No Place to Live

She struggled to know who she really was.
Kept building houses in the hearts of people
she’d fallen in love with. In the end, she had
lots of places to stay, but no place to live.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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A Poem in Two Movements

For the men I have loved and the sons I didn’t give birth to. The truth is not that I have been taught to not love you, the miracle is that I continue to love you, despite…

Movement I

How many more sons must we invest
in freedom before we’re actually free?

The blood that flows through the streets
has become the rivers where we baptize
our dreams and our sons.

In the midst of the rivers of blood
we witness the drowning of our dreams
as it becomes the site where
prison walls are erected on the foundation
of our apathy.

We tuck our sons’ still-warm bodies into the
cracks of a society that has bastardized them.

Black people are America’s love child,
the ones they don’t want to claim. We were
ripped from the arms of our motherland
and made orphans and step-children
with no place to return home to.

Blood-soaked memories run through our veins.
Our bloodlines are fractured along the seams
and we now wear our brokenness
like a satin shawl to cover up our shame.

Can you not hear the people wailing
in the streets? We want to be heard
but we forgot how to use our quiet voice.

Movement II

My heart gets broken, it seems, every day
I can’t take another heartbreak;
so many broken hearts will cause the heart
to disintegrate completely. Every time I see
your blood flowing through the streets
I fall to my knees, to try to wipe away
the bloodstains and the blood memory.

My arms are so damn tired.

Either I’m trying to carry you or I’m trying
to destroy you. – My maternal memory
implores me to seek the face of who you were
once, before they labelled you.

Labels sell false dreams and
they sold one to you. Did you
have to buy it? Consumerism:
the ability to sell you your brokenness
and you accept it like it’s
a birthday gift or your birthright.

The tears in my eyes glitter like diamonds
but from those, you look away. You don’t
want to see the pain you’re causing. Because
they’re not trying to sell you the pain you’re
causing me. To you, this is just part of the game.
I’m just someone for you to get over on.

Somehow you miscalculated the sum of all
my fears, missed the obvious truth: that I’m
crying my eyes out for you. Considered an MVP
you think you’ll win every fight you’re in,
but this is one fight you will not win
because I’m willing to fight for you
to win back that little boy soul that was stolen
from you. Many years ago a trickster stole
what belongs to you…and to me…you were
supposed to be my destiny, not my misery.
But they told you you were dead and you
believed them. But because I love you
I came to uncover the mystery of your death.
You were never dead. Just sleeping. And I
don’t need anyone’s permission to love you.
I already do. And because of that love
I will fight to the end to show you
that I need you, we need you. Whole.

When the blood stops running
in the streets, no one will need to
save you, for you will have saved yourself.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

 

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I Am Not Your God

You tell me you love me
like the declaration gives you
permission to be re-birthed,
like it will open you and
make it possible for you to live
not just one, but two lives. But
I am not your god, I cannot
give you new life and I am
not willing to die so that you
might live. My words are not miracles
and neither is my love.
My love will not save you. Hell,
most times it doesn’t even save me.
So when you tell me you love me
and I cannot find the will or the words
to offer your lie back to you, just breathe
a sigh of relief and let relief wash over
you like an afternoon breeze.

Night is not so far away that
we must be afraid to embrace it.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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Carry Me in the Womb

Carry me in the womb
of your love
like a newborn
I will suckle on
your sweet flesh. Your
embrace will surpass forever
because our love knows
no bounds, looks forward
to no ending.

Carry me in the womb
of your love
and your presence
will cast shadows over
all our fears and
finally quiet the cries
that cause our hearts
to bleed out love,
a wound that will never heal.

Carry me in the womb
of your love
and I will learn to
sleep through the night,
the only sound to awaken me
will be the sound of your beating
heart. The steady drumbeat
of your heart will comfort
like the sound of a mother’s voice
reading a bedtime story.
I hear notes of hope for tomorrow
while languishing in today’s love.

Carry me in the womb
of your love
and our togetherness
will be forever safe. No one
will be able to crack the code
for the vault where our love
for one another is stored.
As long as we protect what’s ours
threats to our love will dissolve
like illusions in a tall glass of
water. And nobody wants to drink
that.

Carry me in the womb
of your love
and we will slip into
an alternate reality where love
is never taken for granted and
we lovers chase dreams, instead
of wielding them as weapons
to destroy the very foundation
of love.

Carry me in the womb
of your love
and I will burst on the scene
like the wildest dream ever imagined
and there will be no end
because every day will be our new
beginning.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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Poetry Is…

They told me to clean up
my poems some and then they
might be interested in reading them.
But what good is a poem
that’s been scrubbed of its meaning?
A poem should be bold like two lovers
fucking in the park after midnight. It
should be as profound as death when
it appears suddenly, leaving behind
no explanations. Poetry is using to
commit murder in the first degree,
leaving behind corpses and ghosts
in the place of our former selves.
Poetry, like love, is never clean, never simple.
So when they told me they’d only read
my words if I cleaned them up some,
I took a long gulp from my beer can,
took a hit from my Cuban cigar and
gave them the simplest words I know:
“Fuck you!”

