- No. 1: Color, and: No. 2: Textures, and: No. 3: Lengths, and: What to Do with Silence?
No. 1: Color
a bulk-hair poem
So black jet Gets lost in it— So black starry Nights glisten On its surface— So black It draws white To its cheek and dances—I cant tell Which is witchcraft And light—both hues hang Dazzle from this clothesline track Of human Hair, stitched To itself, strung From a metal pole in Empire Beauty. It slipped Out of the plastic Package, this sample I hold to my head and look In the fisheyed security Mirror. It dont match. Fooled me, I’ll have to find another Shade of extension—is this the original One?—wandering down The aisles of Empire Beauty, down the aisles of Empire Beauty. I have to extend— [End Page 321]
No. 2: Textures
Beware: if you ask to touch the hair behind the counter, The woman behind the counter will make you try it On, like a little black girl with her best dress On for shoe shopping in Selma, Alabama, 1969, starched crisp To stand out far, Far above her skin Like a princess. Ignore the woman behind the counter If you want to touch. She will make you buy it, The hair you tried on because she made you Because you wanted to feel A crinkle of six-inch wet-and-wavy Hair, volatile as a teenager’s Acne, and you wonder how wet your hand is and will it coil The hair before you buy it, and do you want a coil Of hair at all, and now you understand The policy: the best dresses aren’t meant to touch A nervous girl’s armpits, sweat beads down the new Down down there, the un-public hair You’ll remove later. Later, The best dresses stand out from the body Like tutus—net, stiff, untouchable—later They leave you behind. They defy Gravity, like Neil Armstrong’s bootprint waffling The moon’s powdered surface while one dark girl In best dress must buy shoes she’s not sure will fit Because once she’s touched them with her socked sole, No one else will—or you, hoping One of these frayed black tongues will touch you, suit you Fully, wet and wavy or straight and dry Or round Like the moon in the sky. You can always change you Back or to powder. This must be the secret The woman behind the counter holds Just beyond reach, and believes.
No. 3: Lengths
a synthetic / hair poem for the guy in the church breadline / who told me Italy was “a shit country”
“Only one foot?” the beautician asks, one palm on one’s shoulder, one palm weighting down the crown of one’s head, the thin spot. Like Juanita the Baptist, she waits for profession of faith before immersion. She yawns, taps one’s shoulder. Unlike John,
she will not have her head on a plate, but one’s, and it must stream silk. What she hates isn’t poverty’s ambition, but ambition’s poverty. “By the time I fold this all in half,” she states, “at the crown only six inches will hang down—what you have now. You sure you want braids?
’Cause I can hook you up with tracks. Run out back,” she tells her relaxing staff, “Grab my serge machine, thread. Let’s fix up her head nice.” And she’s off in a trice, while one does the math, realizes one’s gaffe. For her labor alone, she’ll have the last laugh. [End Page 322]
“Does this change the price?” one asks, one’s voice high, and she says, “Christ! How else keep on lights, air?” “There must be a fair way,” one might say, “to repair the fare,” and she—slight, yet middle-dense as a pear—belly-bumps one’s chair around, says, “This is no heist.
Wear your hair long or short, thick-braided or bare, I don’t care. But don’t you dare mar or malign this shop, my name. You came to me for a job, and I work...