Earth calls
asking us to pay attention.
Will we remember
how precious our breath
if, even if,
the fires calm down and the viruses pass?

Tonight I will be warm,
safely entangled with only my cat creature, knowing I will have food in the morning and ways to make art all the days I choose.
I recognize the immensity of this gift, that should be a right, that should be so normal as to need remembering only in the daily prayers of gratitude,
not the prayers we make when something is missing, when desperation the only food we know, that makes only more of itself.
Can we let every relatively easy breath be a doorway to truth?
Can we hold the paradox of preparation free of panic, the complexity of trust free of complacency,
remember sacredness without scarcity,
and preciousness without possessiveness?
Oh, these precarious, perilous times.

I wash these hands
I touch warm fur
I hold color and keys
I dream of skin that will not transmit illness,
and the warm embrace of shared breath,
for now, I find it in the skin of drum
the breath of sky,
the pixels of a beloved face brought into focus across miles and quarantines,
the fire held safely in wax and wick and distance

I will keep yearning for you,
across the space that protects us,
reaching for you beyond the stories that wound us,
loving this life beyond the fears that haunt us,
treasuring the future memory of your warm arms,
even as I carefully wash my hands.

 "Prism" Medicinal Poetry Album now available. Listen here!

Listen here

An audio offering with music by Theo Grace of Entheo with Benjamin Jack Crandall on Saxaphone.

The future

not fixed

draws us forward

as we reach towards it.

Spider tickles my skin

we are weavers, both.

I draw filaments of light

braided with heartstrings,

play our yearning as a harp

in a song not yet learned.

Let the wind sing through me.

Let the children sing to me.

I am my mother’s child.

No thought will free mine

of the legacy of slavery,

only the careful unbinding

of the dragon under my skin,

whose volatile breath 

rips the pleasantries out of my mouth.

The taste of ash gives me courage.

I will scream until no more babies are beaten by the ones sworn to tend them,

until no more Black churches crumble in flames,

until no one looks at my flesh and decides I am less for it.

See my scales, weak men playing God.

See my claws, and shudder.

Recognize reckoning in my serpentine gaze.

Perhaps one day you will understand that I am powered

not by the rage you fear,

but by this underbelly, once rent and rewoven,

which waits for those willing to bare their own.

The downy fullness visible only to those who have also braved fire,

and trauma,

and learned the skill of grief,

and that the hardest thing to do

is to find one’s voice and sing.

The future,

not fixed

draws us forward

as we reach towards it.

We learn that tears are pickaxes,

breaking through the concrete over our hearts.

Wails the tethers that bring our soul pieces home.

Outraged howls the hammers that destroy that which wastes life.

Fists to the sky and voices speaking truth to power the shovels of the Great Turning.

This weaving is not done in a day,

or a lifetime,

and cannot be done alone.

Uncertain, yet inevitable.

Beauty calls us on.

Chaos and infinity

a maelstrom,

a concordance,

the paradox of birthing a tomorrow

where we can see the sky:

One part opening,

envisioning our dancing grandchildren.

Creating through our believing.

One part destroying,

dismantling the structures that imprisoned our ancestors.

Healing through our unraveling.

Seeds cannot grow in undigested shit.

Learn to make compost again.

Let me feel your hot breath.

I will not mind too much if you brush me with your scales.

I know they are there, beneath the patina of fragility

and the weight of complacence.

Don’t tell me you have no time for the revolution,

that it's not your job. 

We are too wily and wild for such nonsense.

I will only listen to your tenderness,

be it whisper 

or roar,

and the truth

that calls you on.

Picture me dancing.

Along the wild edge, 

where land meets the sea.

Belly and thighs bare.

Salt in windswept hair,

sand under bare feet.

Pressing soft tracks

along the warm ocean.

When you think of me,

this strong black woman,

it would be easy 

to envision toil

my endless struggle, 

how hard I must work.

As black women have 

long been measured by 

what we can produce 

and by what against we fight.

Do not lend your voice to the chorus

that would clamor “rest is indulgence

and fun is only for the lazy, or the white.”

Disagree with the hordes 

saying, “we must work ourselves to exhaustion.”

Capitalism was built on our brown backs

Do not try to beat us with that whip, again.

Question that which would ask 

if I deserve 

such relaxation,

and why we believe 

we must earn feeling well.

I have spent too many years 

believing myself worthless 

in this dark skin,

too many hours never accomplishing enough.

My grandmothers did not sing me into being

to work myself to death

for them, or for you, 

and especially not for the system 

that tried to eat them.

No single nap could touch the tiredness settled into these bones.

Play must be my path, now.

Pleasure my guide.

And art my tool,

to chisel the new paradigm into being through our joy.

