Niesha Okere

They stood in your mama’s kitchen. She called
to them as she struggled to open a box of hair dye.
God dipped her painted head under a running faucet
as she prayed for hair darker & shinier than your daddy’s
shoes on a Sunday morning.

Your mama caught her reflection on a rusty kettle before
snatching that pink hand mirror from the kitchen table
& screamed Damn grays! Excuse me, Lord. What a miracle
‘cause I didn’t know God made house calls.

I’ve only seen God in the tight aisles of beauty
supply stores to assist people near those spin displays
that hold your mama’s beloved wet & wild lipsticks
that used to cost one dollar. God pops in & out
to settle customer disputes one Oh, Lord, $1.29? at a time,
never lingering for more than a few seconds. I didn’t see

God myself. I saw them through your mama’s eyes. Her tears
played back the days long hair draped her back. She hummed
about her pick of men lined up around the corner just
to get a whiff. Did you know she drove her own car? Made
her own money?

I heard God lift her voice to sing about the pressure steeping
from inside. Your mama danced in my face to the sound of her hair
breaking towards the linoleum floors one strand at a time. I watched
the longest strand migrate to a soft space she was told
to make room for you   & me.

She sobbed as everything beautiful washed down the drain until
it was just you   & me.

Niesha Okere is a writer, poet, and visual storyteller from Philadelphia. Her work often explores adolescence and personhood through mass media and can be found in publications like Afropunk, The Hairpin (rip) and elsewhere.

© Variant Literature Inc 2023