Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

RP6 – poem

            For my sixth response paper, I wrote a poem about the people I love (both friends and family) and performed it at a friendship poetry picnic that happened this past Sunday (May 5th) in Tappan Square. The picnic was organized by OSLAM, Oberlin’s slam poetry team, of which I am a part, and it went quite well. It happened at 5pm, on a sunny evening; a small group of around twenty people came and we sat in the grass beside the gazebo in Tappan. We organized with concert sound and were able to have speakers and microphones for the people who were reading. And it is important to note that even though we on OSLAM organized the event, it was not a performance of any sort. Sharing poetry was open to everyone who attended, and by doing that, we were able to foster a real sense of community between the members of OSLAM, and the rest of the students that came to the picnic.

            By the end of the picnic, many people who had originally not intended to share poetry ended up doing so because they felt so moved by the poems they had already heard and wanted to contribute something of their own. Afterwards we all shared some cake and chips as music played in the background until people finally began to disperse. It was a beautiful event that brought me closer to both people I knew and people I did not know and going into next year, I aim to have more events that can bring people together and create more possibilities for friendship. The poem I wrote is below.

I am grateful for my skin,
tough yet smooth
grateful for the brown
for the sun that shines back.
Grateful for the red sands that birthed me
the parents that birthed me
the friendships that birthed me.
I am grateful for my lips
and my eyebrows
and my nose
so flat, and wide, and small
So much like my father’s.
I am grateful for my father
for his strong hands that molded me
and his weak back that carried me
no matter how painful and heavy.
I am grateful for my own strong hands that remind me where i come from
where I have yet to go.
I am grateful for my unblistering skin
my unblistering spirit.
I am grateful for the many deaths i have triumphed
for the many deaths I have avoided because of my brother
and my sister
and my best friend Kyndelle
and the siblings I cannot talk freely about.
I am grateful for my working heart
and my working lungs
and my working eyes
and my working ears
my working fingers and toes
and my working back.
I am grateful for my back
and the ever changing past.
I am grateful for my friend Asha
and her smile,
and her love,
I am grateful for the rhythm in my feet that I was not born with.
I am grateful for jellyfish
and cats
and chameleons
and salt.
I am grateful for friends like Chris,
for every time I don’t have to question the affection
for every relationship in which my love language is understood,
I am grateful for my mother
and the fact that I cannot write this part without crying
I am grateful for everything I don’t have to say
for every time she has let me hold onto her
or follow her around like a duck
or share my affection without fear of judgement.
I am grateful for second chances,
for forgiveness
for Black people
and every time I have felt somewhat seen.
I am grateful for the blessing of community

the blessing of a hug

of touch

of simply being together,

and I am grateful that as I move through this world,

it is with loved ones at my side.

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