Conviction: to be born a Black woman
with lips swollen to perfection
like eyes mourning the daily abuses
pronounced through pearly teeth of an ingrate:
Birthed through blood,
strengthened by stolen milk
Shackles ringing out in anthem,
a call and response echoing between the centuries:
cries for men who might hover above the ground like paper lanterns,
or be strewn across asphalt like dirty clothes—
a blazing breadcrumb trail left by creatures
that lurk not under the bed, but between sheets.
Little white lies condemn me
for wearing my skin as a velvet robe
rather than cloaking myself in shame;
my hair grows like praise looking for blessings,
but cannot secure my acquittal.
Existence has been deemed the crime.
My sentence will be loving
what I have been begged to hate.