‘Breathing’

Image of shadow of black person on tiled street

It’s been hard to exhale lately,

so why don’t you pay me a visit,

you see I hit the point differently,

grew up on a block that’s not too far from Grenfell,

so I’m still not one to tell…WHY CAN’T THEY HEAR ME YELL because I feel suffocated, and as of late I’ve been questioning my faith,

does that make me an infidel because I’m living in this cell, and hell is starting to seem like a comforting idea,

I’m not protected like that,

I’m like any other black soul asking to be respected and acknowledged.

They said I lost myself but for the first time I feel as if I found myself.

Death is now more a viable solution, pass me that poison,

neat liquor got me wavy and they’re asking me to be more political whilst I’m trying to attain more capital… call that capital living,

I’m still giving more than I receive, yes, it’s repetitive,

yet I still give and give and give till there is nothing left.. I call that emotional theft.

Still have debts to pay and debts to be collected,

my younger self would have responded differently; I say this because I pondered this a couple of times,

it’s as if I surrendered myself, yet I know I still have this chocolate chip on my shoulder,

so I scream out…”GO ASK THE MANDEM ON THE STRIP,

GO ASK FOR MY CREDENTIALS,

GO ASK ABOUT THE DIRT I PUT IN,

GO ASK THEM ABOUT MY INITIALS AND HOW THEY WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN”

This is what seems to happen whenever they question my NAME as if that matters to me anymore,

as if that matters to anyone,

I used call that same strip home,

I used love the feeling of belonging,

that false sense of security only to rudely realise I was still under scrutiny, and no one can commit harm with impunity if your skin isn’t white, and yes, I got lost in the city,

16 years of age and I felt the rage of my forefathers,

traumatic experiences I now subdue,

there in no due process when your skin is Black and mental health to us was that thing that those white people with wealth would complain about till they diagnosed me with PTSD and I move with stealth when it comes to who I really am, so lay me bare…lay me fucking bare and maybe one day I’ll allow her to care…

Samer Ismail (AKA The Urban Nomad) is a poet and a recent graduate from SOAS with honours in BA African Studies and Politics. You can visit Samer’s website at theurbannomadpoetry.wordpress.com/

This blog is part of our Black History Month 2020 series, which celebrates black voices and achievements over time, and across the globe. The series features contributions from SOAS alumni, academics, and students. If you enjoyed this poem, take a look at The Urban Nomad’s other poems, ‘Heroes’, and ‘For Hooyo and Abo…Mainly Hooyo’.

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