15 lessons from my creative writing class

1. The moment you have readers, your writing will improve.
2. Read your work out loud.
3. Do not over modify.
4. In poetry, lines are a unit of action i.e. individual lines matter.
5. Don’t preach. Don’t explain.
6. Don’t settle for knocking on the door, go in.
7. Trust your readers to figure it out. Give them action and detail.
8. You go further- don’t settle for the easy or the obvious.
9. You must be willing to take risks.
10. Something has to be at stake when you write.
11. Know what your impulse (purpose) is and let everything you write come back to that impulse.
12. Don’t take criticism personally. If people do not respond to your work the way you want them to, it’s okay.
13. You have the biggest say as to what you work is or should be.
14. Do not underestimate the power of good editing.
15. Enjoy your writing- the process, the failures, the successes.

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The places that feel

{Listen to audio as you read}

I feel it in my chest mostly,
The loss.
The way it scrubs away
All i have known to be true,
As though the last three years
Have been a chapter from a
Tattered novel in the back seat
Of my father’s 504.

I feel it in my fingers,
The digging,
The longing for fertile soil to take root,
The erosion that overtook all we had sown,
As if we never even stood a chance.

I thought i would feel in my bones too.
The unruly quake that comes from hanging on too long,
From losing something you thought you had loved enough,
The way reality smacks you in the face without warning,
Reminding you that history doesn’t always satisfy.

I feel it in the gulf of my spine sometimes,
My shoulders, giving in to the weight,
The one time you said I was beautiful,
Out of the blue, oh, How could i forget?

I feel it all because when i was 8,
There was a fire
In our backyard at three in the morning,
It could have burned the only home
I had ever known to the ground.
But we woke up just in time to save it.

Two weeks ago,
There was another fire,
One we both take responsibility for.
It started in the walls of our hearts
and travelled to the tip of our tongues.
We woke
when all that remained was the smoke.
Tell me, Do you feel it too?
The heat.
The regret.
Can you taste it?

They used to be boys.

{listen to audio as you read :)}

I wonder about the boys
who wake early to rip the air out of lungs,
Boys, because they are still their mother’s sons,
Boys, because they once sat at their father’s feet.

I wonder what they were like when they were younger,
Did they play football barefeet while the sun kissed their backs?
Did they dance in the rain or play in its puddles?
or run around in singlets and shorts belting out laughs?
Did they bruise their knees climbing guava trees?
Did the northern wind wrap them in its calm?
I wonder if they ever wished on stars
or played police and thief under the moonlight ?

I wonder if they ever thought about the future,
Did they know that they would
One day shake the foundations of an entire nation?
Did they know that they would be the reason why
sons never see their fathers again?
and mothers never hear their daughters laugh?
Did they know that they would,like forgotten treasure,
bury fear in the hearts of the young and old alike?
Did they know that they would stop thousands of hearts from beating?

I wonder if they pray to God at night,
Do they ask for forgiveness for taking away his children’s tomorrow?
Do they know there are people whose knees are sore from praying
that life cuts open their hearts to put the same amount of pain they have put out?
Do they know we are still waiting for our girls?
The ones they took in broad daylight from their school
and that their mothers are left with sobs knotted in their throats and sand in their hands?
I want to know because we have wailed and prayed and marched,
and all we have left are hissing lungs and faint breath,
We are tired and shaken,
afraid to leave our houses,
afraid to go to bus stations or malls,
afraid to even visit the house of God.

You know,
they used to be boys; our boys,
until they waged war on us,
They used to be ours
until they stained our streets with blood,
Now I wonder if they know a bomb lays where their hearts once stood,
I wonder if they know that beneath the mess they have made,
lay our brothers and our sisters,
limbs ripped off, flesh hanging loose,
beneath the rubble there are no tribes or religion,
no northerners or southerners, only children.
God’s children.

Mama, she doesn’t need saving

Mama said you have always been feisty,
Your legs have run too fast into the arms of trouble,
She said you spit fire sometimes but
You love like a storm in the middle of winter.

For someone who has had to fight her way through the years,
You carry an aura of hope that only a child would understand,
Your heart is the brightest shade of red, robust with goodness
and it surprises me. It surprises me because
I heard that war leaves you hard and distant,
And this life? This life is one hell of a battlefield,
but somehow you have mastered the art of fighting
with one hand and loving with the other.

