Why We Must Write


What good is your pen, they ask
dem just words on a page, you know
markings on a sheet
indication that maybe
you have
too much time on your hands

I tell them
there’s power in this here pen
what I’m doing is
making war on this here page
and sometimes love too
literary orgasms
when touch alone won’t do
when an attentive ear isn’t enough
when no amount of intellectual reciprocity
can capture the nuance of exactly what I need to convey just then

I tell them
this is no literary masturbation
but rather desperate transformation
ridiculously courageous elation
for what troubles me
what eludes
what vexes
what does it … for me

This here is
me protesting
me standing
me preserving
not just documenting
me refusing to keel … over
but rather heal

This here is
me telling
the whole truth
and nothing but the truth
so help me Godddd…ess
sometimes it is She
who helps me restore
wholeness to a page
and pieces to wholeness

This here is
me attempting
to have my say
before you tell me how I must think
’bout whatever it is you think
I’m thinking ’bout … this time

This here is me writing
‘stead of fighting … you
with my bare hands
it’s probably the only way it will ever be a fair one

This here is me
summoning my ancestors
channeling them through my veins
tapping into their courage
through many a night … and day
when they had not the pen
or luxury to write
but kept words bound in their breast
and rage buried in their night

This here is me
that elusive baton
so I can honor their fight
do more than just say
do more to keep my words
from just blending
surreptitiously into the air
wafting around corners
past walls
constructed in pseudo sanctuaries
designed for secret spewing
but little soul transforming
once they get past my lips and beyond your ears
I fear
they’ve gone everywhere
yet nowhere

This here is me
love …
notes and memories
in case I should ever
lose mine
I don’t want to forget … any of it
not even the ugly
so I put it on paper
for proof
to bear witness
I seal my agony to the page
so as to release its grip
from ’round my throat
while it threatens to floor me
to my knees
to suck life from where it was
supposedly ‘born again’
to render me unconscious
pleading unconvincingly
I. Can’t. Breathe.

This here is
me writing
so I can fix what no amounts
of your Medicaid or
new medicine can heal

This here is me
standing on the edge
and you rescuing me
and you writing too
we write together
through our delicate and
jagged line dance
we make love through our notes
sculpting new tools for our survival
we understand
with no instruction
that this here just might be
the only thing that saves us

So we carve art
write words through our pain
cut glass with the octaves of our telling
and when we can’t write
our bodies do the dance for us
our voices sing the poems of our heart
and the canvas bleeds our cries in color
like the thick of sweat on a hot summer day
conspicuous and inconvenient
with our mini sanctuaries inside us
in our pocketbooks
and our dollar store journals
we’ve learned to make a way
to find words when war won’t do
and no amount of space can contain our rage
and no amount of reparations can erase the pain
and no amount of forgiveness can blend away the scars

We write and
must write
to remember
lest we forget
to find a way
to be
to love
to do
to breathe


“Why We Must Write” by Avril Somerville aka SomerEmpress; inspired by and for the Art Sanctuary of Philadelphia, both its space and the courageous agents that make it possible, who breathe life into its vision and stand boldly in the conviction that such a space might exist at a time like this. It is also written for those who commit tirelessly to the preservation of arts and literacy in Black communities in a myriad of ways including Art Sanctuary’s 31st Anniversary Celebration of Black Writing honorees, author Jacqueline Woodson, songwriters Kindred the Family Soul, and dedicated volunteers and partners who share in the vision of Art Sanctuary.

Avril Somerville is the author of A Journey Of Life On Purpose: Creativity, Love, Womanhood, Community, Race, and Identity a work of nonfiction memoir in essays and poetry, now available for pre-order on Amazon.  Release Date: July 4 2015




24 thoughts on “Why We Must Write

  1. I love this, Avril. I relate to it strongly. It is so accurate in its portrayal of how we are often viewed and treated as people who take their writing seriously. For example, many of my associates don’t understand my need to be on hiatus while working on my writing, something I’d put off for years working, raising children alone, maintaining a home, etc. They don’t understand that it is important for me to manifest “the power of my pen” and I am more than okay with that. Thanks so much for your remarkable expression of why we write!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Pamela, it’s a pleasure to “meet” you and learn more about the urgency of your own writing. So glad this resonated with you, fellow creative. You Must Write!


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