What Is It?

What is it that makes the poor man sell his last jewelry?
Labor from dawn to dusk until he’s covered in his sweat.
Until his body is worn out and his feet die from within.
Until his arms fall on his sides and his eyes blur in hunger.
What is it that makes the poor man sell his last jewelry only to buy one more costly, one he could never wear yet so precious to his heart.

What is it that drives a man to sell his soul?
The early morning meetings, sleepless nights.
The lack of trust for those around, and the hunger for more.
When dignity comes after pride and the love for money before compassion.
Every move he makes, he calculates because charity is nothing but a business.
His name is written, and people praise him and call him good.

What is it
For it was not birth by woman, nor the stars in the sky.
Selfless in all actions, what name could one use to describe the indescribable?
For what is it that can not be comprehended, that can not be manipulated,
the wisest fall on their knees,
the strongest warriors become weak. It makes the blind see and the deaf hear.
It does not knock for it has keys to all.
What is it that makes one look perfect though soaked in flaws.

-by Tilisa Mlondani


Love A Philosophy

You see I wanted to break it down
But then I remembered I’m in pieces
I tried to figure it out
But I’m still lost.
I climbed up to mountain tops.
I dived deep into the oceans.
I walked down the Nile
Looked through the pyramids.
I thought it was hidden back in time.
It has to exist
It has to be real.
I stare down at my broken pieces from the mountain top,
They shine brighter than diamonds.
From here I have figured it out,
Love is what I think of me.

“I promise I will never do it again.”
You see, ‘tis something about the way you say it. The tone of your voice and the sincerity in your eyes. I fall for it all the time.
I think about what we could be without lies and abuse. No cheating and neglecting. I think I can change you. No! Matter of fact, I believed I could change you.

In my eyes, you are this little boy who was molested and abused, and now he can’t act right. It’s not you acting heartless it’s what you went through and it’s a way of protecting your self. We are both broken and I thought we could be together.
From the beginning, I dreamed of turning you into a nice guy. I wanted to be that girl that made you choose right over wrong,
so I stayed with you because I believed you would change.
I was waiting for you to love, I stopped loving myself.

Sometimes I question reality.
Sometimes I wish you were not my father.
You see , the way your brother looks at me, yet you say nothing.
You know your friend went to prison for sexual assault, and yet you leave me with him. And why your girlfriend look my age? Every time she walk you know she’s one of them. She is so selfish all she cares about is her next high. When you told me you fell in love I didn’t know it was a crackhead.

And, mother, will you stop bringing all these men around me? You’re in love with them I’m not. He flirts with everyone except you. You have a masters and he has a high school diploma.
“You are the only one?” Yea, the only one that can be with a manipulative broke too many baby mamas, always between jobs, bastard with little brain cells. He is not in love with who you are. He is in love with what you are.

If you met me outside of here, what would you tell me love is? See, my experience is different, so my love is different. I am broken in pieces. No, I don’t want to fit them back together. I want to be scattered under the mountain tops. I want to shine in different places.
Those small tiny diamonds I see looking down. Those are a part of me, and that, to me, is love.

by Tilisa Mlondani

Own It

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If he is black, then he is a drug dealer, a burglar, a poor and uneducated man.
And if he is educated, he is a manipulator and a pathological liar, a cheater who could never stay around for his kids.

Maybe these movies do shape us. Yes, you want to show what’s going on in the world. Have you forgotten some people fear you because of what you portray in films?

It’s always the black boy in class, the black man in a hoodie that does something. Stop portraying these images to people. Stop acting in those roles.

Because what you act out becomes a norm and a hype to kids, but a nightmare to those young black men who are innocently accused.
Black men are not the only ones that leave their families.
Black men are not the only men that rob and do “drive-by.”
Black men are not the only ones on crack or smoke weed.
Black men are not the only ones that go to jail.
But the black male is defined by his weakness.
What if young black men stopped acting roles that portray them as the cheater, burglar, and murderer.

Why can’t they portray a strong father to their children and a good husband to their wife?
Why can’t the black man be portrayed as eminent throughout a film?–there is a picture that is being painted in our minds subconsciously about the black man.

Yet when I think of this, I know there is something so strong and powerful about the black man. There is a reason they want him to be uneducated, a cheater, a liar, a manipulator, a cellmate, a murder, and a crackhead.

There is something strong and dominant about the black man. Brothers, fathers, and uncles. There is something about you that dominates the other races. There is something you possess that they wish they owned and because they do not. They bring you down. They accuse you.

