Black Voices at UBC: A collection of poems by Stephanie Okoli

Forest Lawn

As the mud smudges the bottom of my shoes.

I can’t help but think about my old neighbourhood.

How we all played tag and hilarity would ensue.

Now some of us are lost. But I pray the rest of us are good.

How we got lost is mostly no fault of our own.

We trusted in our guardian angels, knowing they saw us as devils.

But it is what it is, so life went on.

When one exists in the shadows, it becomes the only light they’ve ever known.

But I exited the void and realized what our reality was.

Now survivor’s remorse strikes my chest every time I think about you guys.

Because I feel like I should’ve done something. Because

I ran away when I saw their veil rise.

These days I smoke near the trees and try to make sense of it all.

I don’t know if I’ll ever come back, but I’ll at least try to call.


I miss you.

I miss the way your warm fingertips trailed down my spine.

How your loudest tone was a whisper.

We’re polar opposites, you and I.

I’m loud, you’re quiet.

I’m affectionate, you’re distant.

That’s why we didn’t work.

Vancouver is still lousy without you.

I wonder what you do now.

You don’t rap anymore.

You should’ve made a song about me.

How the Nigerian girl from Calgary

And the Jamaican boy from Toronto

met in Vancouver.

Both grasping for something.

While running away from everything.

The palm trees etched beside your eye stay in my mind.

The twists in your hair put a smile on my face.

I wish I could’ve made you smile.

Or at least, made you laugh.


Oreo, your name is assuming,

It shows your character.

A sister on the outside

But a wolf on the inside.

You’re scared of your own,

because you’re scared of yourself.

I wanted to help you,

Not that you wanted it.

A ghetto girl from the hood,

helping the tortured “genius” didn’t sit right with you.

So you beat me, berated me

And when I struck back, you called the police.

You wanted me dead.

But now, you’re dead to me.


The bullet smiles as it pierces your skin,

It twists and turns through your flesh,


“Got you!” The bullet said.

The springs in your hair crumple as you hit the ground.

“Junior!” said your mother.

Her knees scraped against the carpet at your wake.

Aunties raced to embrace her but,

Who could comfort her?

Society failed you.

Finding a gun was easier than finding an education.

Life wrapped weights around your ankles, and

Pushed the finish line further away.

We weren’t cool like that but,

In my mind, you were supposed to be here forever.

Instead, they stole you from this earth.

Lord have mercy.


Length, inches, curls!

They dance around in your mind.

When will my hair grow?

Shrinkage infuriates me.

My curls retreat to my scalp as soon as water touches it.

“Love us and we’ll grow,” my coils say.

“Ignore us and we’ll grow.

Cut us and we’ll grow.

Be patient!”


I lie awake in my room

Yearning for better days.

Longing for the days where

I’d smile so much that my face hurt.

Laughing until I couldn’t breathe.

You took that away from me.

Day by day,

Year by year

Anxiety crept in

Depression followed.

I called the police after ten years.

A glimpse of solace etched over the horizon.

Maybe now, I can rest.

Black Voices at UBC is an open-form column publishing work by Black writers in UBC’s student community. If you’re interested in getting involved, reach out to