Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood

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When my daughter doesn't brush her hair
the strands clump into a knot
at the back of her head the size of a softball,
and I go hard inside,
because I've told her
a hundred times
to care for herself.
You look like you have no
Mother, I say,
the knot in my stomach
tight as the one in her hair,
as I disappear into memories
of messy-haired girls,
and how my mother and I judged
their mothers.

We are late for school, but still, I brush
my daughter's hair so she can go to the assembly
and accept her citizenship award
groomed and cared for like the affluent,
only child she is. I say,
This is your job! If you'd brush your
hair every day we wouldn't be in this mess!
I show her again how to brush
from the bottom up, struggling to use gentle strokes,
as I seethe at every Ouch! and That hurts!

I am unprepared for this,
a daughter
who sometimes doesn't do what she's supposed to do,
who is oblivious to what I suppose others will say,
exposing her weakness, her flaws,
ignorant of the dangers
of going out into the world exactly the way she is.

Bella Mahaya Carter’s poetry collection, Secrets of My Sex, is forthcoming from Bomb Shelter Press and will be released in June 2008. Her work appears in numerous print and online journals, including The Sun Magazine, ONTHEBUS, Calyx, and Pearl. She lives in Southern California with her husband and their eleven-year-old daughter.

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