Incident by Destiny Birdsong

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

        after Countee Cullen

“Who I was seemed to be insult enough....”  
        — Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

I loved the grocery store:
Riding beneath the cart,
Watching the world
From below.

One day, as I crouched,
We passed a girl
About the same age
As me.

And so I smiled,
But when she saw
My colorless face,  
She screamed.

Nobody ever
Mentions that day.  
That is our way —

But I know what I know;   
At home, it is simple:   
I look like my mother.  
I’m beautiful.

But elsewhere is different:
There are monsters
To be afraid of.  
One of them is me.    

Destiny Birdsong is a lecturer and academic adviser at Vanderbilt University, where she received her MFA in poetry in 2009, and her PhD in English in 2012. Her work has appeared in RATTLE, Tidal Basin Review, Cave Canem Anthology XII: Poems (2008-2009) and other publications.