Alexis Sears, Hair Sestina

I’m 24 and yes, by now I know
I have a problem. “Oh, but don’t we all?”
everyone jokes as if it’s really brilliant.
But not like this. A slippery chunk of life
has slid on by, and still I am without
an inkling of real knowledge about black

hairstyles. Some bus driver says, “You’re ‘black’
in name, but you will never really know
their struggles.” Their. It sticks. I’m left without
a comeback (since I know it’s true). She’s all
proud now and continues on, “Your life
seems easier than most.” Gee, that is brilliant.

I’m not sure if I’m hurt or not. A brilliant
professor told me once (her hair dyed black
as licorice bites), “Sometimes, you know, in life,
you’ll want to cry but can’t. Just so you know,
the answer is to bite your thumb. That’s all.”
My cluelessness, though? Soon, I’ll be without

a thumb, a life, a man to dine with. (Out
of time.) I only care about hair now. Brilliant
black scholar’s what I aim for. I spend all
my leisure time these days researching black
hair looks. I nod, I practice, hope I’ll know
a twist-out when I see it. I watch Life

(the one with Eddie Murphy), plan a life
where someday I’ll have cornrows, braids, without
the insecurity. Should I—oh no,
no flashcards. What’s the point of being brilliant
if you wear white girl hair to Sam’s Club, lack
inheritance and understanding? All

I know is this: it wouldn’t be right to call
what happened to me abandonment. See, life
can be too hard for us, including my black
father, once-Marine, 6’2”, without
someone to speak to, even me. Not brilliant,
but he could have helped me come to know

my hair, my blackness, self. Oh, well. Without
some emptiness, what’s life? 24. “Brilliant.
Accomplished.” All I know is what I don’t.