Exploited

It was enough just to hold her. The curve of her hips fit perfectly in my lap. We lay like spoons. The sun rose, filled the bedroom with bright light, and we didn’t move. It skated across the wall behind my headboard, and we barely flinched. It turned a fleshy peach and sank below the window, and we were still cocooned in the sheets, naked underneath, the heat radiating from our deep brown skin to keep us warm.

It was enough just to forage my fingers through her hair, soft like cotton balls, the tickling fur of dandelion seeds. A lock coiled around my finger, tightened, like a tiny snake suffocating its prey, and I made the mistake of wanting more. To think that we weren’t one whole, satisfied this day and forever, before I opened my mouth and spoke. To assume that asking her to do something so simple as to straighten her hair wouldn’t break her heart, wouldn’t consume her with images of my hating her, trying to scrub away her dark skin, seething at the natural bush that grew from her crown.

“I get that perms have chemicals. They can damage your hair. But a flat iron?”

“Heat damage.”

I didn’t understand what that meant. Like heat stroke? Like dehydration? “I just want to be able to run my fingers through your hair, pull it when we . . . you know.”

“That’s such a man’s answer. Exploit my body for your sexual thrills.”

“That’s not what I meant. Just forget it.”

But she couldn’t forget it. She propped herself up on her elbows, took the other half of the covers, leaving me exposed, and wrapped them around her, concealing every inch of her body from the shoulders down. It was the first time she’d been out of my arms in eighteen hours, and it felt like carving away my own skin.

“Don’t go,” I pleaded. “I’m sorry.”

“I have to feed my dog anyway.” But we both knew Atticus lived in the yard, and if he didn’t have food in his bowl, he found it in a squirrel, or a rabbit, or the neighbor’s cat.

No, she couldn’t stand to be by my side anymore, let the self-hatred seep into her pores. She wanted to share all of her, all that she was, with me, but all that was on my mind was what if she looked a little more like her, a little more like them.

I waited a few days to call her, to let her anger recede, but as the phone rang and rang with no answer, the echo of her voice overcame me. Exploit my body. Exploit my body. What if another man had? I only perpetuated the cycle.

—Nortina

Hair Crisis

Fluff up the frizz,
pull down the coils—
I’m torn.
The song tells me
I am not my hair,
but my reflection glares
back, demanding an
explanation—
Why do I think this
…Lion’s Mane…
is appropriate for
the corporate office;
for walking on sidewalks
behind white women
clutching expensive purses;
for PTA meetings about
strict dress codes—bans
against colors red, blue,
bandannas in back pockets,
tank tops whose namesake
promotes domestic violence,
“distracting” hairstyles.
My afro enters the room
before I do; everyone
turns, stares, mouths agape,
the atmosphere freezes;
I float in limbo while
they decide what to call
my hair—
It’s like a hat,
like a firework,
an overgrown bush,
chop it down with shears
with weed whackers,
it’s unkempt, nappy.
It is defiant toward gravity,
stiff under patting hands
molding it into a shape
more tolerable. It is
the fear of militant Negros
fist fighting the Klansmen
buried in their backyards.
It is the severed limbs
of my enslaved ancestors
rising from my scalp,
reaching up, out, catching
freedom in the wind, in
low hanging branches, in
lost Bobby pins that
cannot tame my
ROAR!

—Nortina


wp-1460120669780.jpgIt’s been a while since I’ve written a poem other than a haiku. Since April is NaPoWriMo, I thought I’d work off the rust, draw some inspiration from BlaPoWriMo  (and the almost hair identity crisis I had standing in front of the mirror this morning before work), and write this poem.

No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge: Day 20

Natural Hair Haiku

Winter’s ice lowers
branch—disappears amongst the
kinks atop my head.

Nortina