Strong is a word I, too, have earned,

and also brave.

but now,

but now

let it be brave, too,

to put down shovel

and pick up snorkel

or paintbrush, or pen.

To trade, for a moment,

a sword for a swimsuit.

When you think of me,

do not envision me working

though that will come in myriad essential ways;

Not struggling, please, never that again,

not distressedly shaking my fist at a concrete sky.

Picture my unbound thighs jiggling as I play in the foam,

my unfettered hair swept by the tradewinds,

my copper-brown skin shimmering as I twirl and bend

as I dance my gratitude for this body’s place

in the symphony of sun, sea, and sand.

The taste of salt, and freedom, 

and a soft smile on my lips

as I gaze into the beyond.

What is this peace sought

In the bowels of deep dancing?

What is this balance wrought

From the play of seen and unseen?

The harmony of discordant forces

The core us of cacophonous voices...

I look, and all I see is another me,

reflected prismatically in all I perceive.

I ask, and only the knowing in my heart could offer a true answer:

Perfection is a trap.

Made to keep us ever whipping our own backs.

Made to keep the machine producing 

and the mind from ever fully knowing


and how,

we really live.

All the mirrors are broken;

or perhaps only that which looks is fractured.

But the cracks are where we let the light in

and through what we peer

and see what has been, what might be, and perhaps, what is.

And the fertile darkness is what holds it all.

Don't let the noise silence you.

Don't let those who only move in lines and squares tell you how to be.

What is this peace sought

in the spiraling depths of our dance?

Purgative, penitent, prayerful, powerful,

perhaps, even, something not yet defined yet longingly known as the way home.

All the layers shed

and ghosts finally laid to rest

That we, at long last, may be free.

Medicinal Poetry:

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My grandmothers sang

in the Master’s tongue,

for their own were beaten into forgetting.

Songs of Kingdom come; songs of rhythm for picking,

songs to endure the soreness and shame

of being something less than human.

My grandfathers spent their days

bent over fields,

robbed of all decency and dignity

until rent flesh 

and inhuman cruelty

finally overtook their clinging

to the miserable shadow of a life.

Slavery was obvious then.

Some would say it has long since been transcended, 

like racism,

that we understand now that all humans are equal.

But some Orwellian axioms 

are taken as scripture by the profiteers

and those “more equal” make the rules.

There is no way that I should be able to buy a pair of jeans

or pound of corn 

for a handful of change.

My cells remember the agony of picking cotton,

my lungs the ache of its toxic fibers,

how it sticks to the hands, 

cutting them in a thousand tiny ways that never fully heal.

Today a 13 year-old girl 

is bent over a sewing machine in India

with that same cotton;

unable to leave,

praying for the better life she was promised.

A tired old man is bent over the dirt in Mexico,

picking fruit he will never eat,

for a restaurant he will never see,

in a country that would call him illegal.

All for the hope that his children will be free of the poverty

that seems as endless and vast as the mono-cropped fields before him.

A 6 year-old boy in the Ivory Coast is dragging 100 pound bags

and using a machete to open a pod he has to hold with his bare hand,

hoping he will work quickly enough to avoid another beating,

resenting the very thought of the chocolate he will never taste.

But heaven forbid Levi’s go up a few dollars,

or we pay the real cost of growing real food,

or we give up our fancy gadgets and fast lifestyles so that factory workers can keep their hands,

indigenous tribes can keep their lands, and children can keep their freedom.

When you have no real choice,

which lesser evil do you choose?

Slavery lives on.

Our most tenacious addiction,

inherited affliction,

made of mistaking power for value

and difference for distance.

How we convince ourselves

generation after generation

that we are powerless to change the system

that gives us just enough to keep us on our knees.

The Master that has no face, but many,

who whips us with the threat of poverty

and the illusion of hierarchy,

until there is no fight left,

and we pass a prison to our children

in this so-called land of the free.

Looking through the ages,

we see slavery is an inside job,

perpetrated on ourselves, on each other, on the Mother,

passing along our debts and our pain

until there is nothing left but miles of chains

and the broken world we have built on other people’s backs.

There is no living being more equal than any other.

These ideas are created in the monstrous minds of oppressors 

who are already, themselves, oppressed.

There is no true prosperity for one unless there is prosperity for all.

It is time for a new song.

To compost this strange fruit, this strange and bitter crop.

To educate, to inspire, to remember each other.

To lift one another, so we can all rise to the top.

The responsibility of the information age,

is that now is when we can make slavery stop.

Let the rain touch your face.

Let it reach your deepest place.

Brushing your core’s edges with soft flowing tendrils.

Cool, because you are warmed by your walk.

Melting immediately into your pores. 

