ameliaslunchbox

Color is the closest I’ve come to infinity.

As a kid, I often wondered if there were endless colors. I can remember being somewhat concerned about whether we’d use them all up one day. Like many children, I relished opportunities to use the crayola 64 pack. I distinctly recall the rare instances of getting a fresh box, either because it was the beginning of a new school year or the old ones had all been worn to nubs. One reason I remember these moments so vividly is because a new box would occasionally include a new color, or at least one I’d never encountered.

My mind couldn’t quite fathom this. A new color?!! Where did cerise come from? Was cerulean conceived in the human mind? Did citrine appear in a dream? Did someone happen to come across a shade in nature that no one had ever noticed and attempt to mimic it?

Even now, as an adult, I stand at the polish rack in the nail salon for unreasonably long periods of time, marveling at the constantly refreshed array of pigments. I browse every shelf and turn over countless bottles, amusing myself with the names people have come up with for each unique hue.

I was very skeptical in elementary school when the idea of boundless entities was introduced. I felt duped. We had been given strict confines within which to think, starting from 0 when counting, for example, before the remainder of the number line, extending indefinitely in either direction, was abruptly unveiled.

Color is the one of the only ways I’ve been able to grasp and trust this notion of infinite possibility. No matter how much time goes by, we never run out of colors. It’s the closest I’ve come to the absence of limits…and one of the ways I’ve built the faith to push myself beyond them.

- amelia simone

As hard as it was to lose tug of war,
it was never much better to win.
Two sides pulled opposite directions,
held up only with equal force.
Tough rope tore at tender skin,
winners and losers both hit the floor.
One side dragged upon defeat,
but the victors still fell backwards.
I never saw lessons in brutal games,
but now, looking back, it’s clear.
Even the ones with the final yank
can’t escape with unbattered palms.

- amelia simone

Smoke and Mirrors

Day parties filled with puffs,
twerk teams and punks with Afros. 
Naked Black women everywhere,
“Black is sooo beautiful, right?”

Bodies swingin’ and swayin’,
to the rhythm of the trap (song).
Our sponsors fill cups for free,
to keep the party goin’.

The record scratches as we halt,
at the news of our latest fallen.
Next event, with distressed denim,
we’ll wear him on our shirts.

- amelia simone

Refraction

He stares into the vanity
searching for validation.
When met with traces of doubt,
he covers with ostentation.
Impeccable features beautiful frame
each day she refreshes her mask.
Is she the fairest one of all?
She doesn’t have to ask.
The daily tally of likes and hits
are evidence of appeal.
At times they show a little skin
to keep insecurities concealed.
Constantly gazing into the glass
to pose for all who admire.
More reflection, to avoid reflecting,
attention is what’s required.
This is the age of displaying worth
by offering our faces for booking.
Private self for public consumption;
do we exist when no one’s looking?

- amelia simone

White dresses
Are blank slates
Unsoiled surfaces
Endless possibilities.

White dresses
Are first times
Curiosity piqued
Brinks of discovery.

White dresses
Are nostalgia
For innocence lost
Yearnings for simplicity.

White dresses
Are flashbacks
To our yesterdays -
Real and imagined.

- amelia simone

P.S. A stolen moment from many moons ago, the first and only time I wore this particular white dress.

#ContagiousActsofFreedom (https://www.createspace.com/4354686) a book by @ameliasimone and illustrated by @gauxgirl, is available online just in time for the holiday season. James Baldwin once said, “A real writer is always shifting and changing and searching.” This may be why I would revise so much if I could do it over and I am already hoping to be better in the future. That said, we all have to start somewhere, and I will not shy away from sharing my process in the hopes that it will be a #ContagiousActofFreedom that moves others to do the same. It’s really scary, but, as Audre Lorde said, “only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” #ameliaslunchbox #foodforthought #poetry #poems #books

When we walked into the restaurant, the hostess said there were no tables left, the only place to sit was the chefs’ counter. She made it sound almost like Siberia, someplace nobody wanted to be. Reluctantly, we took a seat, ordered some wine and got to chatting. At some point during a lull in convo, I realized all three of us were staring at the scene in front of our eyes. The kitchen, occupied by 5 male chefs, was one of the most mesmerizing things I’ve witnessed in a long time. I love watching masters at work in any craft, but there is something very sensual about watching someone prepare a meal. In a culture where physical human connection is becoming less and less necessary for transactions, cooking is one of the few things we still do manually, many times even using our bare hands - kneeding, sprinkling, massaging, whisking, mixing. Cooking has always been one of my favorite collaborative activities and something I enjoy doing for those I love, but taking the role of spectator was an unexpected treat.

