Operation Android

I wrote this poem about my generation’s relationship with social media, simultaneously the most connected generation and most antisocial.


what does it take
to show people that being me
is not all that it seems
the tweets, texts and likes
you watch my socials
my rants on race, and the memes
I go against the grain
I say bye bye brain
to keep up this social charade
it’s a pain pretending to be okay
I’m not a person, I’m a thing
Yahoo, Google and Bing

you pay me in kind
I pay you in use
you pay me in anxiety
the stunned logos
of Instagram and Facebook
millions sky high
on reacts and likes
like my neck trapped in a noose

part of the most connected generation
that likes to Netflix and chill
the shrill of android millennials
so connected, but so antisocial
I’m so tired, my life can be shown
in charts, it’s patterned, global
in how I truly feel

Photo Credit: William Iven on Unsplash

if an affliction hasn’t been diagnosed
can I prove that it’s real
my analytics are hegemony
like religions, trial by media
altered millennial minds chemically

in this cyber flu
lives have terms and conditions
that media tycoons provide you
sacrificing real-life conversations
for syntax through a screen
comment threads, conversations
written in emojies and memes
vines posted for millions of hits
Snapchat selfies, Instagram selfies
the young ones call it lit

seeing the world on fire
has put my head into disarray
terrorism streamed to the masses
this is the social media age
I want light, happiness
and I’m not finding it in a screen
I want calm and order

but the truth is
artists need social media just to be seen
the system is a broken machine
where viral content speaks louder than talent

Photo Credit: Joshua Rawson Harris on Unsplash

I’m not a social media addict
but I can feel it numbing my mind
I don’t want to be a drone
but Facebook’s pulling down the blinds
I didn’t want to be lonely
but social media has us in a bind

this thing, I don’t want this
but this is the bane
of the 21st century artist.

Smile

I’ve become synonymous with historical poetry but that’s not all I write about; I do attack different subjects, including mental health.

That’s what this poem is about. Mental health problems can sneak up on the best of us and this poem is a few thoughts on trauma.


People don’t give Black boys enough credit.

Even now at 22 I’m still studying and the last time I studied a positive Black person was when my schoolteacher told us about David Harewood as Othello.

That was ten years ago in 2008, a long time, long enough;

ten is the Capricorn Zodaic sign;

is highest score at a poetry slam;

ten years (plus two) is the difference between my brother and I;

is the difference between boy and man;

was when I first fell in love with the song ‘Son of Man’, in Tarzan.

Photographer: Dean Ward on Unsplash

I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower (love it). I was walking home one night and was thinking how White and hetero-normative young adult fiction is.

It might not seem like much, but it’s about seeing yourself reflected and not as someone else’s crutch.

I view reading as breathing and when I read I frown; when I’m in photos I find it hard to smile (on demand). I’m sad, and deep in thought.

I’m always down.

People tell me to smile.

Strangers telling strangers to smile.

Sweet old ladies that mean well saying:

“You’re too young to look this sad. Smile, sweetheart.”

Grandparents saying:

“Be happy. Just feel better.”

Weird, isn’t it? Telling someone you don’t know / those you do to look happy and feel better, treating depression like a headache.

Photographer: Taylor Grote on Unsplash

A smile takes one muscle more than punching someone in the face, that last one is what those who look like me are synonymous with.

Violence. Shedding more blood than tears.

Tantrums over thoughts –

ideas left hanging from a noose, swaying in the wind at the top of Empire State, contemplating jumping from the Golden Gate.

Knives through veins and vital organs, trying to take on something you know is bigger than you could ever vanquish.

Something that has killed plenty before and will kill plenty after; because if there is no attempt you lose the at least you tried speech.

Don’t tell people with depression to smile, because they might still be trying to scrub the trauma, a confession more holy than sin.

Scrubbed with boiling water – tap water, bottled water, holy water, it all flows under the bridge. A boat sailing to the slaughter.

Photographer: Aaron Blanco Tejedoro on Unsplash

Don’t tell Black boys to smile. Compliment, maybe – don’t demand.

Allow the contrast to funnel through, and if he does want to force a smirk, he will do it of his own volition, not at the behest of you –

with someone he can feel vulnerable with,

not some plastic grinned,

fish-eyed nice guy (or girl)

who finds the frown as scope to blame the victim.

He might have a good reason to be sad;

could be overcoming grief;

could still be in shock after a recent event

or he simply needs a good reason to smile.

It is not your mouth and they’re not your lips.

Not yours to find solace in

when the windows crash and shatter from the storm outside.

When your cardiac muscle crashes around your moneybox

like seeds in dry soil refusing to grow without moisture or sunshine.

