blackmail press 31  Marginalization
Shirley Lu

Marginalization - Pauline Canlas Wu
Shirley Lu lives in Sydney, Australia. This sestina, entitled 'Night', emphasises the importance of shedding light on the skin of those in the margins, as well as the importance of celebrating the beauty of their skin, and the beauty of their souls.
Night, a Sestina

I’m in my room. It is night.
The air is alive, warm and sultry. White
paper trembles before me,
anticipating the black
scars my biro will make. Words.
I’m in my room, awake, conscious.

I’m aware of my place, conscious
of the way my black skin marks me. In the night
(silent, endless, exotic, like words
in another language), the white
of my eyes glow like fireflies, every sound is amplified by the black
background. A memory comes to me.

Kids used to laugh at me
about my skin; I was ever-conscious
of my skin, my black
skin, black like dirt, like charcoal, like shit. Black like the night:
unseen, unnoticed. No amount of white
light could bring me to the foreground. Those words

they used, they hurt. But words
are erasable. Words can be mine. There is a power within me
to make the white
black, make you conscious
of my truth. Grandfather’s words the following night
stopped the trickle of tears that shimmered against my black

skin. His wrinkled face, a map of wisdom: “I am black
and proud of it.” Those words,
as soft as the night,
comforted me then and comfort me
now. I’m aware of my place, I’m self-conscious
because of it, but those words, and others, begin to fill the white

paper before me. In my room. Lights: walls white,
patterns on the Persian rug visible, like a revelation. My black
skin shines like obsidian, coffee beans, ebony wood – I am conscious,
I am aware, I am proud; those words
echo, soothing, making me
feel comfortable in my skin – I sit in my room, in the night,

and fill the white paper with words.
My black skin does not bother me.
No longer self-conscious, but at one with the night.