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  • Il Gelato | Untold Narratives

    Il Gelato by Joann Garrido There was one moment when it all sank in. The buildup to my first trip to Italy was more than a bit consuming. Booked with my sister’s frequent flyer miles about a month before, it had the feel of something done on a whim. The best kind of plan. At the tender age of 57 I’d done my fair share of travel yet never managed to get to Italy, the land of our grandfather, and let’s face it, a dream destination. The weeks leading up to it were filled with shopping excursions to find, among other things, the right shoes. You know, ones that would support my often-achy feet, yet wouldn’t scream out “Look out! Unfashionable American headed your way!” I also needed to find a jacket that would not only keep me warm but would protect me in the event of rain. For me carrying an umbrella is basically an admission that I will, at some point, just lose it and get wet anyway. I don’t bother. And, of course, it had to look nice. I never have understood why so many of my people (Americans) choose to dress like they’re about to scale the Grand Canyon in their hiking gear, while visiting the grandiose cities of Europe. Let’s give these places some respect, can we? We can, at least, try to look almost as good as the place and its natives do. We will probably never achieve this, but a little effort won’t kill us. Having finally gotten my wardrobe settled and my packing completed, I was prepared to declare “smooth sailing ahead.” But the universe had other plans and decided to test my patience by sending snow filled Noreasters to the Boston area, on a weekly basis, as my departure date approached. For those of you who don’t know what a Noreaster is, just think about a wind-filled chaotic storm that will wreak havoc and include snow during cold months. March and April in New England are merely suggestive of Spring. Snow covered crocuses and pasty complexions are run of the mill sites during these months to those of us lucky enough to live here. Of course, one was scheduled for the week, specifically the DAY I was due to leave. My time that week became filled with calling Delta customer service reps, maniacally checking weather apps, and having to accept that as a non-religious person I was going to have to succumb to some form of prayer… or maybe a bribe to the universe. Hell, I’m glad there aren’t any goats in my neighborhood, or I might have been arrested trying to sacrifice one. I just could not accept that I might have to suffer through rescheduling flights and missing a day of my trip whose daily excursions were already booked and paid for. With less than 24 hours to go and on a steady diet of Tums, my manager subtly suggested I go home early and get my jittery vibes away from her. I do recall the word “Xanax” being mentioned at some point. So, imagine my relief when I arose, on the day in question, to pretty and windless flurries. All was good. It was happening. Really happening. And it did. Okay the flight to JFK got caught in some kind of wind we weren’t experiencing in Boston and took such a drastic pitch to one side for a moment that… I digress. I made it to Rome. My sister was at the hotel and my friends, who live in the Netherlands, joined us later to spend a couple of days with us. The sight-seeing. The pasta eating. The vino. All so good. But it wasn’t until day three, as we were walking through The Trastevere, having enjoyed a long, wine-filled lunch in the sun that we stopped to get gelato. Then, time slowed down. I looked around and saw that I was walking down a beautiful street in one of Rome’s oldest neighborhoods, with family and friends. The weather was perfect, the wine buzz was good, and the pistachio gelato was the sweet ending I hadn’t realized I needed. I was transported to that scene in “Eat, Pray, Love” where Julia Roberts is sitting on a bench, enjoying her gelato, next to a couple of nuns, and drinking in her Italian experience. I felt what her character must have, the joy of leaving one’s daily routine behind and being in such a beautiful setting. I let that moment, that great moment, just sink in. I was really there. I was really in Rome. And it was really good.

  • Deshaun Rice | Untold Narratives

    Ode to My City by Deshaun Rice TUN Fellow Deshaun Rice used video to tell the story of his beloved Memphis, TN. As his final creative work for the TUN Fellowship, he offers this critical look at Memphis' education system and shares some of the historical context and current issues facing its residents. (c) Deshaun Rice 2023 for The Untold Narratives