Mama always said you need to be saved.
She worried that you might blow yourself up
Into a million pieces,
The smoke from all the places you have been,
Circle right back to her front door,
She can smell you from many miles away.

But I say to her, “Mama, she doesn’t need saving”,
She doesn’t need a cage to contain her,
The world is vast enough for everything inside of her,
She can stretch herself thin and there will be places
she is yet to touch, so let her.
Let her roam free, let her crash into the various versions
of herself and all the people she is destined to meet.

Don’t worry your pretty little heart Mama,
Even the world will smell her from miles away.

This is how we learned to love

I know that life was hard for you
And maybe you didn’t know better.
I know that to you, Love meant
Wearing your masculinity like a shield,
Exuding strength and sometimes yelling at your wife,
Nobody taught you how to be gentle,
Nobody taught you that love could be soft and vulnerable.
I see how hard you have tried to defy history,
But we both know how hard it is
To teach an old dog new tricks,
If it is any consolation (at all), I hope you know
I learned the depth of unconditional love
By loving you.

What the world doesn’t tell you

They don’t tell you how much it hurts
when your heart is ripped from your sleeve,
Or how badly your teeth chatter and body shivers,
When you put yourself “out there” and a storm comes.

They don’t teach you how to deal with
the ache of misbelonging;
the pain of rejection;
the soreness of losing;
They don’t tell you because maybe telling, is not enough.

They don’t teach you because you cannot teach a person
how to deal with pain they have not endured,
They don’t tell you because
the warmth of belonging;
the joy of acceptance;
the fulfillment of succeeding; are all incredibly satisfying.
And really, what kind of life would you be living
if the fear of failure bound you by your feet?

I promise you,
If you can just get off the floor after a bad fall,
If you can dust off the dirt and
Find peace as your bruises heal,
If you can come to the understanding that
Nothing will teach you as thoroughly as experience will,
You will find flowers growing on the path you once walked.

The journey to unloving

It was desire coupled with fear,
It was reality and a dire need for freedom,
It was the sheer need for some honest answers,
The uncanny exhaustion of uncertainty and
The insolent diplomacy of feelings.
These were the things that stirred me away from my illusions,
These were the things that led me back home.

Band-aid for the past

On the days
when the choices
you have made,
hover over you
like a dark cloud,
and your belly feels like
a tornado is coming,
May you remember
that all the scars
and bruises
you have sustained
in this war against comfort zones
and conformity
are signs that you are living.
You are doing exactly
what you were put here
to do. Let this be
your comfort.

The universe will remember you

Every ground you have walked is sacred ground,
The earth still remembers your feet’s kisses.
Everything you have touched is anointed,
you left remnants of yourself beneath it.

It may have been five years or a week ago,
the universe still remembers all the places you have been.
It has your foot prints stamped on its chest,
It carries your scent in the air.
The wind still remembers the feel of your skin.

The artist on the bus has your face etched In his mind’s eye,
He spent the last two weeks looking for the right colours to paint you in,
A poet saw you cross the street the other day and he wrote the loveliest sonnet about you,
He said you look like a dream and that you had poetry in your walk,
The lady you smiled at told her husband of the beautiful soul she met on the train,
she reminds me a lot of me when i was young” she said. “Her eyes beg for beauty and adventure”.
Alot of strangers have walked past you and wondered what it would be to be a part of your orbit,
The others have shamelessly fallen for you in the simplest way possible.

I just want you to know,
Nothing would be the same without you here.
You are a hurricane.
A tattoo across the earth’s forehead,
You leave signatures of “I was here”
in coffee shops,
at airports,
On pavements

And I know sometimes you feel so small,
Other times, the world is too big
In the midst of the all the faces you meet,
you might feel like you are about to lose yourself.
But the earth remembers you.

I know you worry about leaving this world someday,
You worry if the time you have been allotted will be enough.
You worry if you will leave behind enough to keep you remembered,
You worry if you’re even living at all.

Remember this, child of the galaxies,
There will always be pieces of you floating through time.
Your writing will always be on the walls of life,
Your picture in the earth’s gallery will remain in it’s frame,
The universe will not forget you were here.

