"Wide Tooth Comb" by Ciara Sing-Department of English - Carnegie Mellon University

"Wide Tooth Comb" by Ciara Sing

Third Place for High School Poetry

My sister’s brown skin glows when she lies down on the back porch, her lips are full. They point towards the sun. Her moles form a pattern across her face, her tight curls have to be teased into the bun on top of her head. Sweat dances across the tip of her ear. You can see the sun in her skin.

My cheeks, and nose and ears are burned with red. My curls plastered to my forehead, damp and drooping. There is no glow.

My hands wouldn’t even be compared to the paper bag. White without question. Blue veins stain my skin.

My dad’s hands are cracked and dry. Ashy lines cover every inch, the dark skin stretched so much it tears when he turns a doorknob. He walks past the lotion. Our hands use to bleed in the fields.

On Sunday mornings, I watch flames dance around the points of my aunt’s comb. She swipes her raven hair up away from the back of her neck, tugs the comb under her hair and pulls. She tells me, never come to church with naps. I touch the back of my neck. The hair is soft and straight there.

I told my mom she could no longer do my hair.  She doesn’t do it right. How can a white woman do black girl hair, my friend asked. She can’t.

I wore my hood the rest of the day. My mom sent me to my room, after telling me she’s been doing it for 10 years. Her hazel eyes contrast her angelic face showing disapproval. Neither of us did my hair the next morning.

I steal my mom’s scarf and wrap it around my head, copying the woman’s movements in the video—they’re easy and swift. When I try, I look like an alien, lumps all under the scarf and my curls sticking out. The woman looks like a queen. She says to always use a silk scarf.

My mom doesn’t own one.

The black girls squint their eyes.

They tell me my uncle’s name is Tom.

He’s not our relative, he’ll never be.

Niggas don’t need to be using the word niggas. I’m not nigga enough. 

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