This Organism We Call Hɪst(ə)ri

By Sophia Staffiero.

this organism we call hɪst(ə)ri
is lived on people’s skins
is the burden that forced the spine to curl inwards
taught the face to masquerade
the ears to burn quietly
polluted eyes to sting discreetly
it is the stories locked in the folds of my ancestors’ backs
the dull ache of a slipped disk
is the musty odour of flesh filtered through our deep inhales
the gritty layer of tar smeared at the bottom of our lungs
it is the muscular memory that clings to our bones
begging not to be forgotten
decaying in the commemoration of unlearnt lessons
and the spiral of repetition
it is our pulsating biological memory
the counterflow of personal and collective
the projection of names and dates
of distant women scribbled in books
the version recorded by other less distant women
it is the jutting shards of victory
the false promises of rectification
the barren landscapes, the absent narrative
the nullification that numbifies us with the same rhetoric
gushing from the singular fount of
and at the same time
it is the mesh of people’s skin
the grey tincture, drained eyes, swollen ears
liquid limbs, bitten tongues and the tongues choking for air
for life
it is the indigestion of fragmentary realities
competing for space in the arena of our minds. 

I smooth the thick oily product through your locks,
my fingertips gliding over the rippled strands
and as my hand gently recedes from the labyrinth of coils and spirals,
each one defiantly springs back as if to say 

I am here 

despite 400yrs without a comb,
despite travelling across oceans
to lands where we are categorised as ‘bad’
for no other reason than that we refuse to be stretched into submission 

I’ve survived 

the hot combs and chemicals
I’ve declined their invitation
to tune down my ‘unprofessional’
Now watch my unapologetic curves boast, 

We are here to stay 

Precious Girl, Fierce Woman
do not spurn your majestic feathers and wish them to be anything other than
they are
our intimacy is not found in the glimmers of silk-pressed ebony,
nor in the whiteness of peroxide blonde
it’s tucked away in the crevices of barber shops,
between the clasp of two knees,
in the bond of a lock or a braid
it’s found in each and every one of our unruly coils
that declare in the only way they know how
in their refusal to lay down, to surrender 

despite 400yrs without a comb,
despite too many lost years away from home
We’ve survived,
We are here, We will stay

With thanks to the artist.

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