You never told me goodbye as you slipped out the stables we shared with the horses and cattle just before dawn, and the dew on the grass dampened the hem of your skirt. You only left instructions— The Missus doesn't like her food to touch. Mister has a Sunday night ritual he expects you to follow—You were tight-lipped on what that was, only that I should wear loose clothing that was easy to remove. The clarity came when he snatched my wrist as I served him tea. Now, as I coil in my bed of hay under the stench of manure, I think how much I hate you, even though I know—It was never your choice to leave.
Hi, February— Mother to Black History And Black Poetry.
Every February, I like to do a little something on my blog called Black Poetry Writing Month, also known as BlaPoWriMo, a challenge to write a poem every day inspired by the Black experience or Black history, set in America or across the African diaspora, whether you’re Black or an ally. If you’d like to join in, just use the tag #BlaPoWriMo. Happy writing!
Yesterday it was pizza
Tomorrow I’ll crave Chinese
I’ve got to remember to renew my gym membership
But I stop for fries and a latte instead
Credit card statement says I spend too much on food
Self-sabotage my biggest demon
And your voice a thousand ocean breezes away
Whispers, Don’t get fat
As I scavenge my purse for the buy-1-get-1 spicy nuggets coupon
I’m not hungry, I want to sleep
I’m bedridden, and you’re too far to push me out
The other side of the pillow crosses borders
And somewhere you lay your head
Dream of me in an itsy bitsy teenie weenie—
I hate to disappoint, it’s a bit tight
Can’t pull it over my hips
My stomach growls louder than
My heart beating against me for letting you go
But you promised you’d come back
And I promised I wouldn’t get fat—
I guess we’re both liars
Why, hello there, stranger. Yes, I know, it’s been too long. Years, really, as the poem at the end of this post explains, since my last post (September, 19, 2019), which was actually a throwback to an even older post from 2017.
A lot has happened in my life since that post…I wish I could say. Who would’ve known that a few short months after that throwback Thursday went live, the entire world would come to a complete halt, rife with pandemic panic, or pandemic denial—pick your poison.
So it was pretty easy for this blog to fade into the background. And fade it did. Quickly, as I became overwhelmed with anxiety, isolation, abandonment, depression, pandemic fatigue, health scares, work stress (“working from home” transitioning seamlessly overnight into “living at work”). Factor in a very old personal laptop that was barely functional when charged—and definitely couldn’t hold a charge past 15 minutes—I was never in the mood to write. The ironic part is that writing is my therapy, and the more I avoided it, the worse my symptoms became. And inspiration for new and current lovely curses suffered.
But as we approach the close of the year—and the reluctant acceptance that COVID will always be here—it’s time to make some changes, hopefully for the better.
Isn’t this always a resolution?
First on my list is prioritizing my health, because I won’t tell you how much weight I’ve gained in these last 20 months. But if I can at least get back to “onederland” by the New Year, I’ll be on track (and I am so close).
I’ll be hitting the dreaded milestone next year, and I am not ready. Mentally, physically, style-wise. I hate to admit it, but my wardrobe has been stuck in the 2010s for far too long. There’s nothing more embarrassing than your own family members telling you how crusty your clothes look—or your little brother having more shoes in his closet than you do shirts that fit. So a makeover going into 2022 is a must. Add to that some new digs, because I can’t be the only one who is fed up with their current living space after being trapped there for over a year.
Prayer and mediation
The mental strains I’ve had to deal with these last several months have a lot to do with the fact that I don’t take out time in my day to close myself off from the rest of the world and sit and talk to God. I always complain about never having time to do anything (like writing on this blog); the truth is I allow too many things to waste my time (I’m talking to you, Married at First Sight and 90 Day Fiancé). If I eliminate these things, and take back those 2 hours of my Wednesday and Sunday nights specifically, I could do so much more (and that does not include finding another show to watch, although I have plenty on my watchlist to catch up on). I could spend those 2 hours pursuing and strengthening the one relationship that promises to always be there and sustain me, rather than heckle fake couples with fake storylines on Twitter, while secretly lamenting the realization that I’ll be separated from my forever person for an indefinite amount of time.
