The Tao of the Black Plastic Comb

Bless my tender headedness that matched my heart.

Filmmaker Irving Hillman
Partner Cave Canem

The Tao of the Black Plastic Comb

The Tao of the Black Plastic Comb
Bless my bad ideas and butt whippings:
the black plastic combs passed out on picture day.
Bless my taking the comb and listening
to the blond haired girl promising: I can make you pretty.
Bless me for wanting to be pretty,
but obviously lost in the whitest of seas
floating on a Kindergarten raft with no sign of help
via a mirror or a black girlfriend to keep me from going a stray.
Bless my Ramona the Pest ways, always getting it wrong ­–
collar and ribbon upturned always at the other end of mama’s, dag nam your time child.
Bless the five years that I had already spent on this earth
those years already filled with my school girl sense of shame
wearing Pigpen’s dusty aura like a shadow that I could not shake.
Bless mama’s tug of war with each strand.
Bless my tender headedness that matched my heart.
Tender. Nothing, but tender-- too tender
for my mama’s heavy hands
that did not know their own strength
pulling each strand on my head through the hot comb,
during this Saturday morning ritual.
Bless her command: don’t let nobody touch your hair.
Bless my ears not hearing.
Bless the brewing of sorrow and regret that are already in my eyes.
Bless the back of the camel broken by the straw.
Bless my backside the day the pictures arrived home,
when my mama saw my hair as what she called,
something the cat drug in.
Bless my eyes and the load they were already carrying.
Bless me a high-strung girl feeling like my families’ punch line,
when they saw my first school photo each laugh felt like a jolt.
Bless how I learned to pocket the hurt in my heart.
Bless this act of survival.
Bless the small tines of the black comb: The teeth. The bite
that every hand is not a helping one.
Bless the little white girl that did not see my beauty.
Bless me for not seeing my beauty--
the years it took for me to unlearn self-loathing
and not one hair on my head that needed touching.
Bless this little girl within me waiting
to come back to this picture with a smile
seeing myself as cute and lovable
with sandalwood smooth skin and the deepest amber eyes
scrying already like a poet.
Bless my little girlself waiting for my return
to make the connection between then
and now: my hair now loc’d and woven
wrapping myself with both forgiveness and release.




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“The Tao of the Black Plastic Comb,” a poem by Glenis Redmond. ©2015 Glenis Redmond. Used by permission. This poem originally appeared in Silver Birch Press. Collected in What My Hand Say (Press 53, 2016).