The Mirror and I by Aklile Gezahegn

[PART 1: THE MIRROR]

You take a string of my hair and ask to tell me a secret. 

I pull you in closer and whisper, 

Tell me young one,

Tell me of all the stories you’ve kept.

You silently itch closer and hold out your hand. 

I hold my breath in and wait, and wait… 

[PART 2: THE CHILD

I was fifteen when I had my first phone. 

Before then, the only faces I knew where the ones that I saw everyday,

And my world was as small as it could be. 

I was sixteen when I learned of social media. 

It was only facebook and telegram back then, 

and all I focused on was how my photos looked,

If my friends liked them,

If my crush liked me,  

and the only form of self expression I knew was 

changing my hairstyles 

and quoting lyrics from songs I barely understood.

Public and Private were only a concept.

As my father sat me down and explained 

of all the wrongs I have yet to encounter, 

The innocent eyes I had for the world were crumbling 

Everything that I ever knew was all unbecoming. 

What was wrong with the photo I took?

Was it my button nose?

Was it my crooked teeth?

Why was I afraid to fight back?

Why was I quick to delete the first thing I released into the wild 

When it was just one man’s voice, voices, screamed…

The creativity of the hate was building!

I felt alone in this battle

I was silenced. 

I stared into mirrors, I asked my mother

I covered my hands when I shared a laughter

A single word was destroying what took years to build.

I wasn’t going to let this stop me!

Was I?

[PART 3: THE MAIDEN]

I was seventeen when I first lost my innocence.

My eyes and ears were exposed to the world 

Louder than anything I ever knew.

I was sucked. 

I was tranced. 

I was falling. 

I wanted to know it all, and speak out about all the wrong I saw. 

Was it ever enough?

Was it the way my eyes were crooked or my nose small? 

Was it the way that I spoke or didn’t speak at all? 

Did I deserve any of it? 

Did I have to believe any of it at all? 

Who is this man to tell me I’m ugly when I had nothing ugly at all!

Was it something I said? Was it something I wrote? 

Was it the awkwardness of my hands when I posed? 

Or was it the fact that you chose to see what’s between my legs 

rather than what’s above my nose? 

I was not born deaf, but I wish I could unhear things.

I was not born blind, but I wish I could unsee this.

I was not born a man, but I wish I was today. 

I could repeat more words that were said to me

I could repeat more phrases that were thrown at me

sticks and stones, sticks and stones

I had better shields for the stones you’ve thrown 

Than to face the words I have known. 

In my own existence, In my own dissertation 

I was more than everything 

I knew I was more than what they were saying. 

[PART 4: THE MIRROR

Before there was silence, there was an ambush of noise.

I heard more than your words, 

I saw your heart’s tone. 

I could not deny the truth, I could not deny the hate

You were nothing more than a bird,

YOU WERE NOTHING MORE THAN 

A DAUGHTER, A SON, A MAN, A WOMAN 

YOU WERE NOTHING MORE THAN HUMAN!

You were never the words that were spoken to you

You were never the slurs that were shoved at you

You were a flower that was plucked to soon

You were that garden that filled up the whole room

I see the fresh cut that graces your skin.

I see all the bruises,

I see all the stain,

I see all the tears.

I see what’s behind and all that you carried.

I see you, I see you, I see you, I SEE YOU!

I stand here on the backs of all the words that were said to you,

I speak with all the words that were never given to you!

I see all the grace and beauty and brilliance.

I see your crooked eyes and beautiful smile and all the brain that it hides. 

I see your stolen home and I see your stolen voice. 

I stand here from all the ashes and tears that you were born from.

I see all the battle you have yet to face

I see all the scars you have yet to embrace

I SEE YOU!

I see you and I feel you and now I am not ashamed to say that I AM YOU. 

and you are me.

And I stand WITH you, I stand BY you, I stand FOR you. 

I DENY all the hate that was thrown at you. 

I GIVE you all the love that was hidden from you. 

Stay strong though, this war isn’t over.

We have barely scratched the surface. 

Strengthen your heart my dear

The stronger you get, the louder they become 

Sharpen your pencil,

Wipe your sweaty hands,

Clean your camera lens, 

And pose for me one more time.

Let us show the world, we have barely begun

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