for Dinah, and the little girls in us

some days i cannot be bothered 

to comb the knots out of my hair 

matted and covered in the white flakes of 

four-day-old edge wax but i almost always

manage to conjure a headwrap out of an old 

cotton t-shirt three sizes too big for me — brilliant 

at the art of pretending to be okay.

i am too loved to hate myself 

but some days i am in the fourth grade 

playing in a courtyard that erupts with laughter 

every time a pretty girl calls my best friend a “monkey”

instead of her first name — that is as beautiful and potent as she is 

but we are only ten years old and don’t know ourselves any better 

so she laughs, and mine follows right behind hers as i run 

my skinny fingers through bone-straight blonde hair 

that i wished was mine because it is easier to braid.  

i am too loved to hate myself

but some days i am still in the fourth grade

drowning in a pool that overfloods with laughter 

after a white girl hits me because she thinks 

my braid is as ugly as she is, but we are only ten years old 

and her parents must not have taught her any better  

so she does not apologize

and the blood running down from my button nose

tastes like the tears i make the choice not to cry. 

i am too loved to hate myself

so on most days, i am my sister’s reflection —

bearer of the truth that even she at her best

will selfishly keep from herself.

and when neither of us can manage,     

settling for another day 

tucking tangled hair and decade-old insecurities 

underneath our wideband bonnets, 

i find her in my bathroom mirror 

and we speak as much life into each other 

as we speak into ourselves. 

“i love you too damn much to let you hate yourself”