"Nobody's free until everybody's free."-Fannie Lou Hammer

Poetry by Takeallah Rivera

Tales of Joy, Heartbreak, and Loss 

"Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes."- Joseph Roux 

Shackled 

Visibly shackled. Ripped from West Africa

Ripped from tradition, from heritage, from home.

A home I’ve never known.

With a quick rest stop to Hispaniola,

to drop off weapons, disease, pain, and heartbreak.

Dropping bodies in the sea along the way

To pick up food, innovative ideas, and a foreign language.

Mississippi-

to pick cotton

to be abused

to be sold to the highest bidder.

Tennessee-

to start over. Freedom papers in hand.

A tree without roots is a tree that can’t grow.

Florida-

to run from the pains of the unknown

to create more pain along the way.

Seattle-

to start anew

to create new roots

to finally grow.

Tacoma-

After getting too comfortable-

gentrified.

Invisibly shackled.

Chained once more.

To Grandmother's House We Go 

I had a dream last night that I was back in my childhood home.

My grandmother was in her room writing poems.

She had just gotten out of the shower and I could smell her Oil of Olay body wash lingering in the air.

My mom was in her room on the phone with her best friend.

I was in my room, centered between their rooms, tucked comfortably underneath my Beauty and the Beast comforter watching “Mash” (Yes, I watched “Mash” after “I Love Lucy” went off at night)

Nights during my childhood were so peaceful. I long for that peace ❤️

About Brock Turner: My Story 

I was 14 years old and was perusing the neighborhood with one of my childhood friends. We met up with three of our friends from the neighborhood and our school, whom we had known for years. We all hung out on the “green box” in front of his home for hours, sharing snacks and cracking jokes. My friend invited us into her home to catch a TV show since none of us were ready to go home. As we were watching the show, she and her boyfriend left to go back outside briefly. Me and him stayed in her living room to finish the show. I never felt uncomfortable around him because I’ve known him for years.

The next thing I knew, his hand was up my shirt and he was on top of me. I pushed and pushed until I finally mustered up the strength to push him off and fix my clothing.

And then I apologized. I apologized for rejecting him.

I was a twig as an early teen- a size zero with glasses, a ponytail, a baby face, and a signature set of pull-overs that I wore regularly to conceal my embarrassingly noodley shape. A part of me felt that I was wrong to reject his attention. People’s words of the past few years haunted me “You’re so boney! You are shaped like a black woman! No one would ever want you!”

Hearing those words in my head are what made me apologize- “How dare my skinny, twig, geeky ass reject ANYONE? I should be lucky that any boy showed me any attention!”

I watched him throughout the hallways of our middle school daily, and eventually our high school as we got older. Everytime I saw him, I got sick and could no longer look at him. I remember the disgusting feeling I felt after I pushed him off of me, and still remember the feeling to this day.

He was killed in a drive-by two years later when we were sophomores in high school. While the entire school mourned, I sat silently, only telling my high school sweetheart, who was enraged, yet relieved at the same time. I’ve never told anyone aside from him what happened because my rapist was a gang member and a Ladies’ Man and I feared for my safety.

But I’m glad he’s gone.

Every time I see Brock Turner’s face, I see my abuser’s face. 

Wedding Bells 

When your antiquated wedding dress from your early 20’s sits in your closet,

withering and yellowing.

When your mailbox is flooded with wedding invitations,

so you avoid checking it.

When you stumble across your old wedding plans,

scrawled into an old notebook stained in tears.

When you deactivate all of your social media accounts

to avoid the constant reminders that you’re alone.

When you wake up in the middle of the night,

and remember that he’s not next to you.

When you check your phone,

and see that he hasn’t texted you.

When you stumble across a bridal magazine in public,

and fight back your tears.

When those wedding bells don’t ring

and they haven’t rang for years.