  • My Childhood: A Memoir | Untold Narratives Submission

    My Childhood (a memoir excerpt) ​ By Ellicent Daley ​ Childhood memories are the most cherished in a person’s life, whether they were good or not so good. Looking back, my childhood days were both good and not so good. I can remember my mother who was just four feet ten, but a little spitfire and my dad, six feet four, but a gentle giant, and my brother, as mean as a star apple tree. You see, the star apple would not fall from the tree, regardless of how ripe it is. If you did not pick it, it would stay on the tree and dry out into nothing. ​ So who was I? I was this shy, scrawny, back of the class, little girl with a head of hair like that of a horse’s mane, and a texture as curly and rough like steel wool. It was so long and coarse that my mother could not comb it every day. Sunday was my “Mane combing” day, which was an ordeal in and of itself both for mom as well as for me. I was so afraid to have my hair washed and combed that I wish Sunday would never come. I wished the week would stop at Saturday, and begin again on Monday that would skip my ordeal, but that was just “wishful thinking.” ​ Mom would wash my hair every Sunday, oil, and twist each part and twist them into each other. She would tie my head at night with a scarf and brush it up every morning. Mom would say, “Why ain’t you a boy so I could cut this thing off your head?” ​ Not only my hair was a problem, but she really wanted me to be a boy because she preferred boys to girls. But who is it that said we have freedom of choice? If we really was free to choose, I would have chosen to be a boy just to please my mother then I would get some of the love she showered on my brother. She would refer to him as her, “loving stomach.” But I was glad I was born a girl. Girls are gentle, delicate, tender, dainty, lovely and all that goes with being a female. Girls can be dressed in the prettiest little dresses, hair can be adorned with ribbons, wearing the little pattern leather shoes with frilly socks. That was how mom dressed me. Whereas boys can only be dressed in pants, a shirt and tie. People would always compliment me, “What a pretty little girl you are with all that hair.” That made me feel special. Mom didn’t like me getting all that attention from strangers, and my brother was not being complimented. ​ Mom was the disciplinarian. She would not fail to use the strap for the smallest things. My brother and I would hide the strap so mother would send us to cut the redwood switch, but then we were a step ahead of her. We would use the knife to cut around the switch, so with each strike of the whip, it would break. Mother caught onto our trick, so she started wearing an apron with a pocket. This was where she kept the strap. “Hide my strap now,” mom would say. Mom was just four foot two, but she was a little spitfire. She was always busy caring for the family. She was an excellent cook, a work from home dressmaker, but with all her busy family life, she would find the time to care for the sick in our area. ​ People who have sick family members would come get her at any hour of the night, and she would light her lantern, and go and administer to the sick. Dad would say, “But Ina, you can’t go this late, who will come back with you?” ​ “Don’t worry Vic. I’ll soon be back. God will protect me.” ​ Most times she would not return until morning, but she was certain to come back on time to make breakfast and get my brother and I ready for school. Mom was called “the lady with the lantern.” She had a good, kind heart always ready to hear the burden and sorrows of others and especially those she loved. ​ Dad was six feet four. He was a gentle giant. The laid-back parent, but one who instilled morals in his children with words instead of the strap. I can remember a code dad would often use. “Before you speak ill of your neighbor, ask yourself these three questions: Is it right? Is it true? Is it necessary?” ​ Another he would use especially to my brother who would always lie, dad would say, “A liar is not believed even when he speak the truth.” ​ He was a stone mason by trade, a farmer, a good husband and father, and a good provider. He loved his family. I was daddy’s little girl.

