Rachel Long’s ‘Communion’ is in Granta Magazine

after Deana Lawson

Behold the miracle of afro hair.
Blackness so complete
you could put your hand in
never get it back. Recognise
the shark eyes of boredom,
the dial of two women
tending to every hair on your head
cussing a curve into a needle,
thick thread spooling,
the scissors are just there
but teeth are closer.
Ever sat for thirteen hours
in the same chair?
Scalp sliced so many times
you can’t recall if you are girl
or railroad?
Ever not received what was meant to be
in the bag? – Softness, Whappened?
Ain’t never seen no half-white hair like this!

Choose a new version of yourself
every 2−3 months. Be Russian, Hawaiian,
Virgin − at 10, 16,
22 inches. Go electric blue, blonde,
Faith Evans-auburn.
Enter the shabby palaces
named after the high priestesses;
En Vogue, Cleopatra, Rihanna;
promising next to nothing –
not an appointment, good service,
politeness, a mirror,
that you’ll leave before dark;
to be left with half a head
so another customer can be squeezed in
for Ghana braids, you’re kidding
if you think that a box of wings and chips
won’t be eaten over your fresh weave,
leftover finger-grease used to smooth it.
Lord grant me serenity and deliver me
from the Titanic song by Celine Dion
on everlasting pull-up,
radio warbling atop wet towels,
but it’s either Celine’s heart going on and on
and on, or the cacophony of phone calls
about papers, Pampers, the dance tonight-tonight.
Girl, you’re the blackest you might ever be in here,
stop pulling away
from the crepe roll of her belly
over tightest jeans. Let it rise,
rest on your earlobe.
Dare to breathe regular on her hand;
Jackie, Marcia, Tat, omnipresent aunties
who don’t flinch or say you breathe too heavy.
When you are finally did,
you tip, she pockets it, saying,
dese little white pickney dem
always have money.

Click here to read the poem on the Granta website.

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