Erica Caines’ “All In Love Is Fair” :: A Critique Of Sorts

Erica Ryan Caines

Words reside in my spirit, entangle my mind and captivate my imagination…I live for words. I live through words.



Every now and again a body of work comes across the Desk of Asylum that reminds me of those written works that initially sparked my own word wielding. What I liked most about this particular bit of inspiration is that it dealt with love. And yes, romantic love, eros. And I think the brilliance of Ms. Caines’ work is that she embodies it in such a fashion as it does not feel overly saturated and oozing with awkward sentiment. It does not read like a book of poems about a love I have never felt. The words reflect a love and an infatuation with a person like the ones I have felt. For that reason Erica’s writing stands out.


I do not want to cover every piece in her 71 paged book, you should do that for yourself! However, I do wish to highlight three of her poems. The book is divided into three sections of work. The first section is entitled,”Amor Incipit”, and here are the words of one the pieces from that section that stand out to me:


Erica Ryan Caines

A hidden interest only shared with the stale pages of a
long kept notebook
Desires I can’t ever seem to be able to overlook
My pen knows my thoughts all too well
Gossipping on yellow tinted pages, anxious to tell.


Details about the makings of you.
Your structured suits and silk ties in vast shades of
Your eyes; the clearest shade of brown


How my world seems to stop motion whenever you
come around
My pen and I tell those pages things we wouldn’t dare
share with anyone else
Those surreptitious moments I try to keep to myself.
Like the bit of joy I get from our everyday exchanges
and smile
Followed by a silent prayer for you to stay awhile
I could never let you know any of this, you see
So instead, this is a well kept secret between myself, my
pen and my diary



I enjoyed the wording here. Mainly the line,”the clearest shade of brown.” As a Black man, it is one of those details you don’t get to read often. Not too many people in my life have described my eyes as having a clear anything!!! I also was moved to draw a line under the words,”Gossiping on yellow tinted pages…”, which for me was just a great usage of framing in a space more prone to sentimental musings. I have never read or heard anyone considering their private writings in books dedicated to private writings as “gossiping”. But the notion is not lost on me either! It is a rich detail that I have grown fond of while reading Erica’s work.


Erica Ryan Caines

At the edge of a cliff staring at what’s awaiting not
scared of the results terrified of the journey vowing to
wait for me vowing to stay with me
I trust in your word.
A true feat.
I leap…
I fly against the breeze Arms stretched out, free-falling
Fear escapes me
Thoughts surround me Wondering if at this very
I feel what you feel.
Vowing to wait for me
Vowing to stay with me
I take comfort in your words
A true feat.
Only you, I agree to fall for No longer suspended in air
Suspended in this moment
No more anxiety
Safe…within love



Found in the second section of her book, entitled, “FreeFall,” is one of those poems I enjoyed due to the topic it dealt with and the manner in which it was dealt. In much of the poetry I have been exposed to, the issue of love, especially romantic love is such a binary. Here is a piece that deals with the middle ground, that flux, the initial stages of being vulnerable enough to let go. It is aptly titled by the metaphor and imagery of a free-fall. The risks of sacrificing one’s emotional space are depicted as the edge of a cliff, or at least that which one might meet staring down, anyway! And it resonates. I enjoy her logic here. The idea that love, yes, romantic love, can also be a choice. The poem’s clear statement through the vivid images is that the speaker is making a dedicated and conscious choice to trust someone(“I trust in your word”) and to release themselves, so to speak, into that trust. Which as the phrase “fall in love” is typically used to state the opposite. Normally, the idea of “falling in love” is this unconscious and overly emotional sentiment; yet, Erica invites us to view it as a choice, still a leap and “a true feat”, but a choice, nonetheless.


Erica Ryan Caines

He tried to be something he wasn’t
I tried to be something he wanted
Entrapped in lust,
Disheveled by love.
Love, such an awkward multifaceted term
A magic fix, something earned
Battered by the effort
Hypnotized by the comfort
Strangers dressed up as lovers
Raw emotion surfaces under covers
Passions streaming towards each other
Drawn to each other
Magnetic forces camouflaged as fate
A straining hardship to keep the faith
Nothing more than a lie…



In the last and final section of Erica’s “All In Love Is Fair”, “Amor Desinit”,she escorts us through the finality of a relationship, the bitterness, and the more than philosophical ruminations of exactly what “love” in its romantic notions–and possibly the romance itself– should be or might be. One of my favorite pieces in this section(I actually had a hard time picking one from this section–go figure), is entitled,”Fabrication”. In it, Erica’s opening lines work their way like a sharp glass clawing through my mental membranes.


“He tried to be something he wasn’t/I tried to be something he wanted”


It is a haunting depiction of a romantic entanglement, but like much of her writing in this book, it is aided by the comfort of resonance. The idea that I am attempting to stress about her work is just how blatant the economy of it is. After reading that first line, I wanted to say,”ouch” for the brother! No overly dramatic metaphor was needed there. Just an acute, candid, and well phrased insight. Her vulnerability is extended through this one as she admits to a romance based more on physical compatibility than that “awkward multifaceted term”. The title of the poem is given its double entendre quality by the expression,”Raw emotion surfaces under covers”. Fabric-ation indeed.


