after Aracelis Girmay, Arati Warrier, and Angel Nafis
zealous pupil of the hot comb, of oily neck and folded ear,
but before that, you were young. you were asked questions
about your dead father and your hair. your first conversation
with god, faithless. child of the singing forehead. child of the
frustrated wrist. your mother yelled because you fell asleep
on your aunt’s pillows and now the whole couch smells of you.
child of amorous pomade. everyone can tell where you’ve been.
even bus windows remember your name. child of the curl that
stole the wind’s fury. how could everything about you not be
bursting? child of the busted chongo. child of the broken brush,
splitting anything weak in half while still blushing for a gentle
hand. you are your own lesson in commitment. child of royalty,
of the silk scarf before bed. defender from the cotton resurrected
each night to steal you back, every pillowcase a looming field of
ghosts. child of the rained out funeral. child of grocery bag protection.
at age twelve, washing your own hair is your first act of humility.
listening to your blackness, your first mode of resistance. child of
the eloquent scalp, which negotiations did you lose today? how many
times did you lift your hands in ceremony to unravel and partition?
tell us how you learned to fix, fluff, and plait; to wind and plow.
how you were late for class and work doing so. how you skipped
breakfast. how you tended. how you greeted a new ancestor in
the mirror and let their moans trickle and slither down the length
of you. how each strand circles back to its own beginning. child
of inheritance, rejecting gravity & its theorems. the eternal fuck
you. when the weather catches you unprepared, you curse each
raindrop undoing your labor with its disrespectful weight; but
unlike anything else in the world, when smothered in water,
submerged in a substance thick enough to kill you, nearly
drowned and gasping--- you rise, and refusing invisibility,
grow to the size all benevolent gods are.
i slip oil through
my damp braids,
as the oil
i say to them,
i have a crush
on a girl
with a fistful
in front of my
in the spot
the most light.
this is how
a baby first
all the color
in the world
can fit into
holding a girl
a woman who
& what kind
i imagine loving
a girl named sam
as oil lifts
from my head
after the wash;
Ariana Brown is an Afromexicana poet from San Antonio, Texas, with a B.A. in Mexican American Studies and African & African Diaspora Studies. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, member of the UT Austin team, winners at the 2014 National Collegiate Poetry Slam, and is currently working on her first manuscript.