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Sometimes I think in circles, then I remember rectangles are beautiful too.

Dealing with Loss

I never mastered
how to grieve someone’s passing
its always been difficult
for me to show my emotions
especially pain or sadness
I want to be the person
that can keep it together
so others can draw strength
from my resilience,
I’m not always that person
sometimes my strength waivers
and I need those around me
to rely on for moral support.
When grieving
it’s astonishing the difference
the smallest kindness can make,
I may not know how to explain
what I am feeling
but eye contact from someone else,
a genuine smile,
a simple greeting,
has lifted me from my darkest days.

In recent years
I have faced more losses
than ever before,
my own mortality became very real
and I transformed my personal life.
I mourned the passing
of my friend and classmates
with a fierce determination
to embrace life
with an understanding
nothing is guaranteed
but life is a precious gift
and I can only do justice
to those that have passed
by trying to make this world better
by living fully
and accepting love in my life.

These commitments may seem selfish
But I do think it’s worth considering
all the lives the person that passed touched
all the people that have a chance
to do something better for humanity
so that the loss is not senseless
I do not know if this lessens
the pain of someone else’s suffering
ultimately all I can offer
is my perspective
of how I learned to deal with loss.

-Vanessa Hernandez

Human Nature

I wonder
what defines human nature?
I want to believe
its our ability to communicate
to live amongst one another
to come together against all odds
to achieve the remarkable
to defy the laws of nature
to investigate, to create,
to make a life with another.
I want to believe
human nature is defined by beauty
by compassion, by community.

I want to believe all this
but I find it difficult
to mentally process
all the cruelty
that has occurred
and is occurring in our world.
I am old enough now
that I can’t simply close my eyes
and ignore the bad,
I see the anger, the violence, the bigotry,
I see the eyes of people
that hurt others without any regard
and I wonder
is something broken in human nature?
Have we progressed so far
that we have regressed
to a primitive mentality?

I do not have the cure
to fix what ails mankind
I simply sense the effects
there is a sentiment of dread
that is filling our atmosphere
and we won’t defeat it
through violence or cruelty.
I believe
humans need one another
I believe
community is defined by communication
I believe
violence and cruelty break those bonds.

I do not know
what defines human nature
I do know
I plan to make my time count,
I will not let the cruelty define my existence
I will not perpetuate a cycle of violence
I will do my best
to enhance the qualities
that make humans remarkable.

-Vanessa Hernandez


For several years
I did not shed a single tear
I was stoic and strong
I had a thick skin
A shell around my heart
I wore like an armor
There was nothing
anyone could say to me
that would hurt my feelings
There was nothing
anyone could do
that would break me.
I faced the world
face forward
on my own two feet
and I prayed
no one could see
my hands shaking.


For several years
I denied myself
the ability to truly feel
I was so accustomed
to protecting myself
from verbal assaults
from rejection
that I hid my heart away
I hid my love
my compassion
because every time
I showed emotion
I was perceived as weak.


Eventually I started
to realize
I was denying myself
the ability to be happy.
If I forced myself
to be strong
I wouldn’t be able
to smile when I saw beauty
to sing when I felt joy
to laugh at the absurdity of life.

The time eventually came
when I accepted the truth
I cannot be strong
I took off my armor
I broke the shell around my heart
I let my spirit flourish
I wore my emotions on my face
and I finally accepted
some days
I might cry
the tears might escape my eyes
but by embracing my pain
I have opened myself
to be loved.


I understand the world is complicated
I may not have a fairy tail ending
but I cannot not
sleepwalk through life
I will embrace my life
I will not be a doormat
Nor will I be a statue
I will be
a sentient human being.

-Vanessa Hernandez

Midnight Pondering

I remember the time
I felt my knees tremble
My chest felt tight,
I tried to steady my breath
I looked into his eyes
Then his smile
As desire rolled up my belly
I took in a deep breath
Trying to keep my composure,
His smile widened
Just feeling his eyes on me
Another ball of desire
Rolled down my belly
To my knees
And I felt certain
I was going to faint
All because
He was standing so close
Our arms were almost
Physically touching.

