Unbraided

Her hair would not
be weaved into rows like cane stalks walked
by huddled black bodies,
with tethered ends that
clank
against slumped shoulders.

She would not bow
her head so low
to let the needle labor, sew in new lengths
that fall
so neatly into place.

As if no one ever told her
to button up,
she wore her own crown
a pyrocumulus bloom
that could not be quelled
by any fire hose or gel.

And she would not cut it
just so it could roll across the floor in some salon where
the acid smell burns
your nose and the white cosmetologist scrunches hers
at the sight of this hair, wavering
like a tumbleweed trying to find its way
back
(back where? Was there ever a place it could
expand

uninterrupted?)
If her hair were
fostered, could continue
to grow, each curl
could creep its way into the finest
crevices, embed themselves
into the fabric of this
star-spangled family tapestry
to be read as something
other

than a fucked up afro.


Liz Cooke lives in Madison, Wisconsin where she works as a software tester. Prior to her current job, she served in the military. She and her partner have raised two beautiful guinea pigs.