Soft & Beautiful Just For Me Relaxer, No-Lye Conditioning Creme, Children's Regular

by Kemi Alabi


Snatch the could-be-girl-'cept-she-too-dark
-'cept-them-nigga-naps child by the braids.

Slice them open. Rake the comb through.
Cue the scalp pop, the scab-robed choir.

Teach the tribe dirge: staccato rip-rip
crescendo into sizzle and shred.

Litter the neck with butchered kinks,
a gutter-fur shawl, diseased offering.

Heat stroke, swamp drown, chemical spill,
decompose, exorcise, drag and prop

until brillo collapses, satin rises,
arabesques and curtsies with a snap.

Heaven's darkest halo is a high yellow.
On earth, at last, a crown is cast in black.


Propylene Glycol (Antifreeze)
These winters, nothing natural survives.

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower)
Half the native wildlife, extinct.

Hydroxyethylcellulose (KY Jelly)
The rest, tweaked to triple their bloom.

Citronellol (Repellent)
Teach her to burn

Salvia Officinalis (Sage)
all smoke, no fire.

Aqua (Water)
Refuse to call god
by name.

A child is made of water; a Black girl,
open flame. Product may catch fire.

Oshun may wrestle from her kitchen,
snap your comb in two.
There may be no Black girls.
Only burning gods. 

There may be no Jesus.
Just empire. 

You may be both the army
and the scorched earth below.

What was the Atlantic
before it became
a graveyard? 

Before crops meant
auction blocks,
which dance brought
the rain? 

For best results,
cover her. Fall
in praise.

Be cloudthick
and unpartable.

Be tangled, 
skystuck waves.