Tip of the Flame - Natalie Cook


Rub kerosene around your lips
to burn open the mouth.
Rip the flesh from its hinges.
Your teeth are doors
that will never return
to your language.

Make a wish,
and blow your skin like a dandelion.
Watch the sun scatter into the wind.

Children will snatch your yellow like fireflies.

Look at yourself in the jar
how you shine
too bright to not be covered.

Everyone will see
you as the lantern in
a white man's palm.
Not a mango
picked from the tree
in your grandmother's backyard.

The dog inhales wet air
left from the slave's back.

Children will gaze upon your fur in awe.

Look at the mut!
Look at the way
she chases after her father
to sink her teeth in his
flesh!

Your teeth are yellow, gal.
why make them brown
They are already dirty enough.

Mixed breeds are often
not chosen to be loved.
Blackness
is not contained to skin,

but

you have the sand of an island for a mother

and

a father that grew up in the shell of a bomb.

Your color is not that of a tree.
No one can see your roots.
Your hair is the ocean
between
Trinidad and Africa/America,
but waves can only be named
once a master colonizes his land.

You are only breasts
under a moonlit chest.
the inside of a house
a cage where the bird
squawks in display

Exotic, she is, says the parrot.
Touch her.
The world is a freak show,
and she is the main attraction.

too light to be black
too black to be american
too american to be where she is from

what is the black girl's name

The children
that carry you home
in their palms
say,
you are
darkie
or high yella
or colored
or nigger girl
or anything that isn't your name.

You break in their hands like glass.

Parents throw the jar away without cleaning
the blood
from their children's
hands.

Natalie Cook is a senior majoring in English (Creative Writing) and Afro-American Studies.