Today in English class we talked about
Hair and skin and race
But mostly African-Americans
I grit my teeth as I betrayed myself
I did not say black
And so I erased myself
My twist-out was heavy on my head
First success paired with eyeliner
Blacker than me and truer.
I rolled my sleeves back down
As if that would hide my everything
Too late, she’s seen me bite my lip
And she sees through my stubborn straight face
She knows I’m not ok
An “interesting” point was made
About the expectations of assimilation
Straight hair and pale skin
My fingers closed around nothing
Refusing to reach for nothing
Nothing worth having at least
An angry flicker deafens me
From hearing what they say next
African American. African American.
Poor African Americans.
They’re expected to be white
Maybe then they’ll be pretty
But I’m not African American
If I straighten and I lighten
Is there a chance in hell for me?
Maybe in this english class and elsewhere
I just don’t count.