Flesh drinks like soil.

Yearns for the caress

the gentle press

of water that has traveled so far:

through ages and layers of atmosphere

through every river, every being that breathes

over and over again from the beginning hence,

just to dissolve into your outstretched palm.

Becoming an us.

So long held in the strength of self,

warrior, mystic

all lone things.

Tempered with age.

Swan takes long in her becoming,

and wolf, after an era as lone, mates for life,

and births a pack, a tribe

from the union of two fiercely independent beings 

willing to practice togetherness.


Boar tusks interlock with goat horns 

and worlds are ripped apart in our stubbornness.

Then hooves move in tandem

stirring the compost,

aligning the rocks,

preparing the bed.

Learning how to hold the obsidian mirror,

to shine on each other’s darkness;

and the crystal,

to magnify each other’s light,

How to not lose one another

in the long shadows 

we ourselves cast.

How to build a love that lasts

through storms of fire

and the falling of empires,

the poisoning of oak

and the raging of what is broken, 


the tender tinder 

within us

that would fuel a phoenix flame.


Your body perfectly fits mine.

Inner sanctum of my heart 

unlocks to the impression of your hand on my breastbone.

Harmony is born of very different voices

coming together in one song,

and though the tune at first seems strange,

our souls have known it all along.

Our crowns forged in the fire

we feed every time we turn towards each other:

the journey from co-dependence to independence to interdependence.


Unique pillars hold the temple roof

but they are hewn of the same stone;

the story of us written on every shared breath,

lips lost to the illusion of separateness;

the trees’ roots and branches intertwine,

two trunk hearts carved with one name:

mine, yet also yours,

alone, all one, together.


“Let your gift by guided by something more clear,”

he said.

I listen for the

not this. 

not this.

Not this structure,

not this triage suture

we call modern art:

pretty bandaids

on a punctured world.

Bleed out.



Rend the rendered reality

until we see what is not real.

We got this

from before us

just a chorus

of a jagged song.

But some part of us 

knows it’s not the best of us

saying, “not this.”

Not our attachment

to reenactment

of every story told before

of fists banging the drums of war

not knowing what else to do with the “no,”

what direction to flow

when all we know is

not this.

not this.

the knot this is, 

fraught this is.

We caught this,

this sadness,

this dis-ease,

this homogeneity,

this false piety

to plastic gods.

It finally shows its hand

wound into every talon 

of corruption. (not this…)

Listen to the aching,

allow the breaking,

the leave-taking.

the dawn 



finding the way to the truth:

a process of discovering what is not you.

Light defined by shadow.

Center seen by edges.

Clouds melt to

shrouds part to 


what lives beyond the clutches of fear.

not this

not anything we’ve made before

unwinding thus finding

a story lightly woven from golden threads,

a gift of something more clear.


found in inspiration,

found in finally hearing

our souls’ communication.

knot this.

we got this.


Listen to the audio of Niema speaking this here.

(Inspired by the words of Prince and Elizabeth Gilbert)




The path to presence. 

Different, every time.

Time as a spiral, not a line.

The true way never looks the same

Because open eyes are always changing.

Wisdom is born of the silent spring,

the fertile darkness that lives below our knowing,

that begets our awakening,

and opens to our remembering.

Ancestral light, the substance of our wings

though they look like muscle and bone;

and, however caged, some part of us 

still remembers these hearts where meant to sing us home.


The truth is, I am afraid of my shadow.

And though all the teachers say it contains a gift,

that the birthplace of my fecundity is the ugliest part of me,

I want only to look away from it, to numb, to hide it, to hide from it.

I want the well-lit path. 

So I flee towards the Sun,

the fanfare and exultation,

seeking triumphant exclamation

on a road sparkling clean like my brightest meditations,

in a quest for transcendence;

retracing the steps that have brought me thus far,

centered me before,

but I turn and the shadow is still right there,

stitched to my heels.

The path to presence 

is different every time.

There is so much further to go 

than only light

we must balance above with below.


Pilgrim, there is no one road to follow, 

the road is made by walking

over stone and bone,

is made by breathing 

beyond everything you’ve ever known,

and home is an ever-shifting location.

You may taste the sweet nectar for a moment

but then the flower dies,

and you’d best learn to see the beauty in compost.

This path is understood for only an instant

sunlight caught in the hand through a prism

a rainbow bridge to absolute nowness.

This path found in the effusive glee

of a child’s first spinning dance in a summer meadow,

in the feel of my lover’s lips upon my brow,

in the silence before every sound.

The path is different every time,

because it leads to a place that can never be known,

and only in the seeking

can we ever be found.


{{{Listen to Niema speak this on soundcloud}}}



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© 2018 by Medicinal Poetry