Sunday, March 13, 2011


*For Codi

a name I call myself
that Puerto Rican pimp
who was my father
walked out the door
made a new family
never to be seen
or heard from again
except when mother
the one who remained
stirs up old spirits
with a story.
I never knew that man
never saw him
no, no even a picture
and why would I want to?
days when I needed him
he was vapor
and now
she tells me
You're a Puerto Rican
you should be proud
learn your history
but it's not my history
Puerto Rico
walked out the door
and now lives somewhere
in Chicago
where he probably
makes distant mentions of
I have a(nother) son
out there
I want nothing to do with
Puerto Rico
or that man
who chose to leave
all those years ago
I was raised Black
it's the reflection
I see
looking back at me
for now
I'll pretend
the Puerto Rican pain
is not there.

copyright 2007 Marissa Arterberry

Space Cadet

Yes yes
I know I'm a space cadet
of the first degree
I might die alone on saturn
her rocky rings my only comfort
as I gaze out over a desolate sky
or maybe
just maybe
I'll be surrounded by love
because I am blind to everything else
maybe me and my love will sit
amongst fiery flowers
breathing in their wisdom
as we contemplate a violet sky
and what some might say
is a fool's revolution
the one that lives peacefully
within our hearts
to live in my world
on my planet
is to gaze upon every living thing
with renewed wonder
to swim through the day
in a haze of hellos
I'm listening
(sort of)
tell me something about yourself
tell me something amazing
if not
I'll let you talk
and hope you don't notice
the change in my eyes
as I plunge off
the edge of the world
I share with you
to explore my own
discover something
far more fascinating
than the mundane materialism
that someone devilishly told this world
was of the utmost importance
I'd rather live in my dreams!
I'd rather be a dream
even as you try to nail me
to the floor

copyright 2008 Marissa Arterberry

She Died

She died!
she died and I
couldn't find a picture
I panicked
trying to remember her face
searching all the old boxes of photos
WHY did we have no photos
of this beautiful woman
who meant so much to us?
I struggled
to remember
the face
the melodic voice
of that woman
who so lovingly
scooped me up in her arms
her wig of black ringlets
her smiling eyes
my favorite treat in the world
I remember
big dinners of
fried chicken
baked macaroni
and walks up Ocean Avenue
stopping every so often
so she could catch her breath
and then one terrible day
she was gone
and I couldn't
find her!
her grave
no one knew
where she was buried
so their were no flowers to leave
the men of the family
having lost their minds
not long after her passing
had it really been her
that held them together
all those years?
no remnant
no memory
of this woman
whose life meant
so much to me!
that was agonizing.

copyright 2007 Marissa Arterberry

Black Girl: New York City

New York City

Up in Harlem
on West 125th Street
the West African queens bloom
like hothouse flowers
clustered on the corner
in their colorful dresses
sharing stories
and gossip

Down in Brooklyn
the Black girls are aglow
with easy smiles
and soft afros
black clouds
kissed by the summer breeze
the air around them tinged
with the sweet smell of shea butter

Sudanese songstress
takes the stage
a goddess with her face painted
eyes sparkling
as dreams and reality collide
to the rhythm of a drum
her sister sings with her
they stand close together
sharing smiles
and some secret delight
no one else can touch

I witness reflections of
crammed into the subway
walking down the street
we move through this landscape
radiating love
and taking no shit
in the loveliest way possible

we are the roots
the concrete
the sky
the truthful vision

copyright 2008 Marissa Arterberry

Inauguration Poem

What does it mean
to wake up
on a cool January morning
and see
history unfold
a Black man
sworn into office
the President of the United States
a man who
has given so many in this country
but most of all
drive and determination
to work for change
in our society
in our lives
no one
will save us
Barack Obama
constantly reminds us
we must save ourselves
in America's darkest hours
it is time
to dive into the river
of our own dreams
our happiness
a vision
set it in our sights
and walk the same road
our ancestors did
maybe they were afraid
but much more than that
they were brave
Obama represents
a transformation
new hope
self empowerment
here I stand
in the light of this moment
A Black woman
an artist
one who has been galvanized
to renew her own sense of purpose
to work harder
to realize
her dreams
are much larger
than her life alone
her visions
are not simply
for her own healing
but to be shared
with the nation
the world
as we lift each other up
each one contributing something
building a dream
that includes everybody
today is a new day
today I feel the light
of something beautiful

copyright 2009 Marissa Arterberry


they seem to be
I look all around me
and I see
troubled mothers
and father
he is a memory
a distant island
that once held her love
every thought and memory
for her child's protection
I guess
I've got it good
out of everyone
my father is here
albeit a shell
of his former self
the smile is still there
but vacant
he still dances
but none of us can hear the music
no my father isn't gone
not really
not like the fleeting fathers of my friends
theirs are buried
or long gone
off to new families
new conquests
my father is here
I'm lucky to have him
so why are we all so sad?

copyright 2006 Marissa Arterberry

Creation Poem

I create paintings
my mother creates gardens
together our hands
etch colors upon the earth
call to the ancestors
heal our spirits
something within takes flight
as the sun reflects love
the joy of life
is reflected in what we've made
moons and oceans ago
we were given our gifts
and we made them grow
passed down from souls
we have never seen
to rest in our hearts
creation lives within us
love pushes it out
so that we may thrust it up to the stars
and live within dreams

copyright 2006 Marissa Arterberry