2.15.18, 9.27.19

“hey y’all!

like ____ just said, my name is Iyaniwura Olarewaju, and I’m a senior at Cornell University

literally everything I study and do research on is science-y, but I’ve been writing since 2011. I don’t have a lot of poems from back then because when I started out I would burn everything

I was a very emotional pre-teen, and nothing made sense in my head so I would put my thoughts on paper, and then I would burn them

it was a great form of release back then, but I just got this iPad so I don’t think my dad would be very happy with me if I set it on fire




even with all my flame-filled years of experience, I didn’t start sharing my poetry til 2017. that’s when I started my blog, Vessel in the Valley, and that’s the first time I got on stage with my writing

it was really weird

I was sitting in a chair, because I knew I was gonna get shaky

fun fact, it’s really hard to stand in heels for more than 3 minutes when you don’t go to the gym, but I digress


I didn’t usually have a name for my poems back then, and this one doesn’t have a name either

I just want to talk about Esther


full transparency, I don’t do Spoken Word, I just Speak the Word

I have the rhythm and the flow, my voice just doesn’t go boom like the Button Poets do

and it doesn’t need to

when the time comes, I can speak soft and smooth with a voice that feels like honey, I could sing melodies if I wanted to

I does that, among other things

but a few months ago, I got asked if I’d be free to perform some poetry on a Friday night, and now it’s 2:23 on a Friday morning and I’m finally getting ready


I really like the theme for tonight, songs of freedom

songs can bring freedom. I feel the release sometimes, when I remember to let go

words can bring freedom too, when you remember to use them

I’m finally getting ready to talk about the time when I couldn’t


there’s a lot of time, almost a year’s worth, that I just don’t have

it was taken from me

nothing made sense in my head but I didn’t have any paper left to put my thoughts on, they were all covered with notes for my chem final, I had a chem final soon

I couldn’t get my thoughts straight so I didn’t say anything

didn’t say no, didn’t say yes

didn’t say much of anything

nothing was making sense, so I waited to see if it would


it didn’t


and then a few months later, things were making even less sense in my head, so I said even less since I was already lost

I had already lost

my freedom

and my voice had gone with it

so I didn’t say much of anything, for a few months I just ran because I felt so scared, so confused, but when I finally recognized what I was running from, it’s like I gave up


I have very few memories from 2018, because it was just me in the Valley

looking back, I know God was there too, but I had completely given up on myself

it felt like he had taken me with him, since I hadn’t told him not to

it felt like it was my fault, so I locked myself in shame, in pain

it took so. long. for me to find any semblance of freedom


when I talk about the Valley, I am talking about Psalm 23

that was half of the inspiration for the name of my blog, Vessel in the Valley

“even when I’m feeling low, He fills me up”

that’s what it says in the search bar as you scroll through the site

the other half came from 2 Timothy, where it talks about the Vessels that are used for His honor

I made a commitment to stick with Him even when we went through the depths, but I didn’t realize how deep my seas would get

even now, I know they can get deeper

but at least now, I know that if He’s never left me, He never will

I wouldn’t have made it here on my own, I didn’t even want to

I’d really given up


since I’ve lost my freedom, since I was able to find Him in my prison, I have to ask if He brought me here for such a time as this

every day, everywhere I go, I ask “is this what You brought me here for? is this what You brought me through for? is it time?”

I’ve lost my voice, but I have it now, and I’m learning how to use it again

in the learning, I’m speaking, I’m singing my songs of freedom, I’m saying no, I’m saying yes

I’m using melodies and rhythms and flows and whatever I can to speak, to be my own witness, to bring myself justice

I cannot stay silent, because I know it’s only death that follows

I know that my voice can bring deliverance, my voice will bring deliverance

He’s given me a second chance

He’s helping me talk about the time that I couldn’t


*some silence*


sooo yeah, that was just the tip of the iceberg, but I really pray that everyone heard the Word they needed to hear. whether you’re asking Him to use you as His Vessel, or you’ve found yourself, lost in the Valley, or you feel like Esther, looking for a Mordecai to remind you that God really may have brought you here for a time just like this, I pray you got that. thanks y’all



‘Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” ‘

Esther 4:13-14


i fear what i want

i dream big so i fear what i want and i fear what i need to get what i want because i don’t know what i need and i told myself to never settle but i keep ending up among stars when i should be on Mars, and they blind me, bind me

i fear what i want because i know i can have it it’s so close i could grab it but i hate asking for help i hate feeling helpless, and you’re present but your presence always helps less than you mean it to, and i couldn’t blame you

you don’t fear what i want

you could hold my Mars in the palm of your hand

to you, my Mars will always be a grain of sand




i fear what i want

i dream big so i fear what i want and i fear what i need to get what i want because i know what i need and i told myself to never settle but i keep ending up among stars when i should be on Mars, and they blind me, bind me

i fear what i want because i know i can have it it’s so close i could grab it but i hate asking for help i hate feeling helpless, but You’re present and Your presence makes me feel blessed like you mean it to, for that i thank You

You don’t fear what i want

You hold my Mars in the palm of Your hand

to You, my Mars will always be a grain of sand




I thought I could rewrite this, but I don’t fear as much anymore

I know what I want and I know I can have it, sometimes I spend a bit too long in the locker roo m ut I still go for it