And if you really want a sad boy to smile,

a Black boy to smile,

a grieving man to force a grin,

to wither in sin despite the depression they’re in –

talk to him until  you’re hit by

the blunt force instrument of mental health,

until to them it smells like flowers and not a graveyard,

until they re-open historic wounds to find roses and not a corpse.

Photographer: Nikita Tikhomirov on Unsplash

I am not yours to tell to smile;

if you keep saying “smile”, no one will ever want to.

And if you get too close,

you might get bitten and the victim will smile red.

AKA For The Love Of Jessica Jones

I wrote this poem from the point of view of Jessica and an unnamed narrator on the character Jessica Jones in the Marvel-Netflix series Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones is a kick-ass personal investigator who dwells in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Having recently finished Season 2, I felt compelled to write something, as I think this series is one of the best character studies of mental health ever put to screen.

I wrote this poem inspired from “Anxiety: A New England Folk Tale” which was inspired by “Anxiety: A Ghost Story” by American poet Brenna Twohy.


We have to talk about the kick-ass PI in Hell’s Kitchen.
When you’re a vigilante, you don’t live life
by the same rules as everybody else.
When your agency is called Alias Investigations,
that’s code for “own your shit and protect yourself.”

And when you’re connected to a number of murders,
or if there are regular explosions outside your apartment,
shrugging it off and buying a big whisky,
or heading to Kilgrave Castle is not the best idea.

If you’re taking pictures of shadiness and then shady stuff
starts happening, like murder and torture, then maybe
it wouldn’t hurt to take a short break. If you killed the bad guy,
but he’s still in your head, a man that nobody else can see,
don’t just go to the public house cemetery –
in your neighbourhood, in your front yard, and in your bedroom.

When I tell you about the ghosts that live inside Jessica Jones,
when I tell you about the cemetery in her childhood home,
at Alias Investigations and everywhere she goes –
when I tell you trauma is a steep slide with no visible destination,
that the life of Jessica Jones is a photograph that shows
everyone she loves as a garden of bones.

That her panic for her loved ones comes from memoir,
that anxiety is the Grim Reaper and his scythe,
that depression is the bottom of the whisky bottle,
this is the part when most people run for their lives.

To love Jessica Jones is to love an alias,
fun to have for a little while but you will be tired before long.
Sounds like Kilgrave cherry door knocking her muscle memory.
Like the family she once had. Like the new sibling
who tries to love her, even be like her. You are not stupid or brave,
you are jealous and have never seen a haunting before.

This love will not cure me, and it won’t
scrape the glass from the floorboards, but it will turn the lights on
and give me focus. It’s the kind of love that sends chills.

When you tell the ghosts, “If you’re staying, then you better make room,” they start to fidget. We work the case. We turn the music up.

Trish ‘Patsy’ Walker (Rachel Taylor) is the sister that tries to love Jessica
(Jessica Jones, Netflix)

And you say “My God, this office, how whole it feels,
even in the days that nobody comes in or out of it, progress.”

The way that I love Jessica Jones,

like a gentle hand reaching out of the past.


“There are worse things than death. Once you’re worm food, it’s over. Painless. Quiet. While the rest of us are stuck digging holes, picking up the pieces and remembering.”

Jessica Jones

Blind Faith

I wrote this poem purely adapted from my own relationship with faith and belief. It’s inspired by the aftermath of Auntie Luisa’s death in regards to me and my family.

Also, it’s inspired by the poem “Agnostic” (which I related to) by poet Roscoe Burems on the WAN (Writre About Now) Poetry channel on YouTube.


Auntie Luisa had a heart full of batteries. A morning of activities would leave her drained. You know, breathless. She’d be plugged into her flat throughout most of the afternoon and replenishing that energy back would take all evening.

In her last days, she had a renewed faith in God – like my mother and grandmother had their whole lives. They owe their lives to their faith and I’d often go to Church with them. Not like I had a choice.

And as Auntie Luisa lie in that closed casket, my grandmother remembers all the times she (my grandmother) has died. Good Friday laying its hands on her body like a defibrillator.

My grandmother thanks God that for the ten years more we got with Auntie Luisa. She wasn’t supposed to survive six months. She thanks her faith not the doctors. And the Luisa we had in 2016 was not the same we had in 2006.

Photographer: DJ Paine

How anatomies and personalities undergo transformation. I observe a lot – even in her spirit, despite her best efforts, I saw a different Luisa. There were a lot of changes between this modern edition and her earlier rendition. Much alike the Bible I suppose.

Healthy, smiling, joking. Not saying she didn’t smile, because she was larger than life (even in death). I grew up with her sickness and the older I got, the worse she got… at hiding it.

