Archives for category: Poetry

I wrote this poem in 2006. police aren’t the only ones who profile.


Apology to the man at the KFC/Taco Bell Drive Through

I gaze at your car in front of mine


I’m thinking bout what I want to order

Bean burrito or chicken taco?

Seven layer burrito?

Naw/ cuz sometimes the cheese be too cold

I settle on a bean burrito


Then you roll down your window

Mouth something I don’t understand

I presume you are trying to holla

You know

spit some game

so I avert my eyes

shrung my shoulders/ say: “It’s Okay. I have a boyfriend” through my windshield


You continue to talk

I continue to ignore

You finally open the car door/ yell:

“Ay! They only got chicken thighs and legs left. No taco Bell or nothing else. Can you back up so can get out?!”


I absorb the information like a reluctant sponge

I was wrong

You didn’t want my number


I confused your white tee with the man who called me

a Little Red Riding Hood Bitch/when I didn’t give him my digits on Telegraph


I confuse your car with the team of men in the Buick last May/ who followed my white cutlass

after I said I didn’t want to talk to them/ raced me like we were in a NASCAR championship

I won


I confused your indecipherable words with ones like “Ay Girl, Can I be yo’ friend?”

with the whistles/ the awkward gas station encounters

with the time in Hilltop mall when I was cornered by a group of teenagers who want my number/ I silently smile/ walk away/ followed by their complements of “She aint that cute anyway”


But these men aren’t you

you just wanted to eat/ not holla


to you at the KFC/TACO Bell Drive Through

I apologize

Next time I will



You are driving in a car that used to be white

you are sending text messages to friends that never respond

you are dancing in ripped panties

you are eating water

you are depositing $30 checks that dissolve

a day later

you are fantasizing about rapper-singers named Mac Wilds

and choreographing dance routines in the dark


You are torn lilac lonely

picking up flowers on the ground

you are going on dates and hoping the dude pays

you are digging down deep into emails never responded to

you are walking into restaurants with big hair and big hopes asking for jobs

you don’t get

you are wearing sandals in January

and looking more like your mother


You are cloudy in the mind, but mostly in the heart

you are living in an apartment with no furniture

missing halal links and men with beards


You are a shrine of worry,

golden eye shadow and

2 MFA degrees away from starvation

Wednesday came and no word on the job

you are trying to make a film on a budget of hope


You are getting your once-white car washed

but can’t afford to tip

you can count on one hand how many times it rained in LA this winter

you are looking at pictures of people’s babies on Facebook and mourning maternity in your situation

A frozen lasagna will fill you up, right?


You are singing

you are understanding why groupies wait outside dressing rooms in black mini-skirts and drug dealers guard cement,

you are wondering what kind of drug dealer you’d be,

probably the kind that wears feathers

why 24-year old women date 69-year old men with jobs

you are wondering why you didn’t accept the offer of the 58-year old dreadlocked film critic who wanted to date you


You are crying because you probably won’t be able to attend your line sister’s baby shower

and what if the all reservoirs run out of water?

You are living in a drought

© Nijla Mumin


I was brought up in a kitchen

with a towel around my neck

and a hot comb hissing


I was born

half past a yellow bone

with fine tooth combs that broke upon third use


I was born with beadies at the back of my neck

brushed quickly in the morning


I was born South Carolina dry

something like twine and cotton

in my grandmother’s hands


I was taught with beeswax and Pro style gel stored in my sister’s backpack


I was born natural


permed for one summer

thick strands strung out on chlorine

in Oakland swimming pools

crying for the thick to come back


and it did

in between press and curls sweating out

and the boys who liked the long-haired girls


I was born with people in my hair

in my ear

wishing it shine,

wishing it sheen and straight

I was born wirey-hot headed dirty brown-haired girl

and brittle without oil

twisted in the morning

and touched by white women for luck


I was born light and nappy

I was born not knowing this hair

and handing it to someone else


I was born with afro puffs

and camp counselors who said they were ugly


I was born Louisiana dry spice

and daddy’s Nature’s Blessings to soften my edges


I was born with bad ends and rope twists

I was born with a blow dryer busting on the floor


I was born of a silver-haired Virgo and a balding Gemini in a suit

and hair that wouldn’t obey a rubber band


I am in the bathroom combing for hours in heat

a thick universe of coils that grows from me and down my back



I was born with Lusters pink lotion and the burn of spray on my scalp

I was born with straight parts down the middle

and beads with foil on my braids


I was born natural


by Nijla Mu’min

Thanks for listening.