  • Her Eyes | The Untold Narratives Submission

    Her Eyes Were Looking for Me By Don Reuker She was my best friend. We did everything together and we were often side by side with sweaty palms together and fingers interlaced. She built something positive in me, and at that time, if I could choose to be with her, I would. ​ We were both Army kids. Our fathers were soldiers stationed in West Germany standing at the ready to fight the Soviets. The family’s job was to support the dad and if allowed, go where he goes. We all bought the Cold War narrative about countering the Communist threat. Containment of the murderous hoard was the first priority. Our brave dads faced down the wily Reds across the Fulda Gap keeping them in the Worker’s Paradise of East Germany where they belonged. ​ I first met her at the base bowling alley. Her father, the colonel, brought her in to sign up for the Saturday morning summer league. All of those brave dad bowling coaches became unnaturally stiff and ridged as the colonel escorted his daughter to the registration table. Cigarettes were crushed out and morning beers were slid out of sight. The normal hustle and crashing of pins slowed and many of us were shushed into silence. I just knew that she’d be assigned to my team. Because we were already short one kid—ugh, not a girl. ​ Of course, just as I thought, the league director brought her and the colonel over to my lane. We were introduced and the colonel looked over my motley teammates and then spoke directly to me. “I won’t be able to pick her up after she’s done bowling. Will you walk her home after you finish up?” I was an Army kid. I knew an order when I heard one. He was really saying, you will walk her home after you finish up. I also knew how to speak to officers. There was only one answer. ​ “Yes, sir.” ​ I liked her right away in spite of myself. Confidence seemed to waft off of her and she wasn’t daunted by failure. She rolled three gutter balls in a row before she managed to knock down her first pin and then hooted about it. She was free to express herself in a way that I wasn’t. She was having fun while she learned to bowl. She cheered for her new teammates right away and she was loud. Leaving pins standing embarrassed me but she didn’t seem to mind at all. ​ For the rest of the morning I was unexpectedly drawn to her. Every time I had the chance I sat right next to her on those hard smooth fiberglass seats and notice the sweet scent of her perfume in the air. I didn’t know that girls smelled good. ​ While walking her home, I learned that we were neighbors more or less, separated by fewer than two hundred yards. She lived on what was called Colonel’s Row which was a tree lined street with two story homes, driveways and large yards. If you didn’t know any better this could be a section of most any suburban bedroom community in the States. This street followed a long curve that partly encircled my neighborhood of rather drab three story apartment buildings that housed captains and majors with a smattering of warrant officers like my dad. Her next-door neighbors were other colonels, with lots of battalion and a few brigade commanders. The officers on her street were the commanders of the junior officers housed in the apartment building of my neighborhood. The adults of my community were rarely guests on Colonel’s Row but the adults of hers were never guests in mine. On the other hand, I was over at her house a lot. ​ I got to know her well that summer. She read books like All Things Bright and Beautiful and Watership Down . She took piano lessons and played The Entertainer all the time. She was from Michigan and liked President Ford and baseball. ​ She taught me how to dance. We practiced the polka and the jitterbug. Counterbalancing on the swing moves was a fun trick to learn. She was full of instructions: “Look in my eyes. Don’t be shy, put your hand in the middle of my back and hold on—tight. Don’t be afraid to touch me, I don’t have cooties.” ​ School started in mid-August and that meant football for me and cheerleading for her. She was the captain of the Junior Varsity cheerleaders and I was on the JV football team. Her enthusiastic encouragement for the team and for me was always in her voice. I could often hear her from the sidelines while I was in the game. Often hearing her while I was in the game is somewhat misleading, because I wasn’t in the game that much. But, the smell of sweat and bruised grass, the feeling of cool fall air on my face, and the sound of her voice in my ears made football so great. For a teenaged boy, it’s a good thing to know that the cheerleader is cheering for you. ​ She earned great grades and unlike me, she always did her homework. And she was really good at math. She invited me to the library to improve my dismal grades. I sat there at the heavy wooden table hunched over an equation with my head in my hands trying to work out the value of X. Algebra was mystery and magic to me, but it came very easily to her. She knew mathematical incantations I didn’t know. I was unable to see the next step, but she always could. This mirrored our budding romance, but that was equally unrecognizable to me at the time. I sat back in frustration and looked away at the rows of books placed neatly on the shelf and ask, “How do you know that the next step is to multiply by negative one?” I wasn’t too bright back then. But she seemed to believe in me, that I could get it, and she gently explained the steps, her pale blue