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Ariana Jul 6
I am 6 years old
it’s Christmas again and I pretend
I’m not excited.
My fingers are sticky and the house
smells like cinnamon, till my family drifts in releasing the scent through the open front door. Polite blather gives way to the deep roar
of a man’s laugh, he says,
“Santa’s not black.”
Eyes dart from me to the door,
me to the floor,
back to the door.

8 years old and
I stayed home from school on Monday
because anxiety rules my life and
twists my stomach. I rise above it on Wednesday, untwist it, and march back to my desk, impressed because everyone’s eyes focus
on me.
Actuality sets in when I sit down
and Connor asks me if I heard that the kids called me “Blackie” on the playground and
had to come in from recess.
I suppress my welling tears, he sneers,
and I laugh.

10 years old,
it’s summer again and Reno says he wants to play
football. With bare feet and lip gloss I eagerly cross
the road to the school, ring the bell,
and as I wait, I trace the names of crushes engraved
into the metal and ultimately settle ******* on his.
But today is different.
He approaches with a new game called “Slaves”
which doesn’t feel like much of a game when
only one gets a gun and you can’t outrun it. So I bite my lip as airsoft pellets sting my back, my legs.
Tears stain my childish face and I let him chase me
because I adore him, however,
I don’t think he likes me anymore.

12 years old and
A Jewish boy called me a ****** today. He is bold and unafraid of the repercussions,
I want to speak but I’ve got nothing to say.
Tongue pressing my teeth
I breath deep and ... my friend yells “****.”
I don’t know what it means but it seems like he does
as he runs from the room into the open arms of our principal. Detention for me,
She’s Jewish too.

13 years old and I
don’t know what it means when they call me *******. But I can only assume
it means I’m still not welcome here.
I catch a glimpse of my teary-eyed reflection in the lenses of my teacher’s sunglasses,
black and chewed-on by his dog.
He scratches his fair hair and tells me,
“Natural selection will take care of this,”
Miffed, I don’t know if he means me
or them.

14 years old and
it’s the first day of black history month.
For lunch my school is serving fried chicken
and watermelon, it’s either that or PB&J
so I grab a tray, drag my feet to a table
and I sit alone.
A hush washes over the room
and soon, a single piece of watermelon leads
a barrage of lunch in a food fight where
I am the only target. So
Broken-hearted, I pick up the mess and throw it in the trash. My pride and my new shirt,
lay stained
on top of the pile.

15
I smile in the mirror as if that changes a thing, and
walk out of the bathroom and into the hot sting
that radiates from their gaze. I tell myself it’s
a phase, and in due time I’ll have a place where I am safe from them-
but Sharpies stain and the school budget doesn’t include paint so the words “Go home monkey” will remain
on my locker, covered in tape,
as a daily reminder for the rest of the year.

16
I didn’t mean to curse at Rachel’s mom
but she asked me if I’d spoken to my Uncle Tom today and

I lost my ever loving ****.
I excused myself to the porch where their dog tried to bite me, because she doesn’t like brown skin or loud mouths either. I‘m never going back.

17
With a baby in my stomach
and a lump in my throat I sit, arms crossed, across from my principle; He says that attendance is an integral part of my success this year, so it’s best for me to
postpone my diploma and stay at home.
I respond with “no thank you” and stare through him as
he walks me to the door.
Before it swings shut his whispers catch up and
I cringe as he swears to his secretary
that he can’t be expected to save us all.
“It’s a statistic.”

18
caught in between a woman and a child
I dangle in space, contemplating my place in
a world that’s hell-bent on hating me before recognizing
my worth.
By now, I think, I know that it won’t stay dark forever, so I eagerly await the dawn, crouching in the corner
hopeful that I will one day be UNseen.
And I truly believe that I am a Warrior,
a force to be reckoned with.
Because I am grown now, well adjusted, unscathed, and
wholly unaffected.

23 years old and
I still don’t know what it means to be left
unbothered. But I’m oddly familiar with what it’s like being followed through the store, questioned by a clerk,
and rushed out the door.
I don’t understand why, and I don’t care, to be fair, but
I can’t take it anymore.

Today
I am 24 years old and
for the first time, in a long time, it is quiet.
Only under this cloak of silence
have I begun to pry loose the armor that grew over
my brown skin. The armor that cinched off my ears, covered my eyes, and protected me throughout the years. Beneath it, I’ve discovered gashes

cut through to my bones,
once-soft flesh now turned to soft-stone, and I am no warrior.

