Reflection: ‘I’m Awake’

Rasharra Smith PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

I’m no stranger to writer’s block. I’m sure many other artists struggle with this as well.

Lately, I’ve been feeling stuck. I want to create. I want to share my work. But only if it means something.

March was Women’s History Month, and I learned new things and relearned old things.

Nina Simone was an African American singer and songwriter. She created music in different genres, including jazz and blues. My favorite of her songs, “Black Bird,” expresses themes of oppression and pain.

Simone also was a civil rights activist. She said, “An artist’s duty is to reflect the times. At this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved.”

Simone passed away in 2003, and this quote resonates today. I’ve had writer’s block because I want the work I create to speak about harsh truths and touch the people it needs to touch. I want to share how I feel and, by chance, someone else, somewhere else, feels the same.

This month, I share this piece with you.

‘I’m Awake’The sun didn’t wake me today, my anxiety did.

My stress was giving me nightmares and I woke up in a panic.

I hadn’t given the sun a chance, nor the birds that sing outside my window.

I was shivering from the cold air coming through the cracks of my windowpane.

I felt sick. My body felt weak.

My mind felt weak, too.

Coffee didn’t wake me up this morning, my fears did.

A caffeinated dose of reality.

Work needs to be done. Bills need to be paid.

Inflation should be addressed, but it’s not.

And I’m not up for trying to solve the world’s problems,

But I feel the world’s pain.

An alarm sure didn’t wake me up, but alarms are going off.

Mothers are crying. Children are dying.

Did you catch that game last night?

We can’t afford to eat. Homeless, can’t afford to sleep.

Prices? Too high to reach and wages don’t increase.

Did you see that TikTok video?

Breakfast didn’t wake me up this morning.

It wasn’t the smell of bacon in the air.

They said let us eat cereal for dinner,

so we can afford crumbs in the morning.

Though my anxiety robbed me of an appetite,

I was hungry for knowledge.

Did the news wake you up this morning?

They talked about what’s going on over there.

They shared reports of what’s going on over here.

Smoke and screens and a world of other things behind the scenes.

Neither here nor there is free of suffering and hate.

Such evil and despair.

No need for a morning wake up call.

I’m already awake.

Not too many of us are there yet, but I have faith.

Rasharra Smith is a graduate student at the University of Dubuque.

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