Mariah Whittsey

Coronation of a black girl

The appointment was supposed to start at 7:00 am
I meet the cracked leather seat at 7:28

The TV crackles alive
Then the shop begins to fill with the sounds
only a Nollywood movie could provide
The screen sits on a makeshift TV stand,
between two gold-framed women, Caramel skinned,
Braids halo-ing

It smells ancient
As if every Afro has ended up here;
on home-y leather,
and sitting in front of an open door,
summer breeze taking the place of the air conditioner

The smell of centuries of praying under quick fingers
Lips molded closed,
cursing at the pop of rubber bands,
the tension at the nape of the neck,
the hiss of hot water
The place we all convene,
to be christened with Luster’s pink,
and olive oil gro therapy

I am draped in a blinding-white vinyl cape
I unveil my hair,
without any thought
There are no judgments in the chair,
We will all experience a coronation on this cracked leather throne
There is only the question of a perm in a Nigerian accent to determine a price
Wide tooth comb transforms my hair from a teeny weeny Afro,
Into a lion’s mane

The yaki is tethered with my frayed ends

Fingers kiss my scalp,
nape of my neck
tip of my ear
Precise and steady
Harpist of coiled hair
Tension and release and tension again
Only stopping to soothe my scalp,
with a dollop of grease,
and to order egg drop soup from the spot down the street

Descendants of soul and sodium

Women hover over stoves
Food takes the place of candles
Aroma of a spice rack
Ring of fire,
underneath a cast iron cauldron
Constant taste tests,
after each dash of sodium crystal
Cayenne and nutmeg under their fingernails
Faces of stony pride
Been in the kitchen since yesterday
Been holding recipes in the lifeline of their palms,
since grandma stood in their place
They don’t measure anything
They just know
Kitchen Witches
cast spells over Columbian roasting pans
Spells of the soul
and food

Fatima: A woman of tension and ease

She is an expert yogi
Stretching while her fingers
crisscross and extend to make intricate webs of yaki. Add person
Switching from heel to toe,
to heel,
a flow of movement that echoes
through the arch of her foot
A brief curving of her spine with an inhale,
The tightening of the silk wrap around her belly, And the drowsy baby on her back
and then shake that accompanies relief

Every time she exhales another braid is finished

She glides across the sunken wood floors,
Between the low leather chairs
Chin high above her shoulders,

She will grace five heads In one day
Knows nothing of a 9 to 5
Weaving three pieces of hair over and over
From 6 am to 9 pm or 6 am-12 pm
Or 6 am till whenever it takes

There are no days off for the harpist of coils
Every day she practices her songs on stretched onyx locks,
As she switches from English to Igbo
Acting as the singer and the orchestra
Yelling over Nollywood films with the other girls in the shop
Quietly cawing to the baby blanketed in silk,
Braiding hair,
and ordering egg drop soup
from the spot down the street

About the author: Mariah whittsey is an 18-Year-Old black poet from the suburbs of Chicago. After joining her high school poetry team, Mariah fell in love with poetry and performing poetry. Mariah has competed in Chicago's Louder Than A Bomb slam competition and created an open mic that will debut in February. she will always strive to create honest work, to write to people and not for people, and most of all to make her audience feel something, whatever that is.