A Writer’s Restlessness
I am this yearning
moving growing body
lurking in the crevices of the
streets we walk, talking
in an idiomatic language
known to me
and not known by me.
Those words creeping
in my stomach, indigestible,
they stay with me. At night,
I am a fetus knees to chest, hands
encircling my pillow on the single
bed I sleep on which is not a bed but
a futon which is not flat but
a seat that I sit on in the horizontal
position and chew on more
that I cannot understand.
My hair, the tightly wound curls of the uneven afro I wake in. Met with comb and brush, water and cream, in rhythmic tugging strands pop as I mold my hair around a face twisted with frustration I do not understand. This face laced with the same genes of my hair, my legs, my arms and the hands that on days too quiet contemptuously holds the flat iron to my hair. Smoke rises, hot metal searing each strand in rebellion.
I look at myself and see traces of an Indian ancestor in my skin. With half closed eyes, a faint glance of her, my great, great, great grandmother – the Indian from India, or maybe she is the one from further back the Taino in Puerto Rico or Jamaica. I look in the mirror with eyes now wide in wonder. I touch my hair – soft and silky, thin and limp. So thick before – or was it? The remnants of him, my English ancestor, no Scottish my grandmother said. I wonder if he loved her. Did she love him, and did she love the Spaniard, too? Was it love or was it rape? I should ask her if the thinness of my hair was conceived in a beautiful or tragic moment. If tragic, what should I think when I straighten it? Should I see it as a relic of a broken past or the cryptic symbol of times forever forgotten. Long straight, thin hair or thick, curly short hair. Both is me and not me perhaps, it is her.
When I admit my confusion in choosing aloud, I am told to relax my hair—the permanence in straightening. If I do, what will she say? Relaxer, taming the ancestor on the long boat ride, the one with the scars on her back, the one that watched it all and saw it all but could not change it all. Instead she held it in the locks of her hair and passed it on to her daughter who passed it on to her daughter and on and on, all the kinks and curls and waves, and now to me. What do I do with this? Carry it on. What does it mean to hold the flat iron up to my hair? What does it mean then, to uncurl my curls?
Philippa Schuyler: The Experimental Musical Prodigy
Mama and Papa and dada and mama and poopa and mommy and daddy and ma and pa and ma and pa I never knew your name, saw your face and held your hand across the street with zipping cars and flying things moving fast and threatening to kill the child you never wrapped in your cold cured arms to protect her. The sweet sap of love never seeping from your hands to my lips to my heart from your heart—you left me cold. My whole life cold as you watched with icy eyes and hands always raising to be brought down quickly in sharp contact with the skin—red beaten skin, lost bruised skin, you know my pulsing skin, my black-white skin, so perfect skin, over long fingers, my skin. Skilled fingers they say, dancing on keys they say, such music they say, so gifted they say, gifted, gifted, gifted, so beautifully gifted, so amazingly skilled, a wondrous prodigy. What lies I say, jumping on keys, stomping on keys, running on keys then falling off keys and the music of those keys, that soft low moaning music against high staccato screaming type music, searching type music, wishing type music for a way out type music. Wishing and yearning and wanting and screaming and saying just saying those fatal little words seeping through my veins to these fingers that play at every command you say/ they say but I say silence. Penny dropping silence to the beggar in me who can now find a home in the walls forged in my own creation, walls made of each muted word I held/ each tearless cry/ each muffled midnight scream. In soundless rebellion my walls speak against your ideological race political miscegenation- focused philosophical trash.
Age 18, Grade 12
Brooklyn College Academy