By Shannon Barber
Mama never lets me wear my hair all out. She washes it section by section, each twist gently untangled, washed, soaked in conditioner and twisted again. She calls me the Thousand Names of Creation and Fertility and Love and Stars.
I sit between her knees, my ear pressed to her thigh while she braids my clean hair. Sometimes I doze off, the rhythm of her knuckles against my scalp and her soft low voice lulls me into half dreams.
Behind my closed eyes I see the most beautiful things. The slow birth of a universe., swirling hot gasses bringing some other new life. I skip along the rings of Saturn and smell the blue raspberry mystery of deep space.
When I’m not dozing, I pick the deedly bobs and butterflies Mama puts at the ends of my braids. My favorites are sparkly little balls that clack when I run, but will smack my face if I’m careless.
Sometimes I complain. I want to see my hair full and nappy and standing out from my head like a gas giant.
“No. Some down is enough. All is too much.”
Unlike the voices of others there is no shame in her. She sings songs to my hair about beauty and power. I don’t understand, but I obey.
Every two weeks like clockwork it’s just Mama, my hair and my dreams. Mama names all the stars and constellations with each braid.
Mama says my hair is like chaos. Necessary and exciting. Terrifying to a world that craves unnatural order. She tells me that my hair is rarer than a witness to the death of a dwarf star, but it is there and real beyond the comprehension of most people.
I love how my Mama loves me. The way she weaves her love into my hair until it is only made of constellations, universes and worlds as yet unknown. Her love is the rainbow corona I see around the moon sometimes.
I know all these things, but it wants to see my hair. Just once wild and free. I need to see it.
I wait until I am alone. I gather my combs and sit under the stars and undo myself.
Each time my fingers turn I speak the secret names of stars as yet unborn.
When my hair is all down and hanging in soft black nappy curls and coils, I dance.
The Northern Lights crackle in the tiny coils on the back of my neck and black holes whirl out of my afro as I spin and frolic.
Under my hair as velvet and soft as the sky above, I know things are happening and I just can’t stop.
Mama always calls me the Thousand Names of Creation and Fertility and Love and Stars. She says I am God and Asase Ya. I am Xochiquetzal and the Celestial Registrar of Childbirth. I am Bastet and Hathor. I am Haumea, and Aditi. I am Mama Quilla and Hanhepi Wi.
I am in our World only another child with stars and the power of creation in her eyes and falling from her hair.
I spin right into Mama’s arms and for a moment all the twinkling lights go dim in my hair and my eyes.
I’m afraid I’m going to get into trouble.
“I’m sorry Mama, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.”
Before I know what to do, there are tears pouring out of me. Mama wraps her long dark arms around me and holds me tight, she presses her lips to my hair and I can feel her vibrating with laughter.
“Hush now, don’t cry star. Don’t cry. We all must have our freedoms. You are my Child. You are the Thousand Goddesses of Creation and Fertility and Love and Stars. Dance with me, I will show you how to birth a universe properly.”
Mama and me, we dance forever and forever am I her little one. Forever are the stars in my hair. In my braids the secrets of creation live until I let them loose to create again. And thus you are born and I am born and Mama is born and we are all born. Over and over again.