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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What Loving You Feels Like

Grandma always had that one chair
that felt ‘just right’ and every weekend
the cousins would fight to see who got
to sit in that chair. Sometimes
my mom would drop me off before
the others arrived—and all weekend
that chair would be mine. To sit in.
To lay in. To stretch my legs in.
To rest my legs in. And
that’s what loving you feels like.

I had a best friend once, you know,
the ones we promised to always
KIT with—except she moved away
before the school year was over and
I thought I’d never see her again.
But summer came and we drove
out to where she lived and
I got to spend two whole weeks
with her. She took me exploring
one day and we found a honeysuckle
bush; the scent wafted out to meet us
before we saw it with our eyes.
We reached out, took a honeysuckle
petal from the bush. It was sweet. I never
wanted to leave it. And
that’s what loving you feels like.

People who truly know me know
that I’m terrified of heights.
But I’ve been on a plane exactly twice.
I recall the fear that accompanied me
as I walked through the airport that first time.
Not strolled – because stroll would mean
I was okay and I wasn’t. But I did it.
When the plane first took off, I held on
to the woman beside me. Halfway through
the flight I forgot I was off the ground
and I felt calm. I didn’t need to think
about my fear of flying anymore.
I had trusted their wings to help me
feel free. And they kept my feet off the
ground. And
that’s what loving you feels like.

I’ve always been gangly and awkward.
Not athletic. Whenever the kids in the
neighborhood would say
‘let’s race, let’s run’ I would make up
excuses to make it possible for me to
race back into the house where I could
hide away. I’d watch the other kids race
from my bedroom window, while I hid
away. But they say all good things will eventually
come to an end. One day my fear was exposed.
The girl who always won every race she ran
taunted me. And that day I wanted to undress
my fears, wanted to stand bare. I raced her.
Ran so fast my lungs constricted and my chest
started to hurt. But I almost won that day.
I crossed the line only a few seconds
behind her. I wanted to race her again, knowing
next time I’d win. And
that’s what loving you feels like.

After a really long day, I sometimes stand
in the shower, warm water raining down on me.
The water mingles with my tears and washes away
the sadness. Sometimes I cry the whole time,
other times the crying is over quickly. But always,
I find peace standing beneath the falling rain.
And that’s also where I find me. And if there
are any pieces that have been torn away
during the day, they return to me. And
that’s what loving you feels like.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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I Was Only in Love

Don’t believe what they say
about me.

I am not desperate.
I am not a slut.
I will not do anything for love.
I have my limits. I think.

So don’t believe what they say.
I was only in love.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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Little Johnny and Barry Don’t Know How to Read

I get it. No one likes change. We will cling relentlessly to the wrong ideas and notions, hoping against hope that they will somehow land us where we seek to go.

But that’s not how life works. Change is sometimes necessary. About eight years ago, on a day very much like today, I sat down and said, “I’m just not happy. I want to do more with my life. I want to inspire change.” Seriously. I thought this. I wanted to become a tool for change. And that thought somehow managed to change the course of my life and I left reporting to become a teacher.

I remembered sitting in classes and thinking, “This has absolutely nothing to do with me.” I didn’t feel smart. I couldn’t fathom the opportunities that would be available to me with a good education. Two of my best friends in school, Angie and Stephanie, were geniuses as far as I was concerned. And I wanted so much to be like them. But I just couldn’t see it. Instead I became what society, my community, told me I was supposed to be. I became a young bride with no education other than a high school diploma and one endless job after another, all of which I hated. Because, even then, I had this feeling that “I’m not happy here. I can do better.”

Sometimes we have to admit defeat and just start all over again. I’ve done that many times in my life. And, always, I ended up feeling more fulfilled than before. I don’t’ want to say happy because happiness is a choice. But true fulfillment sometimes requires change.

Okay, so where am I going with this? Well, like I felt eight years ago, I’ve been battling this feeling of “I’m just not happy here.” I feel like I’m not doing anything worthwhile. I’m giving my all in a situation where I feel like I no longer belong. Am I afraid to change? No. For years, I’ve been trying to change a system that is severely broken. The educational system. I went into teaching thinking I could relate to the students and I could convince them that opportunities existed for them. But after years of battling within a system that values numbers over educating the individual child, I just don’t feel like I belong here anymore. I am trying to reach children who have already made up their minds that they don’t need an education to succeed; I am trying to acquire the lingo for a system that’s so broken the insides of it resemble a social club or fraternity reunion; I am trying to achieve purpose in my life when parents give up on their children at birth and the schools seem never to have wanted to be agents of change to begin with.

Why do I say that? What proof do I have? A large percentage of black children in a high school setting who are reading on a second or third grade level. And the solution, put more pressure on teachers to produce the numbers the schools need to show they are growing students. No one wants to be the one to say, okay, this shit is broken. We’ve been doing it wrong and it is time to start over. So, I’ll say it. Our educational system is broken beyond repair. We have to start over. We need to go back to the drawing board, find new people who value educating and not teaching to a standardized test, and freaking start over. It’s hard to admit we’ve been doing things wrong for years, I know it. But it’s insanity to continue to do the same things, seeing the disastrous results and hoping for different outcomes.