Piss Off The Patriarchy 

Piss off the patriarchy and

talk and cackle loudly,

take up space on the bus and train,

flood your social media timelines with selfies,

heavily filter all of your Snaps and photos,

adorn your body with tattoos and piercings

buy as much makeup as you want and spend hours in the mirror playing with looks,

wear cute crop tops and free your belly, whether big or small,

decorate your hands with long acrylic nails, complete with bright polish, glitter, and rhinestones,

adopt all the cats and dogs, put them in cute clothes, and take family photos,

treat yourself and take yourself out on a dinner and movie date,

Piss off the patriarchy and

do what makes you happy, whatever that may be.

Coffee and Croissant in Peace: A Busy Mom's Tale of Street Harassment 

I’ve spent over an hour wrangling a cranky three-year old into clothing,

convincing him to eat his breakfast,

and pleading for him to put his toys down and shoes on so that we can make it out of the door on time.

Two tantrums and an anxiety attack later, we are finally out the door.

I’m frustrated, frazzled, and sweaty from dragging a stroller, a briefcase, and a handbag down three flights of stairs.

I take a deep breath: “Just a few more minutes and I can spend some time alone to decompress.”

After spending forty-five minutes repeatedly pleading for my anxious child to sit down on the bus, we arrive at his preschool.

Exhausted already, I quickly sign him into his classroom, say my good-byes, and hurriedly head next door to “The Evergreen Cafe.”

“Finally! I’ve been waiting for this all morning!”

I greet my barista and order my usual- a sausage croissant with provolone cheese and a Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato.

While waiting for my treats, I begin to set up shop, opening my laptop and planner and spreading them onto the wooden table, connecting to Wi-Fi, and getting ready to work.

“I can get so much done today! I’ll have enough free time tonight to catch up on “Greenleaf” and finally watch “Tallulah!”

The barista sets my coffee and croissant onto the table and I grab the warm, flaky sandwich and take a bite.

“Mmmm!”

Five minutes and five bites later, I’m typing away, sipping my caramel macchiato regularly.

“I’m at peace. I’m being productive. I’m Superwoman!”, I think to myself and smile.

Then, I see a shadow closing in on my space and hear a booming voice.

“Busy, huh?”

I peer over my glasses- “Very”, I say, and continue to type.

“Are you in school?”

“Yes,” I respond without looking up or skipping a beat typing, hoping that he takes the hint and disappear.

“Why are you here by yourself? Are you single?”

I take a deep breath- “I like being alone, and being left alone”, once again not looking up and not skipping a beat typing.

There’s a brief moment of silence.

“Maybe he has gotten the hint and will leave me alone to work,” I think to myself.

Wrong.

“So, why are you single?”

I have had enough.

I wrap up my croissant, toss out my empty coffee cup, pack up my planner and laptop and leave “The Evergreen Cafe” in a huff.

My “To-Do” list bounces around in my briefcase unattended. My spreadsheets are incomplete. My articles go unwritten.

My anxiety kicks into high gear, reminding me that my three-year old would never allow me to get any of this done at home.- dinner has to be prepared, toys have to be fixed, books have to be read, and crises have to constantly be averted.

I’m disappointed. I’m angry. I’m so frustrated that I want to cry, but I refuse to shed tears in public.

I just wanted my coffee and croissant in peace.

Femme Armour 

Silky straight hair with a deep side part secured into a sleek ponytail with a pink, glittery elastic band.

Smooth, milk chocolate skin kissed by gold, shimmery highlighter.

Eyebrows thicker than the firm ass that trails behind them.

Round hips to push you off the train seat we share for manspreading and invading my space.

Baby pink coffin nails sharp enough to impale a street harasser and long enough to bury his body.

Hot pink Betsey Johnson purse and accessories bright enough to threaten your fragile masculinity.

Bold tattoos that I’m not obligated to interpret for you and that you had better not touch.

Bright pink briefcase to carry my daily necessities- my laptop, iPhone, tablet, pink stun gun, pocket knife, and pepper spray.

Bright red lips stained with the blood of every catcaller that comes my way.

Patience as limited as your critical thinking skills for ever suggesting that femme equals fragile.

I Miss...

I miss the way you made me laugh with your silly jokes.

I miss our late night, four hour conversations.

I miss our intimacy and physical connection that we shared.

Most of all, I miss the person that I thought you were.

I miss him most of all

Fix Me 

Fix me.