I am still a 6 year old girl who spent so much time crafting a shield to protect myself,
that I never had time to learn about myself.

Beneath my armor I am
naked.

I am breathless.

And I am Black.
Ariana Feb 23
When I die
plant me like a seed at the roots of a willow tree
so that I may be reborn amongst Her roots,
and travel to the tips of Her swaying leaves;
Let me violently fight the stillness of death,
forever whipping and lashing,
together,
with Her branches.
Ariana Feb 23
III.

It took time for me to see
That it was neither them nor me, but simply that
She
never stood a chance.

For Her trunk in all Her unbridled glory,
was bound in chains,
choked out by debris
Long before Them, or Us,
or Me.
At Her inception, before
She could grow old,
the last sip of Her sap stolen,
drained, and sold.
 
Yet
 
Pieces of Her stand here to behold,
pieces of Me,
young joined with old.
Though broken as We are,
We’re a beacon of hope;
We hold secrets and memories,
stories and names,
and one day I, too,
will dance in Our shade.
 
Be it in vain, I will try
till the wind comes for me;
I’ll try to name Them,
praise Them,
to set Them free.
I vow to nourish, to prune, and ****,
restore what I’m able,
and take only what I need.
To tie Our trunk to Our branches—
and Our branches to Our leaves.
To honor Our roots,
ever trembling,
in the deepest parts of
Me.
This is the third part to an incomplete mess that started flowing out of me, inspired by my struggle to put together my family tree. As a black woman, it’s been an emotional experience, full of chapters lost to history. Once I have the emotional energy, I’ll upload the poem as a whole.
Ariana Oct 2019
I am 6 years old
it’s Christmas again and I pretend
I’m not excited.
My fingers are sticky and the house
smells like cinnamon, till my family drifts in releasing the scent through the open front door. Polite blather gives way to the deep roar
of a man’s laugh, he says,
“Santa’s not black.”
Eyes dart from me to the door,
me to the floor,
back to the door.

8 years old and
I stayed home from school on Monday
because anxiety rules my life and
twists my stomach. I rise above it on Wednesday, untwist it, and march back to my desk, impressed because everyone’s eyes focus
on me.
Actuality sets in when I sit down
and Connor asks me if I heard that the kids called me “Blackie” on the playground and
had to come in from recess.
I suppress my welling tears, he sneers,
and I laugh.

10 years old,
it’s summer again and Reno says he wants to play
football. With bare feet and lip gloss I eagerly cross
the road to the school, ring the bell,
and as I wait, I trace the names of crushes engraved
into the metal and ultimately settle ******* on his.
But today is different.
He approaches with a new game called “Slaves”
which doesn’t feel like much of a game when
only one gets a gun and you can’t outrun it. So I bite my lip as airsoft pellets sting my back, my legs.
Tears stain my childish face and I let him chase me
because I adore him, however,
I don’t think he likes me anymore.

12 years old and
A Jewish boy called me a ****** today. He is bold and unafraid of the repercussions,
I want to speak but I’ve got nothing to say.
Tongue pressing my teeth
I breath deep and ... my friend yells “****.”
I don’t know what it means but it seems like he does
as he runs from the room into the open arms of our principal. Detention for me,
She’s Jewish too.

13 years old and I
don’t know what it means when they call me *******. But I can only assume
it means I’m still not welcome here.
I catch a glimpse of my teary-eyed reflection in the lenses of my teacher’s sunglasses,
black and chewed-on by his dog.
He scratches his fair hair and tells me,
“Natural selection will take care of this,”
Miffed, I don’t know if he means me
or them.

14 years old and
it’s the first day of black history month.
For lunch my school is serving fried chicken
and watermelon, it’s either that or PB&J
so I grab a tray, drag my feet to a table
and I sit alone.
A hush washes over the room
and soon, a single piece of watermelon leads
a barrage of lunch in a food fight where
I am the only target. So
Broken-hearted, I pick up the mess and throw it in the trash. My pride and my new shirt,
lay stained
on top of the pile.

15
I smile in the mirror as if that changes a thing, and
walk out of the bathroom and into the hot sting
that radiates from their gaze. I tell myself it’s
a phase, and in due time I’ll have a place where I am safe from them-
but Sharpies stain and the school budget doesn’t include paint so the words “Go home monkey” will remain
on my locker, covered in tape,
as a daily reminder for the rest of the year.

