“ugly” (a poem)

“ugly” (a poem)

I did not know
what ugly was
until I fell in love
with a man
who looked like me
and who loved women
who did not look
like him.

I did not know
what ugly was
until I found
my love language
has different accents;
how affirmation
sounds so close to

I found ugly
in black markets
and ethnic sections
closed off-
roped off
toward the back
so nobody else would
catch it.

I felt ugly
when my hot pink
Lisa Frank comb
and shattered whatever hopes
I had for
princess hair.

When Mama
says I am beautiful
I remember
that I am her daughter
and it is her job
to make life
that much easier.

When the white man
said I am beautiful
I remember
when he also said
I am not his type-
caressed my hopeless face
with his calloused fingers
“You are the only one.”

When the black man
said I am beautiful
my hair was straight and damaged
my face was caked and damaged
my worth was shattered and damaged

I told myself
one day
that when I grow up
I would be beautiful
with soft, long hair
and a soft, sweet voice
and soft white skin.

I said to myself
that one day
I would not be
ugly anymore.

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