Erica Caine’s “Love” is not the fantasy romance poetry. It is not quasars and lofty metaphors built on space ships. It is the real thought process coded in the verbal economy of poetry of a Black Woman intentionally inviting a Black Man into her exclusive and protected emotional space. Even as a budding poet, this being her first collection of poetry to meet print, I still was put in the mind of Lucille Clifton while reading her work. Erica Caine is a witty, edgy, honest, and serious poet. I have thoroughly enjoy interacting with her words in this collection.

Fucking Up Royally – A Love Story –

What is it about a woman? From their outer beauty to the characteristics that make them who they are, women always have a way of catching the attention of anyone with eyes. The type of attitude that they possess and the style that choose to express creates many thoughts inside of a man’s mind.

Enough of the obvious..

I’ve always had a problem with women. Since I was young, I always was attracted to older women. However, it was the younger ones who always ended up capturing my heart. I like to compare women to art; they’re masterpieces. Thus, this is where the problem comes in for me. My ex once told me that I was dramatic and I love attention. She told me that I need someone who can always hold my attention, because I am quick to go after something new. I couldn’t disagree with her, because it is true. There’s nothing like a woman who looks good, smells good, and is good at what she does. If you know what I mean.

I had a masterpiece, but I was too busy checking out all the other exhibits in the gallery. Now hindsight is a muhfucka. Hindsight can show you exactly who you were, how you were, and what you were. Unless one is seriously delusional or just in denial, one cannot deny the fact of what their own pasts provides. When I say this, I mean that a person’s past is filled with all of their own thoughts, words, and actions. When I look at my pasts, I see self-inflicted pain. I was a happy child and I smile and laughed a lot, but I had plenty of dark moments. Inside of those dark moments is where I found a lot of my strength. However, those same dark moments are the ones that produced ways that aren’t always the brightest of ideas.

Growing up, I loved chicks. I just didn’t trust them. Being from Detroit, you are apart of a specific type of culture. Fashion plays a big role in that culture and not having the means to participate in shopping sprees made it hard for the girls to want you. Sure, clothes aren’t everything, but try telling that to someone who believes otherwise. Once I got to high school, I was able to afford to get the desirable fashions. However, I was still holding on to the pain of rejection.

Everyone has some type of insecurity. Not everyone deals with the root of those issues. Being in a relationship, while not handling insecurity issues, can create so much unnecessary stress. I think I put my ex through more stress than I have put anyone else through. That’s not something you do with someone you love. I mean, stress kills! My love for women and my need to prove that I could get that woman’s attention was always a problem. I’m a natural flirt. I love to hold conversations and I love to make people laugh. Whenever you flirt, there is always something else occuring underneath the flattering words and the interaction. At times, the flirting would escalate to so much more. At the end of the day though, I knew who I loved. At least I thought I did.

The pain of losing a woman that you truly adore can be one of the most unbearable feelings to have to experience. It’s like wishing that the Sun would rise, but knowing that tomorrow will never come. No matter how much I tried, winning her back was never the final result. That shit crushes an ego and goes straight past the heart and touches the soul. At least, that’s what I felt. Yet, this was my own self-inflicted pain. It was, partly, caused by having unresolved issues that manifested in wanting to prove that I wouldn’t get rejected.

I look at life like a game of Chess; I am the King and my life is my board. Now, in Chess, the King isn’t the most powerful piece, the Queen is. The Queen protects the King. Also, there is another Queen and King on that same board. Trying to go after the other Queen can be very detrimental, especially if you aren’t too good at playing the game. I was so attracted to countless other Queens that I allowed myself to lose sight of the very one who had my back, the one that was protecting me. In the end, all I got was a lesson that stuck with me to this day: Treat your woman how she deserves to be treated or you will lose her.

This King fucked up Royally, but the game isn’t over yet.

Are Midwest Black Men Better At Relationships Than Mid-Atlantic Ones?

Not always sure how to articulate my feelings regarding topics that can either tickle an eureka response, or become the reason for yet another sixty-six blocks to the Owl’s Asylum Twitter account. Considering that particular hesitance and the dire need to qualify each statement in this modern age’s art of political correctness, the task of writing about Afkan (Afrikan-Amerikkkan) male and female (can I write ‘female’ there and not be written off before execution?) relationships can be daunting. As a disclaimer, I can only write from my perspective. My perspective should be defined as my experiences, my observations, my analysis, and my opinion. The key word there in case you missed the oh so awkward use of repetition is ‘my’. Carrying on…


Relationships of complete organic design can be filled with surplus tensions that cause the bond to become brittle. Western psychology and Freud’s specific thoughts on incest aside, even mother and son relationships can be tumultuous. This is not to compare that naturally configured coupling to the romantic sort, yet it is to say, it takes work at some point to keep people operating together. People meet with one set of concerns and desires, and later on evolve or devolve with new considerations and motivations. Relationships take work.


