Each week the Reckon Women newsletter includes a column from an Alabama woman, in collaboration with See Jane Write. Click here to sign up for the newsletter. Click here to sign up for the Reckon Women Facebook page.
By Toya Poplar
When my heart is heavy, I weep in poetry. Creativity has been keeping me sane during these times of racial animosity. If it weren’t for the power of prayer and pouring my heart onto paper, I would surely be a fool uttering all my emotions. During these times of unrest, I’ve noticed that if I fail to make my point in person, it inevitably comes out in the form of a poem.
I am aware that not everyone likes poetry, nor do they understand it. I think that might be one of the things I like most about art in general. People don’t have to like it or understand it, but that doesn’t stop the creator from making it. An artist pours their passion into a project regardless of public opinion. As long as it means something to the creator, it is meaningful. Oftentimes, the more controversial a piece is the more it increases in value.
This is a lot like the plight of Black and Brown people in America. Not everyone likes us, nor are we understood, but that doesn’t stop the Creator from making us. He pours His image and likeness into us, regardless of public opinion. As long as we mean something to Him it doesn’t matter how mean people are towards us; our lives have meaning. When our very existence causes controversy, it only highlights how invaluable we truly are.
The myriad of micro-aggressions I experience during awkward conversations feel like stripes on my back from a master’s whip. Refusing to cry, I take the stripes and channel my pain into prose. As a believer, it’s not hard for me to count it all joy when I walk through various trials. I am confident that the testing of my faith will produce patience, or perhaps a poem. And when both patience and poetry have had their perfect work, I will be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Our Lives Shatter
God dwells richly inside
A strength I could never hide
Wounds you cannot see
I give, give, and give again
I see, I hear and hate your sin.
I grieve, grieve, and grieve some more
I’m tired of being your token whore.
You speak words I dare not repeat
Your public gain is silent defeat.
I cuss often inside my mind
I smile and nod like things are fine.
My own tears are all dried up
I have no room within my cup.
You utter artificial words
My authentic voice is rarely heard.
If you love me as you say
Repent, lament, fast, and pray.
Shut your mouth, and let me speak
Respect my views and let me teach.
You’ve had the floor for my whole life
It’s my turn to hold the mic.
The tide has rolled the winds have shifted
The trumpet has sounded grace has lifted.
Our sweet home is long gone
I’m tired of singing freedom songs.
Your Jim Crow laws, your segregation
It’s time to sing of reparations.
I’ve picked your cotton and plowed your fields
And you tell me “It’s time to heal.”
You no longer have the choice
To speak for me, I’ve found my voice.
Have a seat pour some tea,
Prepare your heart to hear from me.
When I look across these fields
I cannot share your heartfelt zeal
You see amber waves of grain
All I see is people’s pain.
When you fail to see your privilege
You insult my tribe and burn my village.
My people die and our dreams shatter,
As you scream “All lives matter!”
If I did not know my Lord
I could not live on one accord
In this State on which stars fell.
Your forefather’s heaven,
Is my grandfather’s hell.