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Aaliyah Kara’s climate change-focused poem, Until You Let Her Go, set in motion her path into Spoken Word

Aged 16, Aaliyah Kara used to perform the work of renowned poets like Rafeef Ziadah at community events. ‘When I was confident enough, the same communities gave me a platform to share my own attempts at Spoken Word,’ she says. ‘My artistic network expanded then and I regularly participated in Jerry K’s poetry shows. I have been writing and performing for years though. I remember writing the script for the first school play when I was in Grade six. I am immensely grateful for the people who have believed in my voice along the way.’

aaliyah kara spoken word elle magazine

In 2015, she was placed in the top eight of the Spoken Word for the World competition for her piece on climate change.

Until You Let Her Go

Only when she left

that spring in her step

her hair dropping

like a waterfall behind her

Without a warning

or last word

Without hesitating

never looking back,

did you realise that

she was the air

that filled your lungs

when you wrote her

a song and sang it

she was those beams of sunlight

when your arms were dotted

with goose pimples

She was the spark

that set your soul

on fire

She was the ocean

and you were the shore

and she moved back and forth

to kiss you

She was the lamp

and you held her hand

followed her into

the wilderness of dreams

But you kept running out of fuel

So she was the candle,

dancing, adventurous

and you kept

blowing out her flame

When she left-

you didn’t notice

she started walking

you were too busy

scrolling through your feed

thumbs programmed to double tap

without consciousness

and when you looked up

from your screen

she was gone.

She was the flower

you picked to adorn a vase

and you posted a picture of her

on Instagram

and they said she was beautiful

and that you were cute

but you forgot

to water her every day

so she wilted, quickly

you couldn’t simply

leave her

in her field of daisies

take in her scent

appreciate her in her space

paint her

like one of your French ladies

You were destructive, damaging, demanding

she couldn’t create new defence mechanisms

that matched the speed for her to evolve

She was enough

and she was

for her

for you

But you tried to synthesise her

into something she was not

like she was some sort

of scientific experiment

like she was an amusement park

an arcade

They discovered a new fossil

and you worshipped it

bowed down at the altar

of what you considered knowledge

started parsing yourself

thinking you had evolved

when you were devolving,

devaluing, devastating

You started playing with fire

and this time it burned

The ocean that used to kiss you

now floods the shoreline as it rises

and the air that used to fill your lungs

is too difficult to breathe

Your love was her degradation

and you both now wallow

in mutual destruction

Only until she had left

and now that she is gone

Do you stop looking down at your phone

awakened by the realities that exist

around you

She was the baobab,

grounded in her roots

and you watch not only her

but entire forests burn

around you

A swirling black hole of chaos

is what has become of this world

No hashtag will bring back

your girl

To read more about Aaliyah and other inspiring creatives from the world of Spoken Word, get a copy of the August issue of ELLE, on shelf now.

Photography: Themba Mbuyisa

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