Your aunt Sharice used bleaching cream.
Your mother explained what that was by saying,
“It’s when you set fire to yourself
so others will compliment the light of your burning.”
You didn’t understand this, until the day
a black girl cursed you dark skinned.
You learned that black wasn’t one color.
It had different degrees of shame.
Yours got you cornered in a playground
by bullies who kicked your face into the ground
just to prove how much your skin looked like dirt.
It was then you began to see the distance between each shade,
and why your aunt would want to crawl towards a lighter type of rejection.
One night in the bath, you tried to scrub your black off as though it was mud
that wouldn’t peel when it was picked on.
You put your hand under the hot tap to let it scald you clean.
But no amount of throbbing lit the dark in you.
When your mother asked about the burn,
you told her what the girl said and how you understood aunt Sharice.
What else can you do
when your darkness is so steep
No one wants to suffer you?
Your mother told you
that of all the tragic things you may suffer in this life,
your dark skin isn’t one of them.
There is nothing to mourn about black.
About Indigo Williams
Indigo Williams is a poet and spoken word educator based from south London. She is one of six poets who run a full time secondary school poetry programme in conjunction with Goldsmiths University. She is a co-founder of I Shape Beauty, a blog that interrogates current notions of beauty. Indigo has performed at TEDx Brixton, BBC Radio 4’s Bespoken Word, Glastonbur the 2012 winner of the New Generation slam.
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