Black Girls Who Die Young by Princess Zuri' McCann
A tribute poem to Shakara.
Black Girls Who Die Young
For my cousin Shakara
Some black girls are too embarrassed to
show recent pictures of themselves.
Pictures that might show hints from
the world that it’s ready to reject them.
As if the world has the right to mark them with sores
on their chest that lets everyone know they’re sick.
Does the world think it’ll be easier
for their families to let them go if they knew
they were approaching their expiration date?
The expiration date tattooed to the foot of HIV-positive
babies the day they were born. The one that said
deceased by instead of best by.
Soon they are in a casket in the ground,
stuck there because even death won’t bring them peace,
only more years of being stuck in a world that
didn’t want them in the first place.
Some black girls don’t get to become
the cynical aunts, mothers, grandmothers
who somehow made it through
their horrors just to tell other black girls they
won’t make it through their own.
All they wanted was to go from girl
to woman, but all they got was death.
Early. So early that you can still hear the infant cries
and smell milk in the mouths of some
dead black girls.
Princess Zuri’ McCann is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in New Haven, CT. She is a poetry editor for the SCSU graduate literary magazine Noctua Review. She loves women poets, like Ntozake Shange, who speak on the discontent women, especially black women, feel when told to endure their struggles and remain silent. She also enjoys working in libraries.