Ata /ˈpɛpə/

Ata /ˈpɛpə/

For years I thought my blackness needed to be hidden
thinking that the music my dad put on at home was forbidden
I’d ask my dad to turn down his tape in the car as
we reached the school bars
because no one else’s Dad looked like mine and
No one else’s children looked like his.

I remember turning up my nose at the
patterns my Aunties and Uncles sent,
refusing to wear them, not knowing that they meant
So much,
whether they were black and gold
or green and white
my face showed disappointment instead of delight,
embarrassed instead of embraced,
meaning shoved so far into the back of
my wardrobe it left no trace
meaning so ignored and unwanted
almost hated, that it was sent to me
No more

For years I put my hair through torture
thinking that the straighter it fell the prettier I’d get,
that if it went through hell it might forget
how to bounce and to curl and hold its weight
for years I didn’t let it get wet or out of place.
The hours I’d spend burning away
what I got from my Dad
and ignoring the comments he made
about him being so sad
at the damage I was doing to myself and my heritage
I did this day after day, not caring
about my red scalp and scarred hands
because I thought that was what beauty demands

For years I tortured my mind and my body,
Being ashamed of my thighs
because my friends’ were so thin,
Being ashamed of my wide hips
Because my friends’ were so much more slim,
Being ashamed of my arse
thinking it was why I’d always been
out of place.
For so long I thought no boy could love me because
my nipples were too big and too dark and
my pussy wasn’t fully pink
I can’t believe I used to think
that my curves needed to whittled and reduced
like fruits needing to be juiced
the straighter my hair fell and the thinner I became
the less me I was, and I lost my flame

but as I got a bit older, boys
started to change their minds
instead of feeling strange I was
now used and fetishised,
I was good enough to be desired
but not to be adored
I was good enough to be fucked
but not anything more
I was good enough to be raped
and then be called a whore,
For years I thought that this
was all I’d get and all I deserved.
White men and white boys
touched and used and abused
my skin and my body and at
the same time told it me it was wrong
and for so long I thought that this
was the closest to love that my
thick thighs and dark nipples would allow.

but now I love a boy so much and he loves me
but I’m feeling like a traitor as I’m lying next to him,
For 2 years I’ve had the worry in my head
that in 10, I’ll be filled with nothing but regret
if I stay with the one I love
because my boy is white.
It’s alright boy,
I’m still your’s boy,
I know that you’re more boy
it just feels wrong,
That my lips have never kissed a black boy’s
and my fingers might never trail a chest
covered in dark skin, so rich in melanin,
Skin that will understand the way my
soul reacts to the sound of layers and layers
of hurt and culture in a harmony so smooth
that it tastes like honey,
Skin that will understand the way food
can heal a soul,
the way pepper soup and plantain
can heal all my pain –
even on the wrong day
Skin that would meet mine and then combine
to create a child that would look like my own
a child with my power and struggles and curls
a child with the right to reclaim our slurs

but my white boy is so real and so is his skin
I know that what should matter is the
Everything he has within,
he’s so much more than a skin or a colour
he might not get honey but it’s not too different from sugar
he’s the best friend,
and to think otherwise would make me no better than them
who made me think black was anything but mighty
and made me want to be plain instead of spicy
those who wanted my body but not my skin,
my white boy wants all of me and everything inside
he loves my skin, my heart, my scars and my thighs

And while my hair recovers, I’m
starting to discover the life I missed,
the culture I hid and the meaning I buried
and the food I’ve eaten so many times before
but have only just tasted.
I regret all the years spent wasted on a
life of conforming and performing,
I’ve learned to love my hair, my spice and my mind
I’ve left my shame, self-hate and timidity behind
And the next time my dad turns down
layers of honey and drums and beats
of life and soul and family and black,
I’ll tell him no, run that shit back

Cristina Samuel

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