At 11, I thought I hated my hair.
All frizz and fluff and just
too large. My mother told me
I wanted sleek. I wanted straight.
I wanted what my sister had.
Nothing could get me there.
She tried braids, but fuzz
danced at the surface. Even
weighed down with thirty seconds
of Aqua Net, its will was too strong.
She tried hot oil, pulling
and scalding, and yanking with
each whimper. My scalp bled
and burned, and my hair shone
brightly, a halo floating above me.
She tried a curling iron
that always burned my ears.
There are scars that mark
her slips. They stayed for an hour,
maybe, until they cooled, then
my hair grew, the heat fertile soil
She tried hot curlers, their spikes
holding them fast, the burning
prolonged over night, a cap
covering my head to hold
the heat in, and the itching itching
itching that I couldn’t scratch.
They fell in the early morning.
She tried a perm. I ran
full speed through trees and grass,
zig zagging across an acre
to escape the chemical smell
and sting. My hair blossomed
into a sunflower, reaching away
and toward the light.
She taught me how to pull
it into a bun, to gel it all down
slick against my skull. It only lasted
to the afternoon. She gave me
mousse with the strongest hold
to tame it if I could. I could not.
I fought. Win. Lose. Win. Lose.
I grew tired. I stopped fighting.
I conceded. My hair slowed and showed
why she couldn’t be flattened,
burned, poisoned to fit
what my mother wanted, what I thought
I wanted. There was never
anything wrong with us. My hair
would never be sleek. It will never
be straight like my sister’s.
All she wanted was peace and to curl.