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America sits next to me
on the school bus. She is pretty

at first glance; eagle-blue eyes,
freedom-red lips, hope-white skin.

America sits next to me
in class. She asks to borrow a pencil

but doesn't return it back.
When I ask her, she just smiles at me coyly

and laughs. And laughs.
Her laugh is the color of shell-smooth

promises and silver-toothed
opportunity. I do not notice the

way my skin contrasts against
hers in the afternoon light

because color should not be a burden
but a homecoming.

I do not question her
when she stares at me from

across the hallway,
whispering about me

to her friends Patriarchy
and Misogyny when

she thinks I cannot hear.
On the bus, she elbows me

at my stop; apologizes

but I hear the snickers
at the back of the bus.

The word "it's okay"
almost forms on my tongue

but i remain silent,
heat blooming white and red

across the broken axis
of the face I used to love

because kids like us
never had a chance

to become anything                                                           more than our melanin.

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