Braids

Mackenzie Shaner

I write this poem for my Grammy. 

The only woman who did my hair since it was long enough to work with.

She’s the only person I know who could twist it in beautiful braids.

I’d sit on my knees, hands clasped in front of me,

Staring at the cartoons on her TV.

 

Her coarse hairbrush-

With bare bristles from their plastic bulbs being long forgotten-

Combing through the thick strands.

Nimble fingers parting each side expertly

Like pieces of thread she used to suture old teddy bears.

 

I’ve always been aware of my indigenous heritage,

Though even more aware that I don’t look like it.

It’s far more apparent in my Grammy.

Her skin is tanned indefinitely, 

With long black hair resembling that of an elegant horse's tail,

Swaying in air as it prances with such confidence,

You’d wonder if it had been taught, or simply born that way.

 

I’m white as snow, 

With the type of skin that peels in the sun,

And instead of gold underneath,

All I see is red-

But I’m told you still see it in my hair.

 

Besides vague ideas and a name, I didn’t know about my heritage,

Only recently I learned that hair has meaning,

Some teachings say that your hair holds your life story

So, it’s put in braids- for protection

To keep it safe so the story may grow with you.

 

Part of me was always bitter that I didn’t know much about myself 

But that wasn’t completely true 

In every day she did my hair, she was protecting me.