I think in her heart, Grandma thought her daughter would be with us forever. They were like two peas in a pod, like Christianity and Paganism. No parent should have to bury their child.

Before 2016, I was an atheist. Now I’m agnostic. I can’t choose to believe in nothing. I’ve just stop dancing outside the pigeon holes of religion.

I don’t believe in God but I believe there’s something and those higher powers are beings too big for a chapter book.

I don’t pray, I meditate. I don’t just speak, I listen. I don’t just read, I write.

I read a bunch of stuff – on history, on the history of Christianity, things I will not talk to my mother and grandmother about. They’d likely not talk to me for a long time if we entered that debate. Sometimes peace is better than winning the argument.

My grandmother says she’s praying for me. Never actually says what she’s praying for. She thinks I’m a non-believer and when I see her with the holy book I smile.

I came to think there were a million and one differences between me and Luisa. When the doctor told us she’d gone, I responded with poetry. That’s my religion. That’s my meditation. That’s my mantra.

And when I found my chi, I saw the similarities between me and her were uncanny. It was right after hearing my uncle cry about her coma and her cardiac arrest, split chest like Moses in the Red Sea, watching Scleroderma be the nail in our family.

Experiencing stuff like this made me doubt religion. Seeing my family fall from grace. But watching their two-year ascension gave me hope on this ball in vast expanse of space.

And maybe they’re blind. Maybe I’m blind. Or maybe belief is about being blind. Blind faith you know. Trusting your feelings rather than your eyes. Trusting the spirit rather than your head. Definitely not following your nose!

In Star Wars, they call it The Force. In the East, they call it chi. In Church they call it God but I call it poetry. My family found it in a book and I found it in them.

Look, I’ve learned too much about religion to follow it without question. But they have endured too much not to. My mother has my great-grandmother’s bible by her bed.

Religion is the reason why my mother and grandmother are still alive. Still with me to guide me, raise me and educate me.

Photographer: Peter Hershey

One day, I will read that thing all the way through and add a chapter about them.

What I’m trying to say is I’m not an atheist. I’m agnostic. There’s times where I think I’ve seen too much suffering in the world to believe in God but I’ve watched my mothers be God too much to not believe in them.

Unremembering

This poem is inspired from grief, and a depression that grief can bring; I say “a” rather than “the” because it’s different for everyone and not definitive.

Furthermore, this poem is semi-inspired from “How to Fold a Memory” by Sabrina Benaim, in her book Depression & Other Magic Tricks. 


I remember the feeling of pain,
like the crater in my leg after climbing that fence
on that holiday at my grandparents’ Alicante apartment –
whether it be: physical, mental or emotional.
I remember it in hope of avoiding it tomorrow.

Let’s begin there,
I remember the imprint my hand made in yours.
Like a paper prayer, you can always start over.
I remember when Uncle Morten gave you the Evenstar,
and I recall the smell of homemade lasagne.
I can’t eat that anymore without getting hungry
for your sorrow smile and slow resolve of your soliloquies.

I remember your exaggerated anecdotes
at Grandma’s House. I remember how you
hummed Cameo’s Candy in flawless harmony.
I wish I could forget you existed.
I remember you carrying this child as a little one.
We marched, my hand in yours on the streets of London
and there was no map. We just walked.

Let’s go to the last stop –
Camden Town in the warm bohemian breeze
unfolding into silence. In the quiet, it’s hard
to tell what others think without entering their eyes
like Lucy Pevensie with her doorways to Narnia.

With every journey back into my past,
it becomes harder to find my way back again.

Since I have been practicing unremembering,
I’ve pondered living more times than not.
I take in the smoke of yesterday in attempt to pacify
the synapse between you and the scent of lasagne .
I drink beer as if I am trying to save the world from inebriation,
to get my childhood so pissed that the narrative changes.
But the trauma of daydreaming, the ache of muscle memory;
my body will always remember.

Like a goldfish, six-second slate wiped blank,
grief-stricken with an etch-a-sketch mind,
gumming the water I think is air.
The octaves of my voice box forget the long sounds
of the name my grandfather gave you.
How do I teach my ears to listen to song lyrics
free from your ghost inside of them?

I don’t know which way is up in these incandescent thoughts,
if the present tense is the present tense.
Or if the imperfections are slipping into past transgressions,
still my mind heeds your advice like proverbs.
I lose teeth like I lose days but you’re the wisdom tooth.

Photographer: Jian Xhin

We cannot control what we see 
but we can control how we see it.

I eat lasagne easily, without thinking of you.
I say your name over and over, and I am content.
I fold my depression like an origami plane,
crafting those paper wings into a pleasant amnesia,
a collateral beauty in this newfound adolescence.

Goodbye, Auntie Luisa.

Signed, Tré Ventour.