Fix the damage done from your lying,

from your cheating,

from your deception.

Fix the damage from your abandonment,

from your maltreatment,

from your cold, harsh words.

Fix the damage done from daring to love you,

from daring to believe in you,

from daring to hold onto your every word.

Fix the damage from forgiving you,

and allowing you back in, once again.

Fix me.

I Worried

I worried when you didn’t call,

when the phone calls went straight to voicemail.

I worried when the text messages went unanswered,

when the FaceTime calls were unsuccessful.

I worried when the Facebook messages weren’t marked as “read”

and the Tweets and Snaps were nonexistent.

I feared for your safety,

I feared for your life.

I wondered if I would ever see you alive again.

I wondered where you were.

My eyes were glued to the television,

glued to my Facebook feed.

Wondering if I would see your name appear,

“Soldier slain,”

“Officer down.”

Two Snaps later, I realized that you were okay.

You were just punishing me.

One Day 

One day it won’t hurt to hear your name,

to remember your voice,

or to see your face.

One day I will be able to sleep peacefully

without tossing and turning from the memories of our conversations,

our fights, our make-ups, or our adventures.

One day I will be able to wake up without you being the first thing on my mind,

wondering “what if?”,

wondering what I did wrong.

One day it all won’t hurt anymore

and I’ll feel nothing at all.

You've Lost Me 

There was something different about this time. It doesn’t feel the same.

I’ve grown tired.

Tired of being neglected,

Tired of being used,

Tired of being ignored,

Tired of being disposed of.

I’ve spent a lifetime forgiving you,

For all that you do.

But my ability to forgive has run dry too.

I’ve been a fool for you since I was a teenager,

Losing pride, dignity, and even babies too.

I’ve lost so much that I could never get back.

I’ve lost my sense of self,

I’ve fallen off track.

It stings to know that you’ve never valued me,

As your lover, as your friend, as the mother of your children.

You’ve left me for dead too many times to count

Yet, I’ve still persevered through every suicide attempt.

At least now I know that I’m nothing to you.

And i can begin to move forward.

I’ve run out of words to say,

I’ve run out of tears to cry.

You won’t get another chance to use me

You won’t get another chance to abuse me

You won’t get another chance to ignore me

You won’t get another chance to leave me for dead

You’ve lost me-

You’ve lost a friend

You’ve lost a lover

You’ve lost your children’s mother.

There were only so many times you could push me away before I walked away on my own.

I give up on you.

You’ve lost me forever. 

I Am...

I am a mother, a doula, an educator, a survivor, and an eternal student

with a sharp tongue and an equally soft heart.

I am Bea’s granddaughter and Tina’s daughter- a child of the South

With veins full of coffee, collard greens, sweet tea, and swear words.

I am Jimi’s mother, healer, and teacher

with the desire to nurture, protect, and empower.

I am long, sleek ponytails with deep side parts and eyebrows as thick as the ass that trails behind them

and soft, brown skin slathered with coconut oil.

I am tattoos, piercings, and moles

and stretch marks and insecurities, too.

I am tight pencil skirts and silky, button-down blouses

And Betsey Johnson bags and jewelry, complete with hot pink coffin nails.

I am deep-set eyes behind thick, black rimmed glasses atop a broad nose

peering over “Killing The Black Body.”

I am daily visits to the coffee shop

with sausage croissants, caramel macchiatos, and a pink briefcase stuffed with electronics and printed PDF files.

I am solo walks through the aquarium and zoo

and late-night solo sing-alongs and dance parties with Prince and Mint Condition.

I am boarding passes and over-packed luggage full of books

racing through the airport towards my next adventure.

I am autumn afternoon walks through the bookstore with warm apple cider,

And cold, winter evenings wrapped in blankets with hot cocoa.

I am a home smelling of burning sage and eucalyptus oil

with herbal tea, candles, and tinctures close by.

I am cold, rainy nights curled in bed with pizza and mimosas

with cuddly cats and dogs at my feet.

I am depression, anxiety, PTSD, heartache, frequent sinus infections, and migraines,

and steamy, hot baths with Lush bath bombs and essential oils to alleviate them all.

