Writing

2016-2017 Essayist with Stories Connecthttp://storiesconnect.org/jessicahavens/ 

 

2011 Masters Thesis- Of Heart, Mind & Belonging: Reflections on Anti-Racist White Identity Development 

 

 

Poetry

CollectiveConsciousnessRising (2016)

The future is female

and she is Black

and round

and earthy and moonlit

connected and queer...

Let's join her! 

 

There is a Tribe (2016)

Members of the tribe…

That’s what we are,  

philosophizes malik one day in fort greene.

Sprouting up spontaneously

between the cracks. 

Soulful, mixed, border-crossers

A multitude of tongues

encoded in our memories.

 

Urbanites watching the sunset

Smells of weed and incense

Convos of astrology and serendipity

Words of justice and love and healing.

What is the meaning of it all?

Feet and heads and hearts in sync

bobbing collectively to the beat.

 

Touchdown in a new city.

But we are everywhere.

Funky rainbows,

House heads,

Soul warriors.  

 

Ode to the High School Teacher (2013)

So you taught Spanish?, the college professor, PhD asks me

I can see they don’t see me as one of them.

One of the academic elites now, talking big ideas, got that lingo down talking agency epistemology privilege solidarity patriarchy andocentrism white supremacy. Intrinsic motivation? Syllabi created, readings assigned, papers due in the 3rd and 8th weeks. Got your lecture ready, getting ready for a great discussion today. 

I can see they don’t see me as one of them.

As if my day, you know….as the Spanish teacher…consists of yo tengo, tu tienes, el/ella tiene…you know the drill. As if teaching without a PhD must equate to some sequence of drills, teacher chewing gum, worksheets passed out, clock out, off to the bar.

I can see they don’t see me as one of them.

Got 120 students this year, five classes a day, two preps, 25 minutes to eat lunch, oh shit! Bell’s gonna ring in 5 minutes- that means you got two to run to the bathroom. Better hope you only gotta pee, don’t have your period, you’re not pregnant and that someone’s not in there already…

Found out today one of my student’s been couch-surfing, got kicked out of mom’s house. Boys who like boys doesn’t fly on the homefront. Or Rosie and Juan who soak up every ounce of my lesson on colonization in the Americas. Ready to write a book. Fucking brilliant and only 17. Or Gaby who I help to apply to go overseas for a summer to Ecuador only to find out later que no tiene papeles.

Fire drills and lock downs, suspension from fights brewed of un-marked pain that one day just explodes. One day it just explodes. My favorite student, sweet young man gangbanger- just lost another friend. Third one this year. That number is mind-numbing. 16 years old, knee shot out the summer before, lost three friends in one year. Mind of a revolutionary, hands that write beautiful cursive names all over his notebook, eyes full of possibility, lingering sorrow.

It’s 3:08 and I’m holding back those frustrated tears cause what I said that moment in class last period needed to be on point and we all know it wasn’t. nope, definitely didn’t handle that well. Anyone ever have that moment?

Afterschool at my desk, students coming to process life and boyfriends and school rules that don’t make any sense and every once and awhile, every once and awhile, a student who wants to know more about something we talked about in class today. My eyes shine on days like these. These are the moments you live for.

For all the high school teachers out there who stand in and where ten hats at once while you juggle your over-crowded classrooms, knowing the bell is gonna ring too soon (or too late, depends on the day). This little poem is for you compas.  

 

Strange Bedfellows of the Soul (2013)

Belonging to all of them, and yet none of them.

Strange bedfellows of the soul.

I call this place, in the in-between, home. 

 

Chapter 1: Cartita de amor

…and not that kind of exotic latina flair, over-played Carmen bringing the spice to the party,

But that love of family, Saturday night of tequila, laughter, carne asada and children.

Artists who imagine multicolored landscapes, reconfigurations of la Virgen and Frida.

The possibility of another reality transcended when English is not your mother tongue

 

From the Marc Anthony on my mix, Pablo Milanes and his Yolanda,

To the helotes con todo por favor. Sí, chile tambien.

I always hold your stories of struggle dear.

 

Hellos and goodbyes with a kiss or a hug to everyone in the room,

Words of endearment passed casually amongst women,

linda, mi amor, cabrona, guapa, hermana, comadre.

 

My heart beats the way it does in part because of you.

And my world would otherwise be incomplete.

Forever in your debt.

 

Chapter 2: Love letter to Black folks

…and not that obsessive, fetishized kind of love, exoticized basketball players and demonized prisoners,

distant yet larger than life in your racist wet dream

 

But that kind of deep appreciative love for that part of you that is a part of me.

People sometimes think the way I am just came out of some vacuum of being, 

like I just created myself into a magical white girl who somehow gets it.

 

from the Sade in my heartache

to the proud sway in my step

to the diasporic African beat in my dance.

 

from southside vernacular,

to understanding that feeling blessed is a state of mind,

to learning to love my thighs and ass and all that makes me round.

Being a witness to Black woman struggles,

Working their asses off to love themselves free from the hate of the world.

 

I am how I am in part because of you.

And my world would otherwise be incomplete. 

Forever in your debt.

 

Chapter 3: Oh, my people

…and not that kind of obnoxious solitary whiteness, caustic combo of Miller Lite and racism, on a Wrigleyville Saturday night,

white girl naivete lost in tanning beds, black men fetish and suburban dreams

 

But the salt of the earth white folks, radical Christians with a revolutionary, living Jesus.

From your cheese, tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on wheat bread,

To meatloaf, guitars and folk melodies.

6pm punctual dinners on a Sunday evening.

 

From Indigo Girls to Beethoven,

To enjoying the simple things in life.

Heiress to a legacy of song and trying to do the right thing. 

 

My fire for justice burns bright in part because of you.

And my world would otherwise be incomplete.

Forever in your debt.

 

Belonging to all of them, and yet none of them.

Strange bedfellows of the soul.

I call this place, in the in-between, home.