © 2016 by Jane Hirshfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
I ask a student how I can help her. Nothing is on her paper.
It’s been that way for thirty-five minutes. She has a headache.
She asks to leave early. Maybe I asked the wrong question.
I’ve always been dumb with questions. When I hurt,
I too have a hard time accepting advice or gentleness.
I owe for an education that hurt, and collectors call my mama’s house.
I do nothing about my unpaid bills as if that will help.
I do nothing about the mold on my ceiling, and it spreads.
I do nothing about the cat’s litter box, and she pisses on my new bath mat.
Nothing isn’t an absence. Silence isn’t nothing. I told a woman I loved her,
and she never talked to me again. I told my mama a man hurt me,
and her hard silence told me to keep my story to myself.
Nothing is full of something, a mass that grows where you cut at it.
I’ve lost three aunts when white doctors told them the thing they felt
was nothing. My aunt said nothing when it clawed at her breathing.
I sat in a room while it killed her. I am afraid when nothing keeps me
in bed for days. I imagine what my beautiful aunts are becoming
underground, and I cry for them in my sleep where no one can see.
Nothing is in my bedroom, but I smell my aunt’s perfume
and wake to my name called from nowhere. I never looked
into a sky and said it was empty. Maybe that’s why I imagine a god
up there to fill what seems unimaginable. Some days, I want to live
inside the words more than my own black body.
When the white man shoves me so that he can get on the bus first,
when he says I am nothing but fits it inside a word, and no one stops him,
I wear a bruise in the morning where he touched me before I was born.
My mama’s shame spreads inside me. I’ve heard her say
there was nothing in a grocery store she could afford. I’ve heard her tell
the landlord she had nothing to her name. There was nothing I could do
for the young black woman that disappeared on her way to campus.
They found her purse and her phone, but nothing led them to her.
Nobody was there to hold Renisha McBride’s hand
when she was scared of dying. I worry poems are nothing against it.
My mama said that if I became a poet or a teacher, I’d make nothing, but
I’ve thrown words like rocks and hit something in a room when I aimed
for a window. One student says when he writes, it feels
like nothing can stop him, and his laughter unlocks a door. He invites me
into his living.
Copyright © 2020 by Krysten Hill. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Doubt is easy. You welcome it, your old friend.
Poet Edward Field told a bunch of kids,
Invite it in, feed it a good dinner, give it a place to sleep
on the couch. Don’t make it too comfortable or
it might never leave. When it goes away, say okay, I’ll see you
again later. Don’t fear. Don’t give it your notebook.
As for bad reviews, sure. William Stafford advised no credence to
praise or blame. Just steady on.
Once a man named Paul called me “a kid.” I liked kids
but I knew he meant it as an insult. Anyway, I was a kid.
I guess he was saying, why should we listen to kids?
A newspaper described a woman named Frieda being asked
if “I was serious” and “she whistled.” What did that mean?
How do you interpret a whistle? This was one thing that bothered me.
And where did Frieda ever go?
Copyright © 2020 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.