Erica Dawson

I was born, Mom says, Afro-
Ready, a doll with woman’s hair,
Born eight-ball bald between two bare
Legs now long grown, and, Oh

Baby, born with an infant’s beard,
Lanugo blonde on tan—so fine
And Foxy Brown circa 1979
In a christening gown. Head smeared

With Lustrasilk, I wore
Six black-girl ponytails, barrettes
In geo-shapes and the alphabet’s
Small caps, head-dressed and more

Power to me. My parts
Curved with the scalp ran left and right
In a twice-crossed crucifix. At night,
The braids went loose. For tart’s

Sake, I went red, called it
An accident then dyed my eye-
Brows too. I said I’d prettify
My lashes, benefit

From the cheap mascara wand
In purple-pink with fake strands glued
To mine—blue streaks, new attitude,
And eighties’ chic beau monde.

If I cut more than a few
Short strands, Mom saved them in a bag
As a memento. Last year’s shag
Smelled sweet with grease and shampoo

And dried like paper, dead
Confetti kept in an envelope
With blood-stained baby teeth, jump rope,
And a sailor dress. I said

I’d make a wig—bouffant,
Bardot, big bang, and, man, that James
Brown pageboy’s fly, man, fly! the dame’s
Chignon- or debutante-

French twist. I’ve been the priss
Plucked hard, hot-waxed until the skin
Bubbles, straightened before the thin
Locks break beneath the hiss

And curling iron’s steam.
I’m bleached, but call me Nappyhead,
And know that one week after I’m dead
The roots still grow, shea cream

And pomade gone, the bare
Legs freckled with follicles, the shaved-clean
Pussy’s five-o’clock shadow, the Queen
Bee, now not worth a hair.


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