They say they fear you. Yes! For only the foolish will not fear a king. They fear you because they know who you are.
You are a father
You are a brother
You are an uncle
You are a mentor
You are a leader
You are a doctor
You are successful
You are determined
You don’t give up
But most importantly, you are a black king.

Maybe it’s a curse

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I stare when mom is not looking
Your innocent smiles and sincere eyes.
Sparks rush through my veins as I brush my fingers on your arm.
At dinner time, your intense looks make me believe in us.
When you argue with mom, I’m always on your side.
I wouldn’t say I like the way she treats you.
I know for sure I could love you better.
I watch you walk out of your bedroom every night.
If only I were the couch you lay on.
When I close my eyes, you are there loving me.
Caring and gentle.
That’s when you show me who you are.
You show me that you are mine.
And I want to tell you; I fear you will think like the rest.
They say it shall never be.
They call my love a curse.
On that day I tell you, I hope you’d let me explain.
The last thing I want to lose is my lover and father.


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Diamonds are made under pressure.
Hold on; you will shine.
Everything is about to change.
I am not a diamond.
Twist mind and reality.
I am bent on my inequity.
I am bowing to my master.
Lifeless, but I’m breathing.
Maybe your world has a sun.
Maybe everything changed for you.
I’m a captive to her ways.
A follower behind her back.
No don’t get me wrong I love her
So sinful and corrupt.
The dangers she brings awaken the evil in me.
Beautiful yes, but very deadly.
She is not dark. She is fun; she is different.
I can’t afford her, I know, she will be the end of me, I know.
But I am in love with sin, and I don’t want to stop.
Maybe I don’t want to shine.
I don’t want change.
I want what she gives me.
No, I don’t want to do good. I want nothing to do with goodness.
She makes me feel dark inside, and that’s when I know–
I am myself.


