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poetry Can We Touch Your Hair?

“I wrote this poem in response to the sense of horror I felt,” says New Orleans poet Skye Jack, “and in memory of my ancestors who would not have been given the privilege to refuse their touch.”

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Can We Touch Your Hair?

By Skye Jackson

at the parades, everyone 

wants to touch my hair.

on the corner 

of st charles and marengo, 

i am cold & smashed & puffy

when two white women 

try to convince me 

that they love my hair

no they really really do 

they say because it is so

black and thick and curly 

and soaking up all of the

water in the damp air.

 

the mousy one says

through an alabama drawl:

gawd, you can do so much with it 

and her blonde friend says:

ya can’t do a damn thing with mine, 

won’t even hold a curl. 

she runs away to grab another friend 

and says to her: stacey, isn’t it even

prettier than macy gray’s? 

we just love her,

don’t we?

they circle me and ask:

can we touch your hair?

and then, suddenly,

just like my ancestors long ago,

i am pulled apart

soft

by pale hands 

from all directions.

Skye Jackson was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has served as a poetry editor for Bayou

Magazine, French Quarter Journal Tilted House. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Electric

Literature, Green Mountains ReviewRATTLE and elsewhere. Her debut chapbook, A Faster Grave, won the

2019 Antenna Prize. She was a finalist for the 2020 RATTLE Poetry Prize. In 2021, she won the AWP

Intro Journals Award and was twice nominated for Best New PoetsPoets & Writers has recognized her as a

New Orleans “Poet to Watch.”