poetry// sisterly love

Thoreau walked the paths of nature
I pound the streets of University City
Air smells of burning
food maybe, or something wafting out of the sewage pipes
Perhaps the man next to me just
stamped out his cigarette a couple
blocks back
and now his breath
is smoking too
The sun beats down on the sidewalk, blending shadows into the cracks
it’s cool outside
the wind rips through my thick coat,
beyond the down of my gloves
and settles into my bones
I can never be warm here
or comfortable
I am a suburban brat
taking tests in the middle of West Philly
the prestige of this school reverberates with whispers of
and the silencing of
black facilities and dining hall
and security staff
Some of them are Muslim
they always wave to me
or nod
or greet me with salaams
they remind me that I belong here.
I’m sure they know I do not actually belong here
the bustle of the streets is numbing sometimes
I have gotten used to the sirens wailing
and the loud conversations that young lovers
stop to have under my window during the evenings
when the wind dies down
and the darkness feels soft on my skin
This is my Walden it seems
the hike up to the
art museum across the
bustling highway
to fall into the swarm of people chanting and protesting
in front of city hall
I walk and shrink smaller
against the big city skyline
dissolving into the crowds
it’s humbling in a way maybe
Thoreau never noticed
how urban spaces fill you up and
melt you down
all at the same time
here I am no one but a girl
on the street
roaming looking for someplace to call my own
Listening to the sounds of pigeons
flapping their wings as the bus rolls to the curb
Mirroring the way the bridge trembles and the air is tousled
When the train speeds into the station
and world muffled under the blare of the whistle.
I like the mismatched look of Spruce street
decorated with food trucks
and so many Arab men
who smile at me
and tell me how proud they are
that I am here and have not run away yet
Or been chased out.
they desperately want to remind me that I belong
even though
they don’t either
Students laugh and twirl their hair
Some flirting on benches that speckle the walkways
They are effortlessly smart
And beautiful
Never really knowing failure and often tasting
The sky
And mistaking it for mud
I have tried to get them to notice me
To love me and smile at me they way they do each other
But they never do
And I always leave feeling hollowed out and
Auctioned off
At a price of nothing


I am priceless and invisible
The poster child of affirmative action
Always moving
I am
Not going anyway that exists
Or anywhere I belong
Feeling ugly and stupid in my
Baggy clothes
And awkwardness
I tilt my chin up anyway
Like I own it
Try to look fierce but always
Come off looking scary instead
It works all the same
I suppose
They don’t talk to me and leave me to
They respect my gait
And the way I let the beat in my head phones
Sway me
This place is so lonely
But the city buses are not
Older black women clamber on and smile at me
I love the way they smile at me
Like they know I am cold and out of place
And wishing that I spoke the language here
Of pretense and academic
Effortless success is what they all wear
Designer blues that hugs
Them in all the right places
So that it looks seamless
Fits them better than their own
I like the way the pavement feels
Pressing up against the thin soles of my shoes
They never look new for long
Always worn
The way I wear people and places
Over and over again until they fall apart
And leave me barefoot and naked
and searching for a new look
The whining of traffic is soothing
Reminds me that there are so many people left in the world
Who do not know anything about me
Nor do they care about the burdens
I pack into my
And painful
Sometimes school kids
Flow out of the subway stations and onto the
I love the way their shoes sparkle
And their eyes laugh
They are always laughing
Beautiful brown children
Who have a future rolled out ahead of them
Their life books are crisp and clean and blank
Smelling like newly bound journals and
Cheap ink pens
Cop cars bounce along
The rickety pavement”
And bikes glide through red
Lights and crosswalks
Sometimes I watch them
Zip past all of us pedestrian souls
Who stroll
And walk
And groan as our feet begins to taste the texture of the
I make a prayer when I hear the sirens
That no one is rendered dead or left to meet it
That God keep good people safe and warm
I have grown to love
this city of sisterly love

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