Humanist Voices in Verse: Houston

This week’s featured poem is by Houston. Houston is a wordsmith and a performer; a spoken word artist whose work covers comedy, drama, tragedy, storytelling, and political commentary. Houston was introduced to poetry slam in 2006, and by 2010 had made finals stage at the Individual World Poetry Slam, placing him among the top 12 performance poets in the world. In the time in between, he won individual recognition at the 2008 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational tournament, lead the Hendrix College team to win the Region 12 championship in 2009, and has been part of the Ozark Poetry Slam team for 2 years. He has toured across the country and has opened for a variety nationally known acts such as Saul Williams and Otep. He currently resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas. To see more of Houston’s poetry, visit

If you’d like to contribute original poetry to Humanist Voices in Verse, write to with “Poetry” in the subject line. Please send no more than three poems for consideration per week.


I am not sure why I kissed you that night…
But I think it’s because I’d run out of options.
My mind was too busy running for its life
And my stomach was preoccupied with turning itself into balloon animals
So all I could pay attention to was my flesh,
Cold, pale skin glowing in the night
As the moon shone through those low trees,
Casting inconsistent shadows that made us look like
We’d cut ourselves into pieces small enough to eat as sacraments;
Your cheeks were soft, and warm, and innocent,
Like a sheep just before it is slaughtered.

I watched you grow,
Watched your brown twiggy arm
Gnarl themselves into limbs;
Watched the shade of your face change
As the first stages of manliness
Began to plant its dark seeds in your cheeks;
Watched as your hair
Became long and winding vines,
Stretching itself into impossibly beautiful yarns
Like the ones you would tell us
When we and the boys would sneak off in secret,
Get just far enough outside the city
That we could howl like the wolves we were,
Drunk on more wine than any of us could remember bringing,
And then we’d collapse around the bonfire in fits of laughter,
Our bodies creating sand storms as they writhed;
But once we dust devils had settled,
We would all look to you for a story.

You spoke of your imaginary worlds with such eloquence
We couldn’t help but wish
One day we’d end up there.

It was on one of those nights
That we managed to fall into each other;
We both heard the call of gravity
But found the answer in each other’s arms instead.
Long after your eyelids had thrown in the towel,
My fingertips were still listening
To the Braille whispers of your whiskers.

But you were the center of everyone’s focus in those days;
And the way you were able to make something mystical out of the mundane
Gave a whole new meaning to turning tricks,
But still I stuck with you,
Even when you decided to take your show on the road.
You were a superstar, and the throngs became so large
That you asked me if I could start handling your finances.
… It was the only romantic thing you ever said.

But as the years went by, you grew more distant
And any alone time I could get with you was nothing short of a miracle,
And I didn’t understand,
Because what you seemed to be saying
Was “make love, not war!”
And all I wanted was a chance to let you practice what you preached,
Because those crowds were only with you conditionally,
And you were never too good at distinguishing
The difference between cries for an encore
And your own head.

I came to you one night,
Asked you if this was your ideal life,
Told you I’d been skimming some off the top for a while
And you could retire off the amount that I’d saved…
You told me you felt betrayed,
And to never speak to you again.

So, Jesus
I turned you over
But only because I hope that you’ll see the light,
That when they ask you if the accusations are true
You’ll deny it,
And you’ll be released with nothing more lost
Then a few pints of blood and some pride
And then we’ll run,
Buy two strong black horses and ride off into the sunset
Never to never be seen again
And if not,
If I find out I’ve condemned you to death,
I swear to… You,
I’m going to find the tallest tree I can,
And maybe, if I just take a leap of faith,
I can find a noose that will hold me as tightly
As I wish you had.

Yours forever,