I was a Sneetch walking down a segregated Mulberry Street
Passing my neighbor who’d let her trash pile higher and higher.
The world was crumbling around me more and more every day.
Children dying and parents shooting up behind dumpsters to forget,
Shootings a block away from a playground, old folk getting robbed,
Schools failing over and over again but attendance rising.
This was my reality, and I was taught that all I was to the world
Was a black woman who would get pregnant and die young.
Maybe poetry came in and saved me from that world.
Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein taught me what was going on.
Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen told me this has always happened,
And Poe, Sexton, and Plath reassured me that my feelings weren’t new.
Audrey Lorde opened the bedroom door and comforted me,
Shakespeare made me laugh at his stories so I’d forget,
Though Lupe Fiasco and Eminem always updated me on the news,
While Amy Winehouse and Adele gave me blues to sing along to.
Poetry hasn’t always been perfect to me, especially not in fifth grade
When I got that 54% on my poetry techniques test for not knowing
Onomatopoeia from simile from hyperbole from that God awful metaphor
And had to study, study, study to get a 79% on the retake.
It was especially not good in eighth grade when I was being slammed
Shakespeare from my right, Neruda to my left, Wheatley on my back,
Overloading me until I couldn’t think straight about anything
Except dogs dying, and God, and comparisons to a midsummer’s day.
Yet, poetry invited me to a world I had never seen before.
A chalk outline door had been opened and I got to leave for a day.
See a world where I was not a black woman, or black, or a woman,
I got to feel human emotions without limitations or labels,
And hear about and meet other labelless people who had felt the same.
I got to open my mouth and be heard and listened to,
Rather than sitting back and shutting up for someone else.
I guess I just mean that poetry taught me how to be me.