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Jaha Bela brings ‘Black Bird’ to Brave New Voices

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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.

Black Bird

Stop looking for your bones in another man’s closet

Searching for yourself in the beds of others is not searching at all

Black bird

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

Check out more Atlanta Word Works Poets at Brave New Voices. 

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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.

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