Spoken Words, Poetry Words, Graffiti Words

Things have been busy and loud.  I haven’t had much time to reflect on everything happening here, which is why I have several blog post drafts but none that I finished writing.  There’s so much I want to write about and to tell you what’s going through my mind as I try to remember my Spanish, navigate this new city and experience new sights, smells and tastes.

Last week, a Swarthmore members of Taller de Paz, Haydil performed at a spoken word event at Familia Ayara (art/music/youth center) alongside a dozen or so other poets.  Hearing them spill the details of their personal lives with such passion, I felt like my misunderstandings in Spanish didn’t matter.  The passion was universal.

Whenever I’m in a new place, I find myself writing more.  Although I consider myself a mixed-media artist, I usually stay within the confines of visual and aural art.  But being in spaces of slight discomfort or newness, writing draws me in a way the other more familiar mediums don’t.

I wrote this poem after seeing walls upon walls of graffiti on my walks around the neighborhood and on the hour long commute to the neighborhood we work in:

Walls slick with neon worlds 

names and dreams of the ones they deemed replaceable

Some float as if they are

juicy puffs of helium, 

looking for more air.

Others climb in stealth,

next to the banks and high rises,

black scraggly vines of rebellion.

But it’s the bulging eyes of the painted faces,

claiming these rocky surfaces

that demand our attention and time,

choking on the chemicals of society.

We fear that if we get too close,

we might just choke too.

After I worked with the kids yesterday in the park on posters and banners for peace (our week is The Week of Non-Violence) to hold up during a march on Saturday, I wrote this little poem:





Scorched under the merciless sun

my eyes gloss over

from piercing rays and toxic aerosol chemicals

The clouds pass over, offering a moment’s rest

and the children run over

to reclaim their innocence 

Most days they have no choice 

but to burn their dreams

and hide the dirty ashes under a carpet

They’d rather rise up with the fumes,

than lose themselves in the impossible fight for entrance into

a world where the sun offers solace,

holding them with warm, yellow hands.

Unlike the works I make out of paint and fabric or on the piano, the poems I write feel cliche and trite.  It’s all a process I suppose.  And it seems to reflect the awkwardness of my first couple of weeks in a new place.  If the past is any indication, I’ll stop writing poems when I start getting comfortable here.  So I guess I’ll have enough poems for a mini-collection by the time I’ve moved over half a dozen times before I head home next year…:)

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this burst of writing inspiration.  And I’m going to document the words of others too, so that when I look back on this time, I’ll know how the space of growth and growing pains felt.

My friend Jonah and I swapped t-shirts at the end of the semester and the t-shirt he gave me says:

“my choice is what I choose to do
and if I’m causing no harm
it shouldn’t bother you”

Yesterday, he sent me the link to the song that the quote came from. It’s by Ben Harper and it’s called “Burn One Down”

Listen carefully from 1:30 but the whole song is great.  It’s a message I want to tell the whole world.

Another set of words that really reached my heart:

“Beyond the edge of the world there’s a place where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And hovering about there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.”

– Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Emptiness and substance. It seems to all be in our head at times…but to me, this quote articulates the uncertainty and the unembodied “stuff” of our world with more clarity than I’ve yet to encounter.

Well, I’ll leave today’s post at that for now.

Off to another loud day!


About Miyuki Baker

Miyuki is a resident of the place where many circles overlap. They’re a queer, multi-racial/lingual artist, activist & academic passionate about using common or discarded objects, stories, zines, and performance in public spaces to make accessible art. Their research examines how we practice “hope” and meaning through space, architecture and the environment. They’re currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Performance Studies at UC Berkeley. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 2012, where they were involved in queer Asian activism and making art, they received the Watson Fellowship to travel the world in search of queer artists and activists and made 8 zines highlighting what they learned under their publishing house Queer Scribe Productions. From 2014-2015 she lived in Ecuador and traveled by bicycle from Ecuador to Colombia cataloging traditional textiles, music and food. After returning, they built and lived in a mobile tiny house for a year (until selling it in May 2016).


  1. Great post! Ben Harper is one of my favorite artists, not to mention you posted my favorite song by him!

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