I Didn’t Know

I didn’t know

when I saw the pale-skinned stranger

it was the end

of Everything


I didn’t know

I had already seen my mother’s belly

jelly with laughter

for the last time


I didn’t know

I’d never again feel the comforting thrum

of my father’s musical bass

as I lay next to his heart


I didn’t know

my friends and I would no longer chase and

play at the hunters

we thought we would become (We wouldn’t)


I didn’t know

I’d never again walk tall, strong and free

Instead, I shuffled, iron-yoked

on the long trek to the door of no return


I didn’t know

the terrible vastness of the endless sea

dwarfing the mighty river

where once I’d played


I didn’t know

a boat could be so huge and yet so narrow

a deadly prison

for my quivering form


I didn’t know

how much smaller I could squeeze my body

while failing to avoid the waste

of all those wasted lives


I didn’t know

I was now less – and more – than cattle

to be prodded, sold and branded

in the strangest of markets


I didn’t know

I’d lose the name I got from kings

to become someone

I barely recognized


I didn’t know

the legends that soothed my youth

would become whispered myths

reminding of what was lost


I didn’t know

I’d be used to create a fractured dynasty

with no connection

to the land I left


I didn’t know

I’d never see my home again

nor would my children

my children’s children

my children’s grandchildren’s grandchildren


If I had known

I would have stayed unseen

and fled that pale-skinned stranger

But I didn’t know


Sharon Hurley Hall (she/her) is an anti-racism activist, writer and educator. She is a British/Barbadian national committed to doing her part to eliminate racism one article at a time, and is the creator and publisher of an anti-racism newsletter. She is the author of Exploring Shadeism, an analysis of the colorism phenomenon in Barbados and the wider Caribbean, and co-produces and co-hosts The Introvert Sisters podcast. She won three Bronze awards for poetry in the 2019 NIFCA Literary Arts competition. She can be found at https://www.antiracismnewsletter.com/, https://sharonhh.com/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharonhh/, https://twitter.com/shurleyhall, and https://www.instagram.com/shurleyhall/.

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