Ever take a moment to think about what you’ve learned? Check out this video and you’ll be glad Aja Monet did just that.
At 19, she was the youngest person ever to win the Nuyorican Poets Grandslam Championship title, and she continues to inspire with her words.
This imaginative short film reflects on what we can learn from the struggles of childhood, poverty, and survival.
The Editors at Everyday Feminism
Click for the Transcript
I know cloud formations that raindrops don’t fall in the teardrops shape. They originally fall in the shape of a flat oval. I don’t remember where I read that. I know recycled water tear ducts remind me of cleaning bathroom floors with a toothbrush until the bristles flattened and the tip’s yellowed from bleach. I know how to bath and wash a dish in steaming water, how to break one and glue it together with Crazy Glue.
How to bath someone else while soapsuds squeeze on their arms and behind ears. I know how to reach difficult places, how to be broken and put together again. I know my arms are long and my hands remind me of vines. I know laughter sometimes sounds like bubble wrap and it’s my favorite part of unpacking boxes.
When I smile, I squint my eyes. I know men with deep diaphragm laughter and lady bugs aren’t really ladies. I know they like to follow me into subway cars on days when I need to be reminded of magic. I know spider webs sparkle like diamonds after rain showers. I know yesterday is the day before tomorrow and tomorrow is an illusion where I imagine the mouths of my children nuzzling on breasts in a rocking chair while the lavender fields in our yards cement the wind.
I know Brooklyn and the man on the J train who walks barefoot through the cars must be cold in February. I know cocaine is a hell of a drug. My father used to have a beautiful smile. I know he misses his teeth. I know it’s been 20 years and he still smells like a bottle of Heineken. The smell of alcohol makes me nausea.
I know I drink it anyway. I know Bazooka bubble gum doesn’t last long and used to come with cartoon strip give-aways. I know Swedish Fish used to cost five cents in the bodega. I remember Candy Dots on sheets of paper.
I know that Mr. Softie jingle means it’s summertime. I know Africa is far. Hip hop is in Senegal and Paris and Haiti. I’ve heard Biggie’s Juicy play in all three. I know my mother used to rap when they called her Baby E. I know she gave up her dreams when she had children. I know she wishes she didn’t and I wouldn’t be a poet if my mother would have had a better sense of humor.
I know there are women who kill their children in alleyways and bathtubs and car seats and lakes. I know she lied about where we lived so we could get into good schools. I know good schools saved me. I know teachers help raise you. Gilgamesh, Homer and Odyssey. I know Antigone only wanted to love someone ferociously. I want to visit Greece someday.
I know there are so many words for pain. Anguish is a slave language. It doesn’t account for the space between these words, the colors nor the texture. I know books can make you disappear. Smiles change your face and whether laughter is forced or organically born, it has the power to release chemicals that relieve stress.
I know I love being held tightly. My feet sometimes embarrass me. I wore shoes too small as a child so my mother wouldn’t make fun of how big they were. I know I was well into adulthood before I ever heard her say I was beautiful.
I learned to use a mirror when I was six. I know she is still my first definition of beauty. I like my hair down more than when it’s pinned up. I know little white girls are prone to getting life in elementary school. We all suffer and the basis of all human suffering is deception.
I know we all get lonely. I know loneliness creates longing and longing can be confused for love and love doesn’t exist. Not like that. Patience is believing in the wait. I know there are guardians protecting me. I’m certain one of them is Native American. I know Santeras clean people of negative energy and light, tall glass cylinder candles they buy from botánicas or C town or trade fair or Met Foods as an offering to the saints. I know la caridad.
I know if I jumped off a building I wouldn’t fly. I know someone who tried. I know I don’t like money. I only want it so I can buy mangoes and cinnamon and rice and water and a place to live and bath and love and raise growing things. I know starvation anywhere is inexcusable, inhumane, unlawful and unjustified. It’s all about distribution, selfish mother fuckers who privatize goods. Spitefully monopolizing off human wants and needs. I know when you’re hungry your stomach turns stale and one will do unruly things in order to silence the aching call echoing through one’s body.
I know echos make us call out to our own voices. I know voices can be imitated. I know killing someone is the only way some of us believe we can get along. I know a casket is expensive. Funeral homes remind me of my uncles. I know schizophrenia tears about families. I know you can be more than one person at the same time.
Anyone can be driven to insane. I know insanity sometimes means coping and is also a safe word for no one understands me. I know we’re all afraid of being misunderstood. I know honey is sticky and never goes bad. I know a Holy Ghost when I see one.
I know how to speak in tongues. I know it’s a language God made so the devil, aka Lucifer wouldn’t understand. I don’t understand. I know Lucifer is a smooth Zoot Suit wearing brother with swag and an ill ear for music. I know he loves jazz and bought Robert Johnson’s soul. I’m sure glad he did.
I know how to pray over someone who’s been betrayed or ill or depressed or hopeless. I know prayer is about speaking things into existence. Vibration is how sound travels. I know sound is the silver lining to how we communicate. I know people say things they don’t always mean.
I know we don’t mean what we say when we say it, but how we say it. I know realtors call haunted or homes possessed by ghosts when someone’s died stigmatized property. Photographs are documents we can choose to revisit moments in our lives and manipulate their memory. I know front porch swings are reminiscent of old southern plantation homes.
I know the mid-Atlantic slave trade fascinates me. I’ve imagined Goree Island before ever visiting it. Disillusionment is a hell of a drug. I wish I could have treated Harriet Tubman to dinner or a night on the dance floor.
I know each world has its own science and its own fiction. Time isn’t linear. No, space is not the distance between two variables, but more like an empty chest or rather the absence of objects, the lack of furniture in a room. Or better yet, the reason people separate into different homes, states or countries.
Sometimes into different arms and different beds, into different futures. I know abandonment is a boy named Jason in a halfway house who stutters when he reads his poems because his grandmother used to yell at him like a beaten up pit bull tied to a backyard fence in east New York.
I know Jack Smith taught me how to look at garbage differently. How to be strange and flamboyant. I know hands reach for things like doorknobs and buttons and breasts and cocks and slits and wrists. I know blood scabs under the sun, hospitals smell like spoiling bodies.
I know I don’t know very much outside of what I know, but this is all the unknowing.
This video was produced by Cam Be of Camovement.