issue 3: nov 2015, Poetry
Comments 3

Unsolicited Advice to Black Girls Who Can’t Remember What Their Faces Look Like by Monica Prince

Unsolicited Advice to Black Girls Who Can’t Remember What Their Faces Look Like

after Jeanann Verlee

by Monica Prince

 

When the hairstylist refuses to shave your head,
do it yourself. When the boys ask
if you’re a lesbian now, do not hit them,
do not tell them to go to hell. What tastes
your tongue prefers is none of their business.

When the first man to ever kiss you returns from prison
with a scar on his back, rub shea butter
into his pores and promise him no one
will ever stab him again. Hide anything
that could be filed down into a weapon,
turn off the lights, and hold him.

Tell him he can cry here. When he asks
why you cut your hair, say, for him.

When the lady at the shoe store asks
why you cut your hair, say for your stepmother
with breast cancer. When your best friend says
you look like a cancer patient, do not cry.

Do not tell her about the cancer growing
under your heart, the one that keeps you
from breathing normally, that keeps you awake
at night, that makes you consider jumping from skyscrapers
or swallowing bleach in the bathtub.

When the hairstylist refuses to shave your head,
do it yourself. Listen to rap music loud—
yes, even the dumb kind, even the kind
that sets your whole race back several years.

Learn to decode the phrases. Tell your next lover  
you are not their mother—neglectful, sometimes mean,
always leaving the stove on—and you are not
their sister—pregnant and distracted, holding
an unlit cigarette over the empty crib—
and you are not that eighth grade teacher
or the cop that pulled them over for not
wearing a seatbelt or an old flame
who cheated on them or the woman who raped them
when they were seventeen and thought they were supposed
to lose it by now. If you are to love someone,
learn to make lobster and serve it
with the broccoli everyone likes so much.

Open your own wine bottles. Don’t be scared
of your own face. When the hairstylist
refuses to shave your head, do it yourself.

Use a mirror. When you take a family photo,
and all the children have the same haircut,
tell your mother she should be proud.

Tell her your hair is not a political statement.

Tell her you’re tired of being raped
and pretending its not your fault.

Tell her you’re tired of being mistaken
for an invalid so you wear heels
so high you can kiss Venus
and hoop earrings big enough for your wrists.

Tell her to cut her hair, too.

When you buy your clippers, splurge.

When someone you love asks to borrow them
to shave her boyfriend’s head, let her.

When someone else you love says they can’t love you
without your hair, quit loving them.

Do not feel bad about making white people
uncomfortable. Do not buy a wig.

Do not quit staring in the mirror.

In fact, buy bigger mirrors. Cover your apartment walls
with them. Dance naked to Janet Jackson
and get a tattoo in a place no one else will see.

Remember that happiness is a process,
not a state of being or a lottery number.

So when you find yourself suffocating
under the weight of your own imperfections
and insecurity shaped like a sister’s insincere
I love you and the popping of your hips
as you fall into the splits—fight back.

Take kickboxing lessons.

Train yourself to throw knives.

And learn to use a lighter. Not a cheap one.

More like a blowtorch. Burn down
other people’s wisdom.

You can only feel as broken
as the thing that broke you, as worthless
as the one who tried to staple on the price tag,
as exhausted as the marathon you’ve been
running in the direction of someone
who’s supposed to love you
but hasn’t read the right book or
moved to the right time zone or dropped
their sunglasses on the right corner yet.

Burn it all down—those boys, those girls, that scar,
that recipe saying lobsters don’t really scream
when you place them in boiling water.

Of course they do.

Put a mirror on your ceiling,
so when you go to the salon
and the hairstylist refuses to shave your head,
you can do it yourself.


 

Monica Prince received her M.F.A in Creative Writing with a focus in poetry from Georgia College & State University in 2015, and her B.A. in English from Knox College in 2012. Her work is published with Madcap Review and the Agnes Scott 2014 Writers Festival. Her choreopoem, TESTIFY, is being produced by the CutOut Theater in Brooklyn this December. She works, writes, and performs in Denver, CO where she lives with her pug, Otis. To read more of Monica’s work, you can check out her website or email her. You can also find her on twitter

Photograph by Kassandra (K.) Piñero (instagram).

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