Tampa poet Yuki Jackson on trying to quiet depression and rage

Poet's Notebook

click to enlarge Tampa poet Yuki Jackson remembers peeking into the living room and secretly watching HBO boxing matches after she had been put to bed. - Photo c/o Yuki Jackson
Photo c/o Yuki Jackson
Tampa poet Yuki Jackson remembers peeking into the living room and secretly watching HBO boxing matches after she had been put to bed.
I am actually quite violent. Ever since I was little, I've been drawn to fighting. I remember peeking into the living room and secretly watching HBO boxing matches after I had been put to bed. There was something so satisfying about the sound of each punch as it landed, even more so when blood would go flying, along with the sweat. I wouldn’t say that I really acted out this primal impulse and taste until I was in 5th grade.

My first physical altercation was with a white boy named Donny. We were on the playground during recess, making the rounds enjoying what I see now as a plethora of playground features–a long row of swing sets, webbed metal domes extending into the sky, a kid’s size fortress made of wood. My group of friends and I liked getting up on the balance beam in the sandbox and playing “mercy”, which some also call “chicken”. It essentially involves two of you standing on a narrow and elevated platform to see who will be the first to get knocked off. We would begin by hoisting ourselves onto the balance beam from opposite ends then approaching each other slowly until eventually meeting in the middle. Once we were in close enough range, we would grasp each other's hands with interlocked fingers and twist hands until someone surrendered or fell off. I was playing mercy with Donny until things got heated and once we were both back on the ground, I snatched his chain from his neck, breaking it. In response, he punched me in my gut. Commotion, friends scrambling, a brawl ensued.

I continued exhibiting anger physically through my teen years, although at some point this propensity towards violence also turned internal. Depression involved redirecting this externally expressive rage into a quiet suppression. A vacuum void of emotion was created, I think, as a survival mechanism. Because to face the source of all my rage would be too much. Too much for me at the time, anyway. So I began to turn to my journal, writing down my thoughts which naturally formed into poems. During this time, I also studied a lot. I wasn’t interested in high school since most of it didn’t seem relevant or new, but I was into learning about life, death and the mechanisms that govern the two. I found satisfying answers in a book titled "The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin" as well as numerous other writings by Daisaku Ikeda. Particularly in a concept they expound called ichinen sanzen or 3,000 realms in a single moment of life, which explains how we have the potential of exhibiting a multitude of life-states at any given moment. Beyond just describing moods, this concept reveals how we can bring forth the highest aspect or enlightened version of whatever we are experiencing. This spoke to me from a scientific standpoint as well in terms of how energy can be converted into various forms and expressions. Based on this teaching, even a demon Goddess like Kishimojin and her thousands of demon children, can transform what’s seen as their demonic qualities into a function for the greater good. They are fierce fighters and protectors of universal truth, as well as guardians of all children, according to parables.

This is the beauty I see in the defiant behavior of many ‘hood children–their strong sense of self and audacity. Don’t get me wrong, obviously there are times when being physically or verbally violent is clearly wrong and harmful, but there is also a necessary spark that can arise from this tendency. When I saw the kids on the day I wrote the accompanying poem back in 2017, I thought “they’re like superheroes”, which was probably an unusual reaction from an adult who was being challenged by a mob of kids. When they get mouthy, when they don’t back down, I think “good!”, even if the point that they’re fighting for at the time is wrong. I often think about the generations that came before them and I imagine that these current ‘hood children are not only the descendents but are also actually the ancestors reincarnated. The ‘hood kids are the seeds that have bloomed from the toil, blood and tears of those who were forced to obey and be quiet. And now these blooms are primed to unapologetically tear down the very systems that oppressed their ancestors. They are built for it. This is how a tendency towards destruction can come in handy.

I can certainly relate. While I no longer partake in nor advocate it, I am still at my core, violent. It is this acute awareness of my own propensity for violence that enables me to effectively work for peace in society. My own base characteristic allows me to understand the hearts of those who seem to be fixed on destroying life. This primal urge, when misdirected from a place of ignorance, can cause tremendous harm. So, in order for us to transform a culture of violence, it begins with ourselves. It requires a sound philosophical and spiritual basis as well as a more humanistic approach and aim. And who better equipped to lead the way in building a new civilization than those who were denied the rights and credit in the previous attempt. It is not the meek who shall inherit the Earth—we are audacious.

Mother of Demon Children (Kishimojin)

I’m parked beside the gutter
on 13th and Seward.
A boy wears a shirt with Ninja Turtles.
A street sign reads watch out for children.

We sure will.

They don’t move for cars.
We have to move around them.

One kid throws a flat and charges at us.
I open my window
and tell the boys I know to be careful.
One boy who’s older than his uncle
nods like he understands.

These kids are not afraid
of a three-thousand pound vehicle.
They believe they can bend steel.

I glance at myself in the rearview mirror
and nod like I understand.

About The Author

Yuki Jackson

Yuki Jackson is an African-American and Japanese poet and educator based in Tampa Bay, Florida.Her work has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Foundry, Entropy and other publications. She is also the founder of The Battleground, a youth program in the Sulphur Springs...
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