Heartland Fever by Isha Fazili


I wanted to be a white girl

from pre-school to sixth-grade

from classroom to playground

in Rolla, Missouri

where the white girls 

sat taller, swung higher,

their skin smooth, bright,



I wanted the long blonde braids

that dripped down backs

like honey.

I wanted the soft cream skin

that wrapped around bones

without shame.


I wanted to be a white girl

like the ones I knew,

who went to Sunday services,

danced at the same studios,

ate at the same barbeques,

whose mothers ran school fundraisers

whose fathers went fishing on long weekends.


I wanted to be a white girl

but could never look like one.

The bleaching, prodding, plucking

did not make the hair on my face blend

like peach fuzz

into my cheeks.

The locker-room lotion, serum, sunscreen

did not make my brown legs shine

like ivory ribbons in the sun.


I wanted to be a white girl

but my mom had visa interviews

missed fundraisers,

and my dad watched cricket

having no patience for fishing.

We went to prayer on Friday,

not Sunday.


I wanted to be a white girl

because I believed white

was the only kind of girl to be.

I hated the valley of my body,

became used to hiding

its river of colored tenderness

until I took the train here and

it all spilled out of me,

as slow and sweet as melting toffee.


Now I live in the deepness of my skin

smooth, bright, clean,

and my dark glows

like the city streets after warm rain.





















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