In Search of a Pair of Wings

I find solace in some of the most ordinary moments of life. One of those moments is when I deep condition my hair after it has been straight for some time and I can touch the curls once more bouncing from my head. It feels like coming back to roots, back to a familiar once lost and now regained. I savor those tiny moments of contentment because this world is filled with too many moments of fighting to breathe. I recently finished reading Clint Smith’s hauntingly beautiful book of poetry Counting Descent, and I am reminded of the line:

“I wish I could give my breath to the boys who had theirs taken, but I’ve stopped counting because it feels like there are too many boys & not enough breath to go around.”

Last week I read an article that made me feel like my heart was ripping out of my chest once more. Nothing felt new – we know that they lie about us. We know we don’t deserve to die despite the narratives that are painted. But reading about the new footage of Michael Brown and the things Darren Wilson has said and believes, and knowing he is alive while Mike Brown never got to experience his first day of college hurts. I reached out to my mom as I do in these times and shared with her the article. She responded: “Yes, it hurt to read that what I believed happened, was indeed the truth. I am beyond anger. My only emotion is a dull sadness that will persist, because of the lack of true accountability. My prayers will continue for those who lost their loved ones. Their character can be cleared, but it does not restore their life.” That dull sadness is a pain only some of us can truly know. It persists until you can feel it running through your toes, threatening to root you to spots unmoving. But as Pastor Mike reminded us one sermon, cry, but cry in a place that gives you power. I hope the loss of life always hurts, even though it can feel overwhelming. If I feel this way at 28, I can only imagine what my mother and others with their age have had to hide away in their hearts. We should never grow accustomed to loss. I refuse to let it become my default.

This past weekend I saw the play Eclipsed with a close friend. A running theme throughout the powerful, all-female show, was about naming: naming your feelings, naming your situation, and, most importantly, naming yourself. When it feels like others have only taken of you, made their beds on top of your back, we must reclaim the power of naming. And within that power of naming is the power of self-creation.

I want to share another poem from Clint Smith’s poetry book that has stuck with me since I first read it and clutched the book to my chest:

what the cicada said to the black boy

i’ve seen what they make of you
how they render you a multiplicity
of mistakes

they have undone me as well
pulled back my shell & feasted
on my flesh

claimed it was for their survival
& they wonder why I only show my face
every seventeen years

but you

you’re lucky if they let you live that long
i could teach you some things, you know
have been playing this game since before

you knew what breath was
this here is prehistoric
why you think we fly?

why you think we roll in packs?
you think these swarms are for the fun of it?
i would tell you that you don’t roll deep enough

but every time you swarm they shoot
get you some wings, son
get you some wings

-Clint Smith

I think my life has always been about finding a pair of wings. But maybe this is no flying creature that I or you has ever seen before. The kind that manifests in our dreams, and we keep searching for materials in our wake, looking at one another as if to say: Get you some wings. Get you some wings. 

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Loving Myself to Change

We pursue visibility often. The need to know that someone or someones have given us a nod of approval, read our words, liked our photos, has reviewed our work. But if visibility is driven by something at its foundation, that foundation I feel must be hate. Whether that hatred is about hating who you are and needing to know others feel differently, or hating what someone has said or has thought about you and you feel the need to change it, it is still a medium of deficit.

A few months ago I wrote about black women being the daughters of Hagar, and how long before we may know it, God has seen us. And that visibility is one of love. How then can I pursue the changes that are driven by love? The changes that are rooted not in opposition to any ideas or the need to have that change recognized, but simply because I love myself enough to want it and to do it. It begins, again, with decathexis. Finding the things and the people that I am willing to let go of to give myself the room and energy in my life for the new. Because love is patient, love is kind, love is the gentle fall of leaves on trees making room for the spring. Love gives the energy necessary to change.

So what have I done differently in the name of self-love? I am learning to wake up to sunrises over my city, instead of the violence of the news. (It will be there later. It is always there still later.) I am purposefully crafting spaces that help me reflect and heal, and gives others the room to do so as well. (Because loving myself more gives me the energy to continue loving others.) And I am resisting the voice of despair, and instead listening to the whispers of “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”