“In the Kitchen” by Miracle Thornton

Miracle Thornton


i tried to tell the women braiding my hair 
they weren’t doing it right by flinching.
they asked my age and i understood

through the overlapping thick of it
that they weren’t going to open their legs. 
neither one my mother, with the heat

of her thighs around my ears, parting 
so carefully i couldn’t feel pain
until bed. they alternate flipping

chicken and boiling water
for the ends. i wanted to warn
the women of my tender head,

my roots don’t dig so deep,
easier to discipline
wet with no grease.

down to the follicle
i can be washed limp and janed, 
another girl borrowing.

but i couldn’t be that girl
correcting their grip
ability to be delicate,

my every thought
in their fingers,
down my back.

as they lit my ends,
the baby clicked, reaching.
one of the women held

the lighter to his face,
flame dancing in his breath,
licking under his little nose

and curious mouth and

i know what this looks like:
my mother tried to tell me
to pay attention.

from Rattle #74, Winter 2021


Miracle Thornton: “Since I was a little girl, my mother would do my hair in the living room with a movie on and my head in her lap. When I was around 15, her patience and devotion waned. She found these two African women on Facebook that would braid my hair for cheap. Since then, I’ve been teaching myself how to do my own hair. This poem is one of many that I’ve written in attempt to understand why and how I must learn and unlearn my body as it has been taught to me.”

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