What They Passed Down
Jenny Sadre-Orafai

When I was young, she told me my hair was the color
of brown sunlight, and please don’t choke the curls out
that your father and I worked so hard to pass down
and onto your head.

She said other girls have manuals they have to read
in order to achieve what you have, one part developer,
skinny perm rods with elastic snaps and perm papers,
the solution soaking through their hairs.

She said I would not know the feeling of plugging
a curling iron into an outlet, feeding it power,
fingering my hair around the hot stick, hoping to look
like the girl on the card that came with the tool.

She said I am a curly headed mess and that just fits—
messes are never made of straight hair and teeth.
You do not walk single file, you are a loud, yellow barn
in the middle of Nebraska with crooked mountains
behind you. And the photographer is always working
around you and your odd, odd beauty.