When we did touch
A light kiss on the cheek
Or a hand to steady my elbow
I felt complete.
For a brief second
I could breathe in
His cologne his aftershave
And everything else stopped
I wanted more
But reality would set in
And we’d both blush
As if trying to hide the obvious
From each other
And from other people.

I spent what felt
Like a lifetime
Searching for mental compatibility
The kind that I had to push myself
In order to keep up
For someone that was just
As interested in what came out my mouth
As he was in my lips
For someone that guided me
But knew how to value to my opinion
For someone that could teach me
Things I don’t know
And was also willing
To learn from me.

As I write I wonder
Do these kind of feelings last
Or did I let my desire
Get ahead of my common sense?

-Vanessa Hernandez

poem audio recording

I matter

Some days I wonder
Will anything I do ever really matter?

Most days I tell myself
I am just a speck
In an infinite universe
filled with constellations
So I put myself down
I belittle my accomplishments
I stay quiet
I walk with my head down
I pretend like I’m not intelligent
I sit and I smile and I try to look pretty
When inside I’m wondering
If I was gone
Would anyone notice?

I hate those days.

I understand the earth revolves around
The center of mass in the solar system
And I am only one
Among billions of people
But I matter.
I am not better than others
for coming to this conclusion

I do however
Carry myself differently:

I make considerate decisions
I am proud of my achievements
I turn a deaf ear to rudeness
I show empathy to everyone
I try to stay calm
I focus less on looking pretty
And more on being healthy and presentable
Above all else
I speak.

These days I no longer wonder
If anything I do ever really mattered
Because I know
I matter.

-Vanessa Hernandez

poem audio recording


I have felt
completely paralyzed by fear.

I couldn’t move
because I felt whatever may be
outside my room
could harm me.
I laid still for a long time
I couldn’t sleep
I couldn’t turn off
the lingering doubt
that something outside my room
wanted to hurt me.

I listened to every sound
every car that went by
every voice of people walking by my window
I listened to pipes in the building
to the creaks of the wood
to doors opening and closing
to muffled conversation
I felt the urge to cry
but I was too afraid
to make any noise.

There was no one outside my room.
No one outside my apartment
ever openly attacked me
still I felt paralyzed by fear.

I felt the psychological strain
weighing down on my physical body
it was draining my will
to take another breath,
I wondered if this was how
it would feel to simply pass away?

I kept breathing
rationalizing the noises outside my apartment
from the police sirens
to what I hoped were firecrackers
I laid still
and found comfort in the four walls
the ceiling and the floor that enveloped me.
I am claustrophobic
and I conquered my fear
by envisioning my mind in a box
I put up walls around my mind
and thought in that box
my thoughts would be safe.

I didn’t move my body
all I wanted to secure was my mind.
Eventually the anxiety would decrease
my fear was only perceivable
in my tense muscles,
so I would relax my body
and finally move my body an inch.

That first movement
is always the hardest
its neither an accomplishment nor a defeat
its simply an acceptance:

Yes I have been paralyzed by fear
and I have learned
to deal with it.

-Vanessa Hernandez

poem audio recording

I used to feel alone

I used to think a friend
was the one that knew me best
that knew me for the longest time.
I used to think a friend
was someone I could tell
all my secrets to.

I used to think like a child.

Now I’m grown
and I see
A friend
would never deceive me
for personal gain
would never break my spirit for sport
A friend
would stand by me
as a reminder
I am not alone.

-Vanessa Hernandez

poem audio recording


I faced my fears
the night I walked alone
headphones blaring
my legs moving faster
than my thoughts.

I faced the uncertainty of success
the potentiality of failure
the pain of rejection
the bitterness of alienation
as I let the music lyrics
envelop my anger, my doubts
until all I could hear was the bass.

Every now and then
a memory would emerge
or was it someone else’s story
hidden in the undertone of a song?

