Undress.

dirty clothes

He said, “undress.” And then I did. He looked me over. And I went stiff.

He reached out a hand. And I glanced away. Eyes to the ceiling. Body frozen in space.

He touched me once. Discreetly at first. Then urgent, emphatic. With all my senses inert.

My brain was absent. My nerves aflame. I had no response. And I made no escape.

His fingers trailed. I watched their descent. This could not be real. Yet still my gut clenched.

He found just the place. That biological switch. Where my insides caught fire. And guilt came unhinged.

He finished his conquest. And I snatched my clothes. But his touch left its mark. Sharp and exposed.

Now I was tarnished. And no longer the same. Now I was weakened. And no longer safe.

If I could rewind the clock. Before all these regrets. I would yell, “no.” When he said, “undress.”

dear body…

in all our years together—two decades plus eight

i never said “thank you” for being constant and safe.

for this miraculous tangle of blood, skin and bone

this shelter for my heart, this home for my soul.

this flesh that can rupture, bruise and then heal

this lattice of imprints and imperfections revealed.

this face streaked with laughter and tears unabated

this frame that’s been tough yet frail and berated.

sometimes unsteady but always strong to endure

a bittersweet mural of both stories and scars.

body—you were resilient in spite of all my disdain

when i branded you a traitor, the root of my shame.

you are the warrior who fought to keep me alive

chest breathing, pulse beating and a will to survive.

i wanted to tame you and i ferociously tried

i ached just to separate, to denounce you as mine.

but you were a force, relentless, stormy and wild

you would not be conquered, outcast or exiled.

i made you the villain but no—you protect and defend

so for the first time: “thank you, my friend.”

 

 

An Elemental Manifesto

i am a seed anchored by the earth

i am a feather skimming the breeze

i am a vessel who dances on water

i am a spark awash in amber flames

my body is of the soil, my heart belongs to the sky

my vagabond spirit calls out to the rivers and seas

my russet brown eyes crackle with stardust and fire

my voice is tuned in to the rhythm of the wind

i am a creature of the elements

both above and below

outside the reaches of space

unclasped by the hands of time

fully human, shred of mystic

a piece of my soul in each world

but this terra which roots me

this ground that nourishes me

is not mine to call home

i was planted on earth, baptized in water

refined in fire, then unleashed on the cosmos

but my inheritance lies beyond the clouds

it’s there i am bound

there i am summoned

and there,

an elemental manifesto of heaven and nature combined,

i am destined to fly

 

She Used to Dream

sex trafficking

all she used to dream of was a future

honest wages for her family, a wide-eyed taste of opportunity

she boarded a plane on his words of assurance

that her life would improve once she criss-crossed the globe

but then promises turned counterfeit

and the neon lights of a new city faded to shadows of gray

he was in control now, an Armani suited pimp

she became his to command, as all her freedom disappeared

time no longer seemed to matter

as weeks stretched into months, and the earth reeled off its axis

a name erased from her grime-smeared face

the stamp of commodity on her bruised, starved, exploited body

her narrative is common, her affliction epidemic

another headline for consumption, another hashtag to retweet

yet these statistics fail to humanize

the person whose agency was taken, whose dignity was tarnished

injustice like that can asphyxiate the soul

but she is more than her ravaged hopes and crumbling spirit

her life is worth rescue, her freedom worth ransom

because the future she used to dream of is just what she deserves

 

Its Name is Humanity.

It’s in the onyx colored irises of the Ethiopian orphan’s eyes.

Ravenous for a nurturing caress that she has never known.

It’s in the desert toughened leather of the Syrian refugee’s brow.

Etched and imprinted with the carnage of his nation’s diaspora.

It’s in the painted on smirk of the Cambodian stripper’s mouth.

Concealing her body slick with sweat and debased with bruises.

It’s in the russet grime and grit of the Mexican immigrant’s feet.

Straddling a border that divides his home and a fate unknown.

It’s in the viscous crimson ink of the suburban teenager’s wrists.

Serrated, muffled tears which she punctuates by a razor’s edge.

It’s in the faint tremor of the varsity quarterback’s shoulders.

Fearful of an urge inside him that finds other boys attractive.

It’s in the bold, defiant keystrokes of the rape survivor’s hands.

Resorting to a hashtag when the courtroom denied her justice.

It’s in the clenching rage of the Starbucks customer’s jawline.

Hauled away in handcuffs for the crime of his chestnut skin.

It’s in the sacred chiffon wrapping of the subway rider’s hijab.

Absorbing the tension of her fellow passengers’ surveillance.

It’s in the sinewed, pulsing veins of the eleventh grader’s neck.

Fraught with panic that today his school might be a graveyard.

It’s in the boardrooms of Wall Street.

It’s in the brothels of Chennai.

It’s in the privilege and on the margins.

It’s in the protests and the marches.

It’s in all faces, on all tongues.

Its creed is universal, and its name is humanity.

If I Could Tell Her

growing pains

If I could tell her…

The groans in her stomach would echo the hunger in her soul.

If I could tell her…

The defiance in her eyes would unmask the trembling in her heart.

If I could tell her…

The recoil in her posture would betray the chinks in her armor.

If I could tell her…

The frailty in her bones would match the decay in her facade.

If I could tell her…

The sinews in her limbs would expose the tangles in her mind.

If I could tell her…

The hollows in her cheeks would mirror the artifice in her smile.

If I could tell her…

The quiver in her chin would reveal the aching in her marrow.

If I could tell her…

The rashness in her actions would belie the apathy in her voice.

If I could tell her…

The catch in her breath would confess the panting in her spirit.

If I could tell her…

That it doesn’t need to be like this.

That her body,

Her life,

Her purpose,

Her self,

They are destined for something more.

For wholeness, abundance, freedom, revival.

If I could tell her…

Then maybe she’d grasp what is real and tactile, human and true.

Maybe she’d know that integrity breeds identity,

That conscience molds character.

Maybe she’d extend love in the face of her wildest imperfections.

Maybe she’d exude light in the face of her toughest oppositions.

Maybe this culture would get no vote in her value.

And maybe her story would be different than mine.

That is what I’d tell her.

I Hope We Never Stop Saying “Me Too.”

me too

I hope we never stop saying, “Me Too.”

I hope we never stop believing in the force we are together. I hope we never stop defending the love that keeps us tethered.

I hope we never stop combatting the fears which threaten us apart. I hope we never stop feeling the strength of linked arms and the warmth of cleaved hearts.

I hope we never stop mending the severs and schisms this world fights to harden. I hope we never stop hearing the groans of those downcast, exploited, forgotten on the margins.

I hope we never stop raising the banner of justice, the emblem of truth, the pennant of courage. I hope we never stop exposing the bedrock of kindness where a culture can flourish.

I hope we never stop handing off the megaphone to voices muted in the uproar. I hope we never stop receiving the words from each mouth that broken systems dare to speak for.

I hope we never stop gazing at the faces a shade darker, the eyes tinged with fire and sorrow. I hope we never stop sensing the might of their stories from our bones to our marrow.

I hope we never stop braving the tension of what is and our faith in what could be. I hope we never stop declaring this shared humanity.

I hope we never stop knowing that united as one is the course we are given to see this life through…

And I hope we never ever stop saying, “Me Too.”