I am a face of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse-related trauma

and healing through journaling, meditation, medication, and therapy.

I am transparency, vulnerability, and inspiration

with the desire to write my own story.

I am Takeallah Serena Rivera,

mirror image of Black feminist mothers and warrior women

I am me and no one else.

I Am.... (The Second Time Around)

I am imaginative and intuitive

I wonder where I will be in three years

I hear a wanderlust’s prayer

I want more passport stamps

I am imaginative and intuitive

I pretend to be “okay” when I’m truly not

I feel my grandmother’s hand on my shoulder

I touch success and prosperity

I worry that I will fail

I cry from loneliness and frustration

I am imaginative and intuitive

I understand that all things come in time

I say art is the best form of healing

I dream for a quiet day in Costa Rica

I try to turn my hardships into inspiration

I hope that my story motivates another woman

I am imaginative and intuitive

Discarded 

Used,

abused,

penetrated,

devalued.

You’ve siphoned everything you desired from me-

Love, attachment, children, and commitment

Inviting arms, hot meals and a warm bed.

A dumping ground for your seed.

You’ve ejaculated-

And you have no use for me anymore.

Home Again 

I can’t go home again

Because everything reminds me of you

TGI Friday’s, Swanky’s, Huey’s

Even the river we walked, too.

The park where we had our picnic,

the driveway we christened

The midnight conversations in your truck,

and the roads that listened.

I can’t go home again because everything reminds me of you.

You’ve taken my heart

And now you’ve taken my home, too.

What Did I Do? 

What did I do to deserve this from you?

What did I do to deserve the heartache,

the pain,

the torturous memories?

Did I not love you enough?

Did I love you too much?

Was I not there enough?

Or was I there too much?

Did I not speak enough?

Or did I speak too much?

Did I not worry about you enough?

Or did I worry about you too much?

Why was my love never enough?

Why were my words never enough?

Why were my tears never enough?

Why was I never enough?

Scarred

I’m left with the scars.

I’m left with the painful memories of every harsh word you’ve said.

I’m left with the stretch marks from birthing your children, both living and dead.

I’m left with the memories and fear of your drunken tirades.

I’m left with the mounds of hospital bills to remind me of the price I’ve paid.

I’m left with the white dress hanging in my closet from when we never wed.

I’m left with a shattered heart that barely beats, leaving me nearly dead.

I’m left with the hateful text messages and the pain from being ignored

I’m left with the scars from when you’ve walked away, leaving me floored.

I’ve given so much and received so little. Not even an “I’m sorry.” Not even a phone call.

Meanwhile you’re not phased.

You’ve lost nothing at all.

Back 

I’ve adored and caressed every part of your body,

From your head, to your chest, to your toes

I’ve identified every unique part of you- your birth mark, your mole, your scars.

But somehow, your back is the part of you that I’ve seen the most,

Every time you’ve walked away from me. 

The Worst 

The worst kind of guy isn’t the one who plays with multiple women,

It’s the guy who plays with the same woman over and over.

It’s the guy who charms her and reels her in,

The guy who convinces her that he truly cares.

The guy who convinces her to put all of her trust into him.

The guy who then begins to ignore her phone calls and text messages.

The guy who suddenly disappears from her life with no explanation.

The guy who leaves her broken and confused.

The guy who slithers back into her life after she’s begun to heal.

The guy who breaks her heart constantly because he knows that she’ll always be around. 

When Bruises Can't Be Seen 

When the bruises can’t be seen, but the emotional scars are there.

When the words keep you awake at night, playing on a loop inside your pounding head.

When the memories torment you and make it hard to look in the mirror without seeing every word you’ve said.

I wish you would have just hit me with your fists. It would have hurt less.

The Blood Flows 

The blood flows as I lie on the table,

Cold, confused, and tearful.

You didn’t bother to show up. And you didn’t answer my calls.

With every tug, I feel the life we’ve created fade.

There is no one here to hold my hand,

There’s no one here to drive me home.

I’m completely alone.

An eternity later, I slowly rise, stiff and sore.

You’ve lost $300, but I’ve lost something more.

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