Burnt

by Sarah Khalid

when rachel in kindergarten
pointed at my skin
and asked me why i was burnt
i did not know
how to respond
and wondered why she was the one
lucky enough
to have skin
whiter than pearls.

when i asked my mother
with shameful eyes
why i was burnt
she took my five year old hand
and told me
that my skin was war paint given to me
centuries before my birth.
that my skin held years of anguish under unsolicited supremacy
and it choked injustice until it spewed out unwilling surrender.
that my arms combed through cotton fields to opportunity
and my legs outran whips to freedom.
she said that fire could never burn me
because my intricate roots smothered flames
into a toasty reminder
of why i was the one
lucky enough
to have skin
more tragic and beautiful
than history could fathom.