One little ebony-eyed girl
paints her fingers white tempura pale.

"to look like yours,"

she says;

my teachers scorn her grin
because her play
might break the fragile "how"s and "why"s.

She is ignorant
because she can't match Martin Luther
to a King
and doesn't dream of train tracks
bursting out of Northern soil.

Tender shoulders too small
to carry old genetic burdens,
one girl draws new melodies
with ancient pigments.

One day she must study
the discord of our ancestors-
whips spitting, low "yessir"s
the ring of auction chains-
and collapse her face to caution, but
not yet, and maybe
not for a very long while.

Now one smiling girl
paints her fingers white,
and I feel my eyes dart corners
from her trust.

With my educated hands
I still can't shade inside the lines,
and I would rather
paint my blazing cheekbones black
than be the color
of the past
her down.