I am a
With a spark inside
brought to life
by a woman whose joy breached pain.
More than a learned skill,
A choice she made to sacrifice
her physical comfort for me
in life and death.
She gave joy to me.
Now this spark stays &
I am a
An unwavering human mess.
Happy to share
my Mother’s Joy.
I’m sitting in my unfinished closet.
In the middle of my room sits a faucet.
I’m ready, open, and embracing change.
any form will do.
Feels oh so good to smile at the sun
and feel it smiling back too.
My closet’s calming.
I could sit here for days.
But there’s life beyond this calming paint-
A rainbow of mints, oranges, greens & grays.
I find the longer life gets,
the more colors I’ll see.
In smiles, in hearts, in closets,
and sometimes in me.
I envy folks who can erase their history and create a new definition of who they are; that is absolutely brave. I have this need to learn everything there is about me: the mundane, the things worthy of pride & shame and the parts of my story that were ripped from me.Whether it is fortunate or not, every single part of me, past and present, is who I am.
The key to carrying my past (my stories & the stories of my ancestors) is perspective. I can choose to let my history drag me down or I can say “I am Imani : daughter, sister, cousin, friend & grandchild. I am one part of a long story that is always expanding, and though it is not perfect, all of it is mine”. I cannot separate myself from this story because I don’t want to lose that feeling of representing something greater than myself. And I agree that it is no one’s job to represent anything, but I volunteer.
So, when I step forward (or backwards), I’m stepping with great-great Mary A. Johnson, My Mom, My Grandma’s, my dear Aunts and Uncles, and everyone who has brought me here.
And, here we are.
My Parents owned an impossibly high and wide bed. To my nine year old eyes, the wide bed was like King Arthur’s bouncy castle, it was magnificently sprawled across the small Master bedroom, filling the entire room and leaving little room on either side. The room was the bed. My parents’ bed was my place of refuge. It bore the perfect ratio between comfort and substance that my bunk-bed would never accomplish. Who needs a floor with space when you can bounce, roll, and flip to where you need to go? I would scramble onto the foot of the bed, my sisters squeezing on either side of me, and prop my head in my hands. We’d stretch as far as our limbs could go in our limited bubbles. We would watch movies on my Parent’s tiny TV in our t-shirts and eat Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn with extra butter. We’d spend hours watching Aladdin, Belle, and Hercules in a world we conceived in our minds existed somewhere. My Parent’s room was where my family and I would sing together because the walls of the room emphasized our harmony. My Parents’ room was also where my sisters and I would listen, on edge, to Daddy talk about his adventures as a Corrections Officer. My sister Alleyah was always the first to slickly swipe Daddy’s glowing handcuffs and leisurely cuff and un-cuff her hands while he told us his story of the day.
Daddy would come home exhausted, looking as if he had never had an ounce of sleep in his life. When he kicked off his shoes and flopped down at the head of the bed, a sudden animated spirit would revive him from his restlessly dormant state and give us our news for the day. We would hear about men who taunted guards, men who fought other men, and men who were just plain insane. We would hear about the crimes they committed and the crazy things that some inmates did to pass the time. The rise and fall of his voice matched the motions of his hands as he gestured the story into life, ushering the story from his mind before our eyes. He would censor the stories, shielding our eyes from the severity of life outside and behind brick walls. Although I was attentive to the stories, I mostly looked forward to Daddy’s animated face and his booming laugh that erupted from his belly and seemed to interrupt him mid-word.
Even Saturdays, when I often tested the strength of the soles of my bare feet on the earth of our back yard, I could hear Daddy’s laughter fill the universe. In me, it confirmed and ingrained a feeling of place. Here, wrapped in the arms of apple and pear trees, away from the rowdy, intrusive Brinkley Road, I was safe to do anything. I knew where I was in my family. I was the eldest of four kids in a family of six. I was my sister’s adventure doctor and my baby brother’s diaper changer. I was my Father’s little girl and I was my Mother’s diary of secrets. All that mattered was where I stood among the most important people in my life.
The grass in our yard was green and full of rabbit holes. My sisters and I would carefully run around, being careful to land our feet like astronauts on the moon. The holes led to the unexpected, and in our minds, either led to a twisted ankle or a trip to China. The trees that surrounded us bore a story themselves. The previous owners were an old married couple who planted their own food and were married for a lifetime. They had been the original owners of the brick rambler and raised a family in my home. I often wondered if their kids ever climbed the trees their parents grew or peeled the bark off the base of the apple trees as I would often do.
The yard was electrified with lively fireflies at night in the summer. I felt as if these bugs had invaded the solitude of our open yard, disturbing an unspoken balance. Although I was logical and knew that the living light bulbs could not harm me, I never approached them without a pair of gloves and a jar. When I encased them in the glass, I was not filled with some awe-inspired feeling of wonderment. I was glad I trapped the “bugs that won’t stop following me.” I fell asleep in comfort knowing that the Lightning bug inmates couldn’t harm me or my family with no way of escape. I was the unspoken family guard.