“For a Black Girl”
When you hear the words “for a black girl”
you probably think of nothing at all…
you live the violence
that is suffering in silence
nothing wrong with those words
crosses your mind
because you can’t see the boys
who ruined my birthday
by making monkey noises at us
to chase me out of their town
I only ran the half mile
back to my house
Their town was my town
but their curl pattern
don’t cast no doubts
you can’t see the hot combs
that rip away my ancestry
to make me the most European
I can be.
Because all I’ll ever be to you,
is a black girl.
You think of black excellence
I see black oppression
you say I’m angry
I say sitting silent is a black girl’s first lesson
you say everything I do
is good “for a black girl”
because you don’t like that I’m smarter than you.
My people go to Harvard
you scream of affirmative action
we gotta be billionaires
to gain white traction
and I work my fingers to the bone
on stubs of pencils
to say any word
that I don’t want crowded out by my melanin.
and once my pigment
is tied to my paper
my first place becomes second
because I’m only good for a black girl.
My momma was silver in every beauty pageant
because they refused to give gold
to someone with more color in their skin
than hatred in their heart.
And I lay out before you
like the corpses of my ancestors
the comebacks to all the comments
I let slide,
my skin is not made of caramel
and no you cannot lick me
I’m not the monkey
if you’re the one screeching like an ape
and telling me not to worry
if slavery comes back
because your family will buy me
gives me no comfort at all jackass
It gives me flashbacks to black past
My ancestor’s only allies where mules
They said we were genetically fools
The fact that even the fiction of that
works out in your mind
shows you have no problem
viewing me as property.
The fact that you think putting me in chains
is kind, shows me
that you can’t see my humanity.
The fact that 40% of sex trafficking survivors are black
is a statistic you’ve never heard
shows that society doesn’t think my body belongs to me.
I’m pretty for a black girl
And just because my soul isn’t cased
in alabaster skin
you think you have the right
to take it for your own.
I’m pretty for a black girl
because black girls have black kids
and white momma’s don’t see grandbabies
I’m pretty for a black girl
because your internalized racism
let’s you feel less bad
when we’re on the wrong end of
Gun metal grey and dark days don’t make change
Bodies hang in loops and gang bangs the fruits strange
Everyday we wade through the KKK’s meadow
and we know it never stops so we wait for dust to settle
We breathe rhythm and poetry and they still say its ghetto
All my people have hypoxia
from holding their breath
and waiting for the bullets to fly
Our bodies lie in basements on the daily
but no news papers plaster
if it’s a black girl baby.
Black kids don’t get Amber alerts
because nobody cares
if it’s Latoya or Chiffon.
You think of nothing
when you say the phrase for a black girl
because you don’t see the crazy going on
You call me black girl into my thirties
because you don’t think
I’ll live long enough to be a woman
you take your ignorance to the streets
because you don’t see the storm that’s coming
I’m beautiful for any girl
and that’s never gonna change
until the day you finally
get me back where you want me,
It’s a funny thing being born.
We treat it as a definitive statement.
We ponder every possible path
but that’s one thing we never lament
we’re all born.
Somewhere to someone
who carried us for about nine months
and that one person,
will always know
where we came from.
But that’s where this starts to get complicated
things get blurry as we get less concentrated
we zoom out on the camera of history
and like the smallest part of cells
the microscopic organelles
once you zoom far enough
they just disappear.
But they’re still here,
we’re still here.
My story goes back centuries
but I only see three generations
my culture is calamity
and far away nations
my blood bleeds into endless cotton fields
of empty stalks on family trees.
My ancestry was lost
in chains and boats across the seas
Am I aristocracy?
Do I belong to a great nation?
What if my black girl magic
is just cultural appropriation?
My genes are on a selfish streak
and decided to abstain
from sharing what runs in my veins
with my desperate brain
I never know if my identity
is more than just a guise
all I have to go off
is a fro and slanted eyes
my recipe remains a mystery
And as I grow and die
I crave any bit of history that takes the question out of I.
I want the glittery grains of broken past
that cut me deep like broken glass
to hold tightly in my hand
but the powerful don’t care
as long as their world we understand
We are all dying and degrading
every second till we’re dead
from the moment we’re born
to exist in our head.
Like history melting into the ground that we tread
the only stories that survive are the ones we all read
but the only ones I want to hear are the ones we left unsaid.
1770 the start of revolution
Phillis Wheatley slung syllables
and send her slavers absolution
but she’s lost to the grind of time
to the Bible of brilliant black women
with its withering spine
we regret to remember an astonishing mind
because her symphonic synapses
sulked beyond sepia skin.
