Tag Archives: Poetry

POETRY: Go Back to Africa

by Helen Collier


“Go back to Africa!” the white man screamed in my face as if to say this country belonged only to his race.

“I would go back,” I said to him, “if I could only go alone, but I must take you with me.”  

“What do you mean take me with you?” he said. “I’m already living in my country.”

“All your genes and your DNA must go along with me as well as your white skin, you know.”

“And what, might I ask, does that mean?” he asked. 

“You cannot imagine,” I told him, “how devastating it was for some of us when we discovered we were not white but Black.

“Our DNA from the man who caused our conception, even our skin color, indicated that we were white while the genes of our mothers said that we were not.

“Yes, I would love to go back to the motherland, but I’m afraid you would have to come along.  All those genes of yours you have given to us from the pleasures you enjoyed from using our Black female bodies from centuries back must come along with me as well and spill their deeds upon that land, which most likely would send us all to hell.”


Helen Collier says writing has been in her spirit since her mother placed a pencil in her left hand and told her, “God made you a left-handed writer for a reason; it’s up to you to share with the world what that reason is.”  She resides in Auburn, Washington.

Featured Image: Original photo by CreateHERStock via Nappy.co used under a Creative Commons 1.0 license. Image transformation by Emerald staff.

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. 
Support the Emerald!

PONGO POETRY: Hole For A Heart

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with children at the Child Study Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants. Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To enjoy more of the writing you see reflected below, order a copy of The Story of My Heart, Pongo’s 16th anthology of youth poetry.


Continue reading PONGO POETRY: Hole For A Heart

Verbal Oasis Spoken Word Festival Offers Creativity and Celebration for All Ages

by Chamidae Ford


September 3 marks the beginning of the first annual Verbal Oasis Spoken Word Festival. The four-day event represents a multigenerational depiction of art — from poetry and dancing to music and visual art. The festival allows attendees space to go beyond observing by providing workshops for them to engage. 

The free event, located at the Rainier Beach Community Center’s outdoor pavilion, is being hosted by Monique Franklin (Verbal Oasis). The festival is supported by the Seattle Park District and Created Commons, a program of the Office of Arts & Culture Seattle. 

“I’ve been performing in Seattle for over 15 years now, but in the process of being a performance artist, I’ve also been producing shows for that length of time. And I produce shows from children all the way up through adults with a specific focus on bringing together a multi-gender generational community of Black artists,” Franklin said. “So in some ways, you could say that this festival is about 15 years in the making.”

Beginning on Sept. 3 and running from 6:30 to 9 p.m. will be the Muezz Poetry Show. Each night stars a different lineup of local poets and performers and will feature the Seattle Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith, Amber Flame, Robert Lashley, and many more. There will also be an open mic portion of each evening, with a writing workshop before the show to allow attendees to create something to share. 

“There is the invitation to engage in art. So when [people] come, we’ll have some art activities that they can participate in, including being a part of the show. …” Franklin said. “What they can expect is a warm welcome, some great music, some of the best artists in Seattle in painting, dancing, and spoken-word poetry.”

Creating a multigenerational festival was very important to Franklin. That’s why on Sept. 5 and 6, the Inspired Child’s open mic from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. will encourage children from 2 to 12 years old to take the stage. 

“Young people will be featured in those events to give them opportunities to build their performance resumes, perform, and curate their own performances for an audience,” Franklin said. 

This weekend is not just for performing but discussing the power of spoken word, art, and community. Franklin challenges those in attendance to come with an open mind and be willing to participate. 

“I think [the festival] is gonna be an experience,” Franklin said. “I would love it for people to come open to that experience and leave inspired. I think art is healing and art is also transformative and it allows us to learn from others. And so I think to be engaged in a community where everybody is participating in that is truly a give and take, whether the audience is choosing to become a part of a show in the open mic or if they’re just choosing to give that energy and attention to the artist who’s on stage, they’re a part of it. I think what people can expect is to feel.”

