Voices of Youth: Teen poet shares powerful story of grief and guilt

This story is part of a series that sees youth partnered with writing, photography, and art mentors to help capture their own perspective and narrative. The program is made possible with funding from the Skillman Foundation.

Aliryca Howell is a 9th grader at Voyageur College Preparatory High School. As a Voices of Youth participant, she was chosen for the poetry track with mentor Joel "Fluent" Greene.

Her moving poem "Tears of a Tiger" touches on thoughts of inadequacy and insecurity. In writing the poem, she was influenced by a novel of the same name. It depicts the story of a 17-year-old African American boy named Andrew "Andy" Jackson, who feels deeply guilty for inadvertently causing his best friend Robert "Rob" Washington's death through drunk driving.

The story is told through multiple different formats such as journal entries, first-person narratives, and newspaper articles. Aliyrica noted that the book deeply affected her and she thought about how "sometimes in life, you do the same thing over and over and again and nothing is getting better, but nothing is getting worse." She added that one only improves in life if they decide to take true steps forward in their own progress. 

Aliryca said that, for her, community is a supportive group that shares, communicates, curates good things together, and has each other's back. She loves spending time with friends and family eating at any of Detroit's great restaurants and she says that the entertainment and culture of the city are what she is most proud of being a Detroiter. 

Tears of a Tiger
By Aliryca Howell

i feel as if i’m a bother to society, to the warm world due to pollution,
to the constant fear of being trapped,
i am a bother to whom i share a home with, to whom i share my heart with,
i am not home here,
i am not myself here,
why am i so far if everyone else is so near,
why am i like this?
what is there to me that others do not seek?
at this point in time my soul, mind and body feels so weak,
so un pigmented,
so broken
so dull, filled with madness and despair,
how is it that i feel so scared, in my own head?
am i the problem? is it me?
i continue to pray on my knees that one day god will see that he made a mistake creating me,
creating this big mess,
i gave myself a bad image,
i feel as thou my soul has left,
i am a bad person,
It's a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don't laugh!
I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, lonely and depressed.
What is it that i seek?
death of the heart,
to be reborn into a more fitting society than here,
i don’t fit in,
i feel as thou i am in a box with a lock,
stuck in here with creepy creatures, who in all only feels the same way i do,
i hold my ear up close to the door,
what do i hear?
i hear screams, i hear discomfort,
i hear that within,
i now realize that it is coming from I,
it is coming from a broken record,
with the same song on repeat,
I leap in the air,
hoping someone would catch me,
but instead i fall to the ground,
and then i hear pounding,
of the head,
all due to hurt, to pain, to intolerable inadequacy.
What is it i seek?
A happy home? as i write this poem,

i feel as though within my box there’s a dome,
with just I inclosed in it,
Where is the lesson being taught here? that i am gods solider?
i honestly don’t think so,
There is silence when i speak my word, my testimony,
no one agrees? no one cares? i figured,
does my broken heart disfigure?
mh, an interesting thought,
as i lie awake at night, i think, what if i just stick a pipe through the record player? would it stop?
or would it just go faster? they say i need a pastor? but what would that help?
i really am a master at disguise, and it would not be wise, to put me into the lords home, knowing i only
cause destruction,
i’ve been taking under abduction, kidnapped from the lord, his child,
the wild one; the one that got away,
i am sorry, lord forgive me, for my sins,
i put my heart in a tin, i close it.
The End, end of my poem,
i’ll go continue to roam,
as i say this, my blood runs down,
i sit there with a frown,
thinking of all my mistakes,
all the happiness i stole as if i am the grinch.
My heart beats ...
do you get it?
my heart skips the even numbers, straight on to the odd numbers, i mean is that what i am?
if i am it would answer some of my questions,
as you read this section,
you may be confused,
but i am sorry i wouldn’t want to infuse you with this nonsense,
goodbye from the broken record.

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