Poem, “I Can’t Breathe”


Picture Source: National Geographic

.If the world didn’t call out your name

You would be just one more number

Not the first nor the last…

Just another one… biting the dust…

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But,

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We’re weary of seeing blood being shed

Especially, by those who are meant to protect…

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Except, he was pinned to the ground, unarmed!

“They’re killing me,” he said to his mum…

It’s a life that God gave and called her to deliver

When I think of it, as a mother, I shiver…

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Mr. president, please, let’s call it what it is…

Not a sad incident nor a bad situation

Let’s call it “murder”, shall we?

That was the intention!

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Third degree? Questionably…

“I can’t breathe,” he said, repeatedly…

.

“If you can say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing.”

Mr. Mayor, what the heck?

Would you like him to elaborate,

with a knee on his neck?

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Mr. officer kept pressing that knee into him

While the whole world watched…

We, too, were gasping for air…

It made us feel sick, filled us with despair…

.

Even now, we’re holding our breath –

We want justice, for this premature death…

You can’t handle a man like he’s null and void

His life did matter. His name was George Floyd.

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 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…” Psalm 23:4

Mirage, Marriage, Memoir – Poem


Domestic Violence Freedom – Poem

He looked good and had a lot,
So she entered the mirage –
Only, she had failed to notice
Ugliness & lack, inside.
Their mirage turned to a marriage
From hell – especially for her…
Technically, it was not a marriage –
She was not the only girl.
Damn. Had she known before.
Man! Had she shut that door.

Now, things are not as they were
And there’s another… inside of her.
They remain together –
Every day is deader.
Well, at least for her –
He just doesn’t care.
She is black & blue,
Although born to the white race,
With red cigarette marks
All over her face…
“She’s such a good girl”, they say.

“How?! She doesn’t smoke…”, they ask.
They don’t want to dig too deep –
She feels “safe” behind her mask…
Many years ago,
Mum & dad (without a dime)
Saw their ‘once upon a time’…
Very quickly, in one voice,
They affirmed her choice.
They knew she would share the good life
‘Yes, our girl’s a rich man’s wife!’

Only now,
There’s too much drama
For daddy and mama…
And,
They feel like she failed
Because money’s still scarce –
They do get their share, but
they spend & they spend…
She is all alone, except…
There is Another inside of her.

She is finally getting there –
Fed up with sweet little lies
Turned to big & bitter crimes.
She is bound & very tired,
But she can pretend no more –
Keeps on choking on his waves,
But she’s swimming to the shore.
There’s a miracle there, for her…
Husband doesn’t want divorce,
But… he doesn’t really care.
Technically, he is not her husband –
She is not the only girl.

Now, she knows…
A graveyard may look like a park
Until you see its grave stones…
Finally, she’s been hurt enough –
He’s fractured enough of her bones.
Mirage turned into a marriage
Is becoming a memoir…
He will need to find an ashtray
To extinguish his cigar.

Poem from “Love, don’t Fear” – Poetry Collection

During lockdown and beyond, let’s look out for the victims of domestic violence. Their wounds may not be as obvious as “red cigarette marks all over her face”… ♥

Stuck at home? Don’t worry… I’ll tell you a story.


Big Ben struck nine. Ai caught herself smiling. Again.

Novel - Everywhere & Always

She knew that cycling to work was a bad idea but was going to do it anyway… A vigorous wind gust pushed her sideways when she attempted to mount her bike, but she tried again – successfully, this time…

The wind came back with a vengeance. Without further warning, between Sloane Square and Knightsbridge, it blew her out of her lane, again. Her heart stopped as a parked car’s door swung open… A tall man grew out of the fancy machine she’d bumped into. Ai apologised profusely and loudly as the wind’s angry howling insisted on silencing her words.

Like a medical doctor, the man examined his possession. “It’s okay, but you must be careful,”  he said.

Ai nodded remorsefully and then cycled away – wishing she had heeded the wind’s very first warning. She cautiously picked up her pace.

Ai worked at Harrods. Getting there took ages that morning, and the hand of the wind moved furiously across Knightsbridge. It triggered a trip down memory lane – taking her back to the day when she visited the famous store with her mother.

“Mum, the wind is telling me where to go!”  she cried out, barely holding onto her mother’s hand as the tempest kept trying to separate them by blowing teenage Ai away.

