On Beauty

I.

one morning you woke up to your reflection in the mirror
and called it stranger.
you saw in your eyes what is said on your birth certificate,
for once, dark brown meant golden rivers,
meant fields of gold, meant the earth
queens have walked on, meant
beauty.
so you turned from the mirror and blinked,
attempted to readjust yourself to the color of nothingness.
turned back to your reflection,
called it empty.

II.

you find there are other ways to make yourself bleed.
instead of carving intricate designs, you start to buy them,
try poking holes instead of slashing veins.
you allowed someone else to go through you.
your nose will always look too wide to you,
wide like the arms of a coat hanger
you hang too many jackets upon,
wide like a room
you put too much furniture inside,
wide like the universe
who is tired of expanding.

III.

you wear the blood of your ancestors on your lips to bring the diaspora closer to your tongue.
here, you can keep it hidden
but it has its own ways of creeping out
in ragtime rhythms between the gaps in your teeth.
you’ll forget to use “am” and start using “be”
you’ll forget to use “be” and start using “am”
so you will fit on tongues far pinker than yours–
this will make you easier to swallow.
keep that mouth closed,
lips too full for your own good,
lips like hips lips that spread lips are red lips that said
you are too
much ugly
for one girl
to swallow.

IV.

this skin means nothing
this skin means sin
this skin means kin
this skin means
in. this skin is death
this skin is tired of being
this skin. you’re tired of being
your skin is tired of being
your skin.
you are tired of being your skin.
you are tired of being. you
are tired of you.

V.

you thought long hair would make you feel pretty but now you’ve got something new to hide behind.
sometimes you don’t eat much, just force feed packs of hair onto your own until you start to believe you show the beginning signs of acute arthritis–
like hatred, this runs in your family,
soaking through a lineage,
keep it saturated,
keep it moisturized.
too caught up in the pursuit of nappyness, you briefly felt empowered
like the twists atop your head were rope from Wonder Woman’s lasso,
as if they didn’t form a noose,
as if that noose didn’t get tighter every time you saw a white girl complaining about her hair
as if her beauty hadn’t been packaged to you since the dawn of time
as if your’s
was none existent.
there is a science to becoming.
first, start to believe that you’re dirty,
filthy,
unwanted. let this soak down to your pores,
let the internalized racism take over your melanin.
next, rinse the manic panic nightmares from your scalp.
watch the bottom of the shower flood with dandruff suds and begin again anew.
tabula rasa–a clean slate.
finally,
reincarnate the hate. your low self esteem is a cycle that spirals more and more out of control with each generation. it is not phosphate free. you took the whip into your own hands but you’ve always been inclined towards self destruction and with every one lash you must
repeat
repeat
repeat.

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