La Peluquería

On my seventh birthday,

my tía took me to the

 

beauty salon to get an

alisado. It’s time that you

 

got rid of that pelo malo,

she winked like a full

 

moon stretching above the

sky. Her friend Puchi stirred

 

a white creamy concoction

and smeared it over my

 

scalp like flowering foreign

watercolors. How long must

 

it stay on? Just until it binds

the curl. But what I heard

 

was until oppression flattens

me like cardboard constellations

 

and makes me burn my

history like inkblots of

 

pretzeled fists. Just think

of what you are going to

 

look like. In their minds, I

am wearing a headdress

 

of glass layers that stays in

place and refuses to rise

 

in humidity. In their world,

my hair is no longer a Greek

 

tragedy or bad penny tossed

into the gutter. It is a parable

 

of dignity, an escape route from

being just another brown girl.