by Reva Santo

An Empath's Poem


In my body

I feel the whole world 

It makes me nauseous 

my liquids vaporize

my body changes

my skin runs hot

my lips go dry 

When the world mourns

I feel it in my rib cage

and in my teeth

and in my solar plexus

and I seek to be held,

          because I hold

And that hold is

too much 

          for one body

So I ask of you, universe


          will you carry me?

I do not wish to ask

my ancestors

          to bear the weight

nor my non existent lover

nor the people whom I love

but it is also too much

          too much to ask

                    of this one human body

my eyes droop shut

my throat parched

my skin cracks

my stomach heaves

ocean, yemanja


          take it, hold it

so that I do not turn to ash

                    and float away. 

Truths Spill From My Tongue 

Truths spill off my tongue

in coded language

that people cannot understand 

nor are they ready for 

A furrowed brow

at being misunderstood

and unseen

and I sink myself deeper

into the shadows

because who cares

if they can't see me anyway? 

I will re-emerge stronger, 

I swear

and this time I won't

be so afraid

of making no damn sense

or of showing off my 

little belly pouch

or of having bags

beneath my eyes

this time I won't be so ashamed

of how many times

I look over my left shoulder

to feel safe

green foam spills onto the page

and I feel the urge

to dye my whole

head blonde

just so that people will recognize the differences

did you know?

that I have a thing with necks

did you know

that I am afraid to be touched

that once I cried 

an usually I flinch

and often I hold myself 

in fear

did you know 

that it was probably me

who slit my own throat

and maybe I carry

the shame of it.


I wake up in a bed of flowers. 

I did not dream because I did not rest. 

Last night I wept for my love, 

for she is lost

I wept for all those who have lost, 

which is to say, everyone

Everyone is lost, everyone has lost something

I want to spread my legs and 

stretch open the pain

that lives in my solar plexus

and makes my bowels weak

I have been so afraid to let the tears fall 

I have buried them deep. 


A leak drips inside of me

Almost imperceptible

Until, overflow. 

Water washes down my sides

I weep I weep and I weep

For me for her for us. For the motherless children, the childless mothers, the loverless lovers, the Earth, which we have forgotten to love. Our own bodies which we have forgotten to love. God which we have forgotten to love...God which we have forgotten to love. Does God exist after the Earth crumbles? Will we kill our spirit if we kill her? I this a layered death? 

Why do we love?

I asked myself again and again, 

and I really could not answer the question, 

but with shit I'm supposed to say

supposed to believe

but feels


"...I believe that anxiety brings messages to the body, and that part of healing requires looking at those difficult feelings and examining them closely. To me, the ability to look closely at the most painful wounds is a form of liberation and resistance, particularly when considering intergenerational or inherited trauma and how that lives in our bodies. As an extreme empath, artist, and writer, I often find myself saturated in inherited sensations of both pleasure and pain. This collection is a confrontation with the painful parts, wanting to delve deeper into the shadow, and affirm it in order to no longer be held captive by it. Over the past few months, I have come to see the shadow as the means of understanding the possibility of light." 

Reva Santo is a multi-media artist and storyteller. She graduated in Film Studies from Columbia University, where she was awarded the Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts for her script Ash(é), and the Henry Evans Travel Fellowship to conduct arts-based research in the Caribbean. In 2019, she launched Honey & Smoke, a transnational artist community and hub, as an extension of her belief that art has the ability to deeply shift consciousness. Built on three pillars: Sweet, Ancestral, and Nomadic, Honey & Smoke meditates on the important themes of our time through deliberate art space. 


Reva’s work pinpoints the emotional pulse of issues faced by marginalized communities and creates space to imagine new possibilities for the world. She is particularly interested in diasporic stories that heal ancestral traumas, and re-connect subjects to lost practices and histories. A practitioner of the Yoruba tradition of Ifa, Reva’s creative practice is predicated on an understanding that she is a continuation of her ancestors greatest struggles, desires, and dreams. Of Afro-Brazilian and Jewish heritage, Reva was born in Los Angeles and has also lived in New York City, Havana, Cuba, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.


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