Ugly

by Emily

Warsan Shire

Your daughter is ugly.
She knows loss intimately,
carries whole cities in her belly.

As a child, relatives wouldn’t hold her.
She was splintered wood and sea water.
She reminded them of war.

On her fifteenth birthday you taught her
how to tie her hair like rope
and smoke it over burning frankincense.

You made her gargle rosewater
and while she coughed, said
macaanto girls like you shouldn’t smell
of lonely or empty.

You are her mother.
Why did you not warn her,
hold her like a rotting boat
and tell her that men will not love her
if she is covered in continents,
if her teeth are small colonies,
if her stomach is an island
if her thighs are borders?

What man wants to lie down
and watch the world burn
in his bedroom?

Your daughter’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camps behind each ear,
a body littered with ugly things.

But God,
doesn’t she wear
the world well?

Nothing I have to say about this poem does it justice, so I’m going to let it stand on its own.

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