“You have a big head. Can I touch it?” she asked bluntly. The little brown hands approached my head like a priestess who was about to perform a ceremony, and give her first blessing. Her hands felt cool on my scalp that has known brutality of many other hands, combs, hot combs, perms and finally an electric raiser, (cutting my hair while sitting hunched over pages of old newspapers, on my living room floor). Once, I had to use a black eye pencil to fill in the gap from the missing chunk of hair from the electric raiser in my trembling hands.
To tremble with fear for going against tradition happens to me often. This was my first encounter with a person who felt brave enough to touch my bare head in the church. My mother has never really touched my head since my buzz cut, over twenty years. Her fear of no man marrying me because of my short hair hasn’t come true yet, but she still holds onto the hope that one day I will realize, “I need to have hair.” I will need it to preserve my beauty, I will need it to identify me clearly as a woman, I will need it to have her native land’s full acceptance. But I didn’t need it for a child’s blessing, soothing the heat of many years.
Jerrice J. Baptiste
Jerrice J. Baptiste has authored eight books. She has performed her poetry at numerous venues including the Woodstock Library’s Writers in the Mountains series in association with other noted female authors and poets in the Hudson Valley, NY. She has been published in the Crucible; So Spoke The Earth: Anthology of Women Writers of Haitian Descent, Inc; African Voices; Chronogram; Shambhala Times; Hudson Valley Riverine Anthology; Her poetry in Haitian Creole & collaborative songwriting is featured on the Grammy Award winning album: Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, released by Spare the Rock Records LLC; upcoming Typishly Literary Journal; and the Autism Parenting Magazine (upcoming issue February 2018)