The words unspoken

Sometimes, I wish I could fly. Because to fly would mean to be free, and that is something my body desperately yearns for. I often dream about what freedom would taste like. Would it be a sweet nectar, smooth against my cheek? Or would it be bitter, dark and earthy — something that gets stuck in between your teeth? I want to fly. To fly away from the sorrows of today and to soar past the clouds and grasses in which I pray. I want to swoop along riverbanks and dangle my feet against the roaring currents. But I … I cannot fly. I can barely even find it in me to pray at times. I walk along the shores of life and ponder about my purpose, and even then do I wish I could just escape. From school, from life, from family … from me. 

I want to be a starling: dark, beautiful and surrounded by friends. But even starlings go through times when their time meets an unlawful end. I wish to obtain their shiny, silk-woven feathers and to roam the earth with the worries of none. I want to fly away so desperately, it burns my lungs to sing. Starling patterns shine like stars. Their feathers glitter and shimmer in the moonlight, and they are the one bird that wishes to stay away. I wish I could live as a starling: brave, bold and unashamed. But sometimes, life does not lead me that way. Sometimes, it just feels like all I can do is watch from afar, sit along the riverbank, and pray … and pray … and lay. 

Others call it eerie, even go as far as query the very stitchings of my being, but I cling to the thoughts of the osprey fleeing. They’re golden eyes against seamlessly blue skies, their hawk-like cries and their circling, dizzying flies. I want to fly like an osprey: powerful, strong and courageous. I just wish to find bravery before the time is nigh and I can feel the reality shift between my fingers. To escape is to seek anew, and heaven forbid that my blood falls for you, but I could never find it in me to leave. 

The anger that courses through me seldom lies, I just want it to all go away. To turn its head and die. But your emotions never leave you, they always remain the same. It is the one thing that ties us to those that are insane. To feel is to be privileged, but to fly is to escape. And how I desperately cling to the idea of leaving this stage. I feel like a puppet with no strings: cold, hollow … empty. I want to get out of the way. I want to fly today. But even with the osprey cries or the starling’s fluttering of wings, at times, I am nothing but a road block, a wall that is placed to protect and shelter those around me.

You can contact Makayla Hernandez at

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


Hanif Abdurraqib: Someone we can all learn from

The difficulty in discussing Hanif Abdurraqib’s work lies in the fact that I cannot describe his artistic mission as eloquently as he can. He is the type of writer that I think everybody strives to be: ambitious but not pretentious, emotional but objective, disarming but doesn’t leave too much of himself on the page, etc. He writes about the “emotional impulse” behind works of art, stemming from his obsession with certain cultural phenomena (i.e. anything and everything from music, basketball, sneakers and his dog Wendy).

I fell in love with his work by chance. I was scrolling through my almost infinite list of to-be-read books on Goodreads when I stopped on an intriguing cover. Striking with a wolf in a tracksuit and gold chain, the cover read “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.” It was Abdurraqib’s second book. It’s a collection of essays and poems that cover virtually everything from the virtues of Carly Rae Jepsen’s music to “Boyz n the Hood” to the fear of getting pulled over to Fall Out Boy’s early years in Chicago. As a music reviewer, it completely changed how I think about writing pieces for The Observer. As a white person, it completely opened my eyes to the everyday experiences of Black people. As a person in general, it also brought me on a beautiful journey regarding community, art and love. In short, I couldn’t put it down.

So, when a friend in the English department told me Abdurraqib was doing a reading at Notre Dame, I marked my calendar a month early and told all my friends. I couldn’t shut up about it. When the day finally came, I was a few minutes late (in my excitement, I had written down the wrong location) and had a terrible cough but I would not be deterred from seeing one of my favorite authors.

At first, I did not see Abdurraqib until I spotted him hiding behind his chair. As assistant professor in English Sara Marcus introduced him to the audience, he was nervously staring up at the ceiling and mumbling to himself. He later clarified that this is a mindfulness practice he does before performing, asserting that if he can “hold the anxiety in the palm of [his] hand, then [he] can turn it off.”

