by Elyse Thomas
“I know a boy who is sky-soft brown.” —Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
sky-soft brown boys don’t melt
into seasons, they stutter into them.
shoes scuffing summer
as they trip backwards into fall.
like leaves, they change color:
first black then purple then blue.
a bruise growing on the pavement
they float above. here, black boys
are angels holied by a brown sky.
watch them stare through you
with their gaping, pothole eyes.
on new year’s: boys, sky-soft
& brown, watch fireworks
wound the air like a bullet.
they crush ice below their feet
& call it dancing, call it music.
we pretend we’re not staring
but we are & they notice.
they snowball down the sidewalk,
shave winter to ash.
wake up in the morning,
sweating a pool of snowflakes.
in spring, black skin peels
off of bone & falls around us
like rain. we strip naked
& stick our tongues out.
nothing is as sweet as a boy that blooms.
nothing will ever be this holy.
press your hands together in prayer
& thank them for this.
sleep now in their afro garden
tomorrow, we’ll untangle ourselves
from a black boy on our way out.
don’t call them missing.
they are still here slicing
oranges into smiles.
tangy & spilling with pulp,
the boys drift on popsicle stick wings
into their sticky, brown sky.
don’t be afraid when the sun reaches
down into them & licks their bones
clean of darkness. their shoelaces
stringing through the clouds.
this time, they do not fall.
Self Portrait as Mixed & Water
Why you talk white? Like my aunts with the bleached skin & blue contacts. The ones that boom down the beach, Get out of the sun. Waving their arms like seagulls skimming saltwater. How these women fear blackness like my death. Hide me in the shadows of umbrellas so my skin never rusts copper.
They have raised me to answer to niggas that only mess with them pretty, little lightskins. Boys that ask, Where you from? Like from, from?
& I think: I found myself seven years ago when my best friend—ghostly & freckled— swiveled her loose hips around my curls like hula hoops; the first time I was full of whiteness.
Or maybe it was when a black woman told me, Baby, life ain’t a horror movie. No ghost finna run up in here & scare the black outta yo skin. I understood then that this darkness was permanent.
The boy tells me, I like my black girls watered down. Like my seagull aunts, turned milky by skin whitening cream and oatmeal baths. He pulls me in now, his hands dipping below my waist, searching for seashells—I drown in his mouth.
Elyse Thomas is a 17-year-old, second generation Puerto Rican and Jamaican writer from Miami, FL. She has been recognized by The Poetry Society, Alliance for Young Writers, the Poetry Society of Virginia, It’s All Write, the National English Honor Society, and Just Poetry. Her work is published or forthcoming in Foyle Young Poets, The Poetry Society of Virginia, The Bridge Bluffton University Literary Journal, Polyphony Lit, Gyroscope Review, Alexandria Quarterly, and more.