TedXFoggyBottom - Pages Matam - Black Lives, Tigers, and Bears

Pages Matam takes the TEDxFoggyBottom stage with an electrifying  poem about the importance of black lives. In his performance, he highlights key issues facing the black community today, and tells us all what we can do to help. 

I wrote this poem to parallel the importance of taking care of all parts of the environment. That the spaces outside of us, can become better once we take care of the spaces within us. That we cannot talk about saving the environment and the planet without also examining the oppressive system that is impacting the people living in said environment.

Posted on April 20, 2017 .

Pages Matam - On Learning America's English

A Poem on reconciling multiple cultural identities and finding solace in their intersections through the reclamation of language and the body in which it inhabits. Thank you to Write About Now & all of the wonderful people of the Texas Grand Slam

Posted on April 20, 2017 .

Pages Matam - Questions for Nina Simone (Writing)

For Ferguson, and the many cities  just like it...

For Black and Brown bodies across this world

Copyright Pages Matam

questions for Nina Simone

 

Nina,

upon hearing of the 1963 Birmingham Alabama

church bombing which took four innocent brown bodies,

you went to your garage to try and build a handmade gun.

When your husband found you

surrounded in a mess of tools he said:

Nina - you know nothing about killing, all you’ve got is music

You then wrote and composed “Mississippi Goddamn!” in the next hour

 

Nina,

there are days I read your story

surrounded by so much pain like a mess of tools

how did you cockback the notes so music

could become such a weapon?

What rage moved your fingers into a cannon of sound

because I wonder sometimes...

 

What happens when a poem doesn’t save a life?

 

when I am tired of making burial grounds from my tongue

before my body becomes shrapnel for entertainment

retrigger myself every time my voice relives the

complex trauma of my own shotgun breath

Did the applause after Mississippi Goddamn

feel like the imminent ticks before the detonation Nina?

we still got many dying unjustly

Renisha, Rekia, Aiyanna, Alesia,

4 little girls                                         different kind of explosions

black women bodies be like a church

snatch the holy out of them by men, courts, and policies who have none

what’s empathy to a war you’ve already been designated to lose

and the weight of blackness feels more like a white flag of surrender

 

Did you ever feel like a surrender, Nina?

 

As I do when many of my students have PTSD

trying to bridge Shakespeare and Tupac

doesn’t make them want to take a life any less or risk their own

just to prove that they are here, that they have a grand piano purpose

not afforded by a pen and microphone when you live

on this side of oppression, strung out from the high of poverty lines

 

Did your gun give you purpose, Nina?

was your spine made out of a harmonic barcode

did it play a beautiful song of justice for you to be able to stand tall

in the face of your inquisitors, of post racial society,

of how many ways can your body do that black magic

what happens when I run out of magic and I cannot pull through

because actions may speak louder than words,

but silence also speaks with so much volume.

Like the hush after the zimmerman trial

 

better known as just another thursday

in being Black in america - when I became so afraid

my sun will leave the house and never return home

because someone will not like the way his smile

makes heaven spill like a melody from his mouth

 

what happens when a poem doesn’t save a life?

when my mind became a playground,

and depression was a game I never learned to play very well

my own thoughts were a carousel of bullies

telling me Pages - you do not deserve to be here, you do not deserve to live

you should just kill yourself - before the world does

but I know nothing about killing,

all i’ve ever had was music - whether a pen, my breath, or a stage

 

you know, black bodies always been a musical

how the turn up becomes a turn of graves

we be a halted gospel at a stop and frisk

even with our hands up, don’t we still look like we’re praising?

we’ve seen how that purpose is drowned out in white noise

how loud I play my music can be reason to open fire

listen to a Florida gas station become a stadium of vibrations

listen to  a Detroit porch become a symphony of innocent blood

listen to a subway train become a hum of a strange fruit vale station

listen to Ferguson become a riot of burning rage tear gas muting the moon

 

Our skin has always been such a concert

this is how I realize music, poetry, ART is a cause for a weapon

- not to kill, but to defend our ability to hope, fight, and strive     

 

Nina,

I wish to make a handmade gun of these words, to make my

voice // barrel,

lungs // chamber,

breath // bullet,

eyes // magazines,

reloading with a will to keep pushing

when I just don’t believe

when my faith is hanging by a thread

when I have run out of tears, anger, pain, and  metaphors

 

this love is all I have left when my body can no longer fight

I hope it will be enough ammunition

 

 

 

Posted on October 8, 2014 .

Pages Matam - God Circus (Writing)

A Piece on overcoming depression, inner turmoil, and rejoicing in celebration. Knowing you are #necessary

 

“God Circus” (A #Necessary epiphany)

 

One

day, when God ordains life to hand you a Circus, make a grand ceremony of your limbs in an act of revel and amazement, lights screaming color as loud as the effervescent sea of congregation watching your every move as if your steps were prey for feasting eyes, your bones rearranging into a machine with a gorgeous praise waiting on the other end of the beat.

 

Two

Instances per hour, you will have to convince yourself

That your will is bold ringmaster.

 

Your voice a calliope whistling a truth

that can be heard being sung from many miles.

 

Do not ignore the strength of your resonance.

Your hands are a ten ringed circus,

 

Ready to set the sky in a blaze of imagination,

tipping stars off balance until you gain complaint notes from Libras.

 

SCREW the constellations...

they don’t know your STRUGGLE!

