Prompt: Write a suffering poem
The Last Time I Got My Hair Braided
~after Natasha Trethewey
I sit with back and neck stiff-straight.
I dare not move my head from side
to side, can barely read the book propped
to eye-level on elbows. My lids close to breathe
into the sensation of scalp pulled by strands
of desperate hair clinging to their roots.
We’re well past the four hours Sonya said
it would take, before four hands sunk
into the thicket of coils beneath my crown.
I still feel a loose patch near my right ear,
soon-to-be replaced by ten or twelve
pencil-thin braids. This, I reason, is less
effort than the biweekly press-and-curl, less
expensive than weaving in Remy hair, more
natural than a no-lye relaxer. But the pain
is no different from the hot comb’s singe,
the sizzle of the flat iron, or the burn
of the “creamy crack.” It feels no
better than when my mother’s firm
hands tried to coax a rat-tailed comb
through my tender six-year old head.
It will be three months before I will
think about suffering this way again,
three months before I stay shut in my room,
all my fingers intent on unraveling
the plaits to separate what is real
from what is not, three months
until I see this spongy, tangled mass
again and decide to cut it off.
~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013