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Diamond Daughter

she joins the dance team to stay out of trouble 

or for the dreamy basketball player

impressed by her flexibility        the way she bends 

without breaking but not so enchanted he gets her pregnant 

a dark child with a child is nothing to shine about 

sort of thing that dulls a shimmer, peels a light

makes a girl meager—all edge & corner

so she smiles & sticks out her chest        knowing the brilliant 

prospect of her mom’s forehead, worry wasting 

out of her cigarette, padded skin of anxious feet        knowing

it’s all for her diamond daughter who yells at her after working the night 

for cancerous wage, trifling tuition, greedy rent—the price 

parents pay for a future is the present

the daughter hates this & aches for her mom 

at competitions or the daughter hates her mom & hungers 

for trouble she can’t get in        sharp nights, blunted sight 

there’s failure in being a fast kind of young        all dazzle, no direction

but there are routines that lose their speed, girls who become 

weighty with expectations: spin away from your kin, 

skin yourself silent, give brain & save the bravado 

be a river, running from your spirit’s source      

guilt grooms the daughter        claims her obedience,

the whipped memory—hoping she will pass down 

the caged posture/ a manual on how to sit inside yourself 


Arianne Elena Payne, smiling in front of a flowerbed

Arianne Elena Payne is a Black writer, multidisciplinary creative, and aspiring historian from Chicago, Illinois. She is a 2023 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow. She has received the 2022 Graybeal-Gowen Poetry Prize, the 2022 Virginia Downs Poetry Award, and the 2019 Frederick Hartmann Poetry Prize. Her work has been featured in Voicemail Poems, TORCH, Shenandoah and is forthcoming in the Indiana Review and Hooligan Magazine. Situated in the complexities and lyricism of Blackness, girlhood, and geographies of resistance—her work strives to take Black people and their histories seriously.