“Don’t listen! You tell the wind where you’re going,” mother replied with great seriousness, as if she was talking not just about the gale.

Mother tightened her grip and Ai felt safe, again. Then, she stood her ground and pressed against the wind as it pressed against her. Ai shadowed her with determination. She was going to get to where she was going and nothing, not even a hurricane, would stop her!

It happened over a decade ago, but Ai remembered everything clearly as if it happened yesterday. That day, she thought her mother had power over the wind.

Monika Ribeiro © 2020

 

Take some time to distract yourself from the bad news, and isolate yourself from fear…♥ Subscribe here to receive the first chapter of My Novel “Everywhere & Always” Now.

Creative Writing – Novels vs. Nonfiction vs. Poetry


Creative Writing - Novel Writing
Creative Writing – Novel Writing

I’m a trained non fiction editor and journalist. I’m also a self-taught poet with two poetry books to my name. I enjoy locating problems with non fiction pieces and love seeing the fruits of good editing.

Non fiction writing and editing are relatively straight forward. They’re all about reality and research. You don’t have to remember made up characters nor look for creative ways to make things happen. In non fiction, things have already happened (most of the time). Your focus is on conveying your knowledge in the most interesting and factual way. Poetry and short story manuscripts are fine too. They’re relatively short and sweet (in the context of editing). You begin to see results relatively fast which encourages you to press on.

Fiction writing and editing though… That’s a whole ‘nother story…

The first draft of my novel is done. I’m thrilled about that, but first drafts are soooo imperfect. In my experience, most of the work happens between the first and the final draft of a book. Here are three things that helped me so far…

Planning My Novel (A Rough Outline)

I’m a pantser – not a plotter. Meaning: I let the story lead the way and allow characters to show me who they are and where they want to go. I figure stuff out as I go along. That’s just my natural inclination which is fine. With that said, I’m discovering that it is beneficial to plan my novel, even if it’s just a rough outline…

The average novel wordcount falls between 60.000 – 90.000 words. That’s a lot of words. It’s easy to lose the plot (literally and figuratively speaking). Again, collections of poems and/or short stories are different in that respect. Individual poems/stories should be connected thematically somehow. However, you don’t have to remember details of poem number two or story number three to nail the ones in the middle of your collection. Poems and short stories are standalones. Chapters of your novel – not so. They’re interdependent. You need to remember what your characters have gone through at the beginning of your book to be able to take them all the way through… to the end.

Ultimately, every project is about crossing that finish line. For an aspiring novelist, that line is the final draft of their novel. It’s about getting there a little faster. Writers are re-writers. Editing, re-writing, revising, re-writing, editing and revising some more are unavoidable… But, a plan can save one a few rounds of hovering over their manuscript. As they say, who fails to plan plans to fail.

Asking for Feedback

Novel writing is a new territory for me. I’m sure it will become easier if/as I continue to write fiction… However, to make this process a little smoother (now) I ask for feedback, every now and again.

You have to Be Careful Whom You Ask Though. Not everyone’s qualified nor responsible enough to speak into your story. The person/s should be competent and able to provide their observations in a constructive way. But then, there’s also the right and the wrong way to receive feedback. Be open-minded. Don’t be afraid of critical evaluation. Embrace what resonates with you. 

creative writingThe “critic” whose advice resonated with me the most is a former journalist/newspaper editor. Her honest feedback helped me acknowledge that I started my novel in the wrong place. I’m using the word ‘acknowledge’ because I kind of sort of knew that my beginning could be problematic. My main characters’ conflict was too intense, introduced too soon, etc. I think I might have been secretly hoping to get away with it… A competent, well-meaning critic will not allow you to get away with things. They’ll tell you how it is… So… Reiterating… Good feedback, however heart-breaking it may be, is your friend. Welcome it and… Start Your Novel in the Right Place.

As you may already know, I went back to the drawing board. And now, my opening is sooo much better. So much so that English teacher and bestselling author Desiri Okobia asked if she could use my first page for year 11’s creative writing lessons… Whaaaat? It’s a big deal – especially that this is my very first opening to my very first novel… I know I’ve digressed a little, but novel writing is a quest, so it’s important to Celebrate Small Victories…  

Letting IT Rest

Another thing that has always worked for me, with poetry and now with my novel manuscript too, is letting it rest for some time. If you’re working to a tight deadline, that may not be possible. However, if you can, leave your first draft alone for a month or even longer… Don’t edit, don’t re-write, don’t even re-read it. Distance yourself from your AAAMAZING story and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Bear in mind, once your emotions subside, the story might seem a little less aaamazing. It is a good thing though because now you’re able to see what needs to be changed… The opposite of that might be true too. You might come back to your manuscript and find that it’s good enough (first drafts never are though).

