top of page
Available Now: "The Art of Naming My Pain"

The Art of Naming My Pain (Blue Cactus Press, 2019)

A collection of poetry, prose, and collage by Kellie Richardson

In an era of highly curated personas and unrealistic self-expectation, Kellie Richardson offers readers a stunningly honest account of her struggles with identity, relationships, mental health and self-love. The Art of Naming My Pain collects Richardson’s poetry, essays and art as she navigates what it is for a Black, queer, broken women to seek joy in a world that says she doesn’t deserve it.  This book is an unfolding of her journey, bearing witness to the possibility of life after self-loathing. Richardson’s voice is refreshingly candid in this sophomore collection, shedding light on issues we all face, though few have the courage to own in the public sphere.

Available now through Blue Cactus Press! Purchase here.

DSC01729 (1).jpg

You will not be consumed

by this ocean,

by the salt or sulphur of hate,

or your weighed tears.


I am here-

Not to be a savior

but to be a shore.


Your breath will not be taken,

by the next wave of hate,

by the lies that even

you bought, and then taught.


You will not perish

in the grip of smiling dragons

or the monsters in your ears.


I am watching,

never waiting on invitation,

cherishing the part I play.


I am the witness

to your wonderous heart

to the hope you gave away

in desperation.


I am holding it for you,

away from the wind,

safe from harm.


You are not forgotten

by Creator’s creator,

by the hope of sunrise.


You are still innocent

and soft,

and deserving of beauty,

of the mercy of beginnings.


I too weeped

the day, the minute, the instance

when the light of hope escaped you,

when the trusted failed you.


I heard you wail,

there in the darkness.


You were never alone.

I am resolved

to flood my blood

into your broken heart.


I will keep us afloat.

Keep us afloat.

Float, dear heart.



Loving Me
Loving Me
I am closing some doors –
don’t be alarmed.
I am mining for
freedom in restraint

that makes sense.
Lighter feet see their way
thru gravel and mange.
My eyes are
growing open
to my addiction
to lies.


As I continue to process the evil that it’s determined to burn through my people, i wrote a poetic fuck off to White supremacy. 
I want to tell you something.
Life is sharp and explosive
It bites and spits
just as swiftly as it saves
Your heart will drown
and rust
Under the weight of
wonder and joy
You will remain
I want you to know
that you didn’t arrive
of your own volition
my people’s footprints  
grace your chest
and save you from
the cave in which
you were conceived.
I need you to consider
you weren’t the first
that my love stings
because it’s true
and a request for concession
is no different than
a burning cross.

Mind Over Merch

The brain is
a creature of habit. 

Decency does not grow naturally
from a tribe of vigilantes. 
Always a grudge,
Always another betrayal,
A tumor of fear,
a razor blade buried
in a lollipop. 

the bruises sweeten 
the soft flesh
of the fruit,

Unless each harvest
bears some semblance
to just desserts
even if just for optics,

Unless the heart defeats
the vicious army of the mind
and chooses to bet on
trust over trepidation. 

Unless you see my liberation
As reliant on yours,
Your tshirts and empathy
Might as well be ether. 




Grounded as a stone’s belly.
I have been named!
Designated with steel resolve
And bloody whip
Before a crowd.
In a book.
On a slab.
In a laboratory of cruel strangers.
Before my mother’s mother was a babe
I am the supply bred for demand
For beck and call
For sport and feast.
For pontification and jest
For leverage of the least.
You constructed me
From an economy of lust
Stripped me of agency
Assigned me the sole task
Of function
Work horse. Harvester. Pacifier.
Scapegoat. Wet nurse.
On call companion. On call mistress.
Carpenter. Blacksmith.
I was a fucking footrest!
Because of the labels.
Murder cloaked in science
A taxonomy to support the sickness,
A cancer turned birth defect.
You selected me for submission
to interrogation
Front. Side.
Laid out. Bent over.
Split open.
Spread eagle.
Restrained. Infected.
Observed. Probed.
To identify, classify, specify
The root of my inferiority;
To rationalize a brutality
So utterly shameful
Your offspring refuse to claim it.
You found my predisposition
to endure,
an orientation towards servitude,
without considering it was God’s gift
And not yours.
Jettisoned my humanity to feed
Your allure for dissection,
Rationalizing depravity
In the interest of public good.
It’s them labels.
Designations free from spirit but
Fueled by White power plays
That still slice this earth
Like I once sliced sugar cane
Baby sleep on my back.
I conceded. We conceded.
My feet remain soaked
in the labels
I step softly in and out of
the boxes you’ve created
To spare myself pain,
Spare myself lashes
Stay out the hot box
Keep breathing.
Keep awake
Stay woke.
I offer this in deep respect and gratitude to Carrie Mae Weems and her journey to completing this piece. Her conviction to bear witness to the Black experience inspired these words. I was drawn to it because of the way text was used to over the image; and began to explore the way words have and continue to shape the narrative of oppressed people.
So persistent and acute is
The pathology of your qualifiers
My great great great grandchildren will
Own the compass through this land
They too will walk through the minefield
of your labels
Dodging implications and hate
As best they can.
Those god damned labels!
They are born to yearning;
The bastard child of desperation.
You put a word behind the wheel
Declared it law
Drove my legacy into a homespun
Springboard for separatism.
The labels have taught your children
Entitlement to me
and to mine
my thoughts, my body, my prayer
my hope, my dance, my hair
as if my pilgrimage from
Mali to Maputo
to Middle Passage to Mississippi to Mobile
to Missouri to Minneapolis to Miami
Is a story woven for your consumption
You, always at the center,
Feeding on me.

Just feeding on me.
This is not behind you or I
This is still us
This addiction to labels
for the good of
the pale and favored.
We have settled
Into the grooves
Of this dimension
We live in deference
to the labels.
the seduction of security
restricts and relents
able hearts from disrupting
from choosing
to know me outside of the labels
Freedom can’t ring
In a house of lies
You can’t taste my truth
In a big
Bowl of conditions
We will roar and ring around this clock again
and again, and again and again
because the love doesn’t really matter when
what you say ain’t what you mean.
And what you speak
ain’t really who you see.
Freedom is choice
That manifests
In self and wealth
I don’t need your privilege
To navigate my own.
Freedom is a life
Without labels.
No doubt you was born free,
that your spirit came
to the universe free.

Cuz you recognize and crave
the promise of freedom
in the universe,
but quickly recognize
the constant flurry of indicators
that you are not free.
Your living is conditional,
a contract you never signed
to shave yourself small,
vet your life through
a sieve that protects
the ugly nature of things.
The feared don’t get to be free.
And they are so scared of you
because they know
they have it coming.
So you are told
your life is theirs
for display and dissection
and one day you forget
it was a fairy tale
held dear by twisted scripture
and rotten hearts.
And then one day
you decide to call bullshit
on the whole blasted racket
after spending
a long, wistful afternoon
in the mirror.
bottom of page