i feel more black than i feel sixteen,
as if sixteen is a cinematic dream that escaped me,
but black is my blood and the blood on the concrete.
it’s funny that the times i feel the most black
are when bullets sink into my brother’s skin
and turn them into tragic pieces of artwork
for the nation to marvel at for a week or two.
that’s the black life here in america–
our lives are defined by our deaths.
we are killed as monsters,
our darkness misinterpreted.
we’re resurrected as vampires and hashtags,
a pantomime of life, a pat on the back.
when we die again, we die in peace if we’re lucky,
disappearing before we can be destroyed,
existing only as ghosts to the fearful,
the black and young who can’t forget or look away.
sometimes, i wish i were sixteen instead of black.
i could be reckless instead of restless,
obsess over cute boys instead of dead boys.
but nightmares paint my future in despondent shades of pain,
my identity is sectioned off into acceptable or evil,
my innocence distorted like nighttime shadows.
i’m black first and sixteen second,
sixteen for a second.
when you’re black, you don’t get to be sixteen.
you age in tears and oppression;
you are your dark history.
there’s only one story you’re allowed to tell
and only one story that you’ll become.
you live black, but not really.
you breathe black, laugh black, cry black, but
the only time a black life matters
is when you finally die black.
Suzi Peter is a teenage creative from the nation’s most undesirable state, Tennessee. Her work has been previously recognized by Germ Magazine, Creative Communications, and the boy in her eighth grade Creative Writing class who called her writing “too cliche and melodramatic.” She enjoys reading Young Adult literature, writing poems and short stories, putting off homework until the last minute, and isolating herself from her friends because she’s always the first to reach out. Her primary sources of serotonin are going on long-distance runs and listening to podcasts about murder.