Four poems celebrating the joy of Blackness and plumbing the misery of America, with illustrations by Diana C Pietrzyk.
The Sounds of Others Living & Dying
You hear it each day and each night. The sounds either bring you joy or fright. You can hear the babies crying, the mothers trying, the fathers pain, the blood in the rain. Or there is a boost of joy for a newborn girl or boy. A ray of sunshine present or near. A break of dawn in a new year. A celebration with cheer. A completed day and an endless evening. A symbol of hope and one of believing. — Those are the sounds of living and dying in this city. Life teaches you that mortality is not pretty. You become accustomed to listening. Subject to witnessing. This is living and dying in my world.
Hopeless in America
You were afraid to become a bad father and I was afraid of becoming a bad daughter. Not because of how you raised me but because of the way the world was being raised. You tried everything you could and I’ve come to the conclusion that the world doesn’t have a good father like I do. When I was small I remember your words, “Dreamers are the ones who continue to believe the lie.” I was unaware of the meaning back then but now I know. I loved dreaming. In fact, I dreamed so much I hadn’t realized the dream no longer existed. At the age of five, I dreamed of Barbie land and endless ice cream. At the age of ten, I dreamed the same dream as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and now at the age of 18, dad, I’ve stopped dreaming. Dreaming was hope and somehow, someway the big bad world destroyed it. In 2012, I had my very first nightmare. Trayvon Martin had been shot and killed by George Zimmerman and I no longer had the desire to dream. The dream was a lie. The lie was having the hope that America could become great again. The truth is that it was never even great.
Black blood: Deep like the sea. Waiting for someone to rescue me. Black swan: Looking for love in all the wrong places. Traveling the world seeing familiar faces. Black song: Playing sad blues. Looking for rich clues. Black paint: Thick like a coat. Tight like a rope. Black face: Seen as the problem and blame. Seen as a ghost with no name. Black sheep: Trying to get away. Running for a better day.
They’ve got me contained, unaware of the danger actually being in my brain. They saw the light in my eyes and became convinced that I’m insane. I can tell they want to be different but they’re the same. They think they know me but all they have is my name. I’m walking with my head held up high and they’re upset that I’m not ashamed.
About the author: Zarria Alexander is a poet, published author, and performer. Zarria was born and raised in the city of Chicago. She aims to have her writing be a guide to help those who face hardships in their life know that fighting through depression is not easy, but it is a fight you can absolutely win. “Freedom poetry is life needing freedom.”
About the illustrator: Diana C Pietrzyk is a multidimensional creative from Chicago with a love for things that twinkle and glow. She explores her passion through illustration, painting, photography, graphic design and animation. Her style is very colorful, fun and glows.