lillie kate CC
Angela. Wish I knew how,
where to find you.
Would you remember me, or that I sat behind you
in our eighth grade English class?
As we discussed Animal Farm, other works of the
Eurocentric canon, I studied the
your two neat plaits.
You were the only one of us who hadn’t been
bent at the nape of the neck
by the stove in her mother’s kitchen
or in Mrs. Johnson’s salon,
Dark and Lovely Creme relaxer
scorching her coils into submission.
Fed up with your confidence
kinks and kitchens
our mothers tried to hide,
I asked you,
“Why don’t you straighten your hair?”
I remember your smile.
You turned around, announced,
“my hair doesn’t need to be straightened”
and turned back to your work.
“Yes, it does,” I snickered.
I wish you had been there to see me
when I heard Farrakhan accuse
sisters and brothers
who “do things” to our hair
of being dissatisfied
with the way God gave it to us.
I was angry until
I realized my shame of its texture
and determined to never chemically alter it again,
the day I walked down 125th Street,
scarf secured around my head,
strands springing forth,
wrapped around each other like
the roots of a mangrove,
when an African sister offered to braid my hair.
I smiled through my no thank you,
“You’re going to wear your hair like that?”
My eyes affixed on the horizon,
at 40 when I undid my last box braid,
threw away my last
plastic bag full of unraveled Kanekalon hair,
at 46 when the last comb infiltrated my crown.
I wish you could see me work
my hair over with
witch hazel, water, peppermint oil.
At 48, locs caress my shoulders.
Yesterday, a little girl looked up at me,
my locs framing my face.
She said, “You look pretty. I like your hair,”.
It is what I should have said to you that day in class,
though you never needed me to.
Carla M. Cherry is an English teacher and poet who loves to go to Chicago-style stepping sets in her spare time. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Anderbo, Eunoia Review, Dissident Voice, Random Sample Review, MemoryHouse Magazine, Bop Dead City, Picaroon Poetry, Streetlight Press, and Ariel Chart. She has published four books of poetry through Wasteland Press: Gnat Feathers and Butterfly Wings, Thirty Dollars and a Bowl of Soup, Honeysuckle Me, and These Pearls Are Real.
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