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  • Rough Draft TX Team

The Personhood Project Episode 16: Ashia Ajani

For our 16th episode, host, Aaron Tyler Hand is joined by poet, environmental educator, and cultural preservationist Ashia Ajani. Outside of giving insight into their debut full length collection called Heirloom, Ashia and Aaron discuss the crossroads between environmental justice and social harm. Additionally, they talk about the importance of connecting to nature and greenspaces, especially for those stuck in a carceral system. They take a deep dive into understanding inheritance and forced migration when sharing ones climate story. Ashia also goes into how one can use imagination to fight against despair.



Ashia Ajani:

Imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have against despair.

Poems:


When is Enough


when is enough when is enough when is enough

when is enough of the lying when is enough of the blinding

when is enough of the hiding tell me when is enough

tell me when is enough of these games, exposing your true self

stop hiding yo colors, you run it back thats that side that you hear

and wonder, got yo lil thing choking on the truth from under

if you hear on the side i saved yo ass some time

so when is enough

i know you getting tired of being up under the rain

making you drained feeding yo ass that good that you came

born with smoke in my veins, obliterating the game

fuck the money and the fame don’t mention the name

put you in the world for a minute that’s the ode

so when this poems over you decide, if you gonna

ride when is enough when is enough


Haunted House


this is the home that i provide

it may seem dark and uninspired

but such are things after the fire

for my passion flame torment and blame

keep my hidden from the lame

safe and sound from those around

i try my best to be

otherwise they’d all surround

for i am truly free

you’re welcome in my haunted house

where the blessings flow like waterfalls

and with your love and my great seed

together we’ll begin to see

new life blooming as giving trees

now all that seemed denied by one

slowly embraced by the new son

at peace in love

the Kid has won

Move on (letter for you)


Got to move on to better things, can’t put pleasure first while i am

in the rain cause if i do she going to hold me back from everything

make me go in circles and relapse. I am just stating facts.

Homie you got to let her go cause in the end you going to end up behind bars.

A contemptuous woman you got to stay away giving yall a warning

of the day. Saving your ass, being behind the glass, go get you

some money like money running on the paper. Just a nigga

dark vader that nobody’s heard or knows.



Airwalks and Chucks


The dog follows his knows

Seeing beyond good and bad

Trusting in the righteous and beautiful

The lying found trying are buying now flying

Open mouths in disbelief

Denying conditioned acceptable grief

Your being converted to gnarly All-Stars

Airwalks and the Chucks

Good talks and good fux

All will be free for a couple’a bux

Where you’ll never say “man this world sux!”

Pretending to suffer old man has now died

Killed him with fair kindness no way he would mind

Reborn on an airplane unknown to the blind

The vision of destiny was for him to find

Inter-dependent created invented

The broken is helping the wanted and spoken

The poet has legs others wish to beg

No effort required exhausted and tired

The past was found failing unworthy and fired

As the one from my rib yelled out Shotgun! Dibs!

Following the one’s light heartfelt deep in the night

What Goes On In A Cell


well shit hell, let me tell you what i do through the day

i just rewind and play, and make a song its like a job

can i carry on what be happenin i be laughin and rappin

put my finger on the chrome tappin sometimes i be nappin

no i ain’t capping and i am not talking about cap’n crunch

shit is chow him got to go man i am just going with the flow

you see us incarcerated the world needs



Writing Prompts:

  1. Ashia uses “Running” to reflect on their life and the tragic news of Ahmaund Arbery. As a Black person who enjoys the outdoors, Ashia found a deeper connection to and emphasized with Ahmaund in a way that led to this desire to write this poem. Think of a recent news story that you saw on TV, or recently read about, that you felt a deep connection to. It could be a tragic story like that of Ahmaund Arbery, or it could be something happier. Whatever that story is, write about it and what drew you to it.

  2. The heat of “porch” (or in other words, the moment in the poem that carries the most weight) comes at the end of the poem when the speaker starts to list their desires. These final lines form a litany that causes a ramping up of tension for the reader. This tension allows the speaker to sternly demand what should be rightfully theirs. Right now in life, what are your biggest desires? Which needs are not getting met? Write a poem that lists these desires and talks about why they are owed to you.

  3. “life cycle” is a commentary on the current state of America, viewed through the lens of a personal and familial perspective. It describes America as a factory, a landfill, a false idol, and a malignant tumor. The poem also highlights the racial and economic disparities in America, with Black people often being at the receiving end of the negative effects of pollution and waste. Start off by writing down “America is ____” and write four descriptors of the United States. Take each of those “America is ____” lines and make them their own stanza. Under each heading, write why you see America in this way.


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