I can see the stars before I get to Mars and yet I take them all in, enjoying the view, as I should

I know I’ll end up somewhere

I know what I want and I know I can have it, it’s so close I could grab it, I hate asking for help and I hate feeling helpless, but I do it anyway, because You’re present and Your presence makes me feel blessed like you mean it to, for that I thank You

You don’t fear what I want

You hold my Mars in the palm of Your hand

to You, my Mars will always be a grain of sand

and the palm of Your hand will always be a safe place to land



wait til the end for the title

I like knowing you’re here

somewhere in the twists and turns beneath the high ceilings between the dividers, there’s you

doing what I do

enjoying the beauty of absence

but you’re still here, and I like that

I like knowing that I don’t have to know anything

knowing I can figure it out as I go along, like a mainstream song, the melody will catch on fast and the imprint will last and I’ll hum it as I walk through the prints and the charcoal sketches and the paint covered canvases, how full this absence is


1.25.17, a date with God

I want to be

I want to be like me when I grow up


The me the people know of

The me the people show love


I want to be the me I created

back when I was just a kid and 

nothing I did could compare to 

what I would do because 


when I was a kid

I wanted to be an astronaut

I wanted to fly through the stars

be the first girl on Mars

an astronaut


but now

I just want to be me

I just want to be happy

I just want to be free



6:48 am

I arose so the Sun could greet me

and it decided to do so quietly






it was a bit cold

  a bit wet

maybe I should’ve been more mindful of the rain because it’s washed my greeting away

now everything is blue

the water is blue

the sky is blue

the snakes I imagined running into were green

   not my most redeeming moment


and at this point, I was cold

    I was wet

    I had worn my white rubber birks but

    what can those do to protect your fuzzy socks?

of all the things I packed, I think I brought the most socks

having warm feet is very important


and now I sit in the library in the warm and the quiet, and I realize that the Son came to greet me anyway

I’m not worried about the snakes

       not worried about my socks

       not worried about physics


I’m excited for my day, all I could do with my new friends

making new friends, I’m not as good as I thought

but I am trying

maybe they’ll want to take care of me

maybe I’ll let them


the sky is still blue

I could go back to bed

but let me see if my roommate is awake

I’ll try greeting her quietly


9.14.19, during a much needed retreat


on to the next

the next page

the next stage

it’s like having your hair in braids for months,

it’s constrained but protected, and you can feel the new growth coming in

those lil baby curls

you play with them when you’re stressed, 

daydreaming about how big your fro will be when you can finally free yourself from those chains


sometimes you need help to get through them all, sometimes you have to cut them short before you start

sometimes, sometimes, everything’s so conditional

but freedom is delicious

a process, but delightful

the braids come out, but there’s still the gunk that built up at the roots

the chains come off, but there’s still the dents that dug in at your wrists

you need clarity

look at reality

look at it, really

the gunk

the dents

this is where you were before you were free

(completely unrelated, but I am so happy)

(I never write happy poems)

don’t let it scare you

you’re free now

so clarify, wash the gunk out of your roots

massage your wrists, smooth the dents out

then play with your curls

yes, use your hands

your freedom

you’re at the next stage

on the next page

on to the next


Continue reading “freedom”

toni morrison

my heart has been saying goodbye

it’s not used to things staying, so it’s been saying goodbye


the things that did stay weren’t good, and they didn’t say bye

so that’s what my heart got used to


it was learning to say hello

to shaking hands

to keeping in touch

to being touched

and then the good said goodbye, again

and my heart cried and it said, “this is familiar”

“this is what I know”

“this is loss”



my heart is so used to saying goodbye, to the weight that moves in when you lose what you love

I can feel it, heavy in my chest

an ice that burns


so I’ve been learning to say goodbye

in a way that feels warm

a way that melts the ice


when you say goodbye to the sun, you say hello to the moon

and the stars


and then you say goodbye to those to say hello to the dawn

she brings her dew, and her birds sing

they cry out

and I wake up and I say, “this is familiar”

“this is what I know”


the fear of goodbye won’t keep me from saying hello

the good will say bye

the bad will say hello

everything will come, and everything will go


I can mourn in the morning

I can dance in the dusk


there’s a time for it all

I guess my heart just got used to saying goodbye



marmalade jars

the slightest tint makes everything warmer

the slightest glint makes everything warmer

to see true joy, pure joy in someone’s your smile

it covers the room, makes everything golden


pure joy, perfect joy, oh how I’ve missed you

it’s been so long, I feel kinda shy around you now

I’ve grown a bit, so I’m adjusting still

I’m learning, still

learning what you look like

what I look like

what we look like

we go together, you and me

I’m supposed to be this happy

it may feel foreign, but I need to

know that I know you

true joy, perfect joy

you’ve made everything warmer

it’s like how the sun shines in the

winter, but you can’t feel its warmth

it’s spring now, I can feel it

feel the strain in my cheeks as

I look around in awe, with glee

everything’s golden, just how I’ve wanted to be

you make the little things so fascinating, Joy

so satisfying

actually, more gratifying

I’m already satisfied

even when it doesn’t feel like spring, everything’s still golden

the Son still shines in the winter

I’m learning, still

what we look like

because with you, everything’s

just slightly warmer