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As a girl I made lists. A student of high
fashion and only if´s--
how to mimic pouty lips and
a tousled fresh-from-bed head guaranteed
to put you back in with a man

according to Cosmo mavens. My mom
slipped Ebony under
my bedroom door, where I mixed hot
wax tricks for instant bare limbs.
I wanted to be thin and beyond

recognition. To blend in
with apple-blushed cheeks and
hair-twirling fingertips. The white girls
got the Science and P.E. teachers´ looks,
“Isn´t she something." I wanted to cry

my way out of speeding tickets and into
boys´ arms. Why wouldn´t mom make
potatoes and sloppy joes instead of catfish
and chitlins? I resolved to be like them.
Number one: shave

armpits, number two: relax
hair straight, curl and hitch
the cascades in place with Still Life Spray.
Mom said it´s a sin to get rid of
what God gives.

You´re gorgeous!

The shocker was turning hip,
the teenage goal to be unusual--
the girls called me unique. I was the other
piece of the puzzle, the hottentot, my life

an exotic garden to walk through. I was so not
like the other girls they knew, a complimentary
ticket to get close, then
I received invites for putt-putt and
sleepovers. We were the only black family

on the block; when we moved in
the neighbors brought bundt cakes and removed
their shoes before entering. We were immigrants
to a neighborhood of community associations and
cul-de-sacs. Yes, we´d have to have them

over for dinner, then mom shut the door
before asking me if they´d like her
special: oxtail stew over grits.
Only if, only if--
My mantra for a curse and a wish.

Chanda Wakefield is an MFA candidate (in poetry) at Cornell University. She was the recipient of a 2002 Walker Foundation scholarship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and was named a finalist for the 2002 Constance Saltonstall Artist Grant. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Hubbub, Sou'Wester, and Spoon River Poetry Review. She is currently an Associate Editor at Epoch Magazine and a Consulting Editor for Glimmer Train.

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