Ugly by Warsan Shire

Just one more day to go! It’s been a wild ride so far and I hope you enjoyed every bit of it.
I saved some of the best for last of course. ‘Celebrating Women Through Poetry’ would be incomplete without Warsan Shire.

The poem ‘Ugly‘ from her collection ‘Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth’ is a powerful piece that questions beauty and how we perceive it.

 Your daughter is ugly.
She 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 like you shouldn’t smell
of lonely or empty.
 
You are her mother.
Why did you not warn her,
hold her like a rotting boat
and tell her that men will not love her
if she is covered in continents,
if her teeth are small colonies,
if her stomach is an island
if her thighs are borders?

What man wants to lie down
and watch the world burn 
in his 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?



Warsan Shire was born in Kenya in 1988 and is a London-based Somali-British writer. She is the author of the collections Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, Her Blue Body , and Our Men Do Not Belong to Us. Her poem  ‘For women who are difficult to love’, was famously adapted for Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ album.


How do you think the author expresses the idea of beauty here? Let’s chat!

2 thoughts on “Ugly by Warsan Shire

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