Poet’s Bio: Kyoko Heshiimu is a poet and visual artist. She has exhibited her artwork in several galleries in NYC. In
2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 she received artist grants from SIArts and showcased
her artwork both in person and online. She considers herself an activist,
tackling subjects in both her artwork and poetry on topics associated with
women’s struggles and the challenges African Americans face from living in a
racially divisive society. She received her BFA from Pratt Institute where she
majored in painting and received her MSEd from The College of Staten Island –
certified in both childhood and early childhood education, after which she
taught at The Children’s Aid Society. 

She has performed spoken word at various venues around NYC since
2007. Her poem, “Port-Au-Prince,” about the devastation from the earthquake in
2010, was published in Staten Island’s local magazine, The Shamboree in 2011.
In 2012, WBAI 95.5’s Midnight Ravers broadcast her poem, “The Color of
Suspicion,” about rape during war times.  

In 2016, she self-published her first collection of poems, Sticks
and Stones
. In 2017, she published her poetry collections – To Catch a Fish,
Catch and Release, and Fish Stew. She also published four
children’s books that same year – Ekky Pekky, Up on a Star, Mama
May I
, and Because My Mommy Told Me So, I Know. She is a mother of
four and often incorporates her experiences as a mom and teacher into her work. 

She has been a feature poet at Alor Cafe, Vox Pop, The Cup, St
George Day, Inspired Word at Hell Phone and Parkside Lounge, Duzers Local, HUB17’s
The Edgewater Reading Series and Black GirlsWrite, The artist and the pandemic: America unmasked, and most
recently for Words Wine and Wings, the Literary Cypher, Mash-poet-atoes, and
Poetry in the Park. 

She is currently working on collecting poems that she has written
and read at venues around NYC since publishing her last book in 2017. She has
also created poetry broadsides for some of them and the finished product will
be displayed virtually in June 2023.

Deliah Lawrence: What inspired you to be a poet?
Kyoko Heshiimu: My dad was a reggae artist. He would write songs for
himself and other people all the time. Music lyrics read like poetry and I have
always been inspired by his writing.
 

I was very shy growing up – walked with my head down
and everything. Especially didn’t liked talking in public. I remember we had a
poetry class for a brief time in elementary school. I loved that poetry felt
similar to writing music lyrics. I was able to stay in my little area of my
room alone and just write lyrics and poems to express how I felt even though I
was too shy to speak it out loud.
 

DL: Is there any particular poet, author or book that
influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

KH: Justin Chin’s poetry book
“Bite Hard,” influenced me as a writer because he wrote about subjects in a
very raw manner in which I thought I was not allowed to. It gave me courage to
write about subjects others might find taboo. Before then, I was weary about
being too graphic or talking about things that may be construed as political.
He was not afraid to talk about his sexuality in detail or about hardships he
endured in society, and I loved it.
 

DL: What tips would you give to aspiring poets?

KH: Just write! Write about
subjects that are important to you. Write about topics you feel passionate
about. Make connections between stuff you experience and stuff going on in the
world. How it impacts you. Your perspective is unique to you and so be open to
sharing how life has impacted you. Read other peoples’ work. You will learn so
much about writing structure and other ways of expressing yourself by learning
how others have tackled topics and then you can create your own voice. Keep
experiencing life so you have stuff to write about.
 

DL: What are three fun facts about yourself?

KH: I am obsessed with
skulls. I think they are so beautiful. Something about them makes me feel
peaceful and calm.
 

I am also a visual artist. I have created art even
longer than I have written poetry. I create work that deal with similar topics
in my poetry. Past work has focused on issues of police violence, homelessness
and endangered animals.
 

I worked as an early childhood lead teacher. I was
working at an insurance company for a decade just to pay bills, when I decided
to go back to school to get my Masters. I chose childhood education because I
enjoyed teaching my own daughter and felt that doing it as a job would be a
fulfilling career shift.
 

DL: In celebration of National Poetry Month, can you
share with us a few of your poems?

KH: Sure, here you go: 

Tracing my
life

by
Kyoko Heshiimu

 

I am filled with exhaust

Fumes exerted without
deliberation

They are my trauma

And I am vying for clean unpolluted
air

So I can talk and write
about something “other”

Even so, I cannot escape
it

Some days, my trauma is
MOM

Accompanying my voice to
the “other” side of gloom

 

My mom told me

My sad entered the room
before me

Greeted her with loss hope

She, hiding her weak and
feeble frame

Under layers of forced
smiles

She is in pain

I can see it in her eyes

 

Her cancer

A drumbeat

Bum

Her heartbeat

Buh dum

Her voice

Buh

Buh

Buh

 

I can’t help but try to
hold onto memories

Of her in stronger light

But my own struggles do
not permit this to be so

Buh dum

 

My heart paces to the
rhythm of hers

If we can share a heart

To keep both of us alive

I would

Every memory I hold on to

The frame of her face
between fingertips

Boxing my mother in
snapshots

 

