BLACK MONA’ LISA, SMILE

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I was born to be the Mona’ Lisa.

I think about her when I’m on my back beneath him.

Or on my belly, because of him.

Revered and Beautiful. Rather than a second mat, under my husband– collecting checks just to spend them on a right to keep on breathing.

She has flaws, and she is not the most beautiful. But, millions flock to her virtue and give love to the flawed beauty of this white woman with the brunette hair.

Blacks ain’t even likened to brunettes.

Ain’t that something? So beautiful they find other words to describe her blackness. Raven. Brunette. Onyx.

But Black girls only know Black.

Black knees. Black hair. Black eyes and Black lives.

That’s how ugly they think we are. Liken if Ms. Lisa were ever subject to a Black eye, they’d call it something prettier.

Though, none of that keep me from thinking thoughts no Black girl should. That my skin is like caramel after generations of baring half-milk black babies we never asked for.

Maybe If I avoid the sun, I could be her: take her place: wear her paint chips like lotion.

Ain’t that a sight?

A Black Mona’ Lisa.

Black Art, made manifest.

Dream about it.

Never mind. I’ll do more than dream.

I pack my bags and buy the ticket under the cover of night — the darkness hugging me so close, and flee my husband, hootin’ when I outpace him onto the flight. He call me a mean name: “Black Ugly Cow!” The Ugly part doesn’t make me wince, but how he call me Black… why, it’s as if he ain’t realize he Black himself. His Mama Black, too. Makes me think all his hate he got for me, must be the hate he instead feels for his reflection.

I lay my head low on the flight and swallow my demon-shaped worries. I’ve got a lot to fret about. Barely a nickel to my name, but I’ve a passport. I’ve intent, and that’s more than most Black Women got.

I’ve a dream to be better than a fly on the wall in the Louvre: to be a painting before their eyes. And the Louvre will simply be another place surrounding my greatness.

I land. I make do in the hostels never far from Black-loving white children on a cocaine relay from one conqueror’s nation to another. I stay months too long and –

Well, conquerors have no charity. But I’ve a job; I’ve a dream. Now, I’ve a home too.

And the day I get the key, I get a tiny picture and pin it above my pillow. I gotta be on my tippy toes to kiss it up there, but I do every day: my face cut oval and glued to the Mona’ Lisa’s neck. Mustard neck, Golden-Black face. The Mona’ Lisa never looked so good.

I sway the mop around the porcelain floors, of the porcelain temple to the Porcelain Gods. The Louvre isn’t around me, I’m in it — devoured whole, I sway that mop in my sections and I watch the kids sneak a selfie of Mona’ Lisa and her smile that haunts you.

I smile back and a guard I cannot see shrieks.

He’s pretending: I’m not that ugly. He’s just French, and rude.

I pay them no mine: Mona’ Lisa can’t be ugly.

A Black cherub approaches me. She ain’t got two front teeth to cut with.

“Picture?” Her finger points back to the old Mona’ Lisa.

I smile. Of course dear. I take one with her, holding it up and getting close. I hand it back.

She looks disappointed, but I gave her my best smile.

My teeth radiate. “I’ma be Mona’ Lisa!”

She giggles and hugs me, and as the girl skips off, I keep on smiling. I smile so wide, my cheeks burn!

Mona’ Lisa made me like that, once.

Mona’ Lisa made her like that, now.

Black Art made manifest.

It’s not about showing what you could be — setting a mold for someone else to fit into.

It’s about showing them they can break a mold for themselves.

Black Art ain’t a guideline.

Black Art is an example!

Night fall. The guards are here, but I don’t care.

I stomp through the palace like I run it, because I do.

Land of conquerors — It’s mine!

Little Miss Louvre temple think she impenetrable?

I’ma raid it. This my temple, now. The God ain’t Porcelain! I find the Mona’ Lisa — oh, Girlfriend ugly now.

Guards are coming. The scissors I snuck in my stocking goes snip-snip. I cut a hole where Mona’ Lisa is — the smile and the brunette locks. I shove myself in her place.

Bright light!

“Huh, Mona’ est surement plus mignon maintenant!”

They’ll get my name right eventually.

This Monet’s Smile.

Black and Beautiful.

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