This summer I had the incomparable opportunity of co-leading a workshop with award-winning Ugandan poet Harriet Anena about using literature as a tool for self-advocacy. As a part of this workshop, I had the opportunity to share two of my own pieces of advocacy with the students. The first is entitled Mother, and it uses the analogy of a dying mother abandoned by her negligent children to encapsulate the global climate change crisis. The second was shared solely with my students, and it speaks about the importance of bonding together as women in response to the gender inequities that women globally face. I picked both of these poems to share because I thought they represented issues that the students would be able to relate to, and I eagerly shared them, because, as Harriet so beautifully stated, "Writing is like shouting from the top of a rooftop. Although it can be hard, you must keep shouting, and shouting, and shouting, because someday, somewhere, someone will hear you". I hope you find these poems insightful and inspiring.
Mother She cradled you in her arms Muscular limbs enveloping you, stroking your hair, soothing you She told you that everything would be alright And you, in your naivete, believed her
But now everything is not alright
You watch them roll her into the room With bright lights and loud noises, full to the brim with people You sit there, breathing in the empty silence The smell of darkness You hear staggered breaths, you watch her chest sharply rise and fall Shallow, ragged, breaths ‘Critical Condition’ you hear them whisper
You look into her sallow, withered face Your mother Your protectress Your world
And she feigns a smile Reaches to you And tells you everything will be alright
But this time you don’t believe her
Your mother is disintegrating in front of your eyes Her arms the branches of the oak tree, burnt until they were reduced to ash Her mouth the slow babbling of the brook The dribbling of the fall that has been gagged and silenced Her legs, once white, strong, smooth, unified, are now blue with frost and melt beneath her as she tries to take a step Her movements the slippery fish, once darting through the open water, now sinking because he’s forgotten how to swim Her scalp flakes like the ashen remnants of a nuclear blast, her hair stiff and dry, deprived of its natural oil Her face scarred with the afflictions of her past abuses Committed by our own hand
They give you an ultimatum A drug and a routine A few years at the maximum will save her for as long as you live, they say With steady application and constant supervision she’ll be saved, they say A little goes a long way, they say You’ll need to protect her like she’s protected you, they say Because you would do anything to protect your mother, they say
You look at your mother Frail, shaking. Her knobby hand reaches for you, her skin pockmarked and sallow Your constant Your world
And you stand up And leave her for dead
Women Advocacy Poem They label us as something that should be universally defined Suggesting that our grace and intelligence could be confined They try to demean us, they sneer that we're weak They cover our mouths before we can speak.
But the more they try to silence us The more we stand proud They try to leave us in the darkness But we disintegrate the shroud With the light of our words, the strength of our voices An army of sisters who will cherish our choices
We fight for each other Because we can't stand alone We envision and develop A better world of our own
For no longer shall we live in anonymity- Afraid to embrace our femininity- We now must use our passion and our station To work towards freedom from this degradation- No longer breed goals out of hopeless insatiation That were limited by a forced stagnation- But will rather work together, in coordination- Fueled by our love, our faith, our dedication
To become the generation that steps out of the shadows
We will tread over the fragments of broken promises that litter the floor We will barge through the lost utterances guarding the door To enter the brighter world of tomorrow
We are one voice Comprised of many more And we will no longer be silenced.