Hair Care (I)
You are learning my hair shows up
everywhere. You find my strands hiding
in your car, slinking in the sink, clinging
to a plate in the kitchen; they caress your back
in morning. You pull them away. You learn
they have energy. You see each strand
is dyed now. They change halfway. You know
I'll never chop my hair off. It poofs in tendrils
in a drizzle. My shampoo and conditioner are costly
but you say my hair smells good. You learn
I use my hair to cover myself. You learn I don’t
own a hairbrush, don’t straighten, or curl or spray.
You learn my hair is long like shadows, is thick
like stone, while I learn
it carries no weight. It's just hair.
Hair Care (II)
I am learning how nappy isn't
curly isn't wavy. You brush your hair
each morning. You don't wear a do-rag
anymore. Your mom used to cut your hair
before you moved and found a barber
in Baltimore to give you shape ups
and fades and sharp edges.
You use double-butter moisturizer
found in the “ethnic hair care” aisle.
I find your hair on my face and neck
right after a fresh cut. Hairs like flakes
of black stardust. I learn to only rub
your hair one way,
that when it's perfectly wavy, the curls
line up tight like the strawberry rows
that time we went picking.
(You don't need a pick, really).
With your head in my lap,
instead of strawberries, I pick
root stories, coiled in time:
football helmets, grandma's kisses
before she passed, each strand
of ancestry you can or can't track,
each time you felt “I’m black.”
I learn hair care is preservation
restoration of soul via crown.
Nobody can cut that down.
Dana Lotito is a high school English teacher at McDonogh School. She is published in The Academy of American Poets as a college prize winner as well as The Legendary. She lives in Baltimore with her future husband, who is her inspiration.