Wednesday, August 2, 2017


By: Husnaa Hashim

On this day
I hear Nikki Giovanni
Both laugh and cry on podcast
She sends wishes for Black youth out to space
In love with Mars
Moving forward
Because west Africans survived the middle passage just the same
The first Americans to celebrate Ramadan in the new world
Engraved the al-Fatiha into tombstones as holy prayer
Ancestors. How do I bring you justice, best?
“This is a rocket. Let's ride.”
I wash book bags with lavender oil and vinegar
Read Rumi dancing to the beat of love and wine rivers
Smell tea
In the rose shrubs out front
Fold cilantro and basil seeds into godly crevices
“I am Black because I come from the Earth’s inside.”
This is more than planting herbs and weeding garden
This is
It is about dissecting my skin -
Codifying a lineage through the coffee grounds; violated burial grounds of
Philadelphia soil ladened with the burden of disintegrating Native bodies
How I dig up the remains to plant my roses
On this day
What is the opposite of healing bruised Earth?
Is it the bruising?
I uproot weeds, crocuses, and bluebells but not
Are the cystic acne of Mother Earth’s perfectly blemished skin
How I would much prefer my skin to be adorned with dandelions over acne
On this day
I sway to Audre Lorde’s journal entries from the 80s written in a cancer
Treatment center in Switzerland
Think about her walking eurythmy
Across wooden floorboards and holding her lover
How is Giovanni still alive?
The namer of the shooter before the shooting
The giver of peace to a community
How did Lorde find the will to keep living with the cancer spreading?
Angry Black womanness engulfing her body
The white patriarchy draining her breasts of naturalized power
We Sister Outsiders do not have the luxury of peeling away our
Us-ness and setting it aside
Like a rotting carcass or shriveling snake skin
I ponder
my existence; what it means to be a human being being human.
On this day
Until I find some truth
I will
Keep sprinkling wildflower seeds
Germinating sunflowers in the empty oven
This is the only way
I know

To grow


  1. What an incredibly powerful piece. I was really impressed by the way you used both factual statements and images from gardening and nature to express your thoughts. Great job!

  2. Very interesting poem. As a gardener I love those images. Your piece is powerful but as a person with limited knowledge of Black customs from Africa I know that I am missing some of your message. Why are you germinating sunflowers in an empty oven? There is something very powerful about a sunflower. In my backyard right now are three sunflowers over ten feet tall. They are loaded with many huge flowers. When I stand next to the sunflowers, I feel their power and know they came from the earth to feed the birds this winter. Sorry I got off the subject, but what do we give back to the earth. Who we are and what we do is our truth.

    1. Hi Helen,
      Thanks for your honesty. As a descent of African slaves, I also have little knowledge of Black customs from Africa. The germination process of sunflower seeds (or any plant seed) is the act of activating the seed's growth process. This is meant to be done in a dark space before the seedling is gradually exposed to sunlight in small doses due to lack of stability. I read about this in a western gardening book. So the oven tends to be the darkest place (best for germination) in a house. I suppose that can be taken metaphorically for the growth of humanity; to grow we must be shrouded in darkness. The message of my piece is the reality of intersecting identities (myself a Black Muslim woman), and the looking towards "Foremothers" such as Audre Lorde and Nikki Giovanni for inspiration and wisdom on how to grow. Lorde and Giovanni are both women writers of color who have created a way in order for me to LITERALLY exist, also as a women writer of color. They are the pioneers who challenged racism and sexism in the industry through their authenticity. I would recommend their writings if you're interested.
      Sincerely, - H

    2. Thank you for your reply. There are many thoughts about the best way to germinate seeds. I followed all the rules and then this young person said just throw the seeds into the ground. I was game so when I sliced up the cantaloupe I just dug a hole in my garden and poured the seeds into it. There are three cantaloupe growing already. So much for the gardening books. As for understanding racism and sexism, I saw it first hand. I saw the separate water fountains, bathrooms, motels and rode the the buses where people stood in the back while the seats in the front were empty. Thank you for recommending the readings.

  3. Interesting poem..Keep writing.

  4. Hi, Husnaa;

    Wow! What an incredible piece of writing. I very much enjoyed the manner in which you " intersect" humanity along with Nature and mother earth, and I think that in writing this poem that you challenge the reader to think about what it means to be human. and that it is an evolutionary process. Please keep writing.

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Ranger Larry!

  5. Husnaa!!!!! I love to read your writing. How beautiful to juxtapose ancestors and space travel. Which fits the way you were also placing Lorde and Giovanni side by side with germination. We're germinated both by looking forward and backward.

    On a lighter note, a friend and I find joy in poets who can incorporate Nabakov into a rhyme scheme. Now, I'll need to add poets who can call on Giovanni and Lourde.

    1. Ms. Bethany,
      I miss you!! Thanks so much for your comment. I agree about the looking towards ancestors... It would be cool if we could grow plants in space. I'll have to look into Nabakov.