WAR PAINT

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It starts in 1999, when at five years
old, still chubby-cheeked and new,
I learned that make-up was for girls
as night over night I watched my mother paint 
her sharp features into soft hues of green, 
purple and taupe
only to come home with weary
hairdresser hands, scrubbing 
her face red.
I could not understand the blue
that colored her words as she 
spoke of the thinness of her lips,
because the slight sheen they
took when reading aloud was 
mesmerizing, and she was the
most beautiful person in the world.
 
In 2002 when arithmetic was taught 
in school what I really learned
was the language of deprecation
as best friends turned cold;
words used as daggers
held by familiar hands
until the hands were strange
and I realized they were my own.
As a means of protection
my philosophy had become
"tear yourself down,
build yourself up,"
only to know the good did not 
outweigh the bad.
 
It is 2007 when my aunt gives me
a book titled "How to Handle Bullies,
Teasers, and Other Meanies"
and I cannot grasp why,
even as tears fall days later
for ridicule given at the absence
of black streaks across eyes,
the ones on the heart irrelevant.
I failed to see that had I been 
an early adopter of cosmetics, 
the crowd might instead have found
issue with the style of my hair and
the dark lines would have run vertical
down my thought still chubby cheeks.
 
In 2009 I thought I knew the world
when I could give up those 
who had caused hurt and still find
the will to lick my wounds
behind the thick cloak of pigment,
humor, and feigned nonchalance.
Ugly monsters dined upon those
who did not wear masks,
their inner demons bleaker than
any outside veil.
 
By 2012 I could recognize the
tired creases of my backbone
defined the impatience and hot
distaste I took with the past.
 
I looked to my mother -
the most beautiful person in the world -
with such anger and remorse;
how could she 
let this happen to me?
how could I not see 
that this happened to her?
 
I looked to my peers, who
mislead and hesitant,
walked around blind,
claiming to see,
and decided to remove the
shackles I had long ago understood
to wrap around my own wrists.
 
The box of paints that I kept
now appeared as weapons, and
raising a pointed spear
I made wings so sharp
they cut through history
and lit the path of war.
 
Murder may be wrong but
we allow misogyny- 
sexism-
inequality-
misplaced shame-
to permeate the soul
of children, who kill
their hopes-
passions-
selves-
 
to wear mismatched disguises 
that should fit like armor. 
 
If the black lines that detail
the strength of my gaze
and the intent of my sight
strike fear into weak hearts
that I may speak my mind
then let this poem continue to flow
and the war rage on.
This poem is about: 
Me
My family
My community
My country
Our world
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 

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