July 22, 2017

Ryhen Miller (age 15)

CORNROW

My ancestors butter their corn like they do my braids in shea.
I grew into the cool kids group like a cornrow,
but couldn’t completely weave in:
When I was six, my mother began husking my curls with hot combs.
Vowed long hair was in my bloodline, said, no hair should be as curly and short as mine.
To her my hair should be long dangling down to my shoulders holding loose curls,
Because grandma always had growing hands.
I could imagine her hands pass into mother’s,
planting my hair with the nutrients it needed till it harvest,
growing my cornrows for my daughters so they could play double Dutch with them.
Laying them down like golden ropes that soak the soil.
They’d be knotted in between fingers that can’t grasp the rows of history.
I grew into the cool kids group like a cornrow,
but couldn’t completely weave in:
Mom wouldn’t approve of such radical
When I was six, my mother began husking my curls with hot combs.
Vowed long hair was in my bloodline, said, no hair should be as curly and short as mine.
To her my hair should be long dangling down to my shoulders holding loose curls,
Because grandma always had growing
I could imagine her hands pass into mother’s,
planting my hair with the nutrients it needed till it harvest,
growing my cornrows for my daughters so they could play double Dutch with them.

Laying them down like golden ropes that soak the soil.
They’d be knotted in between fingers that can’t grasp the rows of history.

But almost a decade later I won’t stop growing my cornrows till they’re too thick
for the media to spit our tradition
out of their—

My ancestors planted promises of freedom into our scalp.
It surprises me how some people in my community leave corn stuck
in the spaces between their fork.
But the media gets theirs and we get what’s picked out.

So I won’t stop growing my cornrows till
plates are filled with corn throughout the whole table.
But almost a decade later I won’t stop growing my cornrows till they’re too thick
for the media to spit our tradition
out of their mouths.

My ancestors planted promises of freedom into our scalp.

from 2017 Rattle Young Poets Anthology