Poem- In My TV

By: Oluwatoyin Kupoluyi

I used to think that people lived in my television 

In a faraway land, I wasn’t allowed to touch 

My mom used to say not to get too close to the TV

That it will suck me up and take me away 

That if I touch the glass screen my skin will melt through 

And my palms will have nothing to grasp onto 

That the images that I see won’t be recognizable 

And I’ll somehow become disconnected from myself 

I’ll fall into a void in which you have to be a white paper bag to escape 

Forcing my chocolate skin to melt down into something softer and lighter

Forcing me to learn how to fight out of the claws of a relaxer 

Forcing my curls into perfection, into straight, into type one hair 

From which I will learn how to free myself from those hands seeking to tame my hair 

To file down its sharp edges and make it gentle enough to fit in 

Hands that run the cast iron comb through holding freedom between their teeth 

To release me from my naps 

To hot comb that burns my hair into straight 

Into fitting in with the people living in the TV

That when I fall into this void 

I will lose my words 

That they will be twisted into shapes I will be unable to comprehend 

That my native language will be stripped from my tongue 

The words that once slipped smoothly off now tripped and stumbled through my teeth 

That the void seems to have a standard 

That I can’t fit into 

That each letter pronounced in my words must be articulated properly 

Must fit into the box that is American 

That the void spits out words that it can’t filter out 

Words that do not align with its standard 

I used to think that people lived in my TV

For the mirrored glass never reflected on me

It was instead filled with strangers 

Who seemed to be more favored than me 

That the glass was a shield-like wall 

Protecting the mirror world from me 

From a foreigner

From an alien 

From “going back to your country, you don’t belong here”

That our void is only for people whose homes were born here, not planted here 

Maybe the void doesn’t know that you can’t shake hands and smile at people through a wall 

That our stories deserve to be reflected on another side of a mirror 

But I couldn’t help but compare myself to every other reflection in the mirror 

Maybe they shine brighter than me 

Maybe I’m the one taking up too much space 

Maybe they aren’t strangers but I am instead

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