"Bad Hair Day"

Today my pick won’t go farther than three inches

into this jungle.

I could straighten it, but that would take too long,

leaving me with only exhausted arms and a smoky bathroom.

And that’s only when I’m halfway done.

I’ll just live in this forest of tightly curled vines and frayed branches.

It’s easy to get lost.

I trek through every day and am still not

completely sure as to where it can take me.

One wrong turn, then sometimes I hate me.

A few steps to the left and I find curious fingers massaging my

scalp, amazed that it really grows out this way.

Backtracking, I almost missed the business woman and

her judgmental glare.

It’s not appropriate for work, she says.

I run in the other direction, desperate for a way out of this dark maze.

There is nothing surrounding me but images.

Images of hair like mine,

lying still in the streets,

wading in red water.

Hair like mine,

begging to be noticed,

shouting I’m here, don’t overlook me.

Hair like mine,

on a white background,

always on a white background.

Not mine, but of my brothers, aunts, cousins.

So yes, also of me.

The pictures slither, coiling around my entire body, snatching my

last breath as this trunk falls hollow and limp

making sure to keep its branches up.

It’s easy to get lost

among the vines and the branches and the

stolen air of the tree trunk and the

red water,

but then I remember the roots.

These roots are strong.

These roots recount stories, not apologies.

These roots carry the voices of my grandparents and

my grandparents’ grandparents.

They touch Africa.

They whisper Spanish.

They were designed in America.

They belong to me.

And yes,

this afro may bear resemblance to those of Angela Davis,

Black Panthers, Pam Grier, young Michael Jackson,

random African children,

but it belongs to me.

And if one morning I want to honor Madam C. J. Walker,

Then I will.

And if one afternoon I feel like having auburn plaits,

Then I will.

And if,

one day,

I have the desire to wear the biggest afro my boss has ever seen to work,

then I can do that too.

There is no escaping the jungle.

And if I stay here long enough

these vines creep around my eyes

with a soothing singe,

still suffocating.

It could be so much easier if these vines were naturally silky

and straight.

Maybe if my skin were lighter too—


I just need to stay here,

in this complex sanity.

It's not like I can leave.

This poem is about: 
My family
My community
My country
Our world


Additional Resources

Get AI Feedback on your poem

Interested in feedback on your poem? Try our AI Feedback tool.


If You Need Support

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741