The chefs’ movements, some vigorous, some smooth, some swift, and others slow, were all so precise. As they maneuvered around the tiny space, never colliding, a certain rhythm emerged. Efficient, but with a sense of finesse, they produced dish after dish. Each time the chefs put the finishing touches on a creation and delivered it to the counter, we ogled it, impressed with the aroma and presentation, having witnessed it’s journey from a few fresh ingredients.

I believe in energy and that the energy of the person preparing a meal gets infused into the food, and ultimately the diner. I even think one can taste it when a chef puts a little of his spirit into a dish. Besides the fresh herbs and spices they used that night to season our food, I could detect hints of the care they had put into it. After we scraped our plates clean and shared a few laughs with the chefs who had served us, I felt satisfied, nourished, and invigorated.

We had the best seats in the house.

My fascination with travel started at a young age. I still remember the first time my mom deposited us “down south” for the summer. Of all the unanticipated elements of culture shock, the one I truly was not prepared for was foreign language. The first time my cousin declared that she was “finna” go to the pool, I honestly thought she had a stutter of some sort and politely ignored it. Upon realizing that this term preceded all verbs, I had to acknowledge that I was a stranger in a strange place. A place where people weren’t “about to”, they were “fixin’ to”. A place where the bike path never stopped and the street lights didn’t call you home.

Looking back, this early experience was formative. I’ve heard it said that “black Americans don’t travel”. Recent marketing campaigns even invite us to disprove this by hopping on a plane. However, in a world filled with pockets of variety in every square mile, one has to seriously ask what counts? Almost every child in my neighborhood went South at some point in summer. (I’m pretty sure most of us had a brief period of thinking that “down south” was an actual place.) Although these excursions to Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, etc, were not spoken of with the esteem of the “gap year” of more privileged groups, I’m convinced they taught comparable lessons. The backpack through Europe, the summer on safari, or the meditation retreat in South Asia are seen as worth writing home about, ostensibly because of their exotic nature, but I’d argue that one can circumnavigate the globe without truly leaving the comfort zone. The critical aspects of travel - immersion in unfamiliarity, disorientation, deep listening and deep looking, shifting perspectives, might be just as easily gained by a trip to the other side of town. My travels below the Mason-Dixon Line as a kid from northeastern surburbia widened my perspective more than standing atop the Eiffel Tower or snapping photos in front of the Colosseum.

How far does one have to travel to see the world?

- amelia simone

Does the nationality of a human life determine its worth?

The other day I was finishing some work with an NPR broadcast on in the background. Lured by the promise of “breaking news” on a story I care a lot about - the emerging investigation of whether the Obama administration’s drone attacks violate international law - I paused to tune in. Despite the recent claims of large numbers of civilian casualties sparked by a young boy’s account of seeing his grandmother killed, the breaking news was that it turns out that “only” 67 of the people killed were civilians, which is really “not that many when you think about it”, according to one reporter. Another chimed in, “Yeah, I was surprised to hear that the number is so low.”

I thought for a moment about the other contexts in which headlines with “breaking news” like this would be anywhere near acceptable.

"Pakistan launches bomb strike on American city, only 67 civilians killed - really not that many when you think about"…? Definitely not.

"Gunman kills 67 in American school - president surprised to hear that the number is so low"…? No way.

"US embassy in Pakistan attacked, 67 Americans killed - no big deal"…?

You get the point.

But, “US Drone Attack kills only 67 Pakistani civilians, including women, children, and elderly - really not that many when you think about it”…? Perfectly ok, according to NPR, and the tone was so casual at that. It was a not so subtle reminder that, for some, the worth of your life is determined by the flag you wave.

- amelia simone

Sunday Dinners

Sometimes on Sundays,
I feed my soul before my stomach.
I partake in the chance to walk slowly on purpose
and fill up on smiles from strangers.
I sample treats being sold from sidewalks and windows,
and taste the daily bread as I pass the church walls.
I wander into museums where eyes feast on sumptuous spreads,
and take the long way home to digest all the flavors.
Insatiable city-dwellers are known for seeking seconds,
but today, I come to the table with my soul already full.

- amelia simone