We don’t send police into the streets
armed with only rubber bullets
and no gun. No one would trust a surgeon
who’s best work is done using plastic cutlery.
So why the hell is no one upset
when a tenth grade student can’t read?

Why is it okay for you to send me
into battle every day
to serve children who don’t know
what a sentence is?
Barry is well-versed in the language
of the streets, but he can’t identify
the verb in the sentence:
The man rotted in prison because
he didn’t ever learn to read.

The system is crumbling
it’s full of cracks and bricks
all ill-fit in the face of a wall
But while the wall is falling
we can’t see the walls for the
buildings. Seventy percent
is nothing to sneeze at. I’m not a
mathematical genius but I can
read the message in the numbers
and it’s time to admit
we’re bleeding ignorance
into the streets and
tearing down the possibilities
in favor of building prisons.

It’s politically incorrect to say to a
parent of a ninth grader
who stumbles over words and meaning
in a Junie B. Jones reader, “Why
don’t you sit yo ass down and teach
him to read?” But it’s socially acceptable
to point the finger of blame
at the cogs in the machine
that churn out ill-prepared graduates
at the rate that General Motors
produces Chevrolets.

Prisons will be constructed
based on the fact that
little Barry can’t read
by the time he reaches fifth grade
but we’re afraid to hold a
conversation to admit we’ve
screwed up and that we need to
start over again. We’d rather keep
stewing in the shit stew we have made.

How many bodies must we invest
in a world of freedom
that will never benefit
those of us
living in communities where
it’s the norm to pass children on
to the next grade while ignoring their
most basic need—the ability to read?

We’d never send soldiers into battle
with seeds and shovels
nor would we elect a president
who can’t read a story to his son
before he goes off to bed, but we
embrace and accept a system
that touts numbers:
67 percent show proficiency
80 percent graduation rate
$5 million in scholarships,
but not a damn student who’s ready
for college because Barry has never
learned how to read.

Here’s to new beginnings and change!

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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A Love Like This

They say
you learn how to love
through reading literature.

I’ve never been a fan
or a cheerleader of things
‘they say’ because
I’ve read lots of books

A hundred or more easily
and none ever prepared me
for loving you. None
told me how to survive
falling deeply in love with you.

I’ve read mysteries, dramas, love stories
biographies, short stories, and of course
Dr. Seuss, but none ever mentioned
the possibility of loving you.

No book ever warned me
how easy it would be to fall for you
when I finally met you.
And no book ever predicted
how I’d fall completely for you
and not even want to get back up
once I’d fallen down.

No book ever warned me
that love could be found
in the words that would form
on your lips or how it could
radiate from your eyes.
That I would learn how to
meditate on the possibility of us
with just one glance from you,
how I’d learn to dream our tomorrows
while living in the fantasy of today,
and believe me no literary genius
could have prepared me for you.

Not even Nicholas Sparks
could advise me on how
to offer you the best of me,
how to let love overtake me,
decide to make room for you
in my dreams or let me know
how ours is the type of love
only the wildest dreams can fathom.

I’ve read page after page
and book after book
but none ever told me that
like the hand of a surgeon
preparing to perform
the most delicate of surgeries,
our love would always be steady.

I dream of your kisses.
I dream of your words.
I dream of your presence
when I’m not near you, I dream
of you and the love
I’ll always value because
I shared it with you
and believe me you’re more
wonderful than any character
in any book I’ve ever read.

According to the books
everyone searches for a love
like ours
for a love like we have —
so how could I know
leaving was a possibility?

That every future love
will bear a silent disclaimer:
I love you but not like
I love him. Because I always
thought the hardest part
would be finding a love like this.
How could I know that
a love like this
could pass on and drift away like
whispered promises shared
beneath a silent sky,
in a place that seemed so
far away from everything and
everybody?

What book should I have read
to warn me that love
could end up like this?

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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Seven Times

Seven times.

That’s how many times
it’ll take before they finally
decide to leave.

The first time
she told him to shut up.
I’m not interested
in what you have to say.

The second time
was the first time
he actually hit her
in the face, but they both
blamed it on the drinks.
It was easier to accept
that way.

The third time
she knocked the wind out of him
punched him in the chest
with all the strength
she possessed. As the wind
became wings for the delusions
to help sustain their love,
she promised
it would never happen again.

Four.
He didn’t know that leather
is the gift you give
for the three-year anniversary.
He removed his leather belt,
gave her a lash for each year
they’d pretended to be in love
with each other. The lasting touch
of leather to skin
would keep her from losing track
of what they’d meant to one another.

Five.
She decided to fight back.
She grabbed the knife
she’d hidden
as she anticipated times number
five, six, and seven.
She pulled the knife
but loved him too much
to use it. Delusion
led her to believe
that he loved her too.
After all, they’d been together
so many years that it had to be love,
right? Until the last fight
when she ended up dead.
And delusions weren’t enough
to bring her back from that.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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