16
I didn’t mean to curse at Rachel’s mom
but she asked me if I’d spoken to my Uncle Tom today and

I lost my ever loving ****.
I excused myself to the porch where their dog tried to bite me, because she doesn’t like brown skin or loud mouths either. I‘m never going back.

17
With a baby in my stomach
and a lump in my throat I sit, arms crossed, across from my principle; He says that attendance is an integral part of my success this year, so it’s best for me to
postpone my diploma and stay at home.
I respond with “no thank you” and stare through him as
he walks me to the door.
Before it swings shut his whispers catch up and
I cringe as he swears to his secretary
that he can’t be expected to save us all.
“It’s a statistic.”

18
caught in between a woman and a child
I dangle in space, contemplating my place in
a world that’s hell-bent on hating me before recognizing
my worth.
By now, I think, I know that it won’t stay dark forever, so I eagerly await the dawn, crouching in the corner
hopeful that I will one day be UNseen.
And I truly believe that I am a Warrior,
a force to be reckoned with.
Because I am grown now, well adjusted, unscathed, and
wholly unaffected.

23 years old and
I still don’t know what it means to be left
unbothered. But I’m oddly familiar with what it’s like being followed through the store, questioned by a clerk,
and rushed out the door.
I don’t understand why, and I don’t care, to be fair, but
I can’t take it anymore.

Today
I am 24 years old and
for the first time, in a long time, it is quiet.
Only under this cloak of silence
have I begun to pry loose the armor that grew over
my brown skin. The armor that cinched off my ears, covered my eyes, and protected me throughout the years. Beneath it, I’ve discovered gashes

cut through to my bones,
once-soft flesh now turned to soft-stone, and I am no warrior.

I am still a 6 year old girl who spent so much time crafting a shield to protect myself,
that I never had time to learn about myself.

Beneath my armor I am
naked.

I am breathless.

And I am Black.
It’s a long road to self-acceptance, but I’m walking it.
Ariana Jul 2018
You left my ego deflated,
limply dangling from a frayed white string
over the couch,
in the family room where my mom and dad sit
but never speak.
Ariana Jun 2018
My best friend says that I’m “high maintenance,”
but I maintain that I have above average standards and
a slight tendency to whine.
All jokes aside, he
claims that there’s not
enough time in the world for
me to find a guy to keep by my side
long enough to get a ring.
But my fingers are just skin covered bone,
and they weren’t born to be adorned in
gems, in ores; Because Baby,
I am an ore.

“But maybe you should tone it down,”
he says.
Tone it down? See I don’t like the sound
of that suggestion, or the inflection in his voice
as if the choice to love and be loved
doesn’t belong to me.
Because it’s mine
and I keep it inside, cradled up in a box
guarded by eye rolls and locks;
For better or worse, if you
find the key I’ve been told that loving me
feels like drinking from a glacier while hot coals
blister your feet.

He whispers,
“I think you need to be realistic.”
But where does realism separate itself
from pessimism because right here
they feel one in the same,
and I find it strange that someone who
claims to care about me and my well-being
would plant this seed of despair. It’s unfair because
I’m not insisting on perfection, just someone
who believes in me, flexion,
and can value longevity and a wildfire-life
dotted with strife and mended
with 3am kisses.

I persist, why is it so much to ask
to find someone who can love me and all of my quarks?
Someone who knows me and how
I only bite into a PB&J sandwich jelly side down
because it tastes ****** up when
you flip it around. And how I love
the sound of marbles rolling on
glass table tops; Or that cyclops
eye that appears as the space between you and your
lover’s nose dis-appears.

All I want is someone to dance with,
every day.
I want to sway in the sun
with bare feet and ***** toes gliding
over the soil on my ****** front lawn. I want Bluegrass and
shot glass afternoons, with coffee breath mornings.

“You okay?” He’ll say, before I’ll wink and smile,
all the while screaming into the
unoccupied corners of my mind.
All jokes aside,
I thought this was feasible, real,
and reachable.
But my best friend says that I’m “high maintenance.”
Ariana Nov 2017
I wonder where
the tree stands whereat Fall's
first golden leaf drifted listlessly,
from attic to basement,
announcing her arrival
to It's roots.
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