‘Morning star, beautiful star,’ noo!
‘morning star, beautiful star.’
I picked up the phone and put it to my ear.
-What do you want? I asked,
-Get up! We have to go to work.
Laura is my best friend, but sometimes, I wish I could strangle her just for one minute
-Leave me alone and tell the supervisor that I’m paralyzed.
I groaned as I dragged my plus-sized body out of bed.
-I’ll be there in thirty minutes, so get your life together
She hangs up on me, leaving me to face reality alone.
So many want the life I have, yet how many are willing to walk in my shoes for it. I walked downstairs to the living room after taking my bath and dressing up for work.
-Are you ready for work?
That is my mother sitting at the dining table with her plate and fork in her hand. Everyone says she’s beautiful and It’s true though, but others also say I look like my father.
Yes, is daddy still at home?
I asked as I walked to the fridge and found an apple. That was a lie, ha-ha. Well, I guess she is not going to answer as usual then. I made eggs and bacon, mmm!
‘Morning star, beautiful star.’
-Get out!
Lora calls out in her ‘motherly’ voice. I walked out of the three-bedroom apartment and hoped into her black Toyota. I pulled the seat back to relax a little more; I finally feel safe.
-So, did you finally have that apple for breakfast? She asked.
-Lora shut up!
I replied with my eyebrows raised.
-Guurl, you said you wanted to eat healthier, even though I never believed it.
-You know me, and healthy are enemies, right?
We both burst into laughter. Morning rides to work makes me feel safe. It is the only time I feel safe because it is the only time I escape reality.
-Soo James called last night
—This should be interesting
-and you answered the phone?
-Yes, of course?
I was stun for a moment, then I said,
-After all that he did to you. Laura!! —
There are a lot of things I disagree with her, but this is huge. In her velvety voice, she said,
-Tia, I know what you’re going to say but…erm… he changed… he…he apologized, and I forgave him
I can’t believe she was even smiling while telling me the story.
-Female! What part of ‘I want to have sex on the regular, so I’m going to apologize’ do you not understand? The crackhead ghosted you for two months; sigh.
I looked at my best friend in disappointment. She deserved better than James. I know she goes around a lot, but James is not worth it. After a couple of minutes of driving, Laura asked,
-are you craving ice-cream this morning?
I groaned and stared at her in suspicion
-how did you know?
-My stomach spoke French to me.
-You’re always hungry,” she laughed.
-Shut up. You don’t know me.
I mumbled, petting my stomach. Being a housekeeper is not fun at all. I entered my last room; there are socks on the floor, bags of chips on the bed. I groan as I start cleaning. I hear the door behind me open—He’s here again.
-Are you cleaning everything like you’re supposed to?
My supervisor asks me. He walked closer and stood in front of me and stared at my covered cleavage in disappointment.
Yes, sir, I replied.
I looked away and focused my eyes on the bathroom door. I felt a rough hand on my shoulder—I look right in his brown eyes. He’s daring me to say something. He knows I need this job and tries to take advantage of that to molest me. His hand goes down lower, cupping my breast, at that moment a tear runs down my cheek.
This is not how I want it to be. I have dreams and fantasies like any other girl. I want it to be special and not forced.
Did I just? Oh! This mouth is always getting me into trouble.
-You What? Quit? Ha! and where do you plan to live after quitting, huh? Do you think your mommy and daddy will accept you as a liability?
-Shut up! Your breath stinks, and you look bad in blue!
I pushed him to the side as I walk towards the door.
-I can fix my problem, can you fix yours? He said
That got to me. I have a lot of problems I cannot fix; A family of drug dealers, no college degree, and an arranged marriage to a stupid bastard in five days. I walk out of the room to see Laura coming up to me, crap!
-how long have you been out here?
I looked up at Lora. She walks up to her black Toyota. I got up as I hear squeaky sound of the doors opening.
-I quit my job today—I said, getting in the car.
I pulled my seat belt slowly, looking down.
-I know what you’re going to say, but I had to quit
My seat belt clicks, I let out the air I didn’t know I was holding in.
she held onto the steering wheel tightly.
-I know, but…
-You know what?
Tears stream down my cheek.
-What do you mean? Did someone touch you?”
I wiped my tears. I felt her hand on my face trying to wipe the unending tears away. I feel bad for not telling her sooner, but what could I do? I was in a tight situation. My supervisor made me fear to tell even a single soul. He touches me and says things to me I subbed—She hugged me—He always comes into the room when he knows I am alone, and he would touch me. I could not stop my tears now. Memories of my mother calling me names and telling me I’m not worth it flashed in my mind. My heart bled in pain; it felt like someone was squeezing it, making it harder for me to breathe. She gave birth to me; how could she hate me.
-It’s going to be alright, Tia Lora said.
I want to believe her. I frown after seeing what my tears did to her red blouse.
-Sorry about your shirt—I said, wiping the last tear.
-why didn’t you tell me earlier? —the question I’ve been running away from.
-he said if I told anyone he would fire me—I hope she believes it.
I force my eyelids to blink as water fills my eyes. I’ll be getting married to a man my father chooses for me. My best friend does not know the real reason. I told her it is because the man is higher in power than my father and my father offended him, so I’m the ransom.
-I will always be here for you Tia
I drowned deep in thought, nodding my head in response. The engine starts leading me to my prison. At least it comes with a mother and a father, and I should not complain. The ride home is quite uneasy. I roll down the window and open my eyes for the wind to blow my silent tears away. The smell of rain and trees enters my nostrils, making me feel relaxed to the presence of nature.
The car comes to a stop, and there I see the old familiar yellow apartments.
-Do you want to come over to my place? —giving me a weak smile–I don’t know how I would have coped with life without her.
-Thank you, but I just want to lay down.” She pulls me in for a long hug before letting go. I get out of the car and wave her bye.
9:12 PM
The front door opens, and my dad walks in.
-Welcome, I said.
I learned the hard way. One time I greeted him with a ‘hello’ instead of ‘welcome.’ My cheeks still remember the pain of his palm vividly. He nods his head. I went to the dining table to make sure his food was still warm. I have a lot of responsibilities in the house, and one is that I make his dinner thirty minutes before he gets home. I sit back down in my regular spot on the leather sofa. Random shows were playing on TV.
My mother would be back anytime from now. She always checks the house for any dust so she can insult me and complain about how I do nothing in the house.
‘morning star, beautiful star.’
‘morning star, beautiful star.’
-Lora, what’s up?
-I called to check up on you, is everything alright? — She is such a caring person.
-Calm down girl all I did was quit my job
I turned my face towards the front door; there my mum standing.
-Oh no!
-Lora, I got to go.
I quickly hung up the phone. I looked at my mother with pleading eyes.
-JOHNSON—she called out for my dad— come, hear what your stupid daughter said.
I flinched at the tone of her voice. My fingers formed into a ball. My eyes locked on the carpet under my feet.
“What’s going on here?” Daddy asks. I try to find words within myself to say, but my mind is blank. Brain, this is not a good time to disappoint me. What kind of brain do I have? Honestly, when I need it the most, it stops functioning. I don’t need my brain as my enemy.
-TIA! are you ignoring me?
I looked at my father. His eyebrows pushed together. His brown piercing eyes dug holes in me I cannot hide.
-I said, why did you quit your job.
My mouth suddenly became dry, and my nails dug deep into my palm. I could hear my heart beating.
-I agree to marry him, I whispered.
-Oh, that is great news! I will make some important phone calls said to my mum as she walks away.
-Good, is my food still warm?
-Yes, please
Everyone leaves me to go on their business. The songs of silence and loneliness rang in my ears. My life is over, and I will now be officially a slave to someone I know nothing about. I asked them to tell me his name, at least but was denied it “for my protection.” After my high school graduation, I wanted to go out of the state for college, but my parents refused to say I should work instead—that’s how I met my best friend, Lora. She had been working at the hotel long before I got there—I hear footsteps approaching.
-Straighten that frown off your face; you will be leaving tomorrow; he is such a nice man. Now go pack up your belongings.
-What do you mean? I was supposed to leave in five days, remember?
-Well, yea, that was before he saw your picture and thought he wanted a wedding, now he does not even want the wedding. You should be happy he even considers you, she said. I nodded my head. I have accepted my fate. There is no point in fighting; they will win because they always win. I walked into my small room and locked the door behind me. My knees tremble as pain rushed through my veins and had to lean against the door for support as my body shakes. Crying won’t help.

