• One TwentyOne

What Now?

By Nailah Starks, Dillard University





I am no longer listening to or taking advice from people whose best lines are “It’s gonna be okay” and “You’ll figure it out.”

We are no longer friends.

And I realize that this is partly my fault because I come to you with bullet holes all over my body leaking out with pain and frustration with the knowledge and understanding that all you have is a broom to sweep them under the rug and a mop to clean up for the guests that will soon be arriving.


I realize that in my 21 years of living and your 21 seconds of knowing me, there is literally nothing you can do to help.

And that’s my fault.

That’s my fault for blaming my heartache and heartbreak on someone who had no control over me because yes, only i have control over me and yes, only I know what it takes for me to be free, and yes only I have the power to shape my destiny, and no, you are not me...Not even close.

My problems are not my own because I share the burden with my sisters and brother and family and not so much family…

I wear my insecurities and fears and anxieties on my chest as if I were the original keeper of the Scarlet Letter, but I’m but I do know one letter that’ll save myself from writing this letter.


It’s G.

G as in God who replenishes me daily and always saves me from burying myself.

G as in Godfather who loves me just the same as if the word God wasn’t in front of it no matter how many times I force him to watch my heart shatter and my esteem decrease.

G as in gorgeous, what many people call me based on my looks but won’t bother taking a look on the inside.


And D.

D as in Destined to succeed, it’s what Nailah means if you didn’t know.

D as in Daddy who won’t ever be able to walk me down the aisle or give my hand away or witness grandbabies or teach me how a man is supposed to treat me.

D as in decisive...something I can never seem to be.


And M.

M as in Mom who is currently unavailable at the moment, leave a message after the beep but who I know without a doubt, lives for my siblings and me.

M as in Momo because you can’t share your secret recipes or give me kisses or cook me food or save me from the trouble you see coming from years ahead in Heaven.

M as in me...because it’s my life anyway.


I realize that most people may not like me for their own reasons, which are their owned reasons because that’s their right.

And our rights, at least in my opinion, are just forms our opinions but nonetheless they matter.

Just like me and you, they matter.

Because I realize that without them, I wouldn’t know what I’m good at and would have a hard time trying to pinpoint just where I should improve.

And without them my poetry wouldn’t survive and my name would fall below sea level.

And without them, I wouldn’t be able to speak the truth about what I’ve been through.

I realize that without support and ambition and guidance there’s no possible way for you to just figure it out alone because a very wise man once told me that there is no person alive who can make it on his own, and if you just think about it, for the people in the back who mumbled to themselves that they can, it makes sense...And that makes sense.

So for my lost classmates, lonely peers, fellow community members, ex friends, family, acquaintances, and most of all the people who hate me with a passion, it’s not gonna be okay and you won’t figure it out.

Unless you put forth the effort and make it happen with the help of others.

Please believe me when I say that getting over your problems is not as easy as getting under them so no, I will not tell you that “It’s gonna be okay” or “You’ll figure it out” because then we couldn’t be friends anymore and I’m starting to like this view of your soul doing a happy dance because it’s been motivated and inspired to make all of those things you want to happen.


Instead I’m going to say yes it happened, yes it hurt, yes you cried, yes there’s something you can do about it, yes I know you’re angry and upset and frustrated and disappointed and heartbroken, yes I understand, yes I’m still here and still waiting and still listening, yes I want to help you but honestly you’re the only person who can help yourself at this point so I will look you in the eye...squeeze your shoulders as tight as I can and ask “What Now?”


About the Author


Nailah Starks is a 20-year old Sophomore English major at Dillard University with a vision to become a successful teacher and writer. Her poetry has been published in the 2019 and 2020 Appelley Rising Stars collection as well as the 2020 Upon Arrival anthology by Eber and Wein Publishing. She also has her own blog, Praying Girl, and her own business, N&N Charms. Nailah's personal mission statement is to educate, influence, transform, and inspire people who face adversity through her writings and personal experiences.





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