Ayana Koduah

Little Black Girl

Twelve years old,

 first day of school,

burn marks on my chest.

I told a story,

that included a science lab

and a chemical spill.

Didn’t include me

religiously appyling bleaching cream

beaming with pride,

from a compliment

on how light I was becoming,

how acceptable i was becoming.

Little girl,

women that look like your mother will tell you

black girls don’t play in the sun.

You will fail their paper bag test,

they will tell you,

you’re the bad version of themselves.

you will spend days

bleaching your skin to perfection.

Little girl smile,

the sun is beating its gold into your skin.

On the day you relax your hair

It will smell like you’re burning.

Beauty is pain

you’ll tuck into your screams

Remembering all the broken combs.

Your body will still

For years, beauty will mean burn marks on your scalp.

Little girl,

your hair is a tree,

Growing to the sun,

Don’t tame it.

Nine years old,

your mother will sit in your classroom

spoon feeding you lunch,

you stopped eating

Because

your thighs rubbed together,

Your butt never fits into anything

fat felt like something disgusting to be.

You will learn,

not everyone is built like the magazine.

Little black girl,

on the day your hips widen and

 your breast protrude,

coming into being a women

your every action will be deemed promiscuous.

Men who look like your father

will now find your sex attractive.

Wrapping themselves into your broken places.

Whispering words that feel like glue

 but They will tell you they find you hard to love.

So treat your body like a temple

and start to call this temple home.

For there will be men who will love your hard parts to cotton candy,

And teach you to love things that make you love yourself.

Little black girl,

on the day they ask you what you want to be,

free is something valid to want to be.

So be.

You can find the mole hill

make it into a mountain

climb it to the clouds

and free yourself.

for all the things you call escape,

little black girl be yourself

with a spirit that’s

stoking a fire

your breathing will sometimes feel like a burning furnice

you will walk this road alone

You will find yourself in the rumble of it all.

You will dust yourself off.

You will love your broken pieces whole.

You will bask in the sun and find your glow.

hold your head high!

its your battle cry,

you’re just a warrior in the making.

 And know,

if I were to die and come again

a little black girl is what I hope i’d be

Cause falling in love with me is the happiest i’ve ever been.

Ayana is an Afro-Guyanese poet. She is a pen hoarder,  tea enthusiast and circle skirt aficionado currently residing in New York. She was an Urban Word Grand Slam Finalist and has performed on many noteworthy stages including The Apollo Theatre and Bowery poetry club. Her forthcoming chapbook “Cassava Bread and Pepperpot” is a response to the current state of human affairs, her running home to self-love and healing, her preparation for a fight. You can find her ogling at your local flora, humming off beat or people watching on the J.