Escape

Coimbra, 2021
“My words have escaped”

I whisper to the empty box they bursted opened



At first

I feared they would choke

to their first taste of air

But they didn’t



I closed my eyes

and sighed in relief

Then I stayed silent

Just so I could hear them echo

Just so I could hold them in my arms

Just so I could hear them breathe



They couldn’t stand

the chains they have been tide to

They couldn’t stand

to watch me suffer

for leaving them unsaid



They are free now

Now they sing to lonely stars

They yell at injustice till it breaks

They hold the lost and the lonely

They help other words escape

[Luísa Tibana, Coimbra, Spring 2021]

Ideology eyes

Maceió, 2018
You are not born with ideology
But you will only die without it
If you don’t live at all

I was born with a nose too small
Glasses dangle there for a little
And eventually
fall off

I guess I thought the same would happen
To ideology glasses 
But I was wrong
Because they are not glasses at all

I don’t know when it happened
if it was
at the age of five
or four
When my eyes were replaced

The world was colourful
and pure
Then things turned to
black, white and grey

There is not much I can do 
So often
I see a trash can
as a plate of food
Because its content 
will agree with me

You are not born with ideology
But you will only die without it
If you don’t live 

It’s ironic I know
being a prisoner 
of my own eyes
But most of the time there is nothing I can do

I then search for different lenses
in conversations and books
So I don’t limit myself
to what my eyes can see
I’ve accepted now
No matter what I do
I can’t ever escape from ideology

[Luísa Tibana, Coimbra, Spring 2021]

Ticking clock

London, 2014
The clock ticks
“What makes a poem a poem?”
I asked myself as I brushed my teeth
I am so overwhelmed
My eyes weight heavy
There is nothing I would rather do now
than go to sleep

But I am here
The clock ticks
As I drown in questions
I can’t answer

Poetry to me now 
is silence
Not rhythm 
Not sounds
Not even words

The clock ticks
And I awake up
Suddenly silence weights heavier
than my yesterday’s eyes
Now there is nothing in silence
But loneliness

The clock ticks
And just like that
Poetry is gone
It faded away as the sun
decided it was time to shine

But who would have guessed?
The clock ticks
And poetry 
finds itself in other forms

I wonder 
if as the clock ticks
there are moments
I become poetry too.

[Luísa Tibana, Coimbra, Winter 2021]

Natural language

Paris, 2014
“Language is natural”, they say
As if there isn’t a few drops of blood
on every line I write 
As if my poems were created
out of thin air
not early mornings
not sleepless nights
As if I have never cried over 
the mediocrity of my work

“Language is natural”, they tell me
And suddenly
My head feels heavy
My hands tremble 
My arms feel sore
As I think back
to all the words
I so carefully put together
but got me nowhere
	
“Language is natural”, they yell
Not realising 
they are silencing
all the people who landed me a hand
and all the books that got me here

“Language is natural”, they insist
As if I am
so effortlessly
bringing words together
crafting them 
out of breath

[Luísa Tibana, Coimbra, Spring 2021]

Anxiety

Coimbra, 2020
The night is a coward
Passed its fingers through my sky
Stole the light that once was there
The moon follows me through the night
I forgot my dreams under my bed
the same places where monsters hide 

Silly me to think
I am capable enough for this ride
Words still won’t come to me
Even as the sun shines bright

Why bother trying?
I’ve wasted enough energy
With all the tears I’ve cried

What I desire
may have been behind one 
of the many doors I have walked by
But I always hear a voice telling me
I will never get to the other side 

I sometimes wonder if I would get there
If only for a second
fear would disappear from my sight
take its hands out of me
And at least let me try

[Luísa Tibana, Coimbra, Spring 2021]

Voiceless

Myiajima, autumn 2016
宮島 (Miyajima), 2016

–  ❊ –

Her childhood is a blur,
a rootless flower,
a roofless house,
a thunderstorm,
a collection of wistful memories her heart wants to forget
but can't

She has an imaginary friend
She calls him Silence
But-
Where was he when pieces of the sky were falling?
when people yelled "don't let them in"?

