Surveillance & Invisibility

(A testament of the ways our bodies move through space simultaneously hypervisibile and invisible).

Children are seen not heard. 
You tuck yourself into a corner.
Trying to make yourself a wallflower.
No one pays any meaningful attention to you. 
Until you are 6. At your grandma’s house.
That older uncle pulls you into the closet.
Takes off your shirt. Rubs on your growing breast.
You are confused. You yell.
You are surprised by how loud you sound.
No one comes running at the sound of your yell. 
He apologizes. Tells you to not tell anyone.
That no one will believe you.
He never comes around again.
You never tell anyone.
You’re in school now.
You’ve started bringing home report cards.
You are learning a kind of worthiness 
measured by letters of the alphabet. 
A is good. F is bad.
You will be left to your peace with an A.
There will be yelling with an F.
You get A’s as an insurance policy for peace.
You are an A student.
You’ve worked very hard on your grades.
Your friends dare you 
to sneak out to a house party.
You decide to do it!
You're wearing a dress that hugs your body
It makes you feel good.
Sexy even.
You are dancing.
You notice hungry eyes on you the entire time.
It’s the first time you feel real power.
You also feel unsafe.
You leave early to come back home.
You meet your mom at the door
Wearing a mix of worry and anger on her face
She is more upset about what you wore 
than the sneaking out.
She calls you a bad girl.
She cries.
She slaps you.
You are afraid of this side of her.
You wish you could talk to her about
feeling both powerful and unsafe. 
You tell yourself you can never trust her.
You will later find out she was raped 
the first time she snuck away from home.
You are now in a professional program 
At a prestigious University. 
You can't finding mentors within your program.
 Professors don’t offer support.
You are always requested when pictures are taken. 
Their token of diversity.
You finally decide to take this up with the Dean. 
How you feel used and unsupported.
He says you are overreacting.
You need to stop being so sensitive.
To consider it a privilege to even be there.
“Our ancestors weren’t allowed to be here” 
he says. He is biracial.
You think "we don’t have the same ancestors."
You are angry at his gaslighting.
You swallow your words.
You internalize powerlessness.
You’re the only Black Woman at your organization.
Your colleagues notice when your hair changes.
They don’t notice when your face wears exhaustion. 
Or maybe they do and just don't check in.
You’ve worked there for 10 years.
You still have to show your ID to security. 
Tom has been at the organization for 2 years
Everyone at security knows him.
He is being groomed for the promotion
you've had your eyes on for years.
It’s your 33rd birthday. 
Life hasn’t shaped up how you wanted it to be. 
And yet. Life is good. 
You have more than a few “happy birthday” wishes.  
Lots of people proclaiming their "love." 
Including the love of your life. 
Who broke up with you because
he wasn’t ready for a serious commitment.
He is currently engaged to a white woman 
He met her 3 months after your breakup. 
It's been a year. 
Your bed is still empty. 
You haven't stopped hoping 
he will come back.

Poem By Salem Afangideh
Copyright reserved. 2020.

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