eyes darting from mine back to the page, and even in math she led me through the steps. I didn’t know it before that, but I preferred the company of smart girls. ​ Our high school sponsored a full day tour bus trip to the see the Bavarian Alps in spring. She selected a window seat for us on the right-hand side of the bus near the back. I thought I was so lucky to enjoy the ride in her company. Her fair, slightly freckled face and wavy strawberry blond hair were in the foreground and European fields and farms, factories and freeways, passed by over her shoulders in the background. Then, she asked me the most surprising question. “Wouldn’t you like to kiss me?” I was enchanted, clearly she knew non-math charms too. She always knew the next step. ​ This was a moment for playing it cool. But my heart pounded in my chest and my ears began to burn and felt hot. For once, I had already given this prospect a great deal of prior consideration and had a little plan in place for such an opportunity. ​ You’ll look her right in the eyes and softly cup her right cheek with your left hand. Next you’ve got to say something smooth, like—I’d really like to kiss you. Of course, she’ll nod her agreement and you’ll lean in most of the way to her pink lips and close your eyes. Your hand on her cheek will tell you if she shies or leans in the rest of the way. And then the two of you’ll share the gentlest and most tender first kiss ever. ​ That was the plan, but she had taken the initiative and I was caught unready. I mumbled some general agreement with her proposal. Slowly and cautiously I commenced execution of my choreographed plan. I moved my hand toward that freckled cheek and said, “Why, yes, yes I would.” It seemed like a nice reply. She closed her eyes, tilted her head and parted her lips slightly. Another curve, I was fond of French Fries and French Toast, but their kissing method was a mystery. I forged ahead anyway. I leaned toward her just as the bus followed the mountain road sharply to the left. Our faces smashed together and our heads clonked. How we laughed, I could not be embarrassed in her company. We got around to that first kiss later. It was a delightful day. I thought the Alps were nice, too. ​ That was a good year for me. But I should have known that it couldn’t last. ​ Late in May as we walked home from the last day of school she casually mentioned that she had some news. Her father had received orders to attend the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. While her parents were planning to stay in Germany for most of the summer, she already had a plane ticket for the States. She was headed for Michigan and her grandmother’s house north of Detroit for the summer. She told me about her cousins, and the Lions, and the rooky, Fidrych, who she hoped to see, and something and something else…I had stopped listening. I looked away, embarrassed by the tear welling in my eye. I blinked it away. She didn’t notice and prattled on happily about her prospects for the summer. ​ This young girl, whom I liked quite a lot, was going to move back to the States, and my very comfortable and secure life was about to be upended. My entire cluster of friends was going to be leaving Germany within the next several weeks. That was just life as we all knew it. The dad gets a new duty assignment every second or third year and off you go. ​ “Moving back to the States.” This little phrase is clear enough in its meaning to non-military families. We’re going to return to our home country. Some would say that they were moving back to the World. Friends and families being constantly and systematically ripped away was part of our shared lifelong cycle of moving again and again. All of this moving is like a betrayal, just as you find a home and feel at ease it was time to move again. The Army, the government, the soldier-dad, perhaps the Soviets, had forced yet another move to a foreign place, and some of my friends resented it deeply. And while we lived in a fully American enclave, smack dab in the middle of Germany, there was for many, an urgent, even palpable need to go home. To go back to the States—to get back to the World. But not me. I didn’t feel a strong connection to any singular place back in the States. Germany was my ideal home. And I liked it a lot. ​ But she was moving back to the States. It was mid-June and she was leaving the next day. Her folks had made it clear that she was to be in the house by early evening and our goodbye was nearly over. She seemed like she always seemed, calm and confident, but I was falling apart. We hugged and kissed and whimpered. But I did most of the whimpering. ​ In our last moments together, she withdrew a tiny perfume bottle from her pocket and sprayed me with it up and down. I didn’t step away or resist. Leaving her scent on my body was her final flirtation. She gave me the nearly empty bottle and I stuck it deep into my pocket. The time had come and she was overdue at home. She asked that I not accompany her to the doorstep as I usually did, and I obeyed. I stood under the drooping limbs of a tall tree next to a gate in the chain link fence that separated her neighborhood from mine. I watched her walk away, cross Colonel’s Row and disappear behind the door to her house. She didn’t look back. I stood stone still in the deepening shadow of that tree as twilight turned to darkness. Alone, I tarried in that familiar scent as it lingered and wafted around me in the cool evening air. My heart was breaking