he will come on a plane

the ride will be bumpy

but he will be here,

you will fly him through traffic

to a twin bed


you will cook him bbq short ribs

and sweet potatoes, too tough

he will smell your hair


you will find him in the mountains,


you will drive him to the taco truck

and hike Hollywood blvd

though you hate it and he will too


he will dance his fingers upon your neck


and need you for one more day

that you don’t have

because he’s got to get back on the plane


you will cry him off

and swallow the air

when it’s all done


Poem after being rejected from the Calarts Film Directing Showcase


Yes, this is an angry poem

yes, this is a tired poem

tired of sitting in classes and feeling like a wall-



this is a poem that doesn’t bring up Cassavetes to feel important

this is a poem that never saw a Cassavetes film before coming to school


this is a poem that likes Love and Basketball

and wants to write for television


this is a sell-out poem


this is a black woman poem

a poem for my grandmothers who never saw themselves

reflected onscreen in their lifetime- poem


a poem for dusty film reels rotting in warm apartments

because the single black woman had to give up her dream

to make ends meet and feed children- poem


this is a Daughters of the Dust poem

a poem wet in Gullah water

and natural light

on beaches by itself because

critics couldn’t understand it’s dialect


this is a poem that don’t want no

magic negro/ monster’s ball

no begging to sleep with white men

to make it feel good- poem


this poem is black laughter and breath

cause we played at festivals and heard it warm

in the throats of black audience


this poem be black talkin’ and silence,

black without a title or tell-tale sign

of “blackness” stamped across the credits

to make you feel better


this poem is 16mm and 24 frames

of grandmother’s silence in segregated theaters

of my silence in cold film classes

not saying nothing because there’s nothing to say


this is a Boyz In the Hood for the 10th time poem

a Menace II Society poem in VHS

a Sankofa poem creeping out of sugar cane stalks


this is a love poem


this is Grand Lake Theater in 1992

watching Malcolm X with fish sandwiches in our hands

and our eyes wet- poem

this is daddy yelling Alhamdulillah at Denzel at the podium-poem


don’t ever tell me I’m being didactic because I put a black Muslim character in my script- poem


this is Jason and Lyric making love

in those purple and red flowers,

and that wedding scene at the end of Coming to America,

that made us all want to go live in Zamunda- poem


this is an exclusion poem

this poem can’t catch a football and be adopted by a white family

to win the Academy Award-poem


this is Dorothy Dandridge’s heart when she lost that Oscar

this is black movies pulled from theaters before their first breath

this is a Regina King and Kaycee Moore poem

this is a Euzhan Palcy poem


this poem can’t find work even though it’s considered a cinematic legend

around the world


this poem made a black woman come up to me after the screening

tell me she saw herself in my film,

and that I had to expand the film into a feature


this poem was rejected from the showcase





This poem is ultimately about the idea of a “film audience” and who deems certain audiences more credible than others.  What role does race, sexuality, and class have in our reception of films? In my experience screening my short film Two Bodies at film festivals, I’ve seen that it strikes a chord in the audience. Those audiences have been comprised of different types of people, though mostly women and women of color.  So what does that mean? Does that matter in the larger context of its credibility as a film? I’ve written film criticism and theory. That lens is valuable as a filmmaker and viewer, but I’ve had to step outside of that lens to truly connect with audiences. When I walk out of a theater, and women come up to me and tell me that they appreciate my film, that’s the only thing that matters to me as a filmmaker. When a woman of color tells me she relates to the mother-daughter relationship in my film, that makes me feel good. If my film is helping women of color become visible in ways that aren’t common, then I’ve done my job.

bell hooks has done a lot of writing on this subject of the black female spectator. How do we enter films?  Are we a part of the mainstream “audience” and in what ways? There are several films from the “Golden Age of Hollywood,” that I neither like or want to watch. They are considered classics. They usually feature black women as “mammy” stock characters. Is there something wrong with me? Am I a true film buff because I’m not excited to watch Gone With the Wind?  Why are “black films” financed by major film studios mandated to do well or else another black film won’t “ever” be financed? Is that an issue with the black audience or the fact that certain stories are seen as more important and lucrative than others?

These are some of the questions that spurred this poem. These are some of the films I grew up watching. Some of the films and people that introduced me to cinema and had an impact on my immersion in it. I fostered an emotional connection to some of these films, and still do. If that brings down my worth as a filmmaker, film critic, and person, so be it.

I make films to move people.