Despite his performance anxiety, everybody in the audience was glad for him to be there. The crowd was virtually impossible to disappoint. Since Abdurraqib has built up enough goodwill with his published work, everybody just felt lucky to be in his presence. It’s a total joy to see him perform his poetry live. You can totally see he got his career started with Button Poetry, a publishing company that has a history in spoken word. His voice is gentle, rising and falling like waves of the ocean, all the pauses are in exactly the right places. You get the sense that he has done this many times before, and, he has. 

Last Thursday night, he read four pieces: two from his most recent book “The Little Devil In America” and two from his upcoming work “There’s Always This Year.” The crowd favorite was Abdurraqib’s commentary on Whitney Huston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” performance at the 1988 Grammy Awards. Lines like “a font that can best be described as Miami Vice Cursive” and bad dancing is “one of those lies that is easy to tell ourselves, because we are often not on the receiving end of the disaster” had me and my neighbors laughing out loud. The piece on Whitney Huston is not meant to razz her though. Ultimately, it was about finding somebody to dance with. It was about devotion. 

Abdurraqib’s work often turns on its head. In “There’s Always This Year,” Abdurraqib has a very heavy poem about “No Scrubs” by TLC and a poem “about flexing” that actually is about not wanting to leave the place you grew up. He balances a lot of complex emotions in a way that lifts you up, instead of tearing you down. You come away from his art feeling something more, something we can all learn from.

Contact Claire Lyons at


‘Afro-Latinx Poetry Now’ to feature six visiting poets

Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) and the Initiative on Race and Resilience will present “Afro-Latinx Poetry Now” on Tuesday and Wednesday, featuring six Afro-Latino visiting poets who will appear both publicly for talks in McKenna Hall and privately in selected Notre Dame classrooms.

Both days, Poetry Now’s public events will consist of “Poets on Poets” at 2 p.m., “Scholars on Poets” at 3:30 p.m. and “An Evening of Poetry” at 8 p.m.

In the “Poets on Poets” event, director of the ILS Letras Latinas initiative Francisco Aragon said the visiting poets will give brief talks “on Afro-Latinx poets of their choosing,” introducing another six poets to the audience over the event’s two days.

Starting 15 minutes after “Poets on Poets” concludes, the poets will then sit in the audience for “Scholars on Poets.”

“Six scholars in groups of three over two days will give talks on the work of these poets who are visiting us, which should be a special experience for them,” Aragon said.

For “An Evening of Poetry,” the final event on both days, the visiting poets will perform their own work in groups of three followed by a question-and-answer session and a book signing.

Poet Jasminne Mendez, one of the six poets attending the event, said she feels the event is a good way to uplift Afro-Latino voices in the literary community. 

“I thought this was a great way for us to all come together and be in community and share our experiences and our poetry as Afro-Latinx writers,” Mendez said.

Mendez said her personal experience was one of clashing identities and feelings, being Black while identifying culturally and ethnically with her Latino heritage.

“I think that my goal as a writer and performer is to try to expand people’s view and understanding of what blackness is and how it exists in the world and across the diaspora,” she said.

Aragon is especially looking forward to the classroom visit portion of Poetry Now.

“These aren’t people who are parachuting in, giving their reading and parachuting up,” Aragon said. “They’re gonna spend time with our students in classrooms, where these students have been reading and discussing and writing about their work.” 

Marisel Moreno, a professor in the department of romance languages and literature at Notre Dame, said she is excited for the dialogue her students will get to experience with poet Darrel Alejandro Holnes, who will visit one of her classes Tuesday.

“I’m hoping that they can, first of all, enjoy that interaction with him, learn more about him as a person to get to understand where he’s coming from and his poetry better,” Moreno said. 

Poetry Now, Aragon said, is a “modest contribution to what I believe is that national conversation of, ‘how can we celebrate the diversity of our communities, including our poets and writers?’”

Moreno said she feels Poetry Now is very significant as a literary gathering.

“I am honestly elated that this is taking place at Notre Dame,” she said. “It’s really a historic type of gathering, for a lot of Latinx writers, poets, artists in general, don’t tend to have much visibility.”

Contact Liam at