I felt the panic, the anxiety
as I listened
trying to move my legs faster
so I could escape
get to a place no one could hurt me.

I faced my fears
the night I walked alone
I felt the wind on my skin
saw the sky above me
and I realized
all I had to do
was change the song,
find a soothing voice
a gentle instrumental
that would bring me peace
until I made it home.

-Vanessa Hernandez

poem audio recording


I remember always being told what I could not be. Since I am an immigrant, I was told at a very early age what I shouldn't aspire to be. I lived in Chicago for eight months where an elementary school in Winnetka let me be part of the first grade class although technically I was too young. When I moved to Miami I was made to repeat first grade because the teachers couldn't believe I had learned English in eight months, although none of them actually spoke to me. While in elementary school I had to defiantly rebel in order to not be put in an ESL (English as Second Language) program. I rebelled because I already knew English and I knew if I was put in ESL I would fall behind the other students. Although I won student council secretary in the third grade, the school refused to allow me to test for the gifted program until the fourth grade. My mother and I were constantly told, not to expect for me to continue to get good grades in middle school because it would be much harder. I won student council president in fifth grade, it was my way of telling Miami Lakes Elementary I would always overcome their expectations.

I remember in middle school at Doral Middle the teachers had an intervention with my mother due to their concern regarding my behavior. I was taking the hardest classes they had to offer, excelling at them and all the teachers wanted to talk about was that I was flirtatious and friends with older students. When I moved to Minnesota and went to West Hopkins Junior High, I wasn't allowed to take advanced math because I had never seen geometry. I was immediately labeled as problematic because I was Latina and did not look like the rest of the student body. Again my mother was told to not expect too much because it was obvious I wouldn't be able to keep up with the curriculum.

In high school I was finally given some freedom to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes for college credits. The first test I took was in US History, the teacher once told me in front of the whole class I looked like a prostitute because I had on light pink heels. I got a 5 on the AP US History exam, the highest possible score, you only need a 3 to pass. I also had an English Composition teacher tell me that I didn't know how to write, I would never be a good writer and I would probably not be able to pass the AP English Composition exam. I got a 5 on the English Composition exam.

In life I have constantly been told not to reach too high or expect too much because I will fail. For years that weighed on me, I began to doubt myself and what I could accomplish. I learned what perseverance meant when I competed in national circuit Lincoln Douglas debate in high school. I was nationally ranked and in the top tier for Minnesota my junior and senior year but none of that really mattered. In debate I started to read complex philosophical texts that radically changed my mentality. I realized that no one would ever be able to make me feel stupid or inferior because I was able to understand very complex ideology and coherently explain it. I didn't need to be the smartest person in the room, but I learned how to keep up with the conversation or at least ask the right questions in order to follow the discussion. Debate was the turning point in my life because it showed me, if I could explain my point eloquently it would never matter what I looked like. I learned more during two weeks of debate camp than I ever learned in high school.

Now I look at challenges differently, I no longer allow what people may perceive of me to impact my perception of myself. I take my time to understand what is at stake then try to plot a cautious intelligent course using all the resources at my disposal. I persevere not only because I exceed expectations but because I don't allow for expectations to define my goals or outcomes. I hold myself to very high standards and I work every day to attain those standards. I understand I may not always be the best, I accept I will make mistakes but I will always try again and I will never sacrifice my ethical standards.


I met someone that changed me
he flipped my world right side up.

I spent a long time wondering,
was it his lips or his eyes or his chin or his hands or his ears
that made me loose all common sense?
It took a long time until I saw
it wasn’t just the physical that drew me in
I felt steadier, balanced, when he was near,
he was my breath of fresh air,
my finger tips ached to touch his skin
I giggled at his bad jokes
and teased him with rhetoric games.

It was a playful tug of war
I gave him my trust
I wrapped up my wounded heart
offered it freely.

Life is not always that simple,
the single hardest thing I’ve ever done
was ultimately walking away
hoping he would come for me.

-Vanessa Hernandez

poem audio recording