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Part 1

My skin takes three sessions on the sunbed to achieve
It’s hard to perfect the darkness surrounding my elbows and
Between my legs
There are tones that have never seen sunlight
And yet
I am a black woman, not medium brown or
Medium anything
Full-lipped and stretch-marked so far that even on your tippy toes
I cannot be reached

Part 2

Thirty times I have tried to soap my way out of this life
Too old now to have daddy issues
Too old now to be afraid of men
Too old now to taunt my body
Too old now to say I’ll never have kids
Too old now to lock myself in my room
Thirty years inside my head and still I wince at the sound of my voice
When it is outside my body, this voiceless body
Mute beyond its colour
Thirty times I have tried to eat my way out of despair
Growing so large that it only makes it easier to find where it hurts
Here, I point
To my melanin

Part 3

I come from a place of hurt and sex
Short breaths and wounds neatly tucked
Side by side
Beneath organs

Part 4

No one ever taught our little girls how to be soft
Only hard fists and cold palms, sweaty hips and
Loose tongues could translate how
The women conjured legends between their thighs

Part 5

The day I got married
My father crawled into the crease of my eyelid
Competing with stubborn tears for recognition
He licked the inside of my eyelids
It tasted like oodkac and canjeero
If I stop blinking
He might starve

I gave myself away today




Post image by Stella Dauer via Flickr

About the Author:

meHanna Ali is a PhD candidate in SOAS where she specialises in African Identity, a theme that features heavily in her creative writing. A former child refugee and a full-time citizen-of-the-world, her writings are concerned with unpacking what it means to be lost. She was recently short listed for the London Short Story Prize 2016. @HannaAli

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3 Responses to “Being Black | By Hanna Ali | Poetry” Subscribe

  1. Adesewa 2017/03/21 at 22:51 #

    This is so poignant. Such deceptive simplicity belying vibrant emotions. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    Hanna, this is truly a beautiful poem

  2. Madina 2017/03/24 at 17:09 #

    Beautiful writing. I especially loved Part 4 and 5.


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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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