-by Tilisa Mlondani


I want to be open, really I do!
I want to be an open book in your eyes.
With every chapter lies a mystery.
The more I tell you, the more I hide from you.
Believe me; I want to let you in.
But the way you look at me when you ask,
like a predator waiting for its prey to make a wrong move.
You see, I’ve done this before.
Like a snake, he crawled towards me slowly.
With confidence, lured me in with his lies.
When he hugged me, I knew I was not the only one.
I wanted to walk, run, vanish, anything I just wanted to go.
But you see, he knew.
He saw me and read me like an open book. He gave me what I wanted. He knew what I needed.
Nothing else mattered to me.
I love you, but I love him more. See, I can’t tell you that.
He called me names; he called me a whore.
But I was his whore.
He brought his other whores home, made me a voluntary slave.
I didn’t mind as long as he said he loved me.
He always beat me after drinking, but I understood him. His parents did the same for him.
It was not his fault; it was the only thing he knew.
I always ran back to him.
I wanted him to love me.
I wanted to be loved.
But he was not always like that.
He was a good man. In the beginning, he was everything I dreamed of, but something about the way he looked at me told me he was my worst nightmare.
And right now, I’m looking into your eyes, and I see that look.
And I can’t open up to you because I don’t want to do you like I did my last addiction.
I don’t want to kill you.

And right now I’m looking into your eyes and I see that look.
And I can’t open up to you because I don’t want to do you like I did my last addiction.

I don’t want to kill you.

-by Tilisa Mlondani


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So many rumors going around, please tell me I can trust you.
So many fights and arguments, please promise you’d never lay your hand on me.
So much abuse and misuse, please promise to care.
So many people die every day, please be safe.
Don’t question it. We love different because I worry every day.
I pray for you, for your safety, I pray for us.
My dream is to see you come back to me.
I want that old kind of love, where we get on our knees and pray for us because we know what’s wrong with us.
But sometimes I have doubts.
It is hard to believe what we have.
I fear its too good. Yet even in my gravest doubt, I know I love you.
And even though there is so much hatred going around, please…tell me you love me.

what are your thoughts on this? what does this mean to you?

-by Tilisa Mlondani 

Ordinary Love

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I want something simple.
I want something familiar.
That rare kind of love is expensive.
I want affordable love.
I want movie nights on Friday.
I don’t want breakfast in bed.
I want a walk-in park.
I don’t want vacations abroad.
I want an affordable kind of love.
I want something comfortable.
I don’t want anything rare.
I want something normal.
I want that boring kind of love where pillow fights turn into real ones.
I want us to argue because you left the toilet seat up.
I want us to roast each other.
I don’t want anything rare, nothing expensive I want something I can come home to and know that its mine.
I want an ordinary love.

what are your thoughts on this? what does this mean to you?

-by Tilisa Mlondani 


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What defines a home?
Is it the bloodline?
The people?
And when it is a bloodline, what if you do not consider it home?
When you enter through the door– and fall into a warm embrace.
When you smile and laugh like the old times.
Deep inside, only you know where thy heart truly lies.
Like the cell mutation, it grows.
And yet you do nothing.
Strongest at its core deep within you.
A place only you know.
What defines a home?
Is it the bloodline?
The people?
Maybe it is you, perhaps not
you don’t want to be defined as their family.
You nourish the seed of hatred in your heart.
Shamelessly when you can’t go anywhere else, you crawl back to the warm embrace.
You smile and laugh like the old times.

what are your thoughts on this? what does this mean to you?

-by Tilisa Mlondani