Illustration by azzeazy. 


This story is over 5 years old.


A Poem for the Anxious and Exhausted

jamilah malika's poem "rest / woke" works as ritual Black people can reflect on to connect with their bodies.

As we brace for 2019 and stack up our resolutions, Broadly is focusing on finding motivation for the hard tasks that await us—like getting out of bed. So, throughout January, we're rolling out Getting Out of Bed, a series of stories about all things related to rest and resilience. Read more here.

This month, Broadly collaborated with artists niv Acosta and Fannie Sosa to bring you an issue of Black Power Naps Magazine, a publication focused on interrogating racial equity and promoting rest and healing among Black people. To that end, we commissioned poet jamilah malika to write a piece that could facilitate rest and relaxation among fellow Black people. She gave us “rest / woke”, a love letter of sorts that tenderly guides the reader through connecting with their body in the moment and remembering to be present and kind to themselves. It's the ideal salve for a day when you wake up aching and need some centering before entering the world. — Sarah Burke, editor


wherever you are, whether you are walking around or lying down,


if your top and bottom teeth touch,

part them

if your tongue touches the roof of your mouth,

soften it down and away

notice your eyes—like your tongue—can rest inside your dear head

soften down and away

and your eyebrows, might they rest too?

or if not, notice if you can feel their weight for a moment

like your bottom teeth, tongue, eyes, and eyebrows, notice your shoulders

can there be any amount more space between your shoulders and ears

and your ears—like your shoulders—can let go a little with each exhale

any amount is real good… there will be another exhale for another go

notice if this next exhale can last any amount longer than the last

and the next… and the next… keep going, dear one…

and there isn’t anything you must do or be to be breathed

your exhale will always follow your inhale and your inhale will always follow your exhale

maybe put one hand on your belly or chest to feel your breath in your body

maybe feel breath above your lip or below your nose

maybe hear the sound of your body breathing

maybe find the bottom of your exhale and then the top of your inhale

to do so, maybe stand on all four sides of your feet

notice which feels heaviest: the inside edge, outside edge, heels, or toes

if you are lying down, you can flex your feet to feel that place you tend to rest most on

is one spot tighter than the rest?


if you are standing, you can bend your knees any amount and lift and spread your toes

is there one part that is heaviest?

notice all the parts of you that rest to any surface like the floor, chair, or bed

notice all the parts that don’t

maybe the arch of your foot, or the arch of your back,

maybe not…

notice the parts of yourself that rest on yourself, like your soft inner arms to the sides of your body, or your soft inner thighs to each other

notice because it is nice to know ourselves more and more not because you have to change anything; we can be curious…

if you are lying down, notice on your next exhale how the front of your body softens into the back of your body and the back of your body can soften, too

if you are standing, notice how your shoulders can soften towards your feet and your feet into the floor

if you like, you can speak this aloud: my flesh and bone are home

Read more from Black Power Naps Magazine here, or pick up a print copy inside the Black Power Naps exhibition at Performance Space New York through January 31, 2019.