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.