and I wept. Teenage angst, the torments of a boy’s tender feelings for a girl, or intense infatuation; are these the makings of a broken heart? Perhaps, but if it wasn’t broken, it was surely cracked and dented. ​ Slowly, I stumbled toward my building and trudged up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. When I arrived, I didn’t chat with my family, I just sulked off to my bedroom. As I undressed and flung clothing into the corner, I found the small bottle in my pocket. I used the tiny remainder of the perfume and sprayed the last of it on a page in a photo album that I kept. The page held an 8x10 glossy black and white photo safely behind a sheet of clear plastic. The image was of my girlfriend, the cheerleader on the sidelines of a football field during one of our games from earlier that year. Her face is in profile and is turned toward the field. She has an expression of excitement, and I always believed that her eyes were looking for me. ​ I hid the album in the bottom drawer of my dresser. For the next several days I fought the urge to throw it away. I had come to understand some of the meaning of betrayal in the way many of my peers knew it. It’s painful to have friends pulled away. In my hurt, that album stood as something real to act out against. I wanted to attack the army, but they were too well armed. I wanted to throw rocks at the government, but I didn’t know where to find it. Somehow, I wanted to punch my dad right in the face, but he was too tough to fight. Doing anything against the Soviet Union might start World War III, therefore, that was out of the question. So, I kept the album and brooded with a powerful feeling of having been betrayed by someone. ​ From time to time, Army Brats like us might cross paths, but it was more likely that we’d never meet again. Nothing in my power could change it. I was in the slow process of recovering from the blow to my adolescent ego. Just beginning to hold my head up, I was mostly ready to forge bravely ahead and reengage in my now diminished life in Germany. ​ Mom told me to clean up my room, which was, in fact, a perpetual dump. But it needed to be done and I needed something to occupy my time, so I got to work. I changed the sheets on my bed, dusted the dresser that stood next to the door and arranged the various knickknacks and mementos that were displayed around the room. All the while I avoided the bottom dresser drawer with the album and all the reminders of her hidden away with it. While I had rejected the thought of throwing it away, that was not the time to pick at a fresh wound. ​ I turned my eyes to the pile of laundry in the corner and began to sort the items to prepare them for the wash. I pulled out stiff stinky socks, jeans and sweaty t-shirts, and neatly separated them. It was a good task, necessary and simple. Light and dark things were separated and set to one side and jeans and t-shirts were placed in another stack. At that moment it was just me and my laundry. I was OKAY. I was getting the job done, no problems, I was productive. I thought things might get better. And then it happened. My fingers found the forgotten perfumed shirt and I pulled it from the pile with a snap. Instantly, her scent seemed to fill the room and she was there. I was bowled over by the power of it. She was there within the bouquet. The sound of her voice, her confident and encouraging smile, the color of her hair, the happy moments we spent together, math and football, and field trips; they all flooded over me in an uncontrollable cascade of raw emotion and memory. And in the midst of it all, the thing that set those memories in motion was that perfume, its alluring fragrance was just hanging in the air, and it mocked me. It seemed to say, you will never see her again. Falling over onto the wooden planked floor with a heavy thud, I wrapped myself into a ball and hugged that shirt to my chest as if it was her. In that moment I understood, she was part of the betrayal, she had a home in Michigan and she left me without even a look back. But I was incapable of being angry with her. Quietly sobbing, I gulped down air but I couldn’t catch a breath. My face and shirt were wet with my tears and my throat was on fire. Slowly rocking on the floor, I eventually found some small shred of self-control and dignity. I must have been a pitiful sight, alone, crying on the floor. Even now as I type and remember, my face is hot and red. But, thankfully, time slips forward into the future and I eventually stopped pining for a lost love. Decades have passed since then and this bright girl is fixed in my mind as part of a pleasant memory of an ideal place that I once called home. The time for considering an old wound waited for much later. It came when I happened upon that photo album in a musty box of my old stuff that was stored in a corner of the basement. Its brown plastic cover seemed to call to me and I opened it. Slowly, I turned the pages and savored the certificates, photos and cards that I had not studied for many years. And then it happened again. The sweet smell of her perfume was still there all these years later and it drifted up from the page where her eyes were still looking for me. I didn’t cry or wish for another chance. But I did gasp at the intensity of the feelings and memories that washed over me as that still familiar fragrance flooded my senses. There is no more sorrow in her memory. I don’t know where she is, but I hope she’s happy and well. Because I am.

