Swallowed Whole

January 4, 2012
Growing up in Alabama
all my dolls
were white Barbie dolls
with crisp blonde hair,
and tiny pointed feet

my fingers always felt
too thick
too coarse
too grimy
to grace the surface of [Barbie’s] pearly peach skin

of the bustling streets of Haiti
I was only ever shown pictures of
grungy feet in the dirt
starving sickly children,
their hands turned up in need
afros caked with filth
and clashing brash colored clothes
and NurseBarbie
and RescueBarbie
running in to save those poor lesser souls

All I was ever taught
was that Barbie is beautiful
be who you want to be
as long as it was like beautiful Barbie
clear blue eyes
and a thin nose perked at the world
owing no excuses to anyone

I was always praised
for sitting primly
for standing quietly
for holding my tongue
for standing behind a crowd
of growing up Barbie dolls
instead of standing beside those other girls
who had long since rejected the reflection of Barbie

I grew up and over Barbie
where her hair became a swishing waterfall
my coarse hair lashed out, a cankered bush
I grew, only loosely connected
to two opposing cultural roots
I was an Amazonian teen,
still trying to squeeze
into Barbie’s dream house

on that biting January morning,
the earth swallowed my people whole.
across the zinging chalk blue ocean
once smiling drums and braided hair hit the dirt
tents burst forth from the remains
of different kinds of dream houses

I sat, faraway in Alabama, while the adults tittered
the air thick with their Haitian Creole jargon
I listened to a discussion I was too distant to be a part of

stirring mango papaya juice with shaking straws
the adults pointed at devastating pictures of
their past
their childhood
their stories

in one picture
a small homeless girl
was given a gift
her smooth round almond face lit up
and her mouth a sunshiny smile
as she clung adoringly to
a venerated treasure
a white Barbie doll

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