Cree Pettaway

Mobile, 2018

Have mama wash your hair on Sunday while her collards are cookin’ ‘cause after the collards are tender and papa unbuckles his belt while sitting down at his supper plate there is no longer time to rinse the grease and gel from your scalp and detangle the kinks of your kitchen; If you get mama to wash your hair while her collards are boilin’ then maybe she’ll have time to heat a burner for the hot comb so your hair can sway when you twist like those pale girls at your school where they finally let coloreds in sixty years ago; And if mama ever gets ‘round to pressin’ your hair do not take your behind in that kitchen to stare over that pot of collards or stick your head in the oven to check on the cornbread because then mama will have straightened your hair for nothin’ and you won’t have hair like the pale girls at your school who told you you couldn’t hang with them two days ago; And if you manage to keep your hands out of mama’s pot and oven, come to the dinner table with your silk headscarf on because it’s okay to look like a field nigger at the dinner table when you’ve got to have a bouncing ponytail to impress those pale faces at your school where they strung up your great-granddaddy seventy-five years ago; And when your plate is licked white and mama has asked you three times to brush your teeth, and papa threatens to spank you if you don’t although you know he won’t, be sure to lie in your bed in just the right manner so that your kerchief will not turn into a noose in the middle of the night and hang your fool self for thinking snatched edges will save you from a bodybag.


Cree Pettaway is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer from Mobile, Alabama. She is an MFA candidate at Louisiana State University and is currently working on her graduate thesis, a hybrid non-fiction/fiction collection that probes and interrogates a long history of black women’s bodies as science fiction and spectacle. Cree’s stories have appeared in ​West Texas Literary Review​ and Oyster River Pages​. Read more from Cree at her website​.