I know… Letting it rest might be annoying when you just want to get on with it,

or… like me… you’ve told the world,

“Hey! I’m writing a novel!”

And now, the world keeps asking,

“Hey! So, when’s the novel coming out then?

“Errr… Soon.”

Sometimes, “soon” is all there is to say… Personally, I prefer to take my time and produce an excellent piece of writing rather than produce something mediocre quickly…

There’s so much more to be said about this novel writing process, but I’ll end here for now. If you have just began or you’re thinking about writing a novel, I hope this is helpful…

Let’s write this novel, shall we? Yes, we shall! 😉

Please SUBSCRIBE HERE to receive the first chapter of my novel… soon.:)

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One More Poem – Shielded Memories


Picture taken from Barbara Campbell’s Facebook Profile

I had said that while working on my novel I’d put the brakes on writing poetry. And, I have kept to that until now. However,on Wednesday, my friend/mentor’s body was cremated. I had been invited to say a few words at her funeral…

Barbara was a big supporter of my poetry and often expressed her desire to be in the audience when I performed. Sadly, that never happened, but I thought a brief speech in poetry form was what she would have appreciated.

She died from dementia. I couldn’t stop crying every time I saw her in the final years of her life. In the most difficult times, her family and friends saw things that most would probably wish to unsee… While that’s impossible, my prayer for them and anyone who lost a loved one to this or any other monster disease is that the beautiful memories become more powerful in their minds than the bad ones.

Dementia is crude and cruel. However, Babs was and will always be a lady in my mind. I wrote this short, simple poem to celebrate that memory of her.

She is gone, but her legacy and the beautiful memories live on.

Lady B.

I call you ‘Lady’ – ‘Lady B.’ actually

International woman filled with dignity

A little stern when need be but sweet when you knew

That your heart was safe and a friendship was true…

 

So many friendships are make-believe.

 

You did not find your El Dorado. There was not enough time.

But the monster that ended your quest cannot stop you now!

You were such a star… I felt warm in your light…

We know you were here. You don’t have to fight…

Anymore.

 

I still laugh thinking of you speaking Patois to me

I am not Jamaican, but felt I could be…

When we laughed.

You left solid love chunks for your people down here…

And, you left quite a few… just for me.

 

Thank you for your time and mentoring –

Not only in good journalism or editing skill…

Thank you for your heartening when I wanted to quit.

 

You’ll be missed, Lady B.

That is who you are and will be to me…

I’ll remember your passion moving past the pain!

I’ll remember your laughter in spite of the rain

And the violent storm that came…

 

It is gone now.

It’s okay, Lady B.

Wait in Him for us… R.I.P.♥

 

Written by Monika Ribeiro

                                                                                                                                                      In loving memory of Barbara Campbell

Let’s Make the Most of Our Time…


My 2019 ended… well… with passing away of one of my mentors and friends. Mine and other journalists’ tributes have just been published by the Voice News. And, I couldn’t start 2020 without acknowledging the impact this editor/publisher and friend had on my writing and life.

“…Barbara Campbell trained me as a journalist while I was freelancing for Black Heritage Today and International Women’s Month magazines. She taught me how to write feature articles, conduct journalistic interviews, research and more. She welcomed me into her home and heart as well.

“I remember proudly presenting my first feature to her. It was embellished – quite “flowery”. She cut so much out. I got upset thinking she took my soul out of the piece. I then showed it to my friend who had read the original. She didn’t hesitate to tell me that Barbara’s pen made it better. So, I decided to stop mourning my style and started paying attention. 

‘HER HEART BLED FOR THE BLACK COMMUNITY’

“Barbara knew exactly what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. Her heart bled for the black community and for black stories to be told the RIGHT WAY. I could see a flame in her eyes when she spoke about how much the community needed positive role models and narratives. That passion drove her and made her fight tirelessly against financial, physical and all other odds. It was tough on her, especially towards the end. Sometimes, I think she sacrificed her life for it.”

