Not Yet Five / Mother

Not Yet Five

With Cleopatra eyes and Sadé skin her words sting clear as Noxema lather:
“Mom, I’m not pretty,” she confesses. “What?” I accuse—“What do you mean,”
I spit and sputter, my mind scrambling to organize an understanding
of this violence she commits against herself.

“I’m not pretty,” her Grace Jones lips betray. “I don’t have long hair.”
“No, my love,” I demand. “You are stunning. You are so beautiful.”
“No, not to me,” she smacks back. “To me, I have to have long hair.”

She is firm and sure. She is four years and six Disney princess movies old.
I am the sun torpedoed into ocean floor.

My sword is sharpened and I wonder who I can kill over this.

We must move to the woods I think to myself again.
I make a mental note to KonMari all her dolls with their

ass length straight hair.
Or at least hack it off if they make the cut.
I lock myself in the bathroom and

weep when I don’t have the
courage to chop off my
own hair. I am
poisoned, too.


Mother

I sit between her knees numb butted, her fingertips whispering secrets
she still can’t forget into my scalp and kinks. Weaving the stories

of the uncle who the KKK was afraid of and her grand daddy, Catman.
He could shoot the head clean off a bird, the tale goes.

The great aunties whose smiles sprinkled their revenge like nutmeg laced in sweet potato pie.
Instead of laying rice at my roots for survival she tells me to keep my legs closed.

You know what happened to so and so’s girls.
No, I don’t know, I am seven years old.
That is old enough, she assures, with a pinch of accusation.

To change the baby’s diapers, cook a meal, know better than to talk back.
And pick a switch when I don’t know better.

This woman, she is all prayer, mostly trauma and one part miracle.
Which is all you need to put one foot in front of the other,

march a path that will one day stack degrees upon heirs upon church hats.
She is a confusion that I learn to origami into a shape that won’t cut quite as deep.

After graduating from UC Berkeley, emerging poet Alafia Nicole Sessions returned to her native Los Angeles where she currently works as an educator, actress, writer, herbalist, and women’s reproductive support specialist. Her poetry has been published in Glint Literary Journal and Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing. Alafia was a finalist for the 2019 Writing by Writers’ Emerging Voices Fellowship at Esalen Institute.