HTML Color Swatches in Black [Girl]

By Ariana Benson

for Oluwatoyin Salau, for Breonna Taylor, for Cyntoia Brown, for Tameka Drummer, for Anjanette Young, for all of us whose names I wish had first floated from my lips on wings of joy, instead of…

Text of Ariana Benson's poem


…girl, too umber for proper / amber alert. Black / girl, skipped right past “missing” into / “Lost: B L A C K girl”. nobody / even noticed you were gone, Black / girl, when your body was still / there for things men / WANTED: Black girl. something / in your milk ain’t clean enough / for store cartons / Black girl. or maybe / they look at you and find / a woman. did you ever really get / to be a girl,
Black girl



…girl / silver bit in a palmful of pennies / Black girl, stuck / into the thinnest slots and slid / down the darkest chutes. Black girl / they cash in your chips / for something sickly / sweet and wrapped in white / never black. girl / flicked into spouted marble mouths / after being wished upon like a faded / star returning to black / girl with the gilded / quicksilver skin / how do you still shimmer / underwater? how does your light escape / the drowning black,   girl?



…girl, blowing grams / of bottled breath between the weeds / Black girl, find peace / in letting rivers’ / clear fade across trees’ green / Black girl, after twenty years of refusing / let your colors leak / into each other. Black / girl I swear: nobody here is counting / how many times you blink / Black girl shaking smoke out the dark / cloud haloing your mind / Black girl, the white sea / in your eyes, it never was / pristine. Black girl—it’s fine / to let a little bit / of red be seen / just inhale deep and forget / what it all means, Black girl—who ever / said you had to be anything / but free?



…girl: one piece / of pie don’t have to be enough / Black girl. satisfaction ain’t a synonym / for greed, Black girl. asking for seconds / don’t make you a thief. Black girl / who always keeps a mine / under your tongue, though they still try / to make you spit / Black girl, I beg you detonate / when they step on / your best thing / let the splinters / they stripped from your spine / tear out their teeth. Black girl / how long before / they realized your shrapnel / made mouths leak? hear me / Black girl: gulp your joy / before it turns into white steam / Black girl, ain’t it true that / all Sula Peace wanted was to be / loved by someone like her—another / Black girl?

Headshot of Ariana Benson

Ariana Benson (she/they) is proudly from Chesapeake, Virginia. She received the 2021 Graybeal-Gowen prize and was a finalist for the 2020 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize and the 2021 Pink Poetry Prize. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Obsidian, West Branch, Shenandoah, Great River Review, ANOMALY, Lunch Ticket, Southern Humanities Review and Auburn Avenue, where she serves as Nonfiction Editor, among others. Ariana’s work often interrogates language, visual art, environmental concerns, and the connection between African Diasporic peoples and the natural landscape. Through her writing, she strives to fashion vignettes of Blackness that speak to its infinite depth and richness. Ariana enjoys watching sports, reading the entire plots of anime series on Wiki, and playing easy, relaxing video games (think Animal Crossing and Spiritfarer).

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