A reminder to take compliments

When the middle aged woman at the gas station says your hair is beautiful,
Don’t respond with how much time it takes you to put it in place every morning,
Just say “Thank you” and mean it.
When the cashier at the coffee shop says he likes the way your clavicle serves as a frame for your necklace,
Don’t tell him you don’t really like wearing clothes that bare your bones,
Tell him Clavicle sounds like a cup of white chocolate latte when he says it and thank him.
When your best friend tells you, you look like a stunner in that black dress,
Take it. Don’t complain about your arms beings too flabby or your cleavage being non existent.
Buy that back dress and wear it like glove.
When the lousy piece of glass in your bathroom, glows with your reflection,
Wear red lipstick. Spend a few more minutes wing-tipping that eyeliner to perfection,
Don’t walkaway without paying homage to yourself.
I implore you, don’t respond to kindness with insecurity.
Don’t belittle the fact that you own something worth admiring or the fact that someone finds you beautiful,
Before you leave home, leave your insecurities under your bed,
Don’t take the monsters with you. Step into the world like the forces are in your favour.
Say thank you in earnest. Accept Compliments; they aren’t yours to dignify.

If i marry a writer

“I never thought about how magnificent it would be to date and maybe eventually marry someone who writes, until now. It is so strange that in all my years of answering the question “what kind of guy would you like to date?”, I never imagined him being a writer. I never imagined the love of my life being as in love with poetry and art like i am. I feel like i just had an epiphany.

I would very much love to date/marry a man who is in touch with his creative side when it comes to art. A man who appreciates literature and listens to spoken word . A man who spends his evenings beside the fire or out by the waters, nose buried in a book. A man who will join me in my mission to build a beautiful glorious library in our home. A man who keeps a journal and write tirelessly about anything; our life, our future, our kitchen, our now.

I imagine, he would complete some of my poems and i would practice performing them with him. He will find poetry in the lines on my palm, prose in the curve of my hips and mystery in the small of my back. Our love will blossom with every book we consume, every author we fall in love with, every art we create.

We will take care of each others hands, mind and heart because they are our instruments. We will create sons and daughters who will be literary giants with gentle artistic hearts. We will teach them to love and love and love and then create. Because writers are lovers first before creators. We will open their eyes to the multi-faceted beauty of this world. We will teach them to dream in colour.

If i marry a writer, It will be a gift. Our lives will be the most beautiful poem laden with joy, pain, forgiveness, laughter and most of all Love. We will love each other until we are completed works of art. A little tweak here,a little tweak there; and we shall proceed to walk this earth, hand in hand, in all our artful splendour.”

My Acceptance Peace

I am at peace because I have finally accepted the imperfections in my blood.
And No! I am not just saying this. I have taken the time to consider the magnitude of this utterance.
I accept that my mother, my father and the bible have taught me the difference between right and wrong,
And I will honour their labour of love by striving to be in the right but sometimes I will choose wrong.
I accept that the fact that I love Jesus does not strip me of the stains in my heart or the darkness I will be fighting all of my days.
I accept that I am afraid of the future but oh! so excited for it; yet I must only live one day at a time.
I realize that even the people I love will hurt me and I will hurt the people who have decided to set up camp in my heart.
Hence, my life will always be a never ending cycle of love, hurt, forgiveness and love again,
I understand that I will not always be happy. I will not always “be in happy”,
Because happiness is not an exotic island, happiness is not a destination. I cannot travel there.
Some days life will bring me to my knees then push me to the ground but I will still breathe in hope like sweet oxygen,
I accept that some days will be harder than some others; I will even forget what patience means,
I will not always be sweet-kind-go-lucky, some days I will spell indifferent.
I have accepted that I am a human being.

I am three hundred and sixty five days of different emotions,
I am January 15, March 19, September 12, November 30, December 9 …. I am every single day
And I need to allow myself to be human.
I accept the responsibility to let myself grieve a lost love, to hurt from an unkind word, to cry when I am disappointed, to be angry when something is terribly unacceptable,
I accept that I do not always have to be in control and that some days my dreams will seem incredibly out of reach,
I understand the need to let it be. To let it be. To let everything and everyone be.
I accept that every day I will fight to be better, braver, stronger, and kinder
and soon I will evolve into the woman the stars have been shinning for.