Writing today

Today has been a really good day. Nothing eventful has happened, nothing but me filling up my own space and head in the most pleasant ways. This is the most I’ve written in a very long time in terms of consistency (I write every day) and meaningful content. In contrast to my journal entries from 2, 3 years ago, these poems are real, they sit somewhere deep inside me and I’ve really enjoyed writing them. Additionally, I’ve been inspired by a lot more lately than in the past (I’m also in a different space, in different relationships, and I’m older). The biggest thing, though, is I’m not forcing myself to write. I have had the time—somehow, someway—to sit and ponder, which all writers need. All that time to myself opens me up to the poetry of watering my plants, or folding my clothes, or any Nina Simone song.

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how it feels to be free

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


Our End
When you left the spot next to me was so full with your absence there was a sunken dip where your body used to lay
And broken urns shattered around the soil I used to grow you into a man with formidable legs and stomping feet
I cut my foot on the broken glass walking to the window this evening
Bled into the floor and the dirt
I fell asleep nursing the wounds
When I woke the next morning it was cold around me and darkness crept from the corners
Pieces of me seemed to be missing and the spot inside me was still full with your absence
My throat still hurting from where I kept my voice for years so that it grew hoarse and meek
My eyelids played the image of you over and over again and finally my body was filled with thoughts of you then the loss of you
I woke to damp misery again slept at the edge of my bed to avoid the hole you left behind when you took the branches and flowers of me
What a fool was I to think my aching heart could kid the moon

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Lessons

This is a “Weekly Spotlight” feature piece

I’m watching my mother
From my low
Stoop/ a substantial woman
In body and mind
Gliding through
The cluttered
Space of our room
Around my grandmother’s yellow arm chair,
A hamper stuffed with clothes
And both our desks
Littered with papers—stories she was
Teaching me to write in
A voice she was urging me
To use/
Things she couldn’t learn me by doing them herself—
Staunchly relegated to
The cramped
Four walls of our world
Behind ironing boards and old dressers
Relics of family we lost touch
With                    Nanas and PopPops gone too soon/ before
Someone could share stories
Of my mother
When she was this age
Learning the way to hold
Her body so that it isn’t
Torn on the close-by thorns
Of captivity and isolation
I watch her dance a little
To music played
At a very specific volume so as not to
Disrupt/ upend/ rebel too obviously
Against the order of things—of betrothed
Her body is easing through
Our lives so filled
With apathetic husbands slash fathers
Step sister-wives                    all of them—
Crumbling fences planted in
Dry earth
rotting away
A un-bloomed plant
From underneath its foundation, whittling
I am surprised that her feet
Have not stomped craters
Into this ugly patch of dirt
Beneath our hearth
Amazing how she continuously
Extends her hands to everyone—
In this swollen city compound/ in this cold, relentless world—
Offering that which it needs/ some of what it wants/ nothing it could ever deserve
I hear the floor creak beneath the weight
Of her
Of us and our things
Our photographs and watercolor art
The Karaoke machine I begged for
And the French CDs she insisted upon
My homemade tapes
Songs I wrote and belted out
In a corner of the room
Near our bookshelf
Lined top to bottom
With revolution and romance
Poetry/ wanting to sound like her
Sing how she did when it was just us
Safe in our
Full range of being
From my seat
A young girl/
She is a mountain to me
A grand hill
Pushing silently through vinelands

—                                       To teach us they need not speak

© Ama Akoto (2018)

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14th & Constitution

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


1.
So I guess now
I’m a domestic terrorist
I usedta live in dc
Really move through it
Like a woman in the know
Of the concrete and brick buildings
Very familiar with
The heavy sound of congas
Steel pan drums
Screamed vocalizations
And corner store runs
I used to really live in dc
Mark my name on newspaper stands
Hop the fare gates
Slide in between closing doors, finding my favorite spot
At the back of the train
Behind a glass plate
Blackness in my vision
Sights of a restless city
Kind in its ways
Abrupt/ but lovable
Loud/ but rarely boring
This used to be a city of homes
And dancing bodies
Beaten feet
And clappas
Alabama Avenue and its dwellers
Have been begging for
Grocery stores
Arts centers
And landlords with concern/
For decades
Since our great grandmothers and fathers
Stumbled into this swampy marsh
Hershey on their arms and legs
Flavoring this inconsequential District
With thick slurred language of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina
Mixing them in a way only colored folk can
Some chocolate comes from cocoa plants
Ours came from our parents
Who told us keep ten toes down
And ur head on a swivel
Cus u never know what’s lurking
Around the bend for u—
Opps donned in badges, others with social capital
And monies
Itching to rob u
Of ur home
And well deserved identity
I usedta live here
Now I bleed on the corners
Die in between torn asunder
Communities
Barbed wires and empty promises

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Harassment

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


Do men think I build myself on the
Unstable bricks
Of their fantasies
Mold my arms out of their desire
Shape my legs in a way
That moves them forward
And roots me in place
I must be pretty damn foolish
Not to color my skin
The way a man ought to like it
See through and paper thin but
In reality thick as hide
So he can pierce me
Sting me
Rip me up when he don’t get his way
Do they think I have bloodied my toes and fingers
On the gritty mountain
Of their sexual deviance
in order to arrive at the peak
Dripping wet with sorrow
And man’s ideals?
They must think
I make home and hearth of forced
Niceties and fake smiles
Fixed in between rigid bones and fear for my life
They scream at me on the street
Demand I
“thank you, sir”
“Oh, I never!”
For a few measly
Compliments
Like I never thought I was beautiful
Before some nigga
Screamed it at me on the street
They must think I breathe catcalls
Feed on their insults
Thinly guised as romancing
They prolly think I’m batshit crazy
Like I oil my elbows and knees
In the shit they spew
The barked demands
In packs of 2,3,4,and 5
Rinsing my face in all their needs
Their words and shit

If niggas was ever wrong about one thing
It was this
This …me building myself up
On what a few lame ass passerby’s think of me
Got to say on me
I can’t imagine why else
They’d keep bothering me every where I go
I assume
They must wanna make me feel good
Doin all this tellin me
Bout my looks and my body
Instead of leavin me
The fuck alone
Like I’d prefer
To be

© Ama Akoto (2018)

Sorta in response to “i usedta live in the world” by Ntozake Shange/
Sorta in response to recent, rampant, daily harassment by men

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Bird Sacrifice

This is a “Weekly Spotlight” feature piece


I started this poem inspired by witches, priestesses, and conjurers—women who empower themselves by leaning on the spirits of our ancestors and deities. My mother is one of those women. She pours gin into her shrine pot, which is lined at the bottom with rocks fetched from the seas and brooks that hid our ancestors from racist slave-catchers (specifically from an old slave plantation located in Mineral, Virginia). She sings songs and prays in languages that are seemingly alien to us, but are in fact ours via lineage and ancestry. She feels the weight of the world, because the world is spirited. The earth is alive and everything within it—every spirit, every ounce of energy, is palpable to my mother and to countless other women.

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