by Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene
body brown. actual color.
not some metaphorical solidarity shade of brown
to be claimed in self-righteous poems, at rallies
or to prove a point
then conveniently set aside in boardrooms,
during job interviews, to the NYPD.
I do not pass for anything but a Black woman
before most see African, they see brown, label me Black
not midnight, not the iris of all our eyes
but the Nina Simone Mississippi Goddamn, Billie Holiday Strange Fruit
black. with a lowercase b.
BROWN. all caps. actual color.
earth and me: same shade tint gradation of hue
my pigment painted by sunrays beamed into me inside mama’s belly
my brown: my full body crown
it took years to get here
years of being called burnt toast. too black. too dark. ugly. pretty for a dark skinned girl.
he introduced himself saying: I don’t usually talk to dark skinned girls but…
compliment with a fist in the middle of it
you know what, I don’t usually talk to self-hating pricks—
matter of fact, I still don’t. also, I’m a dyke.
nobody ever had to tell you yellow is beautiful
I don’t really fuck with light girls but she pretty for a light skinned girl.
I am not your chocolate whatever, brotha
you really think you the first to liken me to cocoa?
my body a rainbow.
peanut butter speckled upper left arm
earth brown belly, bark brown elbows
I want my babies to be brown. sunkissed and brown. eating their own fists. and brown. and to know they’re beautiful because I cuddle with them
not cuz somebody reassures them
with trendy t-shirt brown is beautiful affirmation