Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Freedom on the Inside (Dedicated to the juveniles at Drakenstein Prison)

Enlarge poem

Freedom is a swingset dangling off your body, rocking to the gravity within
It is a rainstorm during a drought that pours only into the pots we put out for it
Freedom dances barefoot on the hot coals of our human mistakes
And responsibility is a North Star, often clouded by the haze of our revenge
Today, you must ask yourselves brothers
When your world gets set on fire
Will you be the smoke that rises like a voice to a burning village
Or the smoke that stays down and chokes your own family
Before those four walls become your skin
Turn them into a cocoon
To burst free from
As struggling-caterpillars-turned-butterfly-men
Before your prison bed becomes a raft lost in the ocean
Turn it into an island of thought, vast enough
To explore the jungles of your future kingdom
Before those barbed wires wrap around your soul
Turn them into notebook spirals, and
Imagine your story written miraculously on the pages of those walls
Use the dictionary that is your pain
To translate kings out of your slave muscles
And men from your inner children
Your voice is thunder that roars through the corridors of our veins
When you feel invisible, be a ghost
who travels through all the stonewalls they can possibly build for you
When mirrors reflect only monsters
Explore the labyrinths of your masks and
Unleash the soldiers hidden beneath their fictions
If you feel alone when you’re alone
Get to know yourself better
Because you are a walking pillar of a thousand wisdoms
You are an Egyptian stone carrying truth in your aching bellies
You are centuries of captivity
Generations of chains and cells, kept alive
Kept alive by the freedom locked away
Not as a prisoner, but as a treasure stored in your chests
You have the power to turn those deep dried up scars
Into beautiful canyons and valleys
A life of addiction can provide a diction
To write an army of metaphors
Noone said you couldn’t be angry
Its just that anger is a stray dog you must train
To bite when necessary
To bark with the sounds that truly put fear in your enemies
That sound is your intelligence delivered through words
Like bullets from the barrels of your pencils
You see, out there
Even the most successful are often the most illiterate
Because they can’t read you
They don’t see that when the world took away an education from you
Took away your pen and paper
You still found ink to write monuments on the sheets on your flesh
You have the greatest novels written in the forms of tattoos
You have genius written all over you
So you must ask yourselves
Will you use your tongue
As a needle to stitch wounds
Or a needle to inject poison
Because just like a poem
Written between lines on the cages of a page
You exist between lines
As knowledge
Waiting to be heard.

Javier Perez

Featured Poem:

High (Dedicated to Fausto)

Enlarge poem

Dear Fausto
Your lungs hung like a fragile manifesto
From the rusted chain of a hypnotist’s watch
Your lungs hung out like homemade punching bags
Or stubborn fruit, too aged to nourish the child
Waiting by the old trunk of your young bones
Under the branches of your cigarettes
I ask you now
Did you finally inhale deep enough
To expand those lungs into hotair balloons
To get you as high as your broken wings failed to take you
Or did you pop, through overinflation
As your friends made too many blows to your elastic soul
Dependence can forge chains out of your bones
Tie tightropes from your sinews
And turn your spine into a one-way escalator
That carries Hades up to corrupt the design of your heaven
I pray you now rest in peace
I know you instead rest in pieces
Like shattered flesh of a scarecrow
Scattered, by the same exhaled breath that gave you your last high
Or rather your last goodbye
What god forgot to massage the rubble of your heart into a temple
Before it became its own burial ground
When your liver became ol’ graffiti’d walls
What hunger drew the map to the ruins of Eden
To be ruined by forbidden fruits of the sweetest ‘masculinity’
Did you get high only to reverse the Fall of Man occurring within you?

It takes a village to raise a child
So it took a village to keep one down
When the world failed to raise you
Of course you had to get high on your own
To get away from the demons piercing the soils to grip your ankles like shackles
Until the earth itself convinced you:
You are made of demon
But fear, my friend, is often mutual
And one man’s heaven is more easily built
If he creates enough demons to populate a hell
Yet I wonder if I too failed you
Did I misread you long enough
for the hieroglyphs of your pain to become engravings on your tombstone
When I decided you’d never change
I didn’t just give up on you
I gave up on myself
So I apologize, on behalf of this Kingdom of god that denied you
For having plucked your feathers
And still expect you to get ‘high’ enough
To fly like the angel you always were.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (1)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (3)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (1)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (2)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (1)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Javier Perez is a poet, performer, and teacher. Born in the U.S., his family immigrated from El Salvador during a violent civil war. Growing as a “Latino” in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in America, Javier always came face-to-face with questions surrounding identity, masculinity, class, and heritage. 

