Toxic Masculinity

by Terrell Woolfolk-Carter

She stood on the strip alone, neon signs flashing, glowing in the dark, beckoning,

promising fantasies on sale for just 10.00$.

Artificial lights of corner street lamps, urban spotlights, highlight her pace as she strolls, as she struts.

The night, her camouflage she wears to hide who she’s become.

Back and forth on a ghetto catwalk of, “I gotta do what I gotta do!” But it don’t make her feel no better.

Runs in her stockings like tracks leading to the promised land criss cross chocolate thighs,

lipstick that bleeds stain her teeth, but she still finds the courage to smile, although she left

happiness behind with bouncing pigtails in a hopscotch square long time ago.

Black girl lost in a perception not her own, where she’s been reduced to body parts

and how well she can cook a steak.

Everything she wants to be a vision of those who confine her.

Bitch embodied where motherhood becomes a prison

and dreams shriveled dry become saturated with paper rain–no shame.

But is it really her choice? If we didn’t want to see it, would she still want to be it?

Her voice a silent shout that no one hears as it echoes in a concrete valley of, “don’t nobody want yo ugly ass but me!” And she believed it. She’s a convict sentenced to a lifetime of who we think she should be

with her only means to freedom locked in a cage wrapped in the razor wire of her doubt, patrolled by her insecurities and guarded by the only person in the world with the key–HERSELF.

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