Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


This Body

This Body

SKIN: NOUN
1. Sensitive. Dry
See Dove soap, Oil of Olay, shea butter.
See middle school pimples plumping up 
the night before picture day.
Always on the chin or nose.

2. Dark. See Slave. See Negro.
See age 7. See yourself
playing on the playground
when a white girl says,
you must eat a lot of chocolate
since your skin so brown.

HAIR: NOUN
1. See assimilation.
See smoke from the hot comb crocheting the air,
burning a sacred incense.
See your momma parting your hair, brining iron to nap,
“Hold your ear baby,” she tells you.
So she can press Africa out.
When Black girls ask, “Is it real?” Say yes.
When white girls ask, “Can I touch it?” Say no.

2. See natural. Reference Angela Davis,
Dorothy Pitman Hughes.
Comb yours out. Twist yours like black licorice,
like the lynching rope
used on your ancestors’ necks.
Let it hang
free.

HIPS: NOUN
1. Reference Lucille Clifton and every other big girl
who knows how to work a Hula-Hoop.
See Beyoncé. Dance like her in the mirror.
Do not be afraid of all your powers.

2. You will not fit in
most places. Do not
bend, squeeze, contort yourself.
Be big, brown girl.
Big wide smile.
Big wild hair.
Big wondrous hips.
Brown girl, be.

Credit


About this Poem


From Watch Us Rise (Bloomsbury, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Renée Watson. Reprinted by permission of the author. 

Author


Renée Watson

Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and community activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor.

Date Published: 2019-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/body