Greetings, and welcome to the inaugural Urban Verses blog post!
First things first, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Alexis Spencer-Byers, and I am, among other things, a writer of poetry. My plan for this space is to use it to share some of those poems, in the hope that they may offer encouragement, enjoyment and/or thought-provocation to however many (or few) people stumble across them here.
Most of my adult life has been spent living and working in inner-city communities–largely in the nonprofit community development arena. For a while, it seemed that my English literature degree had no relevance to my life as it was unfolding, but then I discovered that poetry could serve as a way to capture and attempt to understand–if incompletely–some of the difficult, painful, beautiful, joyful and other kinds of moments that come with life in the city (and sometimes just life in general).
Writing “urban verses” quickly became the way I processed things I saw, heard, experienced and felt–and the way I communicated to others some of what was going on in my head and heart as I navigated a life marked by often-unorthodox choices. By way of example, and to really introduce myself, I give you this “oldie”:
They say I’m brave to live here—
A courageous soul, more so than most
And I believe that they intend it
As a compliment to me
But what they fail to understand
Is the grave insult implied
To those I choose to live among
If being their neighbor
Makes me a hero
Why should it be harder
For me to dwell beside
A family who differs from mine
In hue and size of paycheck
Than it is to share a street
With those who show no sympathy
For the differences and weaknesses
What would they say
If they knew the truth—
That the suburbs with their perfect lawns
Their swimming pools and soccer moms
Far more than the dangers
(Real and alleged)
Of my beloved ’hood?
What would they say
If they discovered this fact—
That I am not brave at all
Just more at home
Where I can be
As broken as the next?