Speaking about the lasting impact that Campbell had on her life, Ribeiro says:

“These few words are not enough to summarise the impact she made on me as a writer. When I decided not to pursue journalism, she encouraged my poetry and gave me a poet’s corner in Black Heritage Today. In one of her recommendations, she said ‘…Anytime, she is performing l hope to be there – cheering from the front!’ Sadly, she never made it to my shows, but I still hear her voice in my head reminding me to use the word ‘reportedly’ just in case… I edit my stories the way she taught me. Her heart and skills are part of my writing. She was an excellent journalist, editor, boss lady, teacher and friend…”

Please read the rest of mine and other tributes on the Voice News Website.

I wish you and myself a Happy New Year. Let’s make the most of our time here and let’s appreciate friends and family while there’s still time.

7 Answers – Interview & Introduction


7 Questions.jpgA few months ago, I was featured in “Seven Questions…” – a popular column of a UK based newspaper for the Polish diaspora. The interview format was quite unusual. I was given a number of one word/two-word questions to choose from and asked to develop answers based on whatever reflections they triggered in my mind.

When the interview came out I promised my English-speaking readers its translation, so here it comes – slightly adapted for this blog but true to the heart of our conversation.

Monika Ribeiro

Writer, Poet. Published two books with inspiring poetry and short stories – “Do Lend Me Your Ears” and “Love, don’t Fear” – currently writing her third book (epic novel). She comes from Poland, completed a master’s degree course in marketing and management at the University of Szczecin. She has lived in London for the past 15 years.

Colour

Black and white, hence brown… like my skin which reflects the fusion of two cultures – Nigerian (my dad’s side) and Polish (my mum’s). My parents met when they were students at the Technical University of Lodz. For the first few months after I was born, subsequently every now and then: I’ve lived there with them – in a student home. Skin colour means nothing because we all belong to one race – human race.

Place

The old town of Barcelona. The beach, sun, museums, beautiful antique buildings, music… One of my visits, about 4 years ago, is especially engraved in my memory. One morning, in the search of peace I discovered Museu Frederic Marés… I spent half of my day there – writing, staring at tourists and artists immersed in high-focus drawing… I lost the sense of time. On the other hand, London is the city where I don’t feel different – where I can get lost in the crowd. Here, I met my husband Miguel, started my adult life and gave birth to three kids.

Life’s Motto

Never Give Up because Nothing is Impossible. This thought subtly but consistently re-appears in my poetry and life choices.

Join me on Insta

Hobby

Writing. It’s my passion, therapy and career choice. It’s great when a reader or listener comes back to tell me how much they appreciate my creations, but the writing process is just as important as the final effect. During the process, I experience an emotional catharsis and feelings stronger than those I get whilst travelling because when you write you’re allowed to create new places instead of merely discovering them. The book I’m working on now is about love, friendship, the pursuit of happiness, finding God and fighting for your dream…

Music

It has to be positive and spirit lifting. Melody, of course, is important but first and foremost, I care about the lyrics and the atmosphere a musical piece creates…

Book

The Bible. 15 years ago, I was in Paris visiting Ayo (who authored the foreword to my book “Love, don’t Fear”). One evening, in preparation for travel, she was packing her suitcase: clothes, jewellery, a storm of colours. What struck me was that, in spite of a relatively small travel-bag, she packed three bibles – English, German and French… Many things have happened since then, but the Scriptures still are my main spiritual food. They helped me get rid of a few-year long depression and they’re the source of daily wisdoms I have not found in any other book.

Film

“Rocky” with Sylvester Stallone. A story about a small-time boxer realising his dreams of becoming the heavy-weight world champion. I watched the series a few times and will probably watch them again. Highlights – literal and metaphorical battle, facing his opponent but mostly himself, love… Main message – fight until the end, don’t lose faith, love and respect others…

 

If you speak Polish, see the first pic above with the original interview. Join me on Instagram too. 

Racism, Politics & the Spirit of Fear


Martin Luther King

Yesterday, I was verbally attacked for not being fully black (my mum’s white)… I couldn’t believe the hatred that came out of the person’s mouth. They directed racist abuse towards me – pointing out my background, my skin being fairer than theirs and my hair being too long to be “black”. Whaaaat?! Are we really going there, again? 

This happens to me every now and then (click here to read), but whenever it does it’s still a shock to my system, especially when it’s done by someone who’s close to my heart.