Who am I but a fibre in the hive mind of history
Praying for a fighting chance
to outwit the sophistry
that the victors imbed every textbook with
I wish to untwist the thread
every fact from myth
but no matter how hard I try
my textbooks lack melanin.
If not a slave then a felon
And can’t find my future
if I don’t know my past.
I am a black woman
as the standardized test said
but who knows if my genes
bleed black white or red
I talk about melanin
but I haven’t much to spare
the only strand that ties me to my people
lyes in the coils of my hair.
How do I identify when my blood is an enigma
My pigment is more akin to unbleached paper
I cried the day my white best friend
came home from vacation
and she was darker than me.
That year I swore
to go as a strong black woman from history.
And I did
from C.J. to Colvin
through my mismatched shades
I was truly emboldened
cause we forget Claudette
but we all remember Rosa
and I wanted to make a change.
In the corner of my mind
I felt if others remembered
God would tell me who I was in exchange.
I know more about the world
than what’s beneath my own skin
it’s easier to look out
than comprehend what’s within.
When I was younger
I ripped love stories out of my fantasy books
I would hunger for pages with different outlooks
I prayed for paper
That didn’t pierce my eyes
With its hopeless heteronormativity
I saw each stolen kiss as a vice
I made peace with a loveless life
but now these vices feel like virtues
I learned that love shouldn’t hurt you
that I was looking for love in the wrong places
In the wrong hearts
I never found perfect symmetry
Because I searched for soulmates in parts
Now my stolen kisses
slip through pruned fingertips
My sublime wishes
Melt like acid drips
because society only cares
about the pieces that show in the shower
Bright eyes bring bitter skies
when you tell a butterfly not to love a flower
We swarm like bees to honey
soul to soul yin to yang
but They don’t listen when our spirits screech
or when our bodies hang
But as sure as the cocoon
the butterfly does break free
So I’m gonna tell you what love is to me
Love is a library
it seems old and lonely and blue
but there’s always a little corner
that belongs just to you.
Love isn’t a lie
or a noble truth
It’s not just a scam shrouded in youth
Love is a right
When it’s denied
It’s a prison
Love is always there
Even when they won’t listen.
Love is holding someone as they slowly break down
Always knowing that one day
they’ll hit the ground
Love is knowing the dark
comes back after the buzz
Love is praying they don’t kill themselves
before the Molly does
Love is alone in a room full of people
because your heart is a million miles away
Love is only one way glass
because their heart never decides to stay
Love is Blood watered flowers
and cold tiled showers
and two mugs
two of everything,
Love is someone
That, even when they’re gone,
will always be there
No matter the form that love may take
no matter the heart that love may break
Death Is The Camera Man
89 years is 89 lifetimes
millions of minds
melt to brain matter
vacant of life,
but you don’t know this
when you are born.
Death follows like a guardian angel
and it is
in its own right
because in cloaks of black
it gifts you wings of white
His eye is lense
his mind, in empty skull is camera
I am death
I am camera
I have been watching you
since roofs of white
and pleated shorts
and cropped hair
I have been watching you
since shriveled skin
and lungs that breathe no air,
I have been watching
since before you knew
you were there.
I watch the microevolution
that turns boy into man
just as fledgling turns to butterfly
is one step closer
to returning to my grasp
I watched as wrinkles crested
upon once fresh skin
I watched as virtue became a symbol of the past.
I watched as fresh sin blossomed
in youthful heart
and you consumed the poison fruit of white-collar
I watched as life fled mothering eyes
and you knew that answers are lost upon a scholar
I watched you.
I watched siblings take shape in humanity
and become separated from the blood that ties
I watched as family lost words
that connected once before
and summon the strength of goodbyes
I watched the covenant be bestowed upon you
I kissed the preachers robes
that adorn you
and I watched your fellow men drop like flies
I saw you search for answers in textbooks,
when you swore to search for faith in skies.
I saw you.
I know you were alone.
You are always alone
I’ve seen you live this pain in every life before
I’ll watch you fight this battle
a million times more
your egg is a universe
you are surrounded by yourself all the same.
I have watched you
I will watch you
I am the Revelation
I am the mother.
And you will be god.
Alora Young is a sophomore at Hillsboro High School. She is a poet, novelist, and the poetry editor of her school’s newspaper, “The Burro Underground.” She lives in Nashville, TN with her family. This is her first publication.