122. “To Those Of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals”–never to look a hot comb in the teeth: Gwendolyn Brooks

First of all, I am not sure if the way I posted the title is correct; the quotation marks followed by the qualifier…. You might want to check that beyond what I did.

I am sitting here watching my wife watch Chris Rock’s superb “Good Hair”, a documentary on Black America and its relationship with hair and hair care. Fascinating, funny and insightful. Much of it is appropriate for the middle school (PG-13), but a few scenes about sex are unnecessary and some of the language in the Atlanta competition are on the edge (know that I teach 7-8, not 5-6). You know your kids and community best. All of this can be skipped easily enough, though. She is teaching “A Raisin in the Sun” (she’s a high school teacher), but for my lessons and discussions about race and class have a new catalyst.

Naturally, I sought out poems about black women and their hair. This site HAIR!!!! Poetry has some interesting pieces; I chose Brooks because it translates the easiest.

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Source of Poem

For this poem, focus on the use of second person. Who is speaking? Does it matter? More important, who is the audience? You? Did you do this thing the narrator praises? If not, how does this transference work? I, a forty-three year old white man with no hair, gets it. How does that work? How does the use of the second person–YOU–praised, make me “get” it?

“To Those Of My Sisters
Who Kept Their Naturals”
— never to look a hot comb in the teeth
Gwendolyn Brooks


I love you.
Because you love you.
Because you are erect.
Because you are also bent.
In season, stern, kind.
Crisp, soft-in season.
And you withhold.
And you extend.
And you Step out.
And you go back.
And you extend again.

Your eyes, loud-soft, with crying and with smiles,
are older than a million years,
And they are young.
You reach, in season.
And All
below the rich rouch right time of your hair.

You have not bought Blondine.
You have not hailed the hot-comb recently.
You never worshipped Marilyn Monroe.
You say: Farrah’s hair is hers.
You have not wanted to be white.
Nor have you testified to adoration of that state
with the advertisement of imitation
(never successful because the hot-comb is laughing too.)

But oh the rough dark Other music!
the Real,
the Right.
The natural Respect of Self and Seal!


Your hair is Celebration in the world!


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