lauryn hill
The Education of Sugar Girl
by Tonia Marie Harris

I dressed myself in vanilla custard, sticky
I could glom on, be the center of him.
Lauryn Hill asked the same question
a bubble above our heads, storming
When it hurts so bad, why’s it feel
So good?

In my arms, a girl, in my belly, a girl
and me, a girl, sticky
with longing. I had to be the nurture they needed.

At that rate, I would give anyone cavities.

I dreamed of their teeth, their mouths,
their tongues. Decayed by a girl who gave
her power away. No.
No. I my bubble gum lips, my slick
contrivance, packed what mattered in a cheap
laundry basket and we stole away in the sun
pin-pricked and melted.

I let it. I let it be the thing a sugar girl needs. A woman
come clean. A woman come the hard way round. A woman
on her knees. Singing the day the sugar gone away I
stood for my girls and me. I who teach them now love
isn’t candy bad, we are bones and blood, pain and grace
not sundae pies and pleasure moments, we
who want
are the only good we need. We, are not taste pleasures
for any other, we are the pleasure, pain, not letting-go-of-we

age31withmydaughters AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Real Good Sugar — Me, age 31, and my two daughters (five years ago).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During my first and second pregnancies, both girls, I listened to Lauryn Hill’s album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, relentlessly, seeking my strength in hers. I was a recovering drug addict and in an abusive relationship. My world was tied up in pleasing him. Three weeks pregnant with my second daughter, I packed up a laundry basket and we left. Every day since, I am leaving that girl behind, too, and learning how to be the woman I need, and more, the woman my daughters need.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tonia Marie Harris resides in South-Central Illinois. She is a charter member of a local grassroots library that caters to her village and surrounding communities. Tonia takes her vintage typewriter and turns poetry into performance art at local festivals and events. Her work can be found at, in Twice Upon A Time, an anthology of reimagined fairy tales, and has written for Hand/Eye Magazine. She is also an administrative assistant for Writer Unboxed, an award-winning website for writers.