dynas johnson


diary entry: space girl remembers tenderness

noname - “window” (ft. phoelix)

morning already eclipsed by exhaustion

i pull my body outside of my half-remembered

dreams push my books inside the bag push

the waters back inside my body push my tears

back into my eyes so that when i walk down

the street no one will know         know what?

know that i am a burning ocean frying its fish

no lemon no breading just screaming and a lot

of thrashing                    i swim more than walk

down the street no one looks at me no one looks

at me and why would they           they don’t know

me              who knows me in this place how do i

stop burning i look out the window and see ways

to leave looked for a gate to narnia  beneath the waves

and found only an untouched Bible and mildew stains

only found a girl who can’t even claim her brown

without wondering why everybody thinks she’s dirty

only found a girl trying to play super hero plastering

her friend’s walls with the leaky roof but never

disclosing the flood in her basement heart a flooded

basement a flooded cave a flooded sky that doesn’t stop

raining         wings what are wings           wings rubbed

raw and the window too small for a soul to fly through

what was tenderness when all i knew how to do

was rub rub rub my eyes until the tears rescinded


jamila woods - “lonely” ft. lorine chia

the first time i really understood tenderness

i was walking along a stream gurgling summer

music for a weekly expedition to a farm

it started raining      i didn’t have an umbrella

instead of running beneath some trees or

complaining about my hair            i pulled my hood

off my head               the water seeped so quickly

that i felt like a succulent drinking her fill after three

weeks of drought                the rain cooled and soothed

whatever itchiness my scalp felt      i remembered

baptism                     the faith i had to not be dropped into

the water and the firm hands that held my nose

and gripped my shoulders       dipping me into the pool

and when i came up from the sparkling water blind

and trembling      more hands gently holding my arms

to guide my steps           momma waiting dressed in white

with a towel in her arms enveloping me always always

enveloping me         the first time i felt tenderness and

really really felt it was when momma was detangling

my hair still relaxed and frizzy before i decided to go

natural          momma ran into a knot but instead of

using the comb to drag it out               momma ran

her fingers through the knot and gently            gently

soothed the strands apart         momma’s hands are

another kind of rain        are the first baptism i’ve ever

had         when i get overwhelmed i imagine momma

combing my hair             fingertips humming with prayer



ella mai - “naked”

momma told me that i can tell her everything


momma gives me kisses stayed up for 5 hours after coming home from work by train and bus

to comb out my hair and braid dark brown gold into my scalp


momma knows how to be tender

but her mother her grandmother her aunties and cousins

made her out to be a nobody

so momma never learned how to be vulnerable


momma told me that i can’t tell anybody everything

but she doesn’t know that the second person i learned tenderness from

was a girl who ran her fingers through my hair when i cried in her lap

about how the future is a boarded up window and how i

was going to stay falling all my life


momma didn’t teach me that a friend’s arms can be a home too

so i stayed ready to run

but i tired myself out and became a burning ocean of fish fried alive

by their own salt a home turned house on fire


momma told me things out of her hurt not wanting me to be hurt but

when i see the distance behind her smile when momma don’t share her tears when we talk about my depression

my fears my sadness the hopelessness that i’m trying to overcome


i wonder why she won’t tell me what happened


sometimes saying i love you every morning every night over and over again only does so much


i do the best thing that i can do:

when momma is falling asleep

i rub my fingers through momma’s short relaxed hair

and soothe softness into her scalp