After mass     when we had been extra good all week 

and didn’t do nothing to warrant

an untold amount of time in the confessional

mama and daddy would take the seven of us  

four girls and three boys down to the lake

we was all pasabonne    white enough that we didn’t have to crowd all up on other folk

like down at the sambo watering hole    their congregation was humongous

I mean lines and lines of ink spots desperate to dip their toes just once

like lake water would rid them of their soot 

some didn’t make it at all     cause they had to be home before darkness set

onetime granddaddy drove us past there     just to mock them girls and boys

trying to be fashionable in their mammy made swim suits

coming out of the water looking like nappy headed runaways

my sister Lauren was more like my daddy side     they was real light skinned peoples 

french some canadian but german mostly

except         their hair wasn’t as gorgeous as momma’s people 

with all that Indian and spanish but mostly french         from our maternal grandmama     Lauren was the only one of us look like daddy had spit her out

her hair texture musta been wrought on her     

cause of daddy sinning over dice  

it was his refusal to atone against them snake eyed demons

left Lauren’s head looking like a crow’s nest

those were mama’s words     not mine     every time she took years off her life 

trying to make Lauren’s head presentable to the world 

she’d grace us with the same sermon        ending with

Lord Jesus why have you forsaken this child’s head 

Lauren chile you bet not roll around with no black ass man 

cause I ain’t claiming no moss headed grandbabies 

water was Lauren’s kryptonite     so daddy would tell her 

just sit on the blanket regal and sexy like you marlene dietrich 

daddy had a peculiar love affair with marlene dietrich’s hair    it followed him to his grave          daddy would go on chiding Lauren    and when they 

(white boys) interrogate you as to why you ain’t going near the water 

 tell them it’s cause you never learned to swim and besides this swimsuit too expensive to get wet and then you go back to posing up a storm swinging that sandy hair

 like you trying to shake free the frizzle 

yep Lauren had the sandy hair like daddy’s people     while Clarke had red hair and freckles

the rest of us had jet black hair with curls so tight mama kissed them bobbing ringlets

in the mornings     long before she pinched our cheeks 

her way of acknowledging the arrival of a new morning 

and god’s good graces bestowed upon our crowns


as one would imagine with hair like ours we could balance life in and out of the lake

sunning      kicking sand     being chased and caught by white suitors

who thought highly of our seditty trot      when vying for our affection the white boys 

would rough house like gladiators but even with her kinky tresses

Lauren always managed the good prospects  cause she was the blonde

one time this tall blonde haired blue eyed hercules looking boy squat down next to 

miss marlene hollywood and she giggling like a starlet all seductive speaking in that

french accent     till I think she began to believe she was foreign through and through

that white boy convince her to go for a dip and we start gasping

Clarke screams hey Marlene don’t soak your brain being overly stupid

but she had to show us she didn’t need our curls to get tagged

so Lauren go in and come out ragged headed like Annie (the doll)

when that white boy realize what he was holding at the hips 

he almost jumped out his skin      then came all the investigating


White boy-what’s wrong with your hair it looks like… 

well        it looks like… 

you ain’t no nigger is ya            I mean you can’t be      but your hair it’s… 


Lauren- It’s frizz my hair frizzes easy   I know it looks like a bird’s nest 

my mama says it gets like a bird’s nest once it smell water  is that the words you were searching  for        bird’s nest 


White boy- Look I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or nothing 

I just never seen nothing quite like that 

and I’ve taken many girls into the water… 

besides I hate them pasty niggers   that’s how come I ask if you was one cause I know how they operate  white niggers think cause they great great great great grandmammy give it up to their masters that make them white  white as any real white person walking the streets 

pasty niggers my papa warns the worse kind cause they quick to forget their place 

quick to try and be something they can’t cause they blood still got a hint of nigger 

and sure as the day is long they could drop a baby from their belly looking like it’s been dipped in tar  with barbwire for hair   that’s the word I was looking for barbwire 

my pretty little barbwire barbie  that’s your hair 


but when I look  at you I know you too sophisticated to pass besides with that accent you white 

you looking at a boy who could spy a nigger perpetrating  a mile away 

couldn’t no blackymo be as white as you  and steal my eye