Your Daily Poem: Warsan Shire

Ed. note: For National Poetry Month, we’re highlighting one feminist poem each day in April. See the whole series here.

Today’s poem is “UGLY” by Warsan Shire.

UGLY

Your daughter is ugly.
She knows loss intimately,
carries whole cities in her belly.

As a child, relatives wouldn’t hold her.
She was splintered wood and sea water.
They said she reminded them of the war.

On her fifteenth birthday you taught her
how to tie her hair like rope
and smoke it over burning frankincense.

You made her gargle rosewater
and while she coughed, said
macaanto girls like you shouldn’t smell
of lonely or empty.

You are her mother.
Why did you not warn her,
hold her like a rotting boat
and tell her that men will not love her
if she is covered in continents,
if her teeth are small colonies,
if her stomach is an island
if her thighs are borders?

What man wants to lay down
and watch the world burn
in his bedroom?

Your daughter’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear,
a body littered with ugly things

but God,
doesn’t she wear
the world well.

‘UGLY’ appears in teaching my mother how to give birth by Warsan Shire, published Flipped Eye, London, 2011.

sm-bio Syreeta McFadden is a co-curator of Poets In Unexpected Places.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I just recently started following ya’ll and these are great. Sad to hear that this is a one month only type of thing.

  2. Posted April 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    This is so heartbreaking and amazing.

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