It began as a challenge from my husband, who, to be fair, has sat through more than his fair share of, “psst, honey, listen to this…” sessions. I’ve known him since 1995; talking is kind of our thing. As I was saying, after one of those many one-on-one open mic sessions, Hurricane challenged me to publish a book of poetry before the end of the year. This was back in April 2020, I think. I had just written the first working, yet clunky version of what would later become “before I understood, I knew” and I was angry. Breonna Taylor was murdered by police and the truth of what it means to be Black in America became a scream that wouldn’t end.
I asked Hurricane to listen as I read it aloud because the pain I was feeling needed release. This poem underwent countless edits first by me, then by my editor Tameka, and then I edited it again. Then more changes as I lost a version I thought was alright and had to try to recreate it.
All the while, I still hadn’t agreed to publish a book of poetry. Not really. I hadn’t committed. I just wrote. I found myself editing and rewriting parts of another poem, “this is my home.” It was supposed to be a NEW anthem in which we claim this country as our home and it’s existence owes itself to our resilience.
We talked some more about my goals. My pattern of starting and stopping but never completing things. We discussed my anxiety, my frustration. In the caring and sometimes frustrating way he has, Hurricane gave me a stern talking to about who I really am.
That night, I wrote “i’m an expert at many things,” and soon after, “i just want one moment,” came pouring out as I released the last bit of sadness I’ve been holding on to since realizing that I deserved more than the emotional neglect and abuse i received as a child.
Somewhere along the line, I agreed to publish the book. I commissioned a cover for the book. Through it all, I wrote more poems and revived forgotten ones. As I worked on them, I worried less about perfection and more about getting my thoughts down on paper because having my voice heard is important.
But shortly after, I hit a wall. I’d say I was at a standstill, but I’d be lying. Maybe the year was catching up to me, but whatever was going on, none of the coping mechanisms I’d developed over the years lost their power. I was on a downward spiral and getting pretty close to the edge.
Then I sent a text to my husband and said,
Tameka sent the final edits. I think I’ll do one more reading. Then can you help me getting it up Kindle Direct publishing?
Things fell together after that. I happen to be very good friends with a brilliant editor. My soul-sister Selena, agreed to write the forward. I worried about getting her feedback. She is a poet! Her work is life-changing. I worried that it wouldn’t be good enough. But as I started to hear back from those I’d shared it with, I realized that when people say something is “good” what they mean is that it is “relatable.” The things that make an impact are those that grab you by the get’chas and make you feel.
At least that’s what I want “i wandered, lost” to be for those who read it! When I finally published, I took in a deep breath of accomplishment and exhaled fear.