Black History Month Author Highlights: an open letter to my mixed little “Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals”

my dears,
i love you because a hot comb
never dared to look you in eye. because
your lives are always in autumn—a crisp,
stern season of self-awareness. because
you stroll through the background radiation
of racial anxiety without a hazmat suit. because
you have desired to be darker and lighter,
invisible, yet star-shine. because
you hold and withhold, extending yourself
with eyes older than a million years. because
you consult a social color-palette—carry skin-swatches
to know which suburban parties are safe. because
you two-step between both worlds
and always make it home. because
you stand erect beneath a gaze which finds you not exotic,
but spicy white or unseasoned black. because
you are more acceptable to fathers and mothers
who feel one side sanctifies the other, explains
something significant about their sons. because
you have not fully bought into their blonde lies,
and get heated when every marilyn and farrah,
chloe, kim, and becky worship your hair
on themselves. how they adore and imitate,
but never testify to its source, never ask to touch
the curls they claim. my dear little sisters, i celebrate
that your rough, darkish music is othered because
it is right and real and deserving the natural
respect of self and the sea.


Matthew E. Henry (MEH) is a multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated poet and short story writer. Recent and forthcoming publications include The Amethyst Review, Baltimore Review, Bryant Literary Review, Ploughshares, Poemeleon, Portside.org, The Radical Teacher, Rise Up Review, Rigorous, Spiritus, Tahoma Literary Review and The Windhover. The author of Teaching While Black (Main Street Rag, 2020), MEH is an educator who received his MFA from Seattle Pacific University, yet continued to spend money he didn’t have completing an MA in theology and a PhD in education. His work can be found on MEHPoeting.com.

Join the conversation