I am forever guilty of whiteface

By | 1 February 2021

he has to
pick a costume.
brown can be his costume.
he buys face paint from a migrant.
she knows what and why she is selling.
cash or card? she must always offer options
to others. how can a swift magnetic swipe taste
like chains? in his mirror: he slathers bought brown
and feels nothing; she scrapes away her brown and wishes.

my skin is carved from nobles, warriors etched into honour boards
you will never read. my family is forest, unshakable trees
in whose shade i knew growth. sapling, i did not know
the hue of my bark, nor that it could be wrong.
i only knew that my roots could drink
until torn and dumped in waterless
bricks and concrete. at school,
i learned thirst. i learned you:
we don’t play with niggers.
i learned that bark burns
and does not go out
without water
so i learned
to peel.

brownface is easy:
smear on, clean off, live on,
your face returned to you.

whiteface is endless:
i cannot apply it. i tear off
the brown, the black, the dirt
until i am bones.

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