When I Wear My Braids to School

By Alia Atkins 

When I wear my braids to school they sound like  
a chip bag opening in a meeting  
or an airplane passing over a film shoot.  
When I wear my braids to school people say  
“Nice dreads,” and they mean it.  
My braids say “thank you.”  
My earrings cry for attention but go unnoticed.

When I wear my braids to school  
my whole face looks like Paris 1968.  
There is a collision on the 110 freeway South.  
Someone stains a seat on the metro bus with ketchup  
and a white lady can’t sit down.  
A Black  
cat walks across the stage in the middle of the Oscars. 

When I wear my braids to school I feel like  
a run on sentence in a cover letter for a writing job.  
I hear somebody ask how long my braids took to do.  
My braids say, “since my ancestors were captured.”  
My hair straightener shows up to my class  
and tries to seduce me in my chair.  
A teacher shushes a conversation happening in the back of the room.

When I wear my braids to school  
my body carries my head in my hands.  
I carry around a wet floor sign for good measure.  
I carry around a doctor’s note just in case  
somebody asks.

About the Author:

Alia Atkins is a senior studying Creative Writing and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She is also always on antibiotics.

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