Aliyha Gill

White Wash 

          After Sylvia Plath’s “Face Lift”


I sneak in a bottle of skin-lightening oil from the drug store,

tucked behind my back, discarded box and directions

in the parking lot: I found my new night routine.

When I was four, a woman

stood behind me and my mom in line. She was shocked

by my mom’s white hand holding my tan one. Told Six Flags security

that my mom snatched me from my real mother.

O my mother was sick.

Things didn’t change. After swimming

pale as Snow White in my suit of sunblock,

dizzy from the stench of sunscreen,

I dry off under an umbrella while my sister

basks in the sun. She makes me feel something shameful

peeks out from my Banana Boat cloak. At a quarter past two

she flips onto her belly like a pig on a spit…

She doesn’t know a thing.

For five months I apply whitening treatments in secret,

pinch rubber bulb, drip serum onto skin, its excess stains sheets and pillow.

Even my peers think I’m adopted.

Complexion doesn’t reflect my roots, chemical peels do a better job of that.

When I shower, skin cracks. I grow sensitive. I’m fourteen,

flaky and in immense pain in my childhood bathroom, my cheeks

screaming as I slather more whitener on them;

I hadn’t self-love yet.

Now (six years later) she’s done for, the judgmental bully

I heard shouting, day and night, in my ear—

Family outcast, tried so hard to lighten me that she erased herself.

She’s trapped in my teenage diaries.

Let her collect dust, or catch fire in a blaze,

writhing and howling as flames eat her paper-skin.

To my younger self, I wish to cradle you in my arms,

brown and beautiful as can be.

Aliyha Gill is a psychology and English (creative writing) double major senior at SUNY Geneseo. She is the opinion editor for The Lamron and the copy editor for MiNT Magazine. She appreciates all forms of art and aspires to publish her own poetry collection one day.