Kora, After Her Mother’s Diagnosis

by Rachel Ann Jones

Steve Johnson once
asked me about
my braids.
Told me,
“Go back to Africa.”
I gave Steve Johnson
a black eye.

My mother, warm
hands and soft
skin, sat me
her legs and
ran her fingers
through each braid.

“Honey, you know
what your
used to say?”
She’d tell me
between shudders,
heavy breaths.

Of course
I didn’t know.
I never
met my Grandmother,
only found
my face in her

“No, Mama, what
did she say?”
I ease my head
her knee,
the only part
that isn’t soft.

“A woman’s strength
is not in her hair,”
she paused,
pulling for air,
“but in the roots
she chooses to
cultivate, to keep.”

I nodded, felt
tears, warm,
falling against
her legs. She fell
asleep there, and
I stayed with her,
all night long.

Rachel Ann Jones is a senior English major at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Rachel has published both poetry and a short story in her school’s literary magazine, Damozel, and her short stories have been accepted to the Sigma Tau Delta Honors Convention for the past two years. She is working on a collection of poems about an all-girl gang of which this poem is a part.

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