Mama

My mother is not tall
Or, I guess,
She is tall for a Michoacana,
Towering a full five inches over the abuelas.

In her heels, with her hair teased,
She could almost pass for statuesque.
But with such beauty,
Who needs height?
She had no problem finding a second man
When my father didn’t pan out.

How many hours did I spend
Watching her wind her hair around hot rollers
The fog of Aqua Net leaving its metallic tang
In the back of my throat.

I remember the evening gowns,
The peach-colored one with the sequined appliques,
My favorite, because I thought it made her look
Like a Spanish mermaid.

How over the years
We stood at the sink together,
Comparing our hair: Whose was longer.
Whose was thicker. Whose grew faster.

My tias would say, “I don’t know how you guys
Can stand it, all that hair. I’d cut it off,
Or at least thin it.”

Other women’s jealousy is
Something to be cultivated
Like a rare and toxic flower.

Even now,
My mother insists her hair has some natural wave
(It doesn’t)
And that mine is finer
(It isn’t)

I think, this is the way it should be.
We should all want to be like our mothers.

Until one day, I don’t.

I refuse it all.
I let my hair go toda greñuda.
I eschew makeup.
I hide my curves in boy clothes
And my face behind books.
Later, I will get tattoos
And a prescription for birth control.
I decide who I reveal myself to
And how much.

I grow to her same height
But otherwise so different;

I take control of my body
In ways she never dreamed of.

 

 

About the Poet: Lauren Scharhag is a writer of fiction and poetry. She is the recipient of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award for poetry and a fellowship from Rockhurst University for fiction. She lives in the Florida Panhandle with her husband and three cats. To learn more about her work, visit: www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com

 

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