Is She Mixed?
by Laura Lyster-Mensh

Is she mixed?

White people don't ask that.
The stylist did
On the phone.

In person her hair was stiff and startled
Nothing like the fall and wave of my daughter's photo moment
Too close to the mirror
Before she sees what we all see
Entwined and living coils
To her a Medusan curse.

Not a denial of race
To wish for ease:
We all have.
I gave her that hair, second hand:
Norwegian brush and African give: imperfectly welded.
But, I am forty and had conceded before she was born
She has not known Vanity in her mother
But we were once quite close.

I explained the politics
The burnt hair chronicles
Before lather, rinse, repeat became
Saturate, Massage, and Drench.
The bit of bonding over braiding
The gradual easing of the pain
Over generations
In our family
Has come with the fading of our colors.

My cousins have chemicals to do the job
We just keep mixing.

The stylist rinsed white slippery cream before it began to smell metallic
And itch
Assumed blond hair couldn't need so much time as her own staged shell
But next morning
My daughter's hair was the same
As the day before
Her mirror
Told the lie again.

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