12.1 / SPRING / SUMMER 2017


as in what a blk grl might put in her hair

to make it go from kinky and coiled to straight

as in something you take
to make you calm down

as in my kinky coiled hair needs to calm down

as in my kinky coiled hair is aggressive

as in it needs to relax

is too intimidating

as in it needs to be pinned down

as in it is a threat and needs to be subdued by force

as in, if it were a blk grl wearing a swimsuit at a pool party,
it should maybe be handcuffed face down
with a knee pressed into its back

as in it might have a gun

as in a gun is so easy to get in this country
that an inanimate object like my hair
could probably buy a gun if it really wanted to

as in it doesn’t matter if my hair is strapped or not,
it’s just too aggressive and it makes people uncomfortable
and needs to calm down, it’s needs to calm down ma’am

as in – if you’ve met literally any woman ever-
telling her or her hair to calm down is ever good for your health

as in it is angry and there’s no telling what it’s liable to do

as in calm down, ma’am, calm down

as in nah why don’t you calm down?

as in TSA got its hands all in my hair like i’m the terrorist –
and i know my curls’ fists are clenched tight but damn –
you want a terrorist, go put your hands on CPD*

as in yes, my hair is angry
and out of patience
and in your sights

as in there was a time when i would’ve reached into my blood
and smeared relaxer all over my DNA, root to tip,
smoothed my kinks, my story, my pain, myself, but now
i will not be amended

as in through my head great ancestors and the slain
push up and out

as in we will not be straightened

as in we will not be managed

as in you are beholden
and we will be beheld

*Chicago Police Department




McKenzie’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crabfat Magazine, The Fem, Sundog Lit, and others. She has performed her poetry throughout Chicago, including for The Inconvenience’s The Fly Honey Show, the curated show-case Salonathon, and at Stony Island Arts Bank. She is one third of the poetry collective Growing Concerns, and writes for VAM, a creative studio that supports Chicago underground artists. She is a teaching artist at The Goodman Theatre, and lives in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.