Christina Miles

The Old Testament

The Lord said to the white man
“give them the ruined fat of the pig
never meant for your mouth”
and the Black woman said
give me a handful of salt
my father mined for you
and I’ll bare my child a feast. 

The Lord said to the white woman
“wash your hair in the silk
slit of a waterfall
and leave nothing
but polluted river beds
to rinse their naps”
and the Black grandmother
with her legs spread
and bent like broken fences said
tilt your head this way child,
let me braid
bridges between
these cornrows
you tend, and back
towards Home.
The teacher in front of my 7th grade bio class
pulled on my pony tail,
rubbing curls like candy wrappers
between her pale fingers and said
“flat iron your hair
or the science fair judges will dock you points.” 

My Momma said
sit down
on the pink stool and bring your knees
to your chest,
hold your ear
down and
took a hot comb
to my head like a gardner,
said a Black girl who doesn’t know

to fold her ear into static
if she doesn’t know the feeling of fire teeth
in her kitchen
she deserves her baby hairs to burn into ash.
My hot comb is oil handled,
Momma says it is worn by the hand
of her hair-dresser grandmother,
told her to split her part with eggshells
and stand in the sunlight to lose
the Black girl grease.

My hot comb hasn’t been used
since 7th grade when it chewed
into my scalp and left bloodstained
hairs upon my head
to gleam in front
of the judges like headlamps
through the stain of summer highlights.
My hot comb hasn’t been slapped
against my Momma’s palm
coughed out a cackle
of smoke since my sister’s
senior prom, she cried
after the perm fried her hair
tried to sweat out
the flatness through dancing
her natural curls don’t remember
a time before the big chop,
or the days spent at Sunday school
singing this little light of mine
while the white kids pulled on her pigtails. 
They live in the aftermath
of transitioning, bandaged
in headbands wrapped
around clustered craters
of depressed volume. 

My hot comb stores these memories
between the gaps of its teeth.
Threads each one carefully
like floss as it cotton-gins
our hair with steel,
each cavity holes another knot
that is ripped
from our heads
and left forgotten.
It knows that one day
these strands will crumble
away into dust,
return what we borrowed
back towards Home

and it will be left here too.
Alongside the grandmother
And the Lord said,
with her black body twisting
to fit between the gaps
of her neighbor’s chain link fence,
and the other black bodies
that have forgotten
what it means to live
And break the law of conservation
just by being,
have forgotten
how their molecules expand past
the scripture just through existing.

the white man wrote:
“a Black woman who doesn’t know
how to change coils
into a white woman’s spun silk
is no Black woman at all,
a Black woman
who doesn’t know how
to press her daughter’s hair through
red cheeks and puffy eyes
is a Black woman
who doesn’t exist.”
And the Lord said,

Edited by LR

Christina Miles is an African American/Ashkenazi Jewish poet from Orange County, California, and I’m a self-described History Junkie. I am a member of Get Lit’s Emerging Writers Fellowship, one of their 13 Get Lit Players, and a 2020 Cohort for the Dragon Kim Foundation Fellowship dedicated to making the film industry more inclusive. I am also an editor and art editor on my school’s award winning annual literary magazine Inkblot. When I’m not writing poetry, I’m either binge watching movies or trying to learn new languages. My goal is to tell stories about my history to help uplift my community, whether that be through film, novels or poetry. My ultimate dream in life is to be an Ancient History professor with a pet basset hound and cup of Earl Grey always by my side.