Like how she turned our
kitchen into a darkroom

When I was little

Blacking out windows and
cracks under doors

Red light

And a metronome

Tick, tick, tick, tick

               

My mother, comforted our
woes

With the sound of her food

Digesting

Our heads listening to her

Abdominal waves

As we laid

Comforted by her stomach

Soft upon her thin
structure

 

When asked pervasively

What do you want to be

I responded in swift
adoration

“My mom”

As if you can become
another

Let her being immerse your
soul

As an occupation

 

But I counter

“My mom is a job”

And no one can debate my
sentiments

 

I put my memories of her
on repeat

In my head so as not to
forget

How her voice

Echoes my own

 

So the details of my
childhood

Do not get tarnished

By the rust of amnesia

 

Her concern for me

Exacerbates her pain

Surging through her

I lay stress at her feet

The muscles in her heart

Fighting

 

Buh dum

Buh dum

Buh dum

 

The sound of maternal
percussions

Resonating through my
veins

Her DNA inherently

Cataloged in my ears

               

With yells, lullabies,
giggles, and advice

Patterns and shapes
scribbled on the map in my brain

               

“I wasn’t ready to let you
go..”

“You’re smart, but not too
smart”

“Kokabola”

               

She shares my breath in
her sighs

My excitement in her
smiles

Praises the bravery when
I’ve ventures grounds alone

Her first born

 

Her stomach sits in knots
of muscle and worry

There is always worry in
her eyes

And in her voice when she
speaks to me

Growing up has not made
this go away

Nor ease the tension in
her chest when we talk

 

“I’m pregnant..”

“I got my own
apartment…”

“I’m happy..”

“I fear..”

“I worry…”

 

My mother lives in my head
when I sort my thoughts

Rent free

And burdens me

With stacks of self doubt
and

Second thoughts she has
handed down to me

When I dare to trek
uncharted miles

 

She echoes in my head

Her illness slowing her
calls

Her pace filled with more
weight

Less risks

More praise to leave
behind for her children to remember


The Powers
That Could Be

by Kyoko Heshiimu

 

If I were a superhero,

I would hope to not be
gifted the power of strength

On surface value it sounds
wonderful

Crumbling walls to save
people from fires,

Lifting cars to save
someone caught under the bottom of its wheels

Lift criminals and pry
them away from victims,

Keep me safe

 

But the power of strength
would probably be a waste on me

When are you really going
to use it?

To fight? But I don’t
fight!

Never have

Hope to never will it into
power

 

So my power would be
wasted

On carrying loads of
laundry to the laundromat

Carrying groceries home

               

My inability to control my
anger

Will cause dents in the
floors

Where my temper spools out
onto the streets

Where my madness meets
slabs of linoleum when

I toss my anger from
chairs

So I do not have to carry
it

As I will my anger away
from my intended target

 

Strength stands tall on
face value

But would most likely make
me a weaker superhero

As I would be fearful to
test its limits

Hide behind the power to
hold back

 

Imagine me as a mom with
the power of strength?

I would stack bricks to
build forts to hide in

Snowballs the size of boats

Cast them miles to create
new icebergs

 

Shake hands that break
bones of my enemies

Mask it with kindness

And pry my grip open with
broken teeth

Fractured by the false
smiles created from holding my tongue

As I lay anger in my stare

My grin a machine

My fingers clasped like
pliers

When they are stuck

 

If strength was gifted to
me

I might be tempted to
taunt those

Who used their strength to
seize me

In the grasp of their
hands and plow into me

Use their strength to
total me to rubble in mind

As they robbed me of my
power

My physical

Would it carry my body if
I were strong?

Or would my muscles turn
my bones to jello?

 

Instead, give me the gift
of flight

So I can travel for free

Feel the weightlessness of
my body

Experience freedom

Grant me unrestricted air
space in a no fly zone

Let me live out my final
days

Like an un-caged bird

No obligation to anyone,
but me

 

Soaring oceans

So I can experience the
spices and sounds of the entire earth

Use the sky like a playground
to wade in

Dance so the clouds
surround my body like a washcloth

Moist with mist

Erasing my sins

 

I currently have four collections of poetry and four
children’s books available on amazon. I mostly use my Instagram: dragonmomi8
for my art, but I do post fliers on there with updates about feature readings
and shows I will be reading at.        

DL: Thanks so much for being
here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your
work.

KH: Thank you for this
opportunity!

Originally Published on https://vocalexpressions.blogspot.com

Deliah Lawrence Attorney, Author, Blogger, Workshop Facilitator

Deliah Lawrence is a Maryland-based attorney and award-winning author of two romantic suspense novels (Gotta Let It Go and Gotta Get It Back) set in Baltimore. She’s also a blogger and workshop facilitator who writes poetry and short stories.

When Deliah isn’t writing, you can find her reading a book, indulging in her addiction to investigation discovery shows; or painting her yet-to-be exhibited oil artworks of landscapes, portraits or whatever else comes to her creative mind. Constantly on the go, she is also a member of the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland and Sisters in Crime.

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