As a first generation university student, he studied political science, while quickly developing a passion for spoken-word poetry on the side. With some friends, he started Swarthmore College’s first spoken-word collective, OASIS (Our Art Spoken In Soul), and competed at local and national poetry slam competitions. After graduating, he was awarded the Thomas J Watson Fellowship to travel internationally for a year in pursuit of an independent project: an exploration of how poetry can empower, heal, and give voice to criminalized youths in light of the massive growth of prison systems worldwide. After traveling to South Africa, Australia, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Brazil, Javier concluded two main things: crime and incarceration are global phenomena intimately linked to histories of colonialism, racial violence, and inequality; and poetry provides a transformative space for communities to challenge, reimagine, and change the status quo. He now lives and works in Cape Town as a resident poet for Usiko Trust, facilitating poetry workshops alongside youths from the townships to create a space for exploring their voices and (re)writing their narratives. Javier is very keen to foster stronger connections and dialogue between communities in Latin America and Africa that share common roots, histories, and struggles.

Javier Perez

Biography

Javier Perez is a poet, performer, and teacher. Born in the U.S., his family immigrated from El Salvador during a violent civil war. Growing as a “Latino” in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in America, Javier always came face-to-face with questions surrounding identity, masculinity, class, and heritage. 

As a first generation university student, he studied political science, while quickly developing a passion for spoken-word poetry on the side. With some friends, he started Swarthmore College’s first spoken-word collective, OASIS (Our Art Spoken In Soul), and competed at local and national poetry slam competitions. After graduating, he was awarded the Thomas J Watson Fellowship to travel internationally for a year in pursuit of an independent project: an exploration of how poetry can empower, heal, and give voice to criminalized youths in light of the massive growth of prison systems worldwide. After traveling to South Africa, Australia, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Brazil, Javier concluded two main things: crime and incarceration are global phenomena intimately linked to histories of colonialism, racial violence, and inequality; and poetry provides a transformative space for communities to challenge, reimagine, and change the status quo. He now lives and works in Cape Town as a resident poet for Usiko Trust, facilitating poetry workshops alongside youths from the townships to create a space for exploring their voices and (re)writing their narratives. Javier is very keen to foster stronger connections and dialogue between communities in Latin America and Africa that share common roots, histories, and struggles.

Freedom on the Inside (Dedicated to the juveniles at Drakenstein Prison)

Enlarge poem

Freedom is a swingset dangling off your body, rocking to the gravity within
It is a rainstorm during a drought that pours only into the pots we put out for it
Freedom dances barefoot on the hot coals of our human mistakes
And responsibility is a North Star, often clouded by the haze of our revenge
Today, you must ask yourselves brothers
When your world gets set on fire
Will you be the smoke that rises like a voice to a burning village
Or the smoke that stays down and chokes your own family
Before those four walls become your skin
Turn them into a cocoon
To burst free from
As struggling-caterpillars-turned-butterfly-men
Before your prison bed becomes a raft lost in the ocean
Turn it into an island of thought, vast enough
To explore the jungles of your future kingdom
Before those barbed wires wrap around your soul
Turn them into notebook spirals, and
Imagine your story written miraculously on the pages of those walls
Use the dictionary that is your pain
To translate kings out of your slave muscles
And men from your inner children
Your voice is thunder that roars through the corridors of our veins
When you feel invisible, be a ghost
who travels through all the stonewalls they can possibly build for you
When mirrors reflect only monsters
Explore the labyrinths of your masks and
Unleash the soldiers hidden beneath their fictions
If you feel alone when you’re alone
Get to know yourself better
Because you are a walking pillar of a thousand wisdoms
You are an Egyptian stone carrying truth in your aching bellies
You are centuries of captivity
Generations of chains and cells, kept alive
Kept alive by the freedom locked away
Not as a prisoner, but as a treasure stored in your chests
You have the power to turn those deep dried up scars
Into beautiful canyons and valleys
A life of addiction can provide a diction
To write an army of metaphors
Noone said you couldn’t be angry
Its just that anger is a stray dog you must train
To bite when necessary
To bark with the sounds that truly put fear in your enemies
That sound is your intelligence delivered through words
Like bullets from the barrels of your pencils
You see, out there
Even the most successful are often the most illiterate
Because they can’t read you
They don’t see that when the world took away an education from you
Took away your pen and paper
You still found ink to write monuments on the sheets on your flesh
You have the greatest novels written in the forms of tattoos
You have genius written all over you
So you must ask yourselves
Will you use your tongue
As a needle to stitch wounds
Or a needle to inject poison
Because just like a poem
Written between lines on the cages of a page
You exist between lines
As knowledge
Waiting to be heard.

