My Body is a Protest

Poems by Richelle Kota

image by  Drew Roberts

image by Drew Roberts

My Body Is A Protest


I feel the ache of protesting

in my hips

as I come home

carrying the friction of stone and warmth

in the brownness of my skin,

in the ways I demand recognition

for how many times

my body has died on the hot pavement

in Ferguson,




I want to draw the trauma onto walls

that never held debts over us,

and on the lips

that use the air they breathe

to pump slivers of life

into bodies that cannot.


We are still searching for the body of Amelia Earhart.

We scour the oceans,

pull back the layers of earth,

and the German Shepards have begun to bark again.

But we refuse to say how hollow it feels

to know a black body was lying on the street for four hours

as a mother searched within herself for the forgiveness

the police demanded.


So what layer of myself do I wear best,

that somehow a federal bullet does not find its way into my body?

Which one of the layers will they count me as

(name me as)

is the safest?

And what crimes will they tell my mother I committed

when I happen to wear the wrong layer

under the slick boots of a police officer?


I tell myself that

I will die by the hands that feel no regret—

the hands that only have to scrub the blood off once.


That there will be space for me somewhere

that I do not have to carve myself.

And I tell myself

that safety exists in spaces where my protests—

the ones I stage everyday with this body I carry —

make sounds loud enough to rupture the silence

we all use to make life more comfortable.



Does My Trauma Still Make Sound

When No One Is There To Hear It?


I am honored when I can

Feel the roll of the thunder through my vertebrae

Like the way it does,

When I inhale

And my lungs, that have forgotten,

Remember they’re expanding into a home.


I’m relearning how to stretch my legs

Hold my own hand

And smash the mirrors that hold reflections of myself

Ones curated in doubt

Ones that you have smudged.


The glass cuts away what I can’t

But at least

I am the only one who can put myself back together

I am the person inside reaping all the fruits of my labor



If my body has been broken into,

But no one is around to hear it

Am I still allowed the solace of

Moving back into the home

That is my body?


Am I still allowed

To let it find nourishment

Planting goodness into it  


And again

Until something finally takes?


And when they tell me it is not worth my time

That my body will never feel like a home again

That concrete does not let living thrive

That I should just be happy I am here

That quality is just a pleasantry

I don’t have enough privilege

To cash in on—


I shrug my bones in the pupils of their eyes

And tell them the cultivation of myself is a gift

I allow myself to accept.


cordella magazine, richelle kota, chris clother


Richelle Kota

Richelle Kota is an immigrant, writer, nature enthusiast, and a student living in Philadelphia. Her work has been published by Recenter Press, Temple News, and her work Where There Were Roses: A Memoir Through Poems was published earlier this year. She aspires to live a simple life on farm with many pigs, goats, and dogs. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.