Poem for My Grifa-Rican Sistah Or Broken Ends Broken Promises

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Poem for My Grifa-Rican Sistah
Or Broken Ends Broken Promises

                  for my twin sister Melissa, who endured it with me

Braids twist and tie
constrain baby naps never to be free
braids twist and tie
contain / hold in the shame
of not havin’ long black silky strands
to run my fingers through.
Moños y bobby pins
twist and wrap
Please forgive me for the sin
Of not inheriting Papi’s “good hair”
moños y bobby pins
twist and wrap           
restrain kinky naps
dying to be free
but not the pain
of not having a long black silky mane
to run my fingers through.
 
Clips and ribbons
to hold back and tie
oppressing baby naps
never to be free.
 
Clips and ribbons
to hold back and tie
imprisoning baby naps
never to have the dignity to be.
 
Chemical relaxers
broken ends / broken promises
activator and cream
mixed in with bitterness
mix well…
 
Keep away from children
Avoid contact with eyes
This product contains lye and lies
Harmful if swallowed
 
 
The ritual of combing / parting / sectioning
the greasing of the scalp / the neck
the forehead / the ears
the process / and then the burning / the burning
 
“It hurts to be beautiful, ’ta te quieta”
My mother tells me.
“¡Pero mami me pica!”
 
and then the running / the running to water
to salvation / to neutralizer / to broken ends
and broken promises.
 
Graduating from Carefree Curl
to Kitty curl / to Revlon / to super duper Fabulaxer
different boxes offering us broken ends and broken promises.
 
“We’ve come a long way since Dixie Peach,”
my mother tells me as I sit at the kitchen table.
 
Chemical relaxers to melt away the shame
until new growth reminds us
that it is time once again
for the ritual and the fear of
scalp burns and hair loss
and the welcoming
of broken ends
and broken
promises.
 
 
When the truth is that
Black hair
African textured hair
Care free crazy curly hair
is beautiful.
 
¡Que viva el pelo libre!
 
¡Que viva!

© Maria Teresa Fernandez. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 10 April 2015.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.