my auntie weaves a lesson into my scalp with a rattail comb
and brown gel, slicking down the edges of my girlhood.
i sit on my knees, still my head at an angle, and sneak peeks
in the mirror, clouded under the sheen of girlhood.
barefoot and squinting, i’m placated with floor pillows;
she makes me hold my ear and wait for this era of girlhood
to end. knots, cornrows, two-strand flat twists and drips
between my legs, i’m taught to keep my girlhood
crisscrossed, unquestioning. quiet and comforted by a slip
that covers panty lines so eye lines gloss over my girlhood:
(is a girl caught under the streetlight even a girl at all?)
i flip my box braids, let them sway long over my girlhood,
watch them dance below my waist: “Aris, let them sit
in boiling water.” it takes work to unravel my girlhood.
Aris Kian is an inaugural member of CoogSlam, 2019’s 4th in the nation collegiate poetry slam team. She is ranked #10 in the 2020 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Her work is published in Underground Journal, Panoplyzine, Defunkt Magazine and Write About Now. She is an Emerging Writers Fellow and facilitates poetry workshops for Writers in the Schools. She received her BA in English and is currently an MFA candidate for Creative Writing at the University of Houston.