by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh
can you breathe where you are, lauryn?
Where are you?
do you know about the babies like Siwe
whose pain splits her open
chin to ankle
do you know how her mother longs for one last verse
one hidden track to hum as healing to her baby girl?
– Questions For Lauryn
I wrote that poem about 2 or so years ago. When I wrote the above stanza, I called my friend, Dionne and asked her if it was okay to use her daughter’s name in my poem. I have known Siwe since she was 4 years old. After moving to New York, I met and became close with her mother. Often babysitting Siwe and her older brother Sule while her mom went out. After leaving my big family and moving to NYC on my own, I loved having these little people around. I admired Dionne and how she raised these babies. They were beautiful and brilliant and I loved them like we shared blood.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, I remember having lunch with Dionne. I was fresh out of the diagnosis and struggling to articulate what it felt like and where my heart was at the time. Dionne expressed concerned about some things she saw in her own baby girl. A sadness and a fight she couldn’t understand but wanted to love and hug away. At the time, Siwe couldn’t have been any more than 6 or 7. I admired Dionne’s desire to do what she could. The strength it took to confront this head on and not live in denial. As time went on and Siwe got older, her life with depression and trauma and mental illness began to take it’s toll. Through it all, she remained gracious and strong and resilient. She wrote articles and short stories and a novel about little girls like herself. About this fungus that attacks our brains and hearts. This battle to stay on the “up” side of moods. I was struck by her clarity and eloquence. I was warmed by her humor and graciousness. Her writing far surpassed her age. She was going to fight this thing that most adults ran from.
On Wednesday, June 28th, 2011, Siwe stopped fighting. I don’t have the poetry or the words to express the level of grief i”m holding right now. I know she’s at peace. At long last. But I hate this thing that took her. She was a brave few will ever know or understand. Those of us who wrestle with the pull and seduction of depression are often too afraid to discuss the real scary bits. This 15 year old girl, wrestled and fought and through every bone in her tiny body into the battle. She was scarred and scared but also allowed her voice to be heard. She ultimately could not save herself but thanks to her transparency, she has saved countless others and will continue to do so.
The last time I saw Siwe, Boogie and I met her, one of her brothers and her mother at a Chinese restaurant in DC. Boogie was in love. Hell, so was I. This little girl that I used to play games with and dance around the house with at 4, had become this tall, gorgeous creature. So comfortable in her own skin. So artistic and creative. So funny. So beautiful. So compassionate. So kind. So brave. So sad. There was a sadness underneath her smile that I recognized and I took note of the times when she felt quiet but also delighted in the moments when she played a song she loved from her phone and danced around the table. She was laughter and light and beauty and grace and I can not tell you just how brave this baby girl was.
I’m gutted. I’m struggling to be articulate in this writing. I can’t seem to find a useful placement for these words.
I’m wracked with so much hurt and pain right now but I’m so glad she’s found the peace that has alluded her during her time on earth. She deserves that peace. And as heartbroken as I am to know that she’s gone, that’s the only solace we can have and find.
Siwe, you are an inspiration to me. You are the reason why regardless of the stigma and hardship, I will fight for you. I will write for you. I will continue this battle, one baby girl at a time.
I love you.
I miss you.
Rest in peace and poetry and progress and power.