She wanted to fill her empty stomach,
a place to rest,
a hand to hold
The moon shines shyly
The days grow cold
Her lungs are full of air
Her feelings buried in her throat
Her heart is clumsy
This world is sick and sold

Her mother tongue limps
Trips on its barefoot
And stands up
Stands still
Voiceless

[Luísa Tibana, The School of the New York Times, New York City, Summer 2018]

Piece inspired on the exhibition “Blind as the Mother Tongue” by Hiwa K, displayed at the New Museum in June 2018.

–  ❊ –

Today is World Refugee Day! ♡

We have all been through a lot of uncertainty these past few months. We have been worried about the future, worried about ourselves and our loved ones. Many of us are waiting for news from ICUs, and mourning the ones we have lost. Just because there are people suffering much more than we are, it does not mean that our feelings are not valid. But now, more than ever, we need to think about them. Refugees around the world live in uncertainty and fear, and their living situation has been a lot worsen during these difficult times.

There is so much we can do to help. At the end of this post you will find a list with a few resources to help us do our part on making this world a better place for everyone. The pandemic has revealed, in an aggressive and terrifying way, the fragility of our health systems, governments and our own selves. Let’s do what we can to come out of it better, more empathetic than ever. On my list I have included resources to support refugees, as well as other extremely important causes. None of those people are voiceless, the role of the projects and organisations (listed below) is making sure they are being heard.

On my list you will find resources to help the people in Yemen. The country is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in the last 100 years. They are dealing with the global pandemic of COVID-19, an epidemic of cholera, a war and famine, all at once.

Furthermore, I have also included resources to help the favelas and other vulnerable communities in Brazil. Yesterday, Brazil hit 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. I could go on, and on, about all the political scandals that have happened this week alone, and how indifferent the federal government has been since the beginning of the pandemic, but my focus here is on the people. Among such chaos, the favelas and the indigenous communities are by far the most affected and the most ignored. Brazil has got to a point where, in some places, there are not even enough caskets for people to be buried.

To make matters worse, during the pandemic cases of domestic violence have risen drastically all over the world. Around the globe people were urged to stay at home to protect themselves from the virus. But what do you do when home is not a safe place? An awful number of women around the world have had to quarantine with abusive partners, and have suffered daily from psychological torture, and in some cases even physical violence.

Moreover, we cannot forget that the world is still dealing with issues with historical roots. Racism still plays a shameful role in our societies, and it leads to the serious problem of police brutality. Hence, I have included on my list resources to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement. To all Black people reading this, I know that as much as I try putting myself in your shoes, I will never understand how it feels to be in your skin. However, I stand with this cause, I stand with you all. You deserve all the love and support. Your lives, your voices and your stories matter so much. For you who want to educate yourself on the topic, you should definitely take a look on the works of Rudy Francisco, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, James Baldwin, Ariana Brown and many other brilliant Black writers.

Last, but certainly not least, in celebration of Pride Month, I have also included resources to support the LGBTQIA+ community. It is absurd, to say the least, that people are discriminated, and even targets of violence just because of who they are and who they love. To all the LGBTQIA+ community, I know this world has been specially cruel to you at times, I can only imagine how awful it must have felt. All I want to say is that you matter, and that I hope you feel loved and supported every single day. Happy Pride, you wonderful people! You deserve the world.

If you have got to this point, thank you so much, it means a lot to me. I, too, have felt voiceless many times. I hope you liked my poem, but most importantly I hope you contribute to one of these causes, whether it is through donations, by signing petitions, staying informed, or even by sharing this link (or one of the links below). Thank you all so much for taking some time to read this. Educate yourself and be kind. We are all in this together. I hope you and your loved ones are well and safe. I am sending you all so much love. Take care! xx

Resources:

Donations

To help refugees around the world

To provide lifesaving supplies, and support to refugees and replaced people

To protect and support children and families affected by the pandemic of COVID-19

COVID-19 emergency appeal

To provide support (including medical assistance) to children in vulnerable regions of the world

To help the kids in Yemen

To help Yemen 

Yemen food appeal

Yemen crisis appeal

To help the favelas in Rio

To help homeless people in São Paulo

To help vulnerable communities around Brazil

To support indigenous communities in Brazil

To help the Altamira people

To support the Xetá people (the donations will be used to buy food and health supplies)