Long distance relationships during a pandemic… I do not recommend.
As I said before, writing is my therapy. And being away from it for so long was unquestionably detrimental to my health. So I’m easing my way back into it, hopefully without burning myself out in the process or draining my mind of creativity too soon. The first step was upgrading my laptop. Seriously, it was long overdue. My first post since being back from my extended hiatus was simply motivation to write…just right. Interesting thing is, I noticed something new when I hit publish. Which brings me to the reason behind the title of this post—no, it wasn’t just click bait.
Apparently we can convert blog posts to podcasts now! Boy, I missed a lot while I was away! When I clicked published and saw the option to also make the post a podcast, I thought, what a pleasant surprise! The option to bring my poems and stories to life with my voice? That’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do. Audio being my preference, because I hate showing my face, and I can have debilitating social anxiety when I have to talk to people, even if I’m not directly looking at them. But a podcast? Hmm, I could give that a try, be that voice in your ear as you function through life.
But then the self-doubt creeps in. That self-doubt that always seems to convince me to give up on pursuing the things I really want to do. It whispers, would my followers even want to hear my voice? Even I hate the sound of my voice, mainly because I’ve been told too many times that I sound like a 12-year-old; and let me tell you, not being taken seriously as a grown ass adult is very triggering. I’m also from the South, so, you know, accents. But the monotonous voices (specifically the female one—the male one at least has a little animation) available to use in place of my own don’t do my work justice, don’t convey the emotion I had when I wrote it.
So if you’re willing to give my little Southern baby drawl a chance, I would love for you to have a listen to yesterday’s poem. My self-encouragement to write. No limits, no obsessing over whether it’s good enough, or publication worthy. Just urging myself to write…the way I used to.
A Cold, Gray August – Lovely Curses
Frantically, her fingers scurry across the keyboard—
And she types.
The first words to come to mind—
Those cohesive and incohesive—
As much as she can—
New metaphorical pen in hand—
Because it’s been so long.
Since she’s seen so clear.
So she types—
And it feels nice.
“Behold, I have created the blacksmith who blows the coals in the fire, who brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the spoiler to destroy. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.
Isaiah 54:16-17, NKJV
God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt.
The blind blessing we recited
as children over spilled food
on the dirty linoleum before
placing it back in our mouths,
swallowing with the confidence
that because God made it,
we cannot die.
But did God not create man,
and does he not hurt me
every day? From his heart
brews my downfall.
A black, bitter coffee
he drinks with grit,
though it’s still boiling.
Shall I eat this bread
retrieved from a floor
on which a murderer may tread,
dragging my family and me
in a trail of blood behind?
God made him, right?
He cannot hurt us.
A revised version of the untitled original poem published February 4, 2015…may revise again later.
Love Tanka #11
(I believe I’m up to 11…)
We don’t talk about
in his lap, panting
like dogs. He suggests no clothes—
A wink. I chuckle, he smiles
An excerpt from Love Poetry.
© Nortina Simmons
I dream of wild strawberries sprouting between the cracks of my dilapidated porch. Crawling on my hands and knees, I’ve regressed as this house; boarded windows, replace glass, cannot block the wind. The critters slip in at night, drawn to the dim light—a single lamp burns on my last paid electric bill. They settle in bed with me, finish eating the tattered sheets. It’s been days since the storm and still no relief, but I pry up the wood planks—splinters buried under fingernails. Fruit-shaped tear drops, the color of a summer sunset, red like the stop sign bent over backwards in overgrown grass. Seeds prick my tongue like taste buds; anticipation more satisfying than the bite. A sweetness that makes me forget the flood damage, the mosquitoes, the purple welts dotting my arms, the fever, the declined insurance claim, the spoiled milk and molded bread. A sweetness like Fourth of July cookouts, freshly mowed lawns, homemade ice cream melting on the spoon. A sweetness that reminds me of a lover’s kiss, saturates the mouth, explodes like a firework—as I sink in my teeth—and wake in darkness, cold, with drool on my chin.
Read the original, published October 17, 2017.