Featured Poem:

High (Dedicated to Fausto)

Enlarge poem

Dear Fausto
Your lungs hung like a fragile manifesto
From the rusted chain of a hypnotist’s watch
Your lungs hung out like homemade punching bags
Or stubborn fruit, too aged to nourish the child
Waiting by the old trunk of your young bones
Under the branches of your cigarettes
I ask you now
Did you finally inhale deep enough
To expand those lungs into hotair balloons
To get you as high as your broken wings failed to take you
Or did you pop, through overinflation
As your friends made too many blows to your elastic soul
Dependence can forge chains out of your bones
Tie tightropes from your sinews
And turn your spine into a one-way escalator
That carries Hades up to corrupt the design of your heaven
I pray you now rest in peace
I know you instead rest in pieces
Like shattered flesh of a scarecrow
Scattered, by the same exhaled breath that gave you your last high
Or rather your last goodbye
What god forgot to massage the rubble of your heart into a temple
Before it became its own burial ground
When your liver became ol’ graffiti’d walls
What hunger drew the map to the ruins of Eden
To be ruined by forbidden fruits of the sweetest ‘masculinity’
Did you get high only to reverse the Fall of Man occurring within you?

It takes a village to raise a child
So it took a village to keep one down
When the world failed to raise you
Of course you had to get high on your own
To get away from the demons piercing the soils to grip your ankles like shackles
Until the earth itself convinced you:
You are made of demon
But fear, my friend, is often mutual
And one man’s heaven is more easily built
If he creates enough demons to populate a hell
Yet I wonder if I too failed you
Did I misread you long enough
for the hieroglyphs of your pain to become engravings on your tombstone
When I decided you’d never change
I didn’t just give up on you
I gave up on myself
So I apologize, on behalf of this Kingdom of god that denied you
For having plucked your feathers
And still expect you to get ‘high’ enough
To fly like the angel you always were.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (1)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (3)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (1)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (2)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (1)
  • Jubilation (0)

Freedom on the Inside (Dedicated to the juveniles at Drakenstein Prison)

Enlarge poem

Freedom is a swingset dangling off your body, rocking to the gravity within
It is a rainstorm during a drought that pours only into the pots we put out for it
Freedom dances barefoot on the hot coals of our human mistakes
And responsibility is a North Star, often clouded by the haze of our revenge
Today, you must ask yourselves brothers
When your world gets set on fire
Will you be the smoke that rises like a voice to a burning village
Or the smoke that stays down and chokes your own family
Before those four walls become your skin
Turn them into a cocoon
To burst free from
As struggling-caterpillars-turned-butterfly-men
Before your prison bed becomes a raft lost in the ocean
Turn it into an island of thought, vast enough
To explore the jungles of your future kingdom
Before those barbed wires wrap around your soul
Turn them into notebook spirals, and
Imagine your story written miraculously on the pages of those walls
Use the dictionary that is your pain
To translate kings out of your slave muscles
And men from your inner children
Your voice is thunder that roars through the corridors of our veins
When you feel invisible, be a ghost
who travels through all the stonewalls they can possibly build for you
When mirrors reflect only monsters
Explore the labyrinths of your masks and
Unleash the soldiers hidden beneath their fictions
If you feel alone when you’re alone
Get to know yourself better
Because you are a walking pillar of a thousand wisdoms
You are an Egyptian stone carrying truth in your aching bellies
You are centuries of captivity
Generations of chains and cells, kept alive
Kept alive by the freedom locked away
Not as a prisoner, but as a treasure stored in your chests
You have the power to turn those deep dried up scars
Into beautiful canyons and valleys
A life of addiction can provide a diction
To write an army of metaphors
Noone said you couldn’t be angry
Its just that anger is a stray dog you must train
To bite when necessary
To bark with the sounds that truly put fear in your enemies
That sound is your intelligence delivered through words
Like bullets from the barrels of your pencils
You see, out there
Even the most successful are often the most illiterate
Because they can’t read you
They don’t see that when the world took away an education from you
Took away your pen and paper
You still found ink to write monuments on the sheets on your flesh
You have the greatest novels written in the forms of tattoos
You have genius written all over you
So you must ask yourselves
Will you use your tongue
As a needle to stitch wounds
Or a needle to inject poison
Because just like a poem
Written between lines on the cages of a page
You exist between lines
As knowledge
Waiting to be heard.

Comments

Your email address will not be published.