Aubade to Southern Black Superstitions, Burning Hair, and Being Good

Rochelle Robinson-Dukes
| poetry


Southern Black Superstitions remind me that it is bad luck
to leave any hair in a comb or brush. After I’ve
oiled my hair, I take the knotted brown ball, the size of a quarter,
to the front left eye of the stove and watch it
twist and turn, squirming in the hot, topaz flames like Houdini in chains
underwater. The smell is distinctive like tires burning.
This ritual prevents doppelgänger dolls of me being made
from my hair. Pubic hair is the strongest; underarm next,
grandma warned when I went off to college. She said to avoid
arguments with the Island and African girls cause
They still throw root on people. Hence, the hair burning and
tub washing and the underarm shaving, because I run toward
arguments. I am not a good girl who seeks peace
by being silent. I talk too much, wear my hair in a nature style
that doesn’t obey anything but fire, hair that points like stars,
that abuts like twigs on a flourishing life-giving tree. This hair's not as wavy
as the lock of my mother’s hair that I keep in a baggie
in my jewelry box, next to the crucifix and prayer beads, things
I gave up on when she died from Alzheimer’s after losing
a car, her mind, after being such a good daughter, being
such a good mother. But, goodness is not an accoutrement
to a peaceful death. Goodness can't even be sewn into a voodoo doll's dress.

Rochelle Robinson-Dukes is an Associate English Professor at the City Colleges of Chicago. She is the editor of Brownstone Barrio Bards, a yearly journal that publishes South Side Chicago poets. She has been published in African American Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Atlanta Review, Meridian, The Carolina Quarterly, Poetry Hall Bilingual Journal, The RavensPerch, Rock & Sling, The Temz Review, and the anthology In Other Words.

every hollow of the world
from “Chalino Sánchez: A Sequence”