If I might beg your pardon for one important digression.


Continue reading “Are Midwest Black Men Better At Relationships Than Mid-Atlantic Ones?”

How to Teach Your Daughter Not to be a damn Sucker to Men

This is a post from our Asylum contributor, Charming Jerk. You can follow him here on Twitter.


    It’s easy for a baby girl to turn a grown man into the most nurturing creature ever known, right behind a woman, whenever it lies within its father’s embrace.


    A man is supposed to equip their child with the most appropriate tools to carry them from childhood until the depths of adulthood. Normally, when you think of the above statement, one may think about the perspective of a farther vs. a son. However, what if the son is actually a daughter?

Father and Daughter

Daddy’s Little Girl. Everyone knows the saying. With that commonly heard phrase comes so many trials and tribulations, the one triumph that a father could only ask for would be: Raising a daughter who isn’t a sucker to any man.

It starts from the very beginning

A father (well at least a man who upholds his part of the obligations between a father and his daughter) wants his baby girl to understand that he will always be there for her. Although, he cannot either physically or mentally be therefor her, he desperately attempts to at least compensate in every area that he can.

    As time progresses, baby girl will have her share of disappointments. She will have her moments where she’d prefer not to be in the presence of her father or prefer for him not to be in her presence. With that in mind, understand that ANY GIVEN SITUATION can arise. Along that infinite list of possibilities, one possibility lurks in the darkness of the unfathomable: Your daughter doing the unthinkable for men.

Fast Forward to This Very Moment

    Although I am not qualified to speak from the perspective of a man who has a daughter, since

A ) I don’t have a daughter

2 ) I don’t have any children


Furthermore, ALL OF THE ABOVE,

I do possess the ingenuity and audacity to tackle that thought, topic, discussion, and reality.

    In my humblest of opinions, I recognize the issue(s) that women juggle, as well as women in training; baby girls. From dealing with an abundant amount of women throughout my 20s, college years, and some of my high school years, I’ve encountered a variety of different personality types. Underneath these accumulated experiences dwelled an inner child that yearned for her father to be what he was designed to be… a father.

    Also, I’ve been a counselor, teacher, male figure, black male figure, big brother figure, as well as a father figure to hundreds of young girls during my days as an adult. Looking into the eyes of those youthful wonders allowed me to participate in the cultivation of intelligent, classy, graceful, fearless, talented, young girls. Although, I’ve worked with the same ratio of young boys, there is a certain distinction that must be acknowledged and practiced with dealing with the separate genders.

Here are my key ingredients on How to Teach Your DaughterNot to be a damn Sucker to Men:

  1. Be honest with your daughter.

Nobody likes a liar, including women. When a father lies to his daughter and she KNOWS that he lied to her, all of her feelings are crushed at that moment. MEANING: Any other male is able to fill that void at the moment.

  1. Discipline your daughter.

Although it may hurt you to hurt your daughter’s feelings, it is better to teach her now than to have her be taught later. MEANING: If you don’t instruct your daughter on the ways of men, she will depend on another man to expose her to these ways.

  1. Love your daughter.

All children need love. However, the love a father provides to a daughter has its own unique function. A mother can only teach a daughter so much. It took a man to help create her; it takes a man to help raise her. MEANING: If there is an inadequate amount of love, she will search for it, inevitably, in the wrong places.

  1. Respect your daughter’s privacy.

Everyone is entitled to some privacy. Although it may depend on how one decides to define the word “privacy”, it is safe to conclude that we all have a degree of right to our own of privacy. MEANING: If she is taught that her privacy can be invaded, she could end up allowing it to continue to be invaded.

  1. Communicate with your daughter.

Women love to tell you how they feel. Even when not saying anything, they are showing you how they feel. If you don’t communicate with your daughter, you could miss vital information that could save your daughter. A lot of men tend to leave the communication to the mother. They tell the mother what they think and expect the daughter to learn that way, in fear of offending their precious baby girl. Or, they could be silent, abusive, absent, or any other negative form of communication, with their daughter, that leads to her reacting in a not so appreciative manner. MEANING: If you don’t talk to your daughter, somebody else will. However, what they may be communicating to her could be the most dreaded thing you could ever imagine for her.


Let’s be realistic

There is no possible way that I could ever break it down to “Five Simple Rules” to guarantee that your daughter won’t end up on the list of some immature, too smart for their own good, misguided, sex-crazed man’s list of conquests. There are a multitude of variables that have to be taken into consideration and there are many other parts of the formula that may have been ignorantly left out. However, my point is not to break it down to the minutest of particles, my mission was to raise the conversation. If we, I’m speaking to all the men, aren’t there for our daughters, we allow the percentage of unforgiving acts of deprived women to skyrocket. I am merely attempting to establish some grounds to regain balance.

In conclusion, I leave you with these words: Fathers, be a Man & Men, be a Father. Do what’s right. Take responsibility and do what is commanded of you from the echoes of eternity, help raise our girls into women. Nothing more, Nothing less.