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  • Rough Draft TX Team

The Personhood Project Episode 5: Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Updated: May 4, 2022

In our first ZOOM interview, host Aaron Tyler Hand is joined by the amazing Melissa Lozada-Oliva for a conversation about writing in different forms, spoken word vs written poetry, the importance of therapy, and the power of going head first into hurt.

Melissa Lozada-Oliva

I am not defined by this pain but it did shape me, so I make my own definition instead.



Today was another wait in line

so many so many problems

mine seem inconsequential

to so many others

so important to me

Then to another specialist

and still more lines

and more sad people

and I am still not fixed

Another day to make

the doctors richer

and me poorer

and still no relief

Tomorrow will be better

but never is

it’s the same—take this pill

do that exercise

and still no progress

still the pain

The Kid Always Dreamed…

about a male doll with different clothes & styles, which he

could mark the doll with a marker & create some art.

He could walk the walk and talk the talk, just like his

heart imagined.

He always dreamed about the doll & created a life for him.

The doll was light skin tone & lived a gangster life.

20 years later his dream came true.

If you can picture him now, he dreams

to be nine years old again

My Pencil Broke

I want to write about a thousand things

And you

Tell you about all the sweet nothings

When we were young

How we clung to ideals that were meaningless


To cure the heartache I put you through

But my pencil sheds tears

I fear no words can ever mend or make you see

I am not the person I used to be

Nor am I yet the prayed for “he”

Because you see only the shore of the wasteland

I left behind

But keep in mind

The person you saw behind my blue eyes turned gray

is only today beginning to breath

Trying to say

I think I’m beginning to finally love you

That I pray

You will find someone worthy of holding you

So I scribble some words

Meaningless but true

This paper is messy

Pencil down to a nub

No matter what I write

You’ll read it with a sigh

Maybe I’m not good at writing

Perhaps one day I’ll try

Where Does This Come From?

seen as a threat & someone unwanted

to stay cooped up

like a bee unable to fly,

but wanting to be the swaying hive

could be the entire entracing city

confined to a single building

& that is not what I want

to be here, and here alone

when all that is wanted

is to be seen singing laughing

spending time enjoying myself

to know when to go when seen

as only

no body, no home, but

even then I still may be

mostly valiant mostly complete

exquisite dancing sunshine

Writing Prompts:

  1. In I LOVE YOU IN MY GRANDFATHER’S BUTTON DOWN, Lozada-Olivia opens up about how life can feel so painstaking the same from year to year. She describes several mini scenes that help paint the picture of a year within a short poem. All of which come together for the larger story of her life. Think of the ways that life feels the same from year to year. Try to write a poem that captures different scenes from that year.

  2. HE WAS OBSESSED WITH SAYING WE ARE JUST MACHINES is a playful poem that looks to strike down the idea of people being machines. The larger goal of the piece is to help give people their personhood back. That means, it is trying to show that all people have value and shouldn’t be seen as machines, or animals, or anything less than human. Write a fun/playful poem about how people should see you. Think of silly ways that people see you and then how you see yourself. Remember to have fun with this prompt, but still show who you are.

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