Breaking Ground 100 - Poetry: Make Believe

by Timothy “Urban Thoughts” Moore

CONTENT WARNING: The following poem is an important reflection on the author’s struggle with depression. It contains a description of suicide, and some readers may find the content disturbing.

My favorite moments of childhood were playing make believe.
Pretending to be Spiderman,
hanging off furniture that became sides of skyscrapers.
My mother yelling,
“Boy, if you don’t get yo butt off of my couch!”
Me - Jumping, landing and posing
“Yes - Ma’am.”

Even had the full costume
with the nerf gun web shooters.
Depending on the storyline,
With the flick of a wrist,
my brothers became either:
bank robbers to punish
or citizens to save.

I became really good at playing make believe.
In fact, as an adult,
I still do.
When people ask: “How Are You Feeling?”

Most expect you to answer with “I’m okay,”
even if you aren’t.
In the South, answering honestly
leads to awkward conversations
about praying the sadness away
like these knees and palms ain’t got callouses
from pressing these frustrations
in between àṣẹ and amens.

I’ve taught myself to be quiet
rather than voice
that I am one of the 300 million diagnosed
with the mental illness disorder, DEPRESSION,
the number one leading cause of disability worldwide.

And even still - it’s difficult for me to give it name
or space
or to admit that sometimes these tears just come
like long lost friends that ain’t good for nothing
but reminding you of the past fun
you used to have.
Or worse, moments that you don’t even realize
that there are tears on your cheeks.
or sadness that has no origin.
It just is –
A black hole hovering over a black body
daring any and all not to come too close
less they be consumed.

In moments of depression,
I forget that I can breathe.
Suffocating seems so normal.
My lungs lose muscle memory
of how to inflate.

My chest feels like a casket
for my breath to bury itself in.
Saying “I’m awesome” is me –
pushing back the walls that are always closing in
even when I stand outside to count to ten.
"Alright", is easier than stomaching the statistics
that over 800,000 people struggle to be "Alright".
Nearly one person every forty seconds disappears into total eclipse.
I embraced the moon’s shadow once.
Slit my wrist ‘til the blood painted a crescent on my hand.

When it's crushing you to answer,
“Are you good?”,
I empathize with Atlas.
I know how the weight of the world feels.

I want to explain on those days “good”
is just getting out of a bed that
seems to be more quicksand than comfort on most mornings
that sometimes the only good
is the classroom that I teach in.
Good are the moments, I get to ask kids:
“How are you?”
Days that I get to paint a smile
that is often more times Joker to me.

On most days,
in these classrooms,
I get to silence my fears and become someone’s hero.
I get to show them that no matter how bad it hurts
that you can get up
one more time.
That the villains of my experiences won’t force me
to make believe
all the time.

One day I'll be able to stand in the moment,
shoulders back
and when they ask,
look them in their eyes
and say: "I'm doing just fine,"
and mean it.

Timothy (Urban Thoughts) Moore is a nationally-recognized spoken word artist and award-winning educator based in Memphis. Timothy has been an outspoken voice regarding his own diagnosed depression. He uses hip-hop, poetry, and spoken word to educate youth and advocate for civil rights, mental health/disability awareness, and homelessness.