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Hair Bueno

Last week Honeysuckle brought you the first poem in a series by acclaimed poet and performance artist Magdalena Gomez, as part of an ongoing effort to honor the people of Puerto Rico. Today marks the next installment. (The poet urges anyone wishing to help Puerto Ricans who are rebuilding and relocating to consider donating to the Boston Foundation’s “Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico/Massachusetts Unido por Puerto Rico.”


Hair Bueno

I grow it long for the People of 500 nations
forced into short hair assimilation
for the women who lost it in chemo
and the many more who will

I grow it long for my Pentecostal mother
powerless seeking power
in storefront promises of mansions
who grew it long to honor her God

I grow it long for every person
in concentration camps

for every woman set on fire for her wisdom
her power,
her medicine,
her intuitive prowess deemed heresy
by ecclesiastical blasphemy

for every woman forced to hide it
against her will
for every woman electroshocked
locked up, exiled for loving women
for the female soul
in whatever body it lives
and whomever it may love

for every woman coerced to cut it
for the pleasure of another

for every woman who had to sell it
it live one more day
to feed her child

for every woman who has felt it wrapped
inside a fist
who has been dragged by the noose of it
a lifetime of scars ripped open
spilling eyes that never rest

for all the women shamed
into burning it
hot combs, irons, lye
rolling it tight around soda cans
heating it under space ship dryers
blowing it into social acceptance
hiding it under wigs
believing their pelo is malo
all hair is bueno

I grow it long as rope
as line for the drowning
as a blanket for birds
in Springtime winters
I grow it long
for our history cut from books
our stories, shortened, left untold

for the wild haired women
who slit the throats of rapists
in cages of madness
and get away with it
hallelujah! grow hair grow

I grow it long because it is still choosing to grow
I let it gray because that is what it wants to be
every strand a story, a disappointment,
a revelation
beauty finds and defines itself
on our bodies
it is no one else’s story to tell
to control
it changes if its own accord

the wilted afro of my youth
lost the fight with the Pelo Malo chorus
of internalized oppression
I took it back
long and frizzy
never forget that blood is the truth
melanin its messenger
I miss that loud voice
of my tangled, knotted defiant youth
blood, a relentless lover
taking me back
to gift of the cradle
the power of the grave

hair I grow you long
tend to your wishes
with oil from coconuts
with water from the sea
keep you as you wish to be
until you fall out from the sheer
exhaustion of living
until you release my gravity defiant head

to join the debate of Pluto
as planet or debris
the rest of me
a solid constellation
visible to all
without the use of anything more
than the eye that is truly human.

Hallelujah! Grow hair grow
until its time for you to go.

-Magdalena Gómez

Bronx-born Magdalena Gómez is a performance poet, playwright, keynote speaker and teaching artist and was an original vanguard member of the Nuyorican Literary Movement. She has been widely published including: The Massachusetts ReviewUpstreet journalL.A. Times, and many other outlets. Her work is included in college and university syllabi throughout the U.S. and her archives are housed at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut at Storrs.

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