Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Ugly

This film, directed by Anna Ginsburg, was released for World Refugee Day 2019.

A collaboration with painter Melissa Kitty Jarram. Poem and voice-over by the incredible Warsan Shire.

Running time: 1:41

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the film.

The Ugly Daughter

by Warsan Shire

Knows loss intimately,
carries whole cities in her belly.

As a child, relatives wouldn’t hold her.
She was splintered wood and sea water,
she reminded them of the war.

On her fifteenth birthday you taught her
how to tie her hair like rope 
and smoke it over burning frankincense.

You made her gargle rosewater
and while she coughed, said
Macaanto, girls shouldn’t smell
of lonely or empty.

You’re her mother.
Why did you not warn her?
That she will not be loved
if she is covered in continents,
if her teeth are small colonies,
if her stomach is an island,
if her thighs are borders?

Who wants to lie down
and watch the world burn 
in their bedroom? 

Your daughter’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear,
a body littered with ugly things

but God, 
doesn’t she wear
the world well.


Still shot: “Ugly”

One comment on “Video: Ugly

  1. ahenda fredrick
    June 23, 2019

    I saw this poem by Shire in a Kenya Airways magazine, one of the poem that inspired me to start sharing my poems to the world…powerful poem!

    Liked by 1 person

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