"Daughters of the Dust," directed by Julie Dash










I wrote this:


21 years after we learned

that nappy hair didn’t make you pretty

and the boys didn’t like it either,

someone is still pulling my coarse strands

to see how long it is


brown girls learn to love flat irons

that kill coils

brown women behind me in the mirror

tugging at my stubborn kink

to see if it’ll flow past my shoulder


4 years after my best friend

bent her face in pain and said sadly,

I look like an African

she’s behind me in the mirror,

pulling pieces of my hair

to see if it flows past the shoulder

seeing if it hangs there,

but it doesn’t, just curls back and

bounces out of her fingers

wanting freedom


brown women in the mirror,

wishing for hair past shoulders

pulling mine to comparison

hating the African that’ll always scream through

their faces

cuz the boys didn’t want the bald headed girls

and mine gives her a mission

to get longer


-Nijla Mu’min

© 2011

Partly, in response to this:


my mini silent film inspired by ruth forman’s poem, “stoplight politics.”

cine-poems… join the movement.

  • Log off facebook and twitter
  • Sign out of gmail
  • write in a journal instead of straight into Microsoft Word

These are methods I execute when trying to write poems, screenplays, or initiate any type of artistic pursuit. Recently I’ve begun to take an increased interest in the impact of online domains on people’s creative processes, particularly my own.   When I log on to facebook, I am instantly made aware of someone’s third book release, another person’s acceptance into a literary journal, acceptance into a school, their new boyfriend, etc. The same can be said for twitter and gchat to some extent. I’m inspired by this news, for it points to the successes of artists and people in their lives. However, it also furthers the feeling that everything is happening “right now!,” that good things are constantly happening for everyone and if they’re not happening for me, something’s wrong. The fact is, when you’re an emerging artist trying to accomplish difficult feats, things rarely happen “right now” for you. You have to wait. At times for long periods. So just because our technology has sped up immensely, the process of life, of creating and becoming, has stayed the same.  How does that impact people living in this age? Put simply, (and citing my own experience), I am making progress and accomplishing alot, but not at live-tweet speed.

Ten years ago, I would not be writing this. I would be mailing in writing submissions to journals, not emailing them. I would await a letter in the mail, notifying me of my acceptance or rejection from the journal, rather than receive an email on gmail, which while personal, seems all the more public when I peer at my 25 gchat friends’s status’ on the side of my inbox. I would have nothing to log-on to that would distract me from writing my first draft poem or screenplay. This is not merely a nod to past as much as it is a way to consider the differences in people’s patience levels and their abilities to sustain themselves for large amounts of time without receiving any good news; to create without added online distractions.

When I’m on social networking sites, I notice there’s always an increased need to “share” and update. As an emerging artist, I don’t always have something to share. I’m figuring out life, waiting to hear back from folks about film ideas, budgets, screenplays, writing journals, and checking my email only to see no one sent me anything or returned the emails I sent one month ago. I log on to facebook and am pulled into a world of good news in which I want to share something inherently “good” or funny regarding my life and/or achievements.

I may be the only person who experiences this, but since I strive to remain honest in all of my writing, I wanted to share my thoughts. Or perhaps I can blame my interest in this on my theoretical degree in mass communications. Who knows. But while online forums have made many things convenient and easy, they also contribute to alot of mental clutter. When I sit down to write or think, this clutter doesn’t serve me well. I recently read a NY Times article that cited a study of people’s increased reliance on constant, rapid spurts of information via twitter, facebook, and email. Not a good look… I’m attempting to find a balance. Until then, I’m signing off.

I would love to read your thoughts on this post. Please chime in!

In the veins of fallen leaves- poems by Nijla Mu'min

Hey lovelies!

So it’s finally here… My chapbook of poems entitled In the veins of fallen leaves. I published this baby all by myself- did the formatting, lay-out, and it was definitely a journey. I feel a sense of accomplishment. There’s just something about seeing and reading your writing on paper, typed, and with a table of contents. This collection will give you a glimpse into my larger manuscript that I one day hope to have published.

If you are interested in buying one, please let me know by emailing me at I can only print so many copies at a time since I’m an artist on a budget! For those folks who’ve I’ve already spoken with about buying it, click the “Buy Now” text below. You will be redirected to a secure paypal page. The cost is only $5.00. If I’ll see you in person, I can also get you a copy that way. Support the arts and thank you for all the love and encouragement.

Buy Now (click this text to purchase through paypal)

oooh the pages!

order now!