JP Howard

What to Say to a Friend Who Wants to Give Up

Say I love you, even when you can’t love yourself.
Say please, please not today,
Say too much life unlived.
Say mirror, say beautiful,
Say this arm, take this arm,
Say grab, say hold, say let tears fall,
Say tears heal, say forgive your mama,
Say she did the best she could.
Say tomorrow, say sleep,
Say split second, split the seconds,
Say let the seconds turn into days,
Say today, say tomorrow, say sun.
Say warm, say skin,
Say warm skin, say sunlight,
Say new day, say breathe,
Say inhale, say exhale.
Say not today baby girl,
Say so much life to live,
Say love, say I love you.
Say hold on, hold on to love.


First published in HIV Here & Now and SAY/MIRROR


JP Howard’s debut poetry collection, SAY/MIRROR (The Operating System)was a 2016 Lambda Literary finalist. She is also the author of bury your love poems here (Belladonna*). JP is a featured author in Lambda Literary’s LGBTQ Writers in Schools program and was a Split this Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism finalist. JP has received fellowships from Cave Canem, VONA, and Lambda. JP curates Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon and is Editor-at-Large at Mom Egg Review online. JP’s poetry is widely anthologized. She holds a BA from Barnard College and an MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York.