Places My Hair Stayed When I Didn’t

by Michelle Garcia Fresco

Maura’s salon floor
My aunt’s basement near the liquor cabinet
Under my sister’s bed
My bathroom drain
My mother’s bathroom drains
All the bathrooms that have drains
The beds of boys who’ve drained me
My father’s comb he’d break in half to do my hair
The half he took
The half he left
Behind curtains
Between the leather seats of an old green Jeep
On all the hair ties I’ve ever owned
On the muffler of the pasola that burned my leg when I was 7
hiding in my clubhouse closet we made from mamas good sheets
Lying in nurse Tammy’s office next to her blue cot
Caught on the fence between me & the boys who started a rock fight