The latest in a new, biweekly poetry series curated by Hanif Abdurraqib
My mother laughs when she tells the story of my birth
Of how when the nurse placed me in her arms she asked where her baby was and why they handed her a tiny monkey.
I did and do have a lot of hair but it is fine/thin, like my mother's, my older brother having scraped all of the DNA for lush curls usually associated with the mixed children without any regard for any child born after him
While my hair is fine/ thin like my mother's it is naturally quite dark, not at all like my mother's, whom you cannot tell does not shave her legs.
I shave my legs for the first time in secret when I am 10. I press down too hard and a thin ribbon of skin blooms from the head of the razor,
the first of many bloody receipts for my femininity.
In 7th grade Tiffany looks at me hard from across the table during group work in math class before announcing to everyone that my eyebrows almost touch.
I am locked in the bathroom with my clock radio/ cassette player combo blasting the same cassingle over and over, daydreaming about Taylor Hanson and shaving between my eyebrows when my brother pounds on the door and startles half of my left eyebrow into the blades of the razor.
Everyone in 4th period study hall started calling Dawn “the wildebeest”today bc she is fat andher arms are covered in dark hair. She cries and says she's just Italian. That night in the bath I shave my arms from wrist to shoulder bc my great grandfather on my moms side is also Italian
and also my arm hair is dark
and also I am fatter than Dawn
and I just don't need those problems.
My mother buys me a Christmas gift not on my list: a magnifying makeup mirror with bright lights on either side. When I plug it in and look in all I can see is a disastrous forest I will spend the rest of my life trying to tame into a woman.