• Call + Response

Black Girls Who Die Young by Princess Zuri' McCann

A tribute poem to Shakara.

Photograph by Jazmin Quaynor

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.