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The Way I Flourish

Poems from Sheffield Flourish’s The Way I Flourish creative writing course, exploring themes of narrative, identity, journey and home.

The way I flourish
Photo by MORAN (Unsplash)

In October 2020, Connected Worlds, one of the enterprises supported by local mental health charity Sheffield Flourish, ran a six week creative course called The Way I Flourish. It was designed and developed by people of colour, for people of colour, in collaboration with Dr Muna Abdi and Ola Fagbohun.

The aim was to provide a supportive and creative space for the group to express their thoughts and feelings and transform them into works of art. The fantastic writing which emerged during the course was themed around narrative and identity, heritage, journey, stereotyping, racism and home.

The following poems are some examples of the poetry written in the course workshops.

Leached

In a frigid white chamber seeping pink at the edges

A leached girl fights for life as all girls must

Maximised, minimised, forsaken 

Hailing false dawns in the whispering pages of soft-backed books 

Until it’s safe to bury the bones of the night

In the middle of a chapter on the human condition

Ten feet tall and still growing, she rises

Curls her lashes with a thick black brush

And asks the day to meet her half way

For once

Susan Hunter Downer

MAYA

Some prophets say the world is gonna end tomorrow
but they’re not reading from our books of love
our books of hope, or the sweet stories we’ve heard of,

They’re not listening to the rhythms of our hearts
nor the thickness of our skin, sweetheart
Whose world will end tomorrow?

Not mine
and certainly not yours,
When we’ve only just opened the doors
those doors our ancestors built for us
as they were dreaming
dreaming
of being able to sit where they want on the bus
of having seats at the table
not a seat, but many seats, all seats
Y’know, they built the table after all
Sweetheart, isn’t it wonderful

To know your world is just beginning
blooming, opening
like a never ending flower

Darling, you were born on the cusp of power
Sister, know your worth
know all the good that you deserve
Mother, thank you for having the nerve
the audacity
to change the world as they knew it back then

Some prophets say the world is gonna end tomorrow
but not mine
and certainly not yours…

Wemmy Ogunyankin

From Madina to Sheffield

I was born in Madina 
Not Madina and Mecca 
Madina in Mogadishu 
I was born in a time of madness 
Mindless menacing men ran the city 
All the tall buildings missed teeth, 
Bullets scared them for life 
But still they stood tall and proud despite the holes in them
 just like us. 

Mum said walking was the only means of transport 
Countless check points on every corner
Waiting for a chance to take a poor soul, 
The smell of burning rubber in the air
above, dark smoke hovered like a helicopter,

I have been my mother’s helper ever since I can remember
moving to her music,
like a machine I cooked, I cleaned,
Don’t ask me how old I was, 
Where I came from, if you can walk you are old enough
She was raising seven orphans,
I came when she called, 

long before I was a student of the books 
I was a student of life 
Believe me I was born with a psychology degree
I feel, I watch, I move around like the air 
Like I am endless, boundless 
Like no one sees me but I see everyone,
I’m always looking in from the outside
Like the man sat on the bench at the park
pretend reading the newspaper
Like this isn’t my life
Like I’m here to speculate, 

When we landed in Sheffield in 07,
It felt like being dropped in the middle of the ocean
 when you can’t swim
The people who look like me couldn’t relate to me
Some said you were lucky to have people who look like you in school
I learned a different kind of fear,

In my community, there are too many rules if you are a woman 
Don’t compete with boys 
Don’t go to University, 
Go to University but don’t be too educated
Don’t do this 
Don’t do that 
Who is going to marry you if you are outspoken
Your clocking is ticking 
The older you are, the less options you have
Meanwhile my priorities are different 
My ideas are outlandish 
My purpose is world changing.

Najma Heybe

Journey With Me

Born and raised in Sheffield
In the North of England
The land of chimneys on rooftops,
proudly emitting choking smoke
Ascending up towards the sky
like clouds moving with the wind
infiltrating lungs whilst the birds still sing,

I wondered what it would have been like to grow up in Jamaica
The country of my parents’ birth
With its white sand and calm blue sea
Inseparable from the sky, watched from a distance
Soft purring of the waves going in and out
Sun glaring boldly, not hidden by clouds
Unadulterated air of the countryside,

I wondered what it would have been like to grow up in Jamaica
The country of my parents’ birth
I would have raised chickens and goats,
Just like my mom
Listened to the crickets piercing clicks in the moonlight
And insects making their own music through the night
Watched moonies and blinkies shine their bright lights

I wondered what it would have been like to grow up in Jamaica
The country of my parents’ birth
Growing fruit and veg on family land
Picking fruits from trees with my own hands
Ripe mangoes falling to the floor, what a treat
And coconut water drunk fresh from the husk
Playing with friends and siblings - well into dusk

Born and raised in Sheffield 
But my journey is an open sea
Reaching beyond smoke and chimneys 
Measured by memories, and riches yet to see
My journey was through my mother
Who told me stories like no other.

Carol Whiteley

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