Events like these also represent a cost-effective way to explore different artistic routes before investing deeply in them. Cipher Goings from Northwest Tap Connection will be teaching free tennis shoe tap lessons. There will be writing workshops and painting sessions, allowing families to explore whether they are truly interested in pursuing an artistic path. 

“It gives exposure so that families and individuals can say, wow, I actually liked that. I actually want to invest in this now,” Franklin said. “Exposing people to art creates an opportunity for them to activate the artist that I think is in all of us and find the road that best suits them.”

The festival represents an opportunity to get outside with your family and connect with your community through art. The weekend offers a wide range of artists across different disciplines and generations expressing themselves. 

“Being able to celebrate and to share and keep an open mind provides an opportunity to really share your experiences with other people and for other people to hear what’s going on in the hearts and the minds of their community members,” Franklin said. “Activating these [public] spaces is critical, especially right now.”

Admission to the festival is free, but there will be capacity limitations to allow for social distancing. You can secure a spot by going online and claiming a ticket for the Muezz Poetry Show and Inspired Child Open Mic before the event. Masks are required for admittance and attendees are asked to wear them throughout the entirety of the event. Temperature checks and contact-tracing will also be done upon entrance. 

The community partners of this event are Inspired Child Studios, Northwest Tap Connection, Central District Forum For Arts and Ideas, Seattle Filmmakers of the African Diaspora, Abstract Media, ONYX Fine Arts Collective, and African-American Writers’ Alliance.


Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.

Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Verbal Oasis Spoken Word Festival.

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. 
Support the Emerald!

POETRY: A Promise of Love

by Alex Leviton


wrapped softly in an off-white threadbare blanket
with stained yellow satin trim
is a legal document
spun of the finest papyrus
rolled into a delicate shell
burnt edges gilded with flesh
‘you will love hotter than the sun’
it promises
… and it
warns
you will crest a thousand waves
and descend ten thousand feet
look for the starfish hidden in the crevices
they will be your guide
when the waters run dark

Continue reading POETRY: A Promise of Love

PONGO POETRY: Pain Is Full Circle

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility. Many CFJC residents are Youth of Color who have endured traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. These incidents have been caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism, and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, Pongo poetry writing offers CFJC youth a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special bi-monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To learn more about Pongo’s work and hear directly from its youth writers, register for “Speaking Volumes,” Pongo’s second annual fall celebration.


PAIN IS FULL CIRCLE

by a young person, age 17

I want you to know what it’s like
when a person is in jail
A lot of people not around anymore
Nowhere to be found
Not answering their phones
Seeing people’s true colors
Bad, negative

I want you to understand my pain
when I see the hurt I’ve caused
I feel worse about that than what I actually did
It’s deep inside
It feels bad
Consequences come all the way back around
from what I did
then getting locked up
which hurt my mom
Pain is full circle

I want you to know how I express myself
My actions are like my worst enemy
He’s thoughtless
He doesn’t reflect my true values
He comes around when I’m bored
He’s the opposite of what I like to think of myself as
And who I want to be
If I could tell him something
I’d say Stay away
and don’t come back

I want you to know what I am capable of
My strength is like my best friend
He’s caring and kind
He puts others before himself
I want you to know my heart

Dedicated to my mom

Continue reading PONGO POETRY: Pain Is Full Circle

PONGO POETRY: My Super-Hope

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with children at the Child Study Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants. Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To enjoy more of the writing you see reflected below, order a copy of The Story of My Heart, Pongo’s 16th anthology of youth poetry.


HOPE

by a young person, age 16

There is a time in our life that it can get dark
But sometimes all we need is a small speck of light
At night, we wish there was a light to shine for us through

Hope is for everyone
Hope is strength
to make it through the hardest times in our life

We see the light tonight
but sooner or later the light will go
and then the light that is inside of our hearts
will shine for us

We can learn how to share it and show it

Continue reading PONGO POETRY: My Super-Hope

POETRY: The Neck Verse

by Laura Da’


Madrona skin twists
to red ribbons 
along suburban flanks. 

Old scars only seem 
unforgettably garish 
until the fresh ones settle in.

