1 Poem by Nneoma Nwankwo


Trials of The Wooden Comb

The wooden comb takes no prisoners
            only clumps of my hair
shedding, falling
rest in peace

When I was young 
           I knew I was a tree
my legs, unstable roots
my torso, a germinating stem
my arms, long ebony branches
my coily sable mane –
            the most bewitching of flowers

The wooden comb –
            wide teeth,
pointed picks
– achipu oji*

              linger persistently in the corner of my eyes
I refuse to let them fall
the comb must pass through
or break
                                     one victor only 

My head stock-still
            between Mother’s legs
the coconut scent of her boubou*
congesting my nose,
             an eruption of sneezes

When I was a child,
            I spent hours staring at straight hair
of women who looked nothing like me –
                         with their pale skin
                         and narrow noses –
never did I envy
but often, I wondered –
          if they ever used wooden combs


          Mother’s bi-weekly battle
the wooden comb, her captain general –
         trudging through,
                                 to manipulate my mane into cornrows
        for school


A loud snap 
            one vanquished
                         the comb, in two
I hear Mother’s frustrated sigh
           and rub my aching scalp
Remorseful –
the unintentional victor


*Achipu oji – common in Igbo culture, a masquerade with claws, wild hair and scary clothing.
*Boubou – a West African flowing dress.


Nneoma Nwankwo is an 18-year old poet from Nigeria, who attends school in Virginia. She also now does her hair herself.