June 16, 2021

Skye Jackson

CAN WE TOUCH YOUR HAIR?

at the parades, everyone 
wants to touch my hair.

on the corner 
of st charles and marengo, 

i am cold & smashed & puffy AF 
when two white women 
try to convince me 
that they love my hair

no they really really do 
they say because it is so
black and thick and curly 
and soaking up all of the
water in the damp air. 

the mousy one says
through an alabama drawl:
gawd, you can do so much with it 

and her blonde friend says:
ya can’t do a damn thing with mine, 
won’t even hold a curl. 

she runs away to grab another friend 
and says to her: stacey, isn’t it even
prettier than macy gray’s? 
we just love her,
don’t we?

they circle me and ask:
can we touch your hair?

and then, suddenly,
just like my ancestors long ago,
i am pulled apart

soft

by pale hands 
from all directions.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021

__________

Skye Jackson: “I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the events of this poem take place. One damp Mardi Gras night, two carousing white women approached me—and they asked me if they could touch my hair. In that moment, I felt like an object of fascination to them … almost like one of the brightly colored beads around their necks, thrown from a garish float. That night, I wrote this poem in response to the sense of horror I felt in that moment and in memory of my ancestors who would not have been given the privilege to refuse their touch.” (web)

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