About the poem: The quote from Viola Davis triggered something deep in me.
Beauty standards are so headscratchingly arbitrary, but one thing that seems not to have changed is if your skin is darker, you're on the outside looking in. The sentiment of the quote stopped me and forced the poem from me. On occasion, I write a poem because someone says something I can't ignore. Sometimes it's a friend, or an enemy; rarely, it's a celebrity. But what she said touched me more than any of her performances.

Allison Joseph

Crow Hollow 19

The artist's tool. A "crappy" pen.

Crow Hollow Books

When You Get Tired of Being Called Ugly

                      “I think that beauty is subjective. I’ve heard that statement my entire life, being a 
                        dark-skinned black woman… ‘classically not beautiful’ is a fancy term of saying 
                        ugly… It worked when I was younger. It no longer works for me now.” 

                                                                                                                                                 Viola Davis, actress

When you get tired of being called ugly,
You lift your head out of your shoulders,
Elevate your chin to let all that regal richness
Pour forward from you, echoes of your skin
Saturating the air around you. You are 
No one’s lesser, smile playing around
Your lips no tease, no smirk, but radiance,
Righteous radiance. You are a straight spine
In the sun, glissando arch of a bare foot,
Legacy of hurt on limbs shed like so many
Calluses, layers of rejection and ache
Sloughed off like so many unraveled
Nooses.  When you get tired, completely
And unequivocally tired, your voice
Becomes ravishment, enchantment,
Glorious as the very last slow dance
On the very last night of forever,
Because your eternity rises up and out
Into cities, turning statutes into statues,
Law into light.  When you, undeniably
And unforgettably you, rise in the morning,
You greet your own face with the knowledge
No stranger can stop the lucent thrill
Behind your eyelids, the dazzling 
Obsidian joy you’ve found beneath the tips
Of your own palms, your own fingers.

Murder One, Fall 2015