  • These NYC kids have written the history | Untold Narratives

    These NYC kids have written the history of an overlooked Black female composer ​ By Anastasia Tsioulcas ​ December 2, 2021, 11:39 AM ET. Click on picture below to read the article:

  • Adesuwa Olumhense | Untold Narratives

    TUN Fellow Adesuwa Olumhense ​ For her fellowship project Adesuwa wrote a series of poems focused on her family and culture. The numbers were added to replicate page breaks in the original submission. ​ (1) ​ Trace a hesitant finger back to your genesis Do you remember your first breath Your grandmother’s first sigh Your sister’s first laugh? Do you remember when it all fell apart? ​ (2) Foreword By: Adesuwa Olumhense ​ Because rocky road drips a tacky lie down my fingers And good things do not always come to those who wait, my father says. Because if you tug your curls down long enough Soon they’ll look just a bit straighter. Because when you’re old enough to sit and wait until your scalp catches fire It means the perm is working. Because straight hair shines brightly Until it breaks off into space. Because you will repeat your name until your throat dries And they still won’t hear you. Because your brothers march out the door on a one-way trip And your sisters murmur their bloodsoaked litany. Because my brothers are their father’s sons And my sister was born a mother. Because ‘someday’ is written in a tongue my grandfather will never learn And my grandmother refuses to speak. Because when I ask my mother “Will the sunflower’s neck snap if the sun is too far from view?” She waits for the world to answer. (3) ​ Edo terms Kpele - Sorry Ebonekhui - A white person in a black person’s body. The nickname the people around Benin City gave my grandfather. Iwu - Body markings of the native Edo people, accomplished by tattooing or scarification. There were facial markings and body markings. Women would also paint their faces for traditional rituals. In the past 60 or so years, this tradition has almost completely died. Oba - the king of the ancient Benin Kingdom, now in modern day Edo state in Southern Nigeria. The current Oba is the descendent of the ancient kings. Iyoba - A title for the King’s mother. Translates as “Queen Mother.” One of the most important Iyoba in Edo history is the Iyoba Idia who fought on the battlefield in ancient times, for whom the title was created. Ogbono - African bush mango seed. Used especially in Southern Nigeria for soup. Òy' èsé - “It’s okay. (4) Kpele By: Adesuwa Olumhense “It’s not personal,” Ebonekhui starts, standing tall and proud in clothes your father would scoff at. His English burns your ears. He will not meet your eyes until the ceremonial paint is gone So you turn, head high for all who care to see your light And you wash. When your tears clear the paint all that remains on your naked face is your iwu. And he cannot remove the marks that hug your skin Kiss your face You turn, smile, and greet your nieces Tell them the story of each curve in every scar. If their history cannot live on their face, It must burrow its home in them somehow. “It’s for their safety,” Ebonekhui claims quietly, void of apology. "We won't eat sacrifices." Your arms wilt in the kitchen bags of packaged food dangling at your sides. Do you tell him? The blessings you murmured over the stew Can be heard at the Oba’s own table. Do you tell him? You plucked the ogbono seeds for the soup yourself Stood in the kitchen for hours Stirring and singing your mother’s favorite songs Do you tell him? As you look at his daughter’s grinning faces Full of joy and devoid of the markings the Iyoba wore with pride. It’s not your God who grew this food, you want to shout. It’s not your Queen that fought our wars. Does your God know our language? Could your God sing our songs? Does it matter? Because there you both stand stuck between the powers that be and the powers that bend. The truth flails on the wrong side of your tongue And you pity it. So you swallow, smile, and say “Òy' èsé.” (5) ​ God’s Gift Adesuwa Olumhense ​ She no longer walks on coals, but she still tempers her steps. She walks a slow, trembling gait, aware of each toe that hits the earth, murmuring to the grass her apologies. She walks, and watches as you take your first step, your fourth, your ninth, into the pure madness that is freedom. Freefall. She pauses, mouth stretched wide to warn as the sink gathers a dish overnight, then a pot, but the drums of war have not started. Her world is buzzing, not from hands, not from names, but from the vertigo of the rollercoaster’s