For My Mother

1.
The nape of my neck throbs as you separate strands of kanekalon to braid into perfectly parted sections of my scalp
I sit, cross legged on the ground between your strong brown legs
Here, we exchange family gossip and headaches
Your fingers pull the skin beneath my curls until it rests into a tight plait
I lean on your right thigh until the weight from my head grows heavy on your limbs
I beg you to change Diary of a Mad Black Woman to Wizards of Waverly place
We settle on reruns of Fresh Prince
I scowl for the first hour because I told you I wanted red hair this time
You laughed and continued to braid in the jet black extensions.
pubescent rage dissolves as you reveal the final product


2.
Iā€™m in college,
You do not braid my hair anymore
There is no Disney or BET at the hair shop on 125th
I just sit and stare at my reflection in the dirty mirror
At your features on my face
Framed by colors that you would have never let me wear
Your absence fills this room like the smell of burning hair.
Missing you means overpriced mediocrity
Means unfamiliar hands pulling at my head
Means saying thank you instead of Imela
Means that pain hits both the head and the heart with each tug

Joel CampoComment