I tried to make a home out of you, but doors lead to trap doors, a stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night. Where do you go when you go quiet? […] The past and the future merge to meet us here. What luck. What a f*cking curse.
She’s 27 years old and before her poetry was featured on Beyonce’s Lemonade, Warsan Shire was a phenom. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and has actually made a life and a living as a poet.
Did you hear me? A poet!
Long before we heard:
If it’s what you truly want … I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp, a cap. Her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us. Immortalized … you and your perfect girl.
Shire had been honored by Brunel University with an inaugural African Poetry Prize. She has been honored as a Poet Laureate for London and spent six-weeks as a poet in residence in Queensland Australia at the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts.
So what are you gonna say at my funeral, now that you’ve killed me? Here lies the body of the love of my life, whose heart I broke without a gun to my head. Here lies the mother of my children, both living and dead. Rest in peace, my true love, who I took for granted. Most bomb p*ssy who, because of me, sleep evaded. Her god listening. Her heaven will be a love without betrayal. Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks.
I remember watching Lemonade, at home, by myself, glued to my couch, stunned by the words coming out of Queen B’s mouth. I knew the poetry wasn’t hers and I remember wondering, who, had written such purity and realness and how had they allowed themselves to be so vulnerable?
Urban Dictionary defines vulnerable as:
unprotected against violent attack
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, her debut pamphlet of poetry in 2011 weaves the tales of her mother’s life in Somalia and the lives of women. Warshire has said of her poetry, “I either know, or I am every person I have written about, for or as. But I do imagine them in their most intimate settings.”
As a child of immigrants, raised in London and now living in Los Angeles, Shire beautifully weaves the stories of being African, Black, Female, loved, lover, scorned, left, and immigrant; foreigner in love and land. She writes of struggle and love and she keeps it so all the way real. It’s almost an unbearable vulnerability for the reader.
I understand how and why Beyonce chose Shire’s poem to be the spine of her album.
I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade. My grandma said “Nothing real can be threatened.” True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturers became my remedy. So we’re gonna heal. We’re gonna start again. You’ve brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers.
As a child, I always wrote poetry. I had so much to get out of me and share with my diary. I rarely shared this poetry with anyone but writing was my way of flying free. The only time poetry was centered in my academic career was in a creative writing course in college. I loved this class that met every Wednesday night for a semester. I still have all the poetry I wrote in that class. What was beautiful about it was the professor forced us to write about the banalities of our lives.
I have poetry about washing up the dishes, watching football with my mom, the color blue and buying bananas from the bodega and of course of love and loss.
We all have stories to tell, especially our students in our classrooms. Everything is poetry. Life itself, is poetry and all of us have access to crafting our poetry but we don’t always have the opportunity to write, share and publish our poetry.
When people say that our children don’t read or write, I ask, what are you asking them to read and write about? Because we all love to write about ourselves and our lives and we all love to peek into the lives of those who look and sound and feel like we do.
So give our kids the opportunity. It’s Poetry History Month and Warsan Shire reminds us that poetry isn’t past. It’s actually the present and will always be the future.
So, ayyyyy, go ahead and play that Lemonade visual album and discover poetry 2016 millennial style. And maybe you want to send your students off to Spring Break by allowing them to craft the stories of their reality in poetry form.
Thank you Queen B, for putting me on to Warsan Shire.
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