Friday’s Poetic Pause: “Paper Over People”

Once in a while someone will say something to you that perfectly encapsulates what you’ve been trying to convey, only in a more concise, elegant or articulate way. @Semhar Araia, founder of the Diaspora African Women’s Network did that for me in a conversation recently, and her brilliant summary has stayed with me over the last few weeks, resulting in this poem last night.

I dedicate it to her and the visionaries like her who dare to say, “Nope, no more. This is what we can do instead.”


Paper Over People

The system commands,
this, then, this,
don’t forget that on your checklist
of what must be done, what must be spent.
Wave your dollar before the noses,
sniffing for change, or opportunity—
which do you smell?
As you dance only in your head,
full of defensed matrixes and office-full distractions
floating around you,
Hide behind your degree of “knowing”
Because you “have” more,
and can write into guidelines,
made of lines you guided?
Because your reality is
an intellectual debate
over real lives lived?
Will you ever dare let yourself
step into “other,” into vulnerability?
Just for a moment.
It’s just a step.


Have some poems you treasure that you’d like to share with fellow aid workers and do-gooders? Please send them my way at!


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