Poem by Ayesha Kajee

Gymnast extraordinaire Simone Biles, the world’s most decorated gymnast, had the courage to pull out of the first week of the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, citing mental health issues. She returned in week two to clinch a bronze medal in the women’s balance beam event.  After the event she said, “We’re not just entertainment, we’re humans… And there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with as well, on top of sports.”  This poem is a response to that statement and her medal win in the face of the criticism she faced after deciding to withdraw from the other 4 events. Among her critics were Piers Morgan and the Texas Deputy AG, and some of the criticism was, not unexpectedly, thinly veiled racism.

for Simone Biles


Human – not merely entertainment 

  • not just a push-the-limits event

making the improbable possible 

to assuage your jingoism you’ll be

applauding my tensile black body

other times your eyes mute me transmute me 

into less than – mindless soulless beast 


Human – not precision-timed clock cuckoo

  • newsflash, machines malfunction too

extreme pressure blows gaskets, double pikes

even machines need downtime sometime

to replace a cog, grease and realign

now this pained miracle machine of mine

pulled short by spirit stretched far too tight


Human – not a prancing dancing goliath

  • or court jester cuffed to compliance 

by public edict for a nation’s gratification

not owned nor leashed, just somebody worthy

of empathy, human is all I ask that you see 

ask that you be, even as I gather in return to the melee

shower you, me, us with argent and bronze glory


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