you can’t color your sister


Poem by Oluwatomisin Oredein


my nephew told my sister

that his unborn sister

will be white.


told, not asked.


I was on the phone with them.


I heard the hope in his voice -

it curled his tongue.


the shockwaves silenced my sister.


I’m usually a bystander

in this Parenting 101 course,

but I had to step in:


“no, buddy.

she might look a little lighter at first

but she’s going to look just like you!

just like you are so cute and handsome

she will be so cute and pretty!”


exaggeration works with kids

except this wasn’t.


“aren’t you excited that she

will have beautiful brown skin

like you?!”


my diction worked overtime

to fuse beautiful and brown -

she cut her hands from her rough

and seemingly impossible work.


the pause that followed nursed

dark anxiety,

held it close to its bosom.


centuries of thought and

millennia of fight

coursed and swayed in silence’s veins…


a generation, held in the balance

awaits his haunted answer,

and I do, too.

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