To Whom It May Concern…

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I know I’ve written a similar poem years ago, but sometimes issues do not resolve themselves when we think we have resolved them. I’m thankful for this journey of growth that I’ve embarked upon. Though it is not easy, I’m fascinated by the man I’ve become.

 This may feel like another one of those pieces where hatred makes the ink bleed
But after 22 years
Half-hearted attempts to be whole
And the number of women I fractured in trying to fit jagged edges together
A period where I thought I had stopped hating you
But only being reduced to crying in the parking lot alongside one of those fractured women
After all that
Nah, I don’t hate you

I want to talk to you about
Fences.
You are a smart man
The smartest man I know
So I don’t need to tell you how they work
What their purpose is
Mine
For the sake of this letter
Are wooden
Antiquated
Old-fashioned
Reminders of simpler times

Everyone knows the purpose of this wooden fence
But we overlook the effort it takes to erect them
The soil has to be soft enough to penetrate
But sturdy enough to keep the fences upright

Here is where you come in
Forgive the hand holding
I can’t recall a time I held yours.

You grow your own vegetables
So you are familiar with the softness of the earth
You plant something in it
Hoping it’s in there deep enough that it’ll take something very strong for it to come out

For better or worse
A seed is strong
And even if the gardener isn’t a very good one
He believes in the seed’s ability to grow
As someone so skilled in agriculture
You sure were not that involved in how I came up
But yet
I feel your presence all the same
I’m not the perfect plant
But I’m alive.

Have you ever met a person whose very essence fills a room?
As if the divine were breathing the same air
Inhaling and exhaling energy wherever He is
That’s you
Thus, that’s me
And when I realized I got that from you
I could feel you surrounding me

But I’m talking to you about fences

So here I am
Forcing this fence into the ground
To keep
Whatever
Whomever
Out
No sign needed
You know what fences are for.

But I never looked at what I was keeping in
What did I encase inside these fences
That I should have let out?
I built myself a prison
Hammering away at confinement
Calling it compartmentalized emotion
Believing I released it
When I never even made a door

Protection suffocated without an exit
And the fences felt like they were closing in
The more my place started to look like yours
The more I despised you
The more I despise you
The more my place started to look like yours.

I kept memoirs of you around my front yard
A yard sale with nothing available for purchase
In desperate need of home improvement
I hid the parts of you that I didn’t want nearby residents to see
Small talk grew smaller
The way I ran in the house when confronted with emotions
I couldn’t be vulnerable because I built something that didn’t let–
Well, you know fences work

The few times I’ve been in your presence
I feel like lost Scripture
A translation of John 3:16 solely meant for me
Someone with a divine presence sent his son to die for many who didn’t believe in him
But through him, there is protection in his resurrection
And I just want to say
Salvation is something we all need
And it can only come through forgiveness.

And in that parking lot
Next to a woman who felt more like a passing neighbor
Who I kept enough between us that I could only see parts of her
A storm was brewing
After seeing that movie
And crying a hurricane of tears
My fences were uprooted
It took something that strong
To make me stronger

So I’m writing you this to let you know that I see you in me
And I’m not afraid of it anymore
I don’t construct things to confine spaces in my heart
And I no longer make fences
To make sure anything that doesn’t need to be here
Can be let go.

I love you.

The Tenth Time

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I first met him at age nine
And…since I’ve been an adult, I can count on both hands how many times we’ve spoken.
For the record, nine.
But let’s start at the beginning.
The time when I first learned I was one of his children
When I initially gazed upon his visage
Like looking into a time portal’s image partially finished
And how I instantly became incensed.
I’ll tell yall about him.

His last name is Knight. I don’t bear it, but I do.
I carried darkness in my heart for an unknown man who had been a shadowy figure in the lives of 7 children.
Number 8, I made.
I didn’t know anything about him, but yet the thought of him gave his place in my soul the blackest shade

Our smiles are the same.
I used to hate it.
That’s some kind of mentality
Every time my lips uncurled one, in the back of my mind I’d be reminded of him and become less happy
I mean, how could smiling make me angry?
That’s exactly what happened

So there we were. Face to face
Grown up to boy still hoping he’d help me grow up.
He’s the parent. I’m the pre-teen. And his fatherly care was that video game console meant only for ages 8 and up.
He wouldn’t let me have it until he felt I was old enough.

I was looking at a man who I’d barely known
And I only called him “Dad” because my mother told me so.
The only connection is we share 23 chromosomes
23 Y’s
I’m 23 now, and I have hundreds of inquiries, more than 23 why’s

Like… Do you know my favorite color? Or do I get my propensity to wear a full beard from you?
Or, how come the 2nd week of April and the last week of December is the only time I hear from you?
Did you ever hold me as an infant?
Were you the one who instilled in me to walk and handle myself like royalty?
Do you enjoy riddles like me? As well as puzzles and lateral thinking?
And when your allergies act up, do your eyes start constantly blinking?
Did you know Marvin the Martian is my favorite character from Looney Tunes?
And… Why do you feel like you deserve to be honored on a Sunday in June?
I felt like Will Smith in that episode of Fresh Prince…

I learned how to hoop and got through my first date without him
But still wondered, “how come he didn’t want me?” How come…

He stays near Howard. The place where he grew up.
Became a man.
He was very into his studies, but I wanted to know why did he procrastinate with me?
Yeah, I’m “grown” now but still…
I still need help becoming a man
Maybe I should find a place in Founders Library, somewhere in the non-fiction section
So he could come check me out and read the ongoing Autobiography of Me.

I mean I…hated…him…

To the very pit of my soul
But in that very place is where epiphany occurred
Why loathe him for the conversations we’ve never had?
Or what he didn’t do?
Just embrace what he has given me.

His last name is Knight. I don’t bear it, but I do.
I don’t know his reasoning.
His movements weren’t straight-lined, but somehow they helped preserve me as a Black King.

Our smiles are the same. I used to hate it, but that was dumb
I have the exact same one.
I mean, how can I hate certain features we partially share when I love myself
My whole self
And adore the man I’ve become?

Even if there’s never a tenth time we converse
If the final total never includes my other thumb
I’ve resolved that it makes no sense to hold onto the despair of what he wasn’t.
I removed all those clouds of darkness and embraced that I am his son.
I’m me because of him.

Through all that, I still love him.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my phone is ringing…

Peace.