 

The many times your wrists were

the uneven jagged muse for steel contortionists.

 

How you trapezed your way through depression until

you wanted to make a disappearing act of self.

 

How swallowing your pride was a fire eater’s composition,

And corde lisse was a heavy mistake your neck couldn’t loop out of.

 

Three.

Jumping through hoops the

Size of a cheerio for

Friends and family,

 

when you’d barely step

through your opportunity’s

door..is flawed routine.

 

“Selfless,” has been a

part of your show always. Your

Trampoline heart that

 

all could bounce back from.

While you remain tumbling fool,

Making it this far.

 

For

All of the times,

We made silly clowns

of ourselves. Red nosed

amalgam of crushing insecurities

 

Hiding behind powdered masks,

Exhaust shielding smiles that

tired your soul, trying

To find inner comfort.

 

When you began tightrope

Hoping not to fall,

Weaving your endeavors into

safety nets for dismount,

 

Often drinking and sex

turned you human cannonball

landing on the wrong

side of irrevocable consequence.

 

Five

beasts inside of you, each with the face of past lovers

You thought could be tamed by a stranger’s lips,

If only choice was just as random.

The brush of their hands, a maze you didn’t want to get out of

But you were always an escape artist, Jellyfish, daring devil. 

 

6 (is 9).

In the circus profession,

Morphing felt into different shapes of hats is called Chapeaugraphy.

How many hats have you found yourself wearing when world felt different?

When nothing went according to plan

in juggling act of pleasure and keeping roofs over heads.

When deciding between eating today or chasing dreams tomorrow?

Sacrifice, is hitting rock bottom and the bottom hits back

TWICE as hard, grabbing you by the throat screaming

“YOU MOTHERF@#$*&, AINT DONE!”

 

Seven.

Encore! Round of applause!

You will often be your only audience

the biggest elephant in your empty room.

No one can be greatest supporter of you like you can.

Learn to treat this notion less like default and more birthright.

Do not transmute alone into loneliness

Let love do its bidding, The show...will go on.

Posted on October 8, 2014 .

Piñatas vid - Featuring Heather Dunlop

my name is Heather Dunlop, I'm 18 years old, from Dublin, living in Cambridge, UK where I just finished my studies in English Literature, Photography and Fine Art and am starting a degree in September to study illustration in London.

my name is Heather Dunlop, I'm 18 years old, from Dublin, living in Cambridge, UK where I just finished my studies in English Literature, Photography and Fine Art and am starting a degree in September to study illustration in London.

"Earlier this year for my art coursework I chose a project incorporating text in art work and studied the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I figured that to use text effectively like he did with race I needed to use it for something that was important to me - rape, sexual abuse etc. Although I did not have the words myself, I was moved by your poem 'Piñata' months before and decided to incorporate quotes from it in my paintings." - Heather Dunlop

TEXT OF POEM:

"Piñata"

After Tina Mion's "Pinata" painting

To the man on the bus I overheard tell a woman in conversation - presumably a friend:
"you are too ugly to be raped..."
...Dear man on the bus,
Tell the one in five women of this country, that they are beautiful,
their four counterparts, spared torment ugly.
Tell the one in three women of this world,
That you will not make piñatas of their bodies.
Watch morsels of them, spill greedily
to the famished smiles of your ignorance
Shaped like bloodthirsty children. How your words
Hit repeatedly, until they broke open
Like shattered papier-mache cradle
How their blood flowed like candy until Hollowed insides
Jaws mangled into misfortune from when they tried to scream
For their Legs torn into a crucifix
Loud cry of eyes muted
Tell them how beautiful their silence is.
...Dear man on the bus
From smothering cat-calls,
to quickened pace of trek home
Rape with a dress on.
Rape without a dress on.
Raped as children, who couldn't even dress themselves.
Tell them how ugly their consent was.
Tell the depression, the post traumatic stress
The unreported. Tell Mahmudiyah,
A footnote in the history of crimson Iraqi sands
How beautiful the military's silence is
Cloaked in how we don't ask, and they 
didnt tell, in the name of country.
Tell Elizabeth Fritzl
How pretty the flame of her skin was,
that turned her Father a torturous moth of incest
'til she gave birth to 7 choices she never had
...Dear man on the bus
Tell my 11th grade student, Lauren
That she wanted it, her beauty had them coming.
Tell my 7th grade student, Mickayla
That she wanted it, her beauty had him coming.
Tell my 3rd grade student, Andre
That he wanted it, his beauty had him coming.
Tell the 8 year old me,
The God in me I loved fiercely was so gorgeous,
that cousin twice my age,
wanted to molest the Holy out of me,
Peeled raw
until I was as ugly as she was.
Rape is a coward hiding its face in the make-up of silence.
A murderous fruit, that grows best in the shadows of taboo.
A Vietnam prostitute with red white and blue skin,
A murmur of bodies left vacant
by the souls that spend years, pills, poems, and death
trying to learn to reclaim them.
...Dear nameless assailant
How this bus carries the burden of your stick and blindfold Patriarchy 
that has only taught you to treat women like ceiling strung jugs
Violence claws up from your throat,
Like a monstrous accomplice to the 97 percent
that will never see jail 
...Dear man on the bus
As these words fall out of your mouth,
I pray no one finds your children beautiful enough
to break open, making a decorative silent spectacle out of them.

Posted on July 10, 2014 .