George Floyd memorial fund

George Floyd’s daughter’s fund

Breonna Taylor’s fund

Destiny Harrison’s fund

Destiny’s Dream scholarship

To support communities of colour

To The Internacional Lesbian Gay Bissexual Trans and Intersex Association

To support the most persecuted LGBTQIA+ communities

To the International Railroad for Queer Refugees

To the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

To Domestic Violence NSW (New South Wales)

Petitions:

Protect refugees and asylum seekers

Stop homophobic attacks on LGBTQIA+ refugees in UN camps

Compassion and action for Yemen crisis refugees

Stop the war and end famine in Yemen

Save lives in Yemen

End hunger in Yemen

Justice for Yemen

Petitions to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement 

Justice for Breonna Taylor

Justice for George Floyd

Justice for George Floyd

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery

Justice for João Pedro

Justice for Miguel 

Protect indigenous communities in Brazil (they need more tests for COVID-19)

To protect the indigenous communities in the Amazon from COVID-19

Support the equality act

Ban LGBTQ+ conversion therapy

Reinstate the protection of transgender people in healthcare

Creation of the collective LGBTQIA+ in Brazil

Justice for Tony Mcdade

End foster care adoption discrimination

Allow gay men to donate blood

Ban conversion therapy in the United States

To protect woman and children from violent partners

Stop sexual and gender violence in Kenya

To educate youth on domestic violence

Justice for Atiyeh Chatmon

Free Liyah

To approve a temporary financial support for low income women victims of domestic violence in Brazil

More information (and other ways you can help):

For more information on refugees and other ways you can get involved

For more information on what is going on in Yemen and how you can help

For more information on violence against women and girls, and how the problem has escalated during the pandemic

For more information on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and other ways you can support the cause

For more information on how to support the LGBTQIA+ community

To get involved in actions to make the world a fairer, better place

A letter to my writer’s block

–  ❊ –

Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you, it’s me.
It’s finally me.
I’m not saying I didn’t feel safe hiding on your shadow,
because I did way more than I should. 

I believed you. 
I believed when you said you only wanted the best for me. 
I can still feel my pencil weighing between my fingers. 
I can still feel my hands tremble 
every time I remember the things you used to do. 

I remember the way you would come to me 
slowly
your footsteps sounded like raindrops 
dancing on my roof. 
I remember how you would press your fingers against my throat 
until no word could find its way out,
and whisper that writing was a spark of magic lost long ago 
like fairy tales 
and Christmas mornings
all pieces of us we leave behind as we grow up.

There is no going back now.
My words have escaped. 
Now they’re yelling at the void, 
whispering 
to sunflowers and lonely stars 

I’m no longer running after you every time there’s something I’m afraid to say
I’m no longer letting you wrap your arms around me

I’ll lock the door, 
I’ll shut the windows 
every time I hear you coming with the wind 

Forget my name. 
Forget my way home, 
the way into my skin. 
Goodbye now 
I’ve missed me

[Luísa Tibana, Maceió, Autumn 2019]

IMG_3134
Ville de Québec, 2017

Mia

–  ❊ –

Mother of four forgotten nameless kids, Mia grows old refusing to let go of the little girl who dreamt of being a ballerina. Her hobbies include annoying her grumpy big brother, watching Sponge Bob, and keeping up with everything going on around the house.

When asked about her past her expression was surprised, a little clueless, as if she was trying to connect my words in a way that would make more sense. She remained silent. Then she looked up, still confused, but notoriously happy to know that now she has a roof above her head. Her life in the streets is now nothing more than unclear memories that fireworks and thunderstorms tend to bring back. The night, however, does not scare her anymore. She no longer feels the need to hide, to hold her breath and sit still with her eyes closed, until her whole body, as it slowly dissolves into the dark corners of the streets, becomes part of the night.

When asked about everyone who has crossed her way, she closed her eyes, delighted, happy to know she has found love in their arms. When asked about those who live an ocean away, she immediately looked at the door, clearly thrilled, probably wondering when they would be back again. She never pays much attention to what anyone looks like, she remembers them for the things we cannot see. She looked specially amused when asked about those who smell like rice and soy sauce, sunshine and caipirinha, tea and fish & chips, hamburgers and fries, snow and maple syrup, and, of course, those who smell like home.

