generations dreaming I.
You were a generation dreaming;
stepping off the plane
to an unknown future
from a certain past that
became more and more like
the promise that escaped you.
You were a generation
dreaming to change the pattern,
undo the seams, re-style
the suits you wore
as you stepped off the boat,
Frederic: this not so young man
had struggled as a juvenile,
thirties-style, to unionize,
enfranchise. A troublesome man,
proud to be a darkblack
worker, survivor. You
split the seams
to suit your schemes.
Linda: journeywoman. Journeywoman,
you were a generation dreaming.
Coming from a certain past,
coming to an unknown future,
coming to bear us and
spare us from the masterpattern,
styled, cut, ready-to-wear suit
of canes, molasses
thick-set in the heat. Burning
good white sugar,
raising a glass of rum
in the sunset of the master
as you sailed away;
meeting this mancountry,
face-to-face with dreams.
you were a generation,
dreaming a world, to change.
five strands of hair
‘As a Black person and a woman I don’t read history for facts.
I read it for clues’ – Alice Walker, Elle, October 1989 p.45
I began clenched teeth,
tight steel combs and
mother’s fingers –
slippery Dax heroines
pulled out the need.
Plaited and stocking-capped,
beside her head
the pungent edge of frying hair,
smoked brown-paper twists,
greased and combed.
Prevention is better than cure.
Her hair is straight
no twists or crosses
a wiped clean page
it doesn’t read.
no markers to ancestry –
that we have bad hair
that we have coolie in the family
that it tough and don’t grow – no
her hair it’s straight,
it doesn’t read
iii. twists and turns
Fact: Your hair is an integral part of your skin.
Fact: There is good hair, and there is bad hair.
Fact: Hair and scalp diseases were common amongst enslaved Africans.
Fact: A chemical used to straighten African hair is called ‘lye’.
Fact: Natural African hair must be processed to make it manageable.
Fact: Black women spend a major part of their income fixing their hair.
Fact: Straightening hair made the first U.S. Black millionairess.
Fact: Black women need the hairdresser more often than white women.
Fact: Different styles of plaiting and braiding marked rites of passage.
Fact: Unkempt hair is a sign of madness.
iv. a foreign head
all through Sunday-best dinner.
Twisting and looking,
the question hovered round.
A well-raised Bajan girl,
she was too-too polite
until outside, bursting, she could
ask mummy-friend bigwoman dawter,
‘You is a rasta?’
Still shouldering a Black Star Line,
he said no.
“Doan vex the children hair with foolishness”.
His own balding masthead,
crowned with ancient mystery books,
the deep science
of pale-faded Egyptians –
the African headdress
bestowed away on me.
medusa? medusa black!
Medusa was a Blackwoman,
cut she eye at a sista mirror
turn she same self t’stone.
She looks really kill?
Ask she nuh! Medusa would know.
She terrible eyes leave me stone coal.
looking for love
kept behind icy eyes
fixed inside the barricade
for anybody who come too close,
runnin’ from she own
in case the worse thing happen
an’ she see she self like them see she.
The blood haunted:
if you black, get back
if you brown stick around...
Is that okay? Being black your way,
whitewashed an’ dyed-back black,
am I easier to hold in an acceptable role?
...And if you white comelong y’alright…
Make it go away, the nappiheaded nastiness
too tuff too unruly too ugly too black
Scrub it bleach it operate on it powder it
straighten it fry it dye it perm it
turn it back on itself
make it go away make it go away.
Scrub it, step smiling into baths of acid
and bleach it red raw
peel skin of life-sustaining melanin.
Operate on it
blackskin – lying, useless – discard it powder it.
Head? Fuck it, wild-haired woman,
straighten it fry it, desperately burn scalps.
Banish the snake-woman
the all-seeing-eye woman.
remembrances of Africa fast-fadin’
in the blond highlights,
turn us back on ourselves
slowly making daily applications
with our own hand.
My hair as it comes
is just not good enough.
The blood haunted:
if you black get back
if you brown stick around
and if you white comelong y’alright…
Say: make it go away make it go away
da nappiheaded nastiness!
Is too tuff too unruly too ugly too black
too tuff too unruly too ugly too black.
Medusa! Black! [Steups!] Get back.