As the Atlanta Word Works team goes to Washington D.C. Tuesday to compete in Brave New Voices, we are proud to share their work.
Jaha Bela, age 16, attends Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School.
When did you first start writing poetry? I started writing poetry when she was 12 years old.
What inspired you to start writing poetry? My English teacher, who is also a poet and my mentor, incorporated a poetry unit in our language arts class… It made me discover that if something makes me get this emotional, then it must be as a part of my gift. [Her English teacher assigned the class to write a book full of poetry.]
What is your writing process? [It] starts off with me being in a state when I can no longer talk. [I can speak] only through writing. My poetry is my spirituality… When something takes over my spirit, I know it’s worth writing about.
Do you have a poet you admire? Erykah Badu. She showed me that two different art forms can coexist in the same universe.
Stop looking for your bones in another man’s closet
Searching for yourself in the beds of others is not searching at all
With black curls like colliding worlds on a broken axis
You practice looking like you can handle the universe feeding on your bosom
Which is clearly visible with every shirt you put on
Just revealing enough to disgrace your ancestors
But not to showcase your scars
Your cloak of insecurities is the best garment you have in your closet
Passed down to you through generations of discarded women
You are at the beck and call of broken men
Who were never truly boys
Who could never truly be men
Who would never really love you
For you are just a distraction from the harsh truth they have to swallow every day
That doesn’t become easier with water
You have your father’s fists
with none of the fight
your mother’s heart with none of the love
your ancestors’ will
but none of the way
Your body is a burial ground and your soul
the forgotten dream of the woman you once longed to be
Only 16 and have seen more naked bodies than a surgeon
Why did you cut off your wings
You couldn’t accept that you were a butterfly
Because of the moth you were made out to be all your life
The only corners and back doors you haven’t been in are within your own spirit
You cringe at the word honesty
Because being naked in flesh and being vulnerable are two separate things
You make yourself seem gullible so you have an excuse to lie to yourself
To define yourself you first have to find yourself
Self love isn’t a scavenger hunt
Video shot and edited by Dasia Evertsz, 17, is a rising senior at Our Lady of Mercy High School who has an interest in poetry.