Two Poems by Teya Hollier & Art by Gilda Tenopala Gutierrez

Art by Gilda Tenopala

Redefining Darkness

by Teya Hollier

“The light shines in darkness, 

and the darkness has not overcome it” -John 1:5


I no longer use “Darkness”

to describe the wickedness of mankind,

or the instability of the ill mind,

or where immoral lives and monsters thrive,

or the “wrong” in battle with “right”

(which is attributed to “light”:

heroes, angels, innocence).


Darkness is where tired

eyes find peace and minds float free.

Blackness is boldness, beauty, 

thick vision, inked precision. 


“Black” is defined as the 

absence of light.

They knew what they were 

doing when they termed 

my ancestors’ skin, 

when they cloaked 

it in meaning of sin.


What of Darkness to live 

oppressed by the light?

Light is a heavy thing, a blinding,

disorienting, burning thing, 

an unrelenting, all consuming thing –

escape then…

into the Darkness of shade. 


Don’t be afraid of what exists 

in the Dark: where you find peace 

and dream beyond body. 

Velvet coolness that coddles 

into buttery bliss. Where love is

explored. Where hope is drawn 

and new worlds imagined. 


Skin as rich and Dark as soil, 

where life grows, perfumes

and blooms into new-born, 

old soul, revolutionaries. 


Blackness is not evil lurking

in the forest hunting for flesh.

Blackness is the blanket

putting the world to rest, 

birthing a purer tomorrow. 


The light 

has buried the Dark 

in an attempt 

to vanquish it—



Blackness emerges, 

new face, same purpose:

dripping truth from tongue,

strength from spirit,

and integrity from fluting fingertips. 


I no longer use Darkness to describe impurity or cruelty.

For I know what, under the light, has been done.

Art by Gilda Tenopala
Art by Gilda Tenopala
Art by Gilda Tenopala

Beyond the Ghetto

by Teya Hollier

They say

trim their limbs

keep them thin 

or else

they will rupture the structures

and we will sink in.


So that you see

red-stone domes

encasing brown-skinned sin.

polluted wombs 

birthing snared teeth

foaming vile, that

diseases city streets.


They say

band-aid the wound

let infection set in

to veins, into brains,


a slow death, 

revitalizing the city.


So that you see

expelled youth,

single mothers 

suckling the system,

caged or coffined fathers

un-tethered homes, 

un-tethered families

fragments of sullen

skin and brittle bone. 


They say

to reduce harm

harm is inflicted.

blood sacrifice 

for societies salvation.

weed out the demons

by scriptured definitions.

fire-arm sharp:

make sure you aim

for the hearts.


So that you see

wolves rounding

up rabid sheep, 

barricading eager feet. 

ordered harmony

concealing casualties.


So that you don’t see

beyond the cement rise

beyond screened windows

beyond rusted structures

eating away solidity.

behind dust-packed staircases

and rickety elevator mines

behind racing roaches

or beer spills in the

laundry room, beneath the 

bile they smeared on us,

hardened to crust


So that you don’t see 

petals extracting sun-soul

wings embracing bellowing winds

little brown fingers gripping the clouds

gaping eyes glimpsing galaxies

beyond, beyond, beyond us.

life, love flourishing in 

pesticidal dirt. soldiers beyond 

white-made textbooks,

real-time victories living, 

dreaming, breathing, rising 

straight-backed beyond shovelled misery.


So that you don’t see

behind the white

painted lens, 

beyond the city’s 

hard rocks 

are gems. 

Teya Hollier (she/her) is a poet based in Toronto, Canada. She is a mixed-race Black woman who aims to confront and explore racial oppression, mental illness, and generational trauma in her writing. She is a recent graduate, and has won both the Babs Burggraf and Judith Eve Gewurtz awards during her studies. Instagram: @teya.donna

Gilda Tenopala Gutierrez is a Mexican artist based in Brooklyn. Heridas Íntimas (Intimate Wounds) is an art series and an allegory on how emotional trauma manifests on the physical body. “Curtains like skin hide moments of intimacy and secrets behind closed doors, that can only be revealed when we decide to let the light in.” She is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. You can find more of her work on Instagram: @gildatenopala