Tova Ricardo

Tova Ricardo is Oakland's 2015 Youth Poet Laureate. A junior at Bentley High School, Tova began writing poetry in 6th grade and fell in love with the ways that words and characters tie together to spark emotion and controversy inside the reader. Tova soon realized that her first loves were literature and poetry, and knew that she had found the one place where she wouldn’t have to conform to society’s expectations.

The meeting of pen to paper allows Tova to claim her freedom of expression and the emotional terrain that surrounds the construction of human identity. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, family dynamics, community, and social stigma crackle like electricity throughout Tova’s work.


Malicious Maniacs

by Tova Ricardo, age 16

you've got more menace on your mind
than what reads on the fine print.
searching children you classify
as malicious maniacs,
first and foremost before you ask their name.
plaster masks of innocence
on ignorant fixtures,
dictators with crooked mouths,
driven by licked lips of entitlement
the culture of colors always in sight,
despite quotes of pigment blindness.
we’re still finding confederate and klan
cover ups,
hidden underneath soft skin of so called accepting people,
who truly see us as nothing more than malicious maniacs,
locking us up like cage monsters,
dismissing the elephant in the courtroom
for when trial rolls around,
y'all close the door.
suspicious speech isn't verbalized in front of tarnished victims
but guilty, milky eyes connect with jurors and their conscious
when decisions are forged.
nobody's got time for monkey business
they think.
nobody’s got time for shot down teenage black boys disrupting the peace.
“Trust the system,
Just listen and don't forget the mission,
Shut mouths don't get shot at”
but my shut mouth’s been inching through time
contemplating the phrases
that have escaped my terrified mind.
whether I spoke up about the filters that fooled
brown veins into knots of embarrassment,
tightening through every human wound,
never a way out,
heading down hell south,
towards roses in cement
who been salivating for the sky's tears,
and much like the backbone of her body,
she hasn't yet risen from a destructive institution
that illustrates Eurocentric beauty illusions.
she's residing among a territory
marked by diverse daisies
but smashed between bigoted atrocities
she hasn't left their magic show yet,
false depictions masked with shiny wands and capes.
she wore robes of garden tools
to clip away recurring weeds
that pop up in overpriced suburban lives
she couldn't build the city a new road.
they told her that she already violated it,
she already summoned darkness
with the rise of her fist and flavor of her flesh.
they tasted the darkness.
they were over our constant cop complaints,
us framing their so-called “saviours."
we, are, the ruckus, malicious maniacs.
they have had enough of brown babies,
soaking in white layers.
they had enough of it
they lost interest in our stories
in the pain spilling on busted sidewalks
and delicate poet papers
I try to tell them to keep the pages face to face
follow my little requests
make out the tears
make do of ripped and burning pieces of paper
with their shreds floating out and away and
orange fire coating the outer layer
watch it burn
watch what it did
what you know
what I felt
a crippled organism carrying a curse
of enslaved forged fear,
constructed deep into our vulnerable hearts,
soaking up sensitivity,
lying freely for others to trample on,
you're blaming brown people for shots to the throat!
impairing that which we were robbed of
when the “superior”
arrived on our homelands
the homelands of brave tongues
grain children with courage,
sprouting from the rubble,
where genocide occurred
I see you.
we've plucked grains of hair
off our head,
when injustice comments are spoken
blasted off into residential atmospheres
blasted off into workplace whirlpools
to hold back youthful voice
with that,
the injustice words.
floating above our sidewalk
like a demon of superiority in a cream robe.
they feed off of grass fed fear
but now,
I feel vulnerable,
because Jew curls
and Afros are under attack.
because yamakas
and yesterday's shootings are nuisances
to copy machine houses.
I feel vulnerable,
because racial genocide is at today's high
because they're calling us names
that we’ve historically despised
I feel vulnerable,
because evil led thoughts are taught
in the bureaus and suburbs,
promoting mental containment
we feel vulnerable,
when beast boys are connected with black boys
when black boys can't be proud to be black
I feel vulnerable,
because when I'm infuriated about gas chambers,
they say I'm blowing off steam,
hot air to fuel my big nosed snare,
I feel vulnerable,
because my existence to the majority
isn’t real
I'm not holding your hand
to make it to the promise land
I'm just trying to survive
I don't have the strength to climb
down the mountain every day
you think you understand
how the world works
how children in tough situations think,
how blood spills through our knees
and our ziet ziets.
your judgement of normality here
is misconstrued,
close minded while you smack us
on our backsides.
you'll never understand.
you'll never understand
the brown kid with a hamsa,
the mighty collage of wrinkled curls
and cocoa butter swirls through our braids.
even as we are used as your textbook,
you never truly retain the information.
I shall inform you now that,
we are not yours to touch!
my curls are not yours to touch!
my hamsa is not yours to touch,
our yamakas are not yours to touch.
you don’t touch my skin,
racism comes from deep within.
you don’t know my pain,
being stared at in temple because of my pigment
I am my mother’s child
Israel sees me.
I will no longer be a shriveled up being
pacing through temple with my hands over my face,
peeling my pieced together state
sneaking down from that treacherous hill
starving essential parts of my heart
mass shootings with holy darts
but I won't let crippling creepy crawlers
circulate through my mind
I refuse to part my identity
as Moses parted the sea.
this curly nest upon my head
is pure with colors and cultures of many lands
I'm sorry if you feel that you're bland,
but I am not yours to touch
I just want to finish this day
but look at what my hands did to my body
look how your holy water burned my skin
I just want to finish for them,
for those who look like me
who've got David's might
hailed rainbow light from Adonai
for every night you fight
to every yamaka and Afro hidden out of sight