She got distracted when she heard a storm coming with the wind. She looked at the window and started staring at the sky, fascinated as she watched how that cloudy morning was slowly growing into a stormy afternoon. Then she looked at me. I told her I could not make it stop, that I was not the one who had asked the clouds to work overtime. She tilted her head a little to the left and kept staring at me with the same innocent, quizzical look in her eyes. I realised then that she was not asking me anything, she was wondering why those violent drops of water no longer bring the cold. She sighed deeply as she turned her head back to the window. Rainy days are cold when you are lonely, she thought to herself.

Mia may not know the answer to many questions. She may not know the words to describe the warmth she feels inside her chest every time someone runs their fingers through her hair. But somethings go without saying. The sweet, crazy look in her eyes always seems to be daring us to have the courage to love deeply. Loving has been the sweetest, easiest thing she has ever done. Afterall, what in the world feels more like magic than a feeling that unexpectedly finds you? What else can reveal itself in so many different forms?

As her roommate and close friend, I can say without any fear of being wrong that we may have saved Mia from the streets, but she is the one who saves us every day. She keeps saving us from lonely mornings and unexpected sorrows. She saved us from grief. She showed us there was no way we could fill the hole Sushi had left on our bras, shirts, jeans and hearts. But it is amazing how quickly someone manages to create their own space inside of us, if only we are brave enough to let them in. If only we are willing to protect them from the rain, for as long as we can.

[Luísa Tibana, Maceió, Autumn 2020]

Don’t buy, adopt ♡

IMG_8340.jpeg

Through your eyes

IMG_1811
Ville de Québec, Canada, autumn 2017

Hello my friend!

You must be thinking that you have just found a message addressed to someone else. But if this lovely piece of paper ended up on your way, I guess right now this letter is supposed to be nowhere but in your hands. However, before I start I want to ask you a favour; read me closely, and any questions will be answered later on, I promise. Imagine that as your eyes are passing through my words I am right by your side reading them out loud to you. Listen to me carefully, so they can slip out of my tongue following the rhythm of my heartbeat.

Now let me ask you something. How many times were your eyes screaming for help but everyone failed to hear? Quite a lot, right? But do you remember when it was the last time you looked around and tried to see in someone’s eyes more than the reflex of your own? Can you imagine how many times the person by your side was falling apart while you were blind to every broken piece but the ones inside your chest?

It may sound strange, but I love crowded places. They inspire me in an intense and yet suffocating way. I like seeing people passing by. Some of them take the time to walk slowly, others are always in a hurry as if time is desperately slipping through their fingers. Still, they have something that unify them; they live. Every heartbeat, every breath, every scar, every collapsing star that lays inside their chests has its own story. They carry a past on their backs, and an unbuilt future on their shoulders. Nonetheless, the sad part of it is that most of the time they do not see each other, and when they do is under the perspective of a heart that plays a different melody. More often than we think we let only our own eyes be the windows through which we see the world. Do you think it is fair the fact that all that uniqueness is labelled as a nameless mass?

Can I ask you one last favour, please? I want you to write down on the other side of this page what this place where you found my letter looks like through your eyes, and how it makes you feel. After that describe the feeling of breathing this air through your lungs, and all the things you can smell. Then, write something you just heard, and how it echoed inside your head. Next, tell me the last thing you cried for. And last but not least, share your battle with me, and put the letter back in the same place you found it, so I can read it and pass it on.

I love the drops of sunshine on the river and how the wind makes them dance. This place makes me feel that there is no better roof than the sky above my head. The air here is dense and smooth, the deeper I breath the more alive I feel. It smells like roses and earth after it rains. A guy just told me I was beautiful, I realised then that he could not see a thing of the poetry I have covered by skin. I cried yesterday because I miss pieces of myself I will never get back. My battle is waking up every morning and putting on a smile that does not always belong to my face, as I have stuck on my throat all the feelings my heart is so tired of screaming, and my lips deny telling anyone.

I want to tell you that I care about you. So take one of my shoes, and I will take one of yours. Hold my hand and let’s walk through this. Together.

Lots of love,

A face among the crowd

[Luísa Tibana, Ville de Québec, Winter 2018]