I won’t say who they were because I’m not here to fight the perpetrator, but I do want to come against the spirit (of fear). That person has been following American politics and got infuriated by president Trump’s racial attacks on 4 democratic women of colour… I understand why he felt angry, but he did to me the exact same thing Trump did to the other women. That’s what fear does – it makes you irrationally hate another… Reverse racism does exist. Since when are all white people responsible for evil actions of one or even a group of “their kind”? By that standard, should all black people be responsible for evil actions of one or a group of “their kind”? Moreover, being mixed-raced, should we be responsible for every crazy utterance of every black and/or white person? This… is… madness! We are individuals responsible for our own actions and nobody else’s. 

Instagram This Conversation

I don’t support the American president’s racist comments and the dangerous ways in which he carries on in his role. I don’t know much about politics, but my heart sank when he became the head of the state… Still, I don’t appreciate the vulgar way in which one of the women expressed her desire to impeach him. I understand her anger, but there’s a better way (language) to confront evil. We cannot fight fire with fire and we can definitely not fight racism with more racism… Two wrongs don’t make a right. Why do we remember and respect men like dr Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela? Because, despite injustice and cruelty, they responded with love and reason. They did not debase themselves to the level of those misguided by hatred and othering… 

We live in a fallen world. Bad things happen here. Bad people further their evil agendas… Is it difficult to manoeuvre through the darkness? Yes! The only thing that centres me is knowing that in the midst of it all, God is still in control. And, that there will be a time when all lies will be exposed and the truth will stand. It may not be  for another hundred years, or it might be tomorrow – but that time will come. In the meantime, we have to stay close to Him or our hearts will surely fail out of fear… 

I’d like to conclude with the following verses from the Bible which is what helps me with my own struggles in this area…

Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken…” 

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Extraordinary Things in Ordinary Places


Two weeks have passed since my poetry evening. I’ve had some time to reflect and would love to share my thoughts with you…

After-Party Poetry Evening.jpg

The event was a success. The venue turned out to be the right one, and it was full. Due to previously mentioned last-minute changes, I had less than 3,5 weeks to promote the show, hence filling it up was probably one of my main concerns…

Testimonial Joanna.jpgSome of the words attendees used to describe this poetry evening were: eclectic, organic, inclusive, something different… Paul, one of the guests, said that it was “an interesting, colourfully put together event”. 😊 David, another guest, apart from leaving a solid testimonial in the pic above, said the event was “low key, but nice”… People got inspired to write, create and many met other like-minded folks. Yuppie! For the purpose of this post, however, I would like to zero in on David’s initial thoughts – low key but nice…

Ostentatious is, in my opinion, the best antonym of low key. This event wasn’t that… I’m not saying there’s something wrong with showy presentations, but they’re not in my nature. Plus, if I’m honest, I didn’t have an “ostentatious” budget this time around.

Testimonial Desiri.jpgWell, even though my poetry evening could be considered low–profile – we had some interesting guests in our midst. There were award-winning authors, publishers and other creatives who’re experts in their respective fields. Why is this important? Because they’re the ones who can teach budding or fellow creative-entrepreneurs a thing or two about their craft… Then again, I think that some of the lessons many super–talented (especially young) creatives need the most are life lessons which you don’t learn at school.

I found the following claim in an article by independent.co.uk: “For people in Britain, everyday problems can seem like the end of the world – and most of us are guilty of complaining about things like bad weather…” I’m guilty as charged (every now and then)… It was extremely hot on the day! After the event, a few of us met at a local café… I had only brief conversations with most people, but one of them still resonates with me. The guest’s a filmmaker, whose first film won the Palme D’or at the 50th Cannes Film Festival. We spoke a little about her films which was fantastic, however, what struck me the most was what she said about preparation.

She said she didn’t like to complain about things she couldn’t change, and the weather (hot, cold, or rainy…) made no difference to her. She said – the only people who complain about things are those who aren’t prepared… The topic of preparation is deep and wide – it can include many different aspects, besides the weather. Yet, my take away from the conversation’s that preparation is key, and as the saying goes – by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail…  

Extraordinary things do happen in ordinary places. Don’t take people for granted or you’ll miss whatever help God may be trying to send your way. Also, remember – help isn’t always material. Sometimes, it is the right word at just the right time. I hope this helps.

‘Twas a good evening, everybody. Track my event journey by checking out the previous post and by following me on Facebook and Instagram @monikaribeiro.writer.