Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha perform “Hello Beautiful”


Hello beautiful
Who you looking at like that?
I don't know why you keep looking at me like that.
Girl, I don't know why
You don't Let the corners of your mouth curl and point to the sky
And who are you looking at you with those old ugly eyes
Trying to tell me those little ugly lies
About how we not pretty enough
How our hair is too short and how our features are too strong and rough
I swear you need to get your eyes checked
Because here you go again with that same old mess
About how she look better and how you like her hair
But don't you think they’re saying the same thing when they look in the mirror

Blah blah blah, I heard it all before
You don't like our eyes, our nose, our cheekbones and your lips for sure
And don't even get me started on my pimples and blackheads
I wish mom would just get me some Proactive like the other kids
Then my skin would look better and everyone would tell me how cute I am
Snap out of it, when did hating our gifts become a part of the plan?

You think that you want to be like her
But she is just doing the same thing she saw somebody else do
The flyest thing of all is just you being you
So just smile because you can't be number two
Because there is only one you
So let's make a pact and agree
That when you look in the mirror from now on
You will be amazed at all the beauty you see
When you look at me: I want you to see
My face as a priceless jewel
A full sunflower, peach blossom in bloom

I want you to see all the marks of beauty that make me unique
Gaze at my features stroll your fingers down my cheek
See the rainbow that are my eyebrows, right above the roses that our my eyes
And in the middle of my coronation and lily cheeks is my lotus flower for a nose
While my mouth is as beautiful as jasmine and ginger
See my smile, notice I no longer have 2 lips
I have tulips, orchids and daises
I know to see me this way for the first time is amazing

But we’re in this together: me and you
And if you forever see the beauty in me, I'll forever show the beauty in you
When you look at me
I want you to smile and want to take a selfie
So when you greet me tomorrow morning and say hello beautiful
I won't be surprised
I'll just know you now you see the beautiful flower you are on the inside

From Our Work, Our Words… Poems on the pavement (Meja Books, 2015) Copyright © 2015 by Twin Poets. Used with permission of the Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha.

we let our hair down.  It wasn't so much that we 
worried about what people thought or about keeping it real 
but that we knew this was our moment. We knew we'd blow our cool
sooner or later.  Probably sooner.  Probably even before we 
got too far out of Westmont High and had kids of our own who left
home wearing clothes we didn't think belonged in school.

Like Mrs. C. whose nearly unrecognizably pretty senior photo we  
passed every day on the way to Gym, we'd get old.   Or like Mr. Lurk 
who told us all the time how it's never too late

to throw a Hail Mary like he did his junior year and how we
could win everything for the team and hear the band strike 
up a tune so the cheer squad could sing our name, too. Straight

out of a Hallmark movie, Mr. Lurk's hero turned teacher story.  We
had heard it a million times. Sometimes he'd ask us to sing
with him, T-O-N-Y-L-U-R-K Tony Tony Lurk Lurk Lurk. Sin

ironia, con sentimiento, por favor, and then we
would get back to our Spanish lessons, opening our thin
textbooks, until the bell rang and we went on to the cotton gin

in History. Really, this had nothing to do with being cool. We
only wanted to have a moment to ourselves, a moment before Jazz
Band and after Gym when we could look in the mirror and like it. June

and Tiffany and Janet all told me I looked pretty. We
took turns saying nice things, though we might just as likely say, Die
and go to hell.  Beauty or hell. No difference. The bell would ring soon.

With thanks to "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks

Copyright © 2014 by Camille Dungy. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 14, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

At two a.m., without enough spirits
spilling into my liver to know 
to keep my mouth shut, my youngest
learned of years I spent inside a box: a spell,
a kind of incantation I was under; not whisky,
but History: I robbed a man. This, months
before he would drop bucket after bucket
on opposing players, the entire bedraggled
bunch five & six & he leaping as if
every lay-up erases something. That’s how
I saw it, my screaming-coaching-sweating
presence recompense for the pen. My father
has never seen me play ball is part of this.
My oldest knew, told of my crimes by
a stranger. Tell me we aren’t running
towards failure is what I want to ask my sons,
but it is two in the a.m. The oldest has gone off
to dream in the comfort of his room, the youngest
despite him seeming more lucid than me,
just reflects cartoons back from his eyes.
So when he tells me, Daddy it’s okay, I know
what’s happening is some straggling angel,
lost from his pack finding a way to fulfill his
duty, lending words to this kid who crawls
into my arms, wanting, more than stories
of my prison, the sleep that he fought while
I held court at a bar with men who knew
that when the drinking was done,
the drinking wouldn’t make the stories
we brought home any easier to tell.

From Felon. Copyright © 2019 by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Used by permission of the author.

(for Stephon Clark’s grandmother)

shave your face. a haircut
even. kiss your kids. your
partner. your parents. tell
them you listened. you kissed
their asses like you were
taught. kissed their asses and
still. walk. or run. don’t
matter. glue your identification
to your forehead. wrap yourself
in the flag. hand over heart. hit 
the high note. hide your slang 
under your tongue. delete
your profile. scrub the net. clean 
your blood. prepare your body 
for peepholes no one 
will ever peer into.

Copyright © 2018 by Jason Reynolds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

on the days the dark is vanta vicious
enough to swallow whole every holy
thing like my mother and the stigmata
she bleeds from a totem of raising black

on the days the cold is cold as all get out but
there’s no place to get in when even breath is
blade and hurts to think of thinking of breathing
let alone laughing

on the days I feel frayed and ‘fraid ripped
and torn from the lot plucked from family
and ‘nem and even myself sometimes my
name is the name of a stranger

my face still the face in the hole of a
hoodie just snatched out my own world
never mine and dragged and scraped
across the rough textured parts of this
being alive thing

i’m reminded of what it feels
like to have my head alight to
have it catch fire and blaze-lick
high above me and all this

i’m reminded to return to the truth that oh
yeah me my little self a match my little
self a cardboard cutout might could burn
this whole so-called kingdom down

Copyright © 2020 by Jason Reynolds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 28, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.