Girdling cancers of black rot 
harry trunks,
hastened by the heat

of human traffic.
With age, this species
develops a desperate 

need for sunlight.
It takes time and agonizing
necessity to become gregarious

at the crown. A juvenile stand
hewn by the footpath is beaten
too bloody to metaphor,

green skinned and beyond all help.
Impossible to read, resistant 
to lyricism, consider 

the human riddle of the neck verse. 
Recitation of Psalm 51
was once considered

sufficient reason to spare
a certain class of soul 
from the noose.

Pre-contact trees, utterly
unique to the Pacific coast,
Madronas will cling, salt whipped

to ocean ledges for decades,
but transplant a west facing sapling
to an eastern bluff and there it ends.


Laura Da’ is a poet and teacher who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is the author of Tributaries, American Book Award winner, and Instruments of the True Measure, Washington State Book Award winner. Da’ is Eastern Shawnee. She lives near Seattle, Washington.

Featured image is attributed to Peter Stevens and is used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. 
Support the Emerald!

PONGO POETRY: Streets Come With That

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility. Many CFJC residents are Youth of Color who have endured traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. These incidents have been caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism, and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, Pongo poetry writing offers CFJC youth a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special bi-monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To learn more about Pongo’s work and hear directly from its youth writers, register for “Speaking Volumes,” Pongo’s second annual fall celebration.


STREETS COME WITH THAT

by a young person, age 16

I never realized the streets come
with all these feelings
till I was in my cell thinking
about what the judge said after the sentence
not knowing which of my brothers
turned into a witness.
I never went into the streets for attention,
just trying to take me and my mama out the trenches.
But I keep going to jail.
Can’t help it because people keep switching.
Tryna to do good but charges keep popping up
because people keep snitching.
It’s like a double-edged sword
’cause every time I go to jail
it’s like an intervention
to get away from these streets
that feel like hell but they get so cold though.
All these dead brothers —
I cry every time I see each one’s photo.
I’m trying to grow.
I’m trying to stay on my 7-4.*
I can’t fold. Can’t let them see me crumble.
It’s like every time I f*ck up,
the whole team fumbles.

Got to march through these units
and always stand tall.
Especially in my cell,
staring at these 4×4 cell walls.
Dealin’ with all these suckas
in these halls.
But they wouldn’t try me though,
they don’t got the balls.
I’m just tryin’ to make it out,
but this system’s so flawed.
It wouldn’t be a fight at all
if these lawyers did their job
like when that police got off
when they outlined my brother in chalk.
And it’s like I can’t even go out to walk
without being scared
that I’m the next one to get shot.
It’s crazy to think
after all my ancestors fought,
this is all we got.
Tryin’ to get money
to get my peoples off the block
but I just keep getting sent
to jail to rot.

Continue reading PONGO POETRY: Streets Come With That

POETRY: Learning Lyrics

by Tamara Vining


I finally learned the lyrics
at the age of 53
“About time”
whispered a line of specters
(first in line was CSh’rie)

tell me
if you know
all the lyrics, all the songs
all the bands, all the music
in the world

I’d like that job

when music comes back to me
and I can see
and hear again
and everything makes sense
the way it did
when I sang
“Truth”

and “Love
Honor and Cherish”
when I screamed at you
“Why did you die?”
the only way
I knew to ask
by singing we survived

I thought I’d find an answer
from the lyrics, in the song
as long as I could play
at 3 a.m.

my perception was it left me
no one ever was
so lost as I
in heaven
I sat in the back and cried

because I ended up
not forgotten, but
in golden seats
included
I belonged
I wrote enough
to qualify

the music
which creates
the universe
is strong
and disappear
is not
a thing it does

nothing can go wrong
when everything’s all right
and real big notes
have existed
all along

right here


Tamara Vining is a poet, fiction writer, musician, and computer programmer living in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Featured Image is based on a photo attributed to Filipe Ramos and used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0). Photo editing by Emerald staff.

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. 
Support the Emerald!