Poetry : Braids – Gabby Timbrook

Braids
Gabby Timbrook

when i was little
my mom would take me
to get my hair braided
by a black woman
her forehead glistened like cocoa butter
hands yanked at my roots
into rocking chair patterns
soothingly
humming a story
my white momma
could
never
know the rhythm of
this woman
gave my
orphaned scalp
a history

i didn’t feel black
until i was around 7 years old
when a boy pulled down on the
lovingly placed beads
in my hair
hard
braids like rope
they say children
are more apt to seeing ghosts
i realize now i had had visions of sun
microwaving melanin
crows pickin on strange fruit
the boy called me blackie
he didn’t know what that meant
but i knew the weight of it

i just had so much hair
and it took up so much space
like a dark mass
pleading for intrusion
my coils were bed of balled up paper
my curls were questions of flat irons
my kinks were cradle of everyone else’s fingers
wanting to just “touch” them
but not actually wanting to
feel the knots and split ends
they were helping to create

the first thing i learned about my people
is that they could create armor out of anything
braids
like the weaving of baskets
enclosed around our heads
protecting our magic
saying to little black child
small me
“your blood is as old as
human kind
it has the strength of
centuries
my people
have been fighting
since the sun kissed their
feet
since the earth was stolen
from under them
since the gold in
their voices seemed to be silenced

but

they’d been growing
hair
since
before coal began pressin into diamonds
hair like
the sun rises and sets
like the earth continues to go round
hair like history

hair
into braids
like a
story of strength