My Body is a Protest
Poems by Richelle Kota
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
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
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.
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.