Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Girl with the Hair That Would Not Be Tamed"

This poem was inspired by the "youth" square of the Birthday Bingo fest public card.  It has been selected in an audience poll as the free epic for the October 7, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl reaching the $200 goal.  It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"The Girl with the Hair That Would Not Be Tamed"


Once there was a girl with
hair that would not be tamed.

It was beautiful and black and nappy
no matter what anyone did to it.

The hair that would not be tamed
broke combs and untied braids.
It snagged things and dropped them,
opened and closed doors in passing,
flicked people who tried to touch it.
A whole jar of gel would not hold it down
for more than an hour before -- sproing! --
it made a break for freedom.

Texra Alexander was the girl beneath
the hair that would not be tamed.

Her mother and grandmother and aunts
were always trying to get her hair under control,
to get Texra  under control.  "Wile chile,"
they would say, "we got to get a handle on this."
They were always trying, but it never worked.

The hair would not be tamed,
and Texra came with the hair.

It's not that she was a bad girl
or that she had bad hair.
She just wasn't the kind of
good girl with good hair
that people really wanted.

They thought she was young enough
to be shaped, to be trained, but
it never quite worked out that way.

For Texra's sixteenth birthday,
her grandmother put on sweet jazz,
her aunts baked a pink lemonade cake,
and her mother filled the kitchen with balloons.

After the party, they all wanted
to take Texra to a hairdresser uptown
who they were sure could work some magic.

Texra didn't want to go,
and neither did her hair.

What had started as a party
ended with flung silverware
and popped balloons.

That day Texra realized
that she and her hair were exactly
what people had been saying for years:
wile chile.

So she left home,
left behind the pink barrettes
that never stayed put anyhow
and the pretty yellow dresses with
shoulder buttons that always snagged.

Wile Chile wore t-shirts and tank tops,
soft scarves with nothing to catch on her hair,
and she let her hair do precisely as it pleased.

Sometimes the hair that would not be tamed
got her in trouble, but it always got her out again.

Wile Chile learned how to work with her hair,
and soon she could pick up things and throw them
on purpose, not just on accident.
She could punch people with it, too,
if they tried to hurt her.

The hair was impossible to cut;
it was like wearing armor of black wire-wool.
It caught a bullet once.  That was cool.

Wile Chile worked out
until she got strong enough
to hang from her hair, and later,
to swing by it like a monkey
moving through the treetops.

She learned that anything
she hid inside her hair
was hid real good --
nobody could see it,
even other soups,
even security scanners.

Wile Chile turned into
a darn good thief,
but she never took from
nobody who couldn't spare it.

It didn't matter to her that
the world only wanted to make a place
for good girls with good hair done up in a tidy 'do.

Wile Chile would make a place for herself
and the hair that would not be tamed.

* * *


Wile Chile (Texra Alexander) -- She has brown skin, brown eyes, and intensely nappy black hair.  She comes from a large gregarious family with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins.  She had a reasonably happy childhood but just never fit in with people who wanted her to "be good."
 Prehensile hair behaves differently depending on its texture and ethnic origin.  This is not the flossy blonde or red stuff of Rapunzel-esque European background.  It is black and wiry and extremely durable.  It can serve as Armor, and it is Invulnerable (although the rest of her body is not).  It works as a weapon to attack targets within arm's reach.  It can pick things up, throw them, break combs or other objects (including "unbreakable" things, and it gets a roll even against other Invulnerable things to determine which is stronger).  Objects hidden in it have Concealment against ordinary, technological, or even superpowered detection.  Wile Chile can hang from her hair, even brachiate with it, although she had to work out to develop her neck and shoulder muscles enough to take that much strain.
Origin: Everyone in her family has a different theory.  She was just born that way.  It grew in slowly as she got older.  No, it got a lot worse when she became a woman.  It must have been on account of all the different gunk they put on her hair trying to tame it down.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Street Smart, Good (+2) Stubborn, Good (+2) Thief
Powers: Master (+6) Prehensile Hair
Motivation: To be free.

* * * 

In African-American culture, hair is intensely political, and it's about control.  You can see this in the children's book Nappy Hair, which has sparked a lot of controversy.

Nappy hair can indeed break combs and other hair accessories, raising the question of whether or not to comb it at all.  There are other ways to care for it.

Enjoy a recipe for Pink Lemonade Cake.

Prehensility is the ability of a body part to grasp and hold.  Brachiation entails travel by swinging from the arms, and some primates also use a prehensile tail to move through the treetops.  This appears as the entertainment trope Prehensile Hair and the superpower Hair Manipulation, but notice that it almost always applies to long flowing European hair.

"Wile Chile" is a term with dual meaning: a willful young person, or the early stage of forming dreadlocks when they just look messy.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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