climax. And this is peace, the far echo of a mourned lullaby, the warm brush of sheets on a bed you bought with your own money. This is peace, as the kitchen gathers forbidden spices and flavors, as you create your own recipe for life’s magic, splatter it across nonstick pans on a Wednesday evening and call it art. (6) ​ One last secret Adesuwa Olumhense ​ Do not fear; The child inside you never died. She wanders, barefoot, through your veins Hikes up your back as you section your hair just to slip down the slide of your spine in the shower She mimics your silly faces at each baby on the street Stumbles right beside you to pronounce ingredients in the African market Asks the questions you don’t dare voice aloud. If you listen just right to the wind and its laughter You’ll hear her, giggling right back. (7) ​ Forward By: Adesuwa Olumhense Your world did not end in one day. When the fabled day passed, no white flag was thrown. The mourning doves chirped quietly to themselves. Instead, you face this 3 am version of you husk and human Paper skin wrapped around crackling bones gripping your shaking knees It ends like this: When they pull your fingers back To tell you that you should watch your figure So you shove your hands into your school uniform (you weren’t that hungry anyway—) When they say your skin will burn and blacken in the sun Too dark, too dirty, too ugly And you wrap yourself in shade and sorries. Like this When they pull your hands away from the steering wheel For your brother to push forward. “Save his pride,” your father says. “His little sister cannot drive first.” When you can no longer bear to make silly faces in the mirror So you turn away from your sun. When you look into your mother’s face And a thousand ghosts stare back. ​ Your world did not end in one day It will not restart in one either. ​ What is the cure for a lifetime spent dancing with the dark? When it begins again Your world will not start with a pale dawn. You scream your way to a new beginning Vision blurred, fists trembling And new truths buzzing under your tongue Your first battle, a distant “no,” You barely hear yourself Your opponent rears back from the blast And a part of you yearns to do the same You lay by the beach read the words of your sisters Until your skin matches the deepest of soils And it is no longer sin, but sacred But still, sometimes, you tremble A mosaic of misery That 3 AM version of you creeps back Hugging shaking knees to a heaving chest But never forget the wonder of watching ivy crawl up the garden wall For the versions of you, bruised, trying, grieving Countless hands clenched tight on a near forgotten daydream Your world did not end in one day It will not restart in one either. But on the nights where you continue your dance with demons On the nights where demons leave and you continue your dance alone Remember this. With each step, know your aunties smile that little grin, bright enough to make their iwu glow Know your grandmother hides her laugh in the cloud of palm oil smoke Know your sisters will turn to greet the mirror like an old friend (Like you, dearest, like you) And smile. (8) When they say “Get over it” By: Adesuwa Olumhense ​ You must never claim the sins they shoved under your skin. A jagged gift tastes of terror. A Trojan weapon will not outgrow its design. But when you remove the rot, excavate the essence of your soul Free from weight, full of grief, drenched in promise You will pull gravel from the depths of the spirit Pebble by pebble, tear by tear Shadow screams at sunlight, and the shards will try to take you with them. You must fight! From the depths of the ruin, with the strength of one thousand ‘cans’ to their army of ‘cannots’ From the blackest tunnels they left you in You must fight, because you have waited your entire life to bloom. Shadow screams at sunlight, and the shards will not give in. But you tend the gravel, coax it from your rich soil. Call each bit of rubble by name and set it aside. For the Sun has always resided in you And what is Earth, but an immeasurable beginning? The light will shower its rays of wishes And you, dear heart, are the heir to it all. ​ (c) Adesuwa Olumhense 2023 for The Untold Narratives

  • Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender.. | Untold Narratives

    Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman, was a central figure in the gay liberation movement ​ By Christina Maxouris, CNN ​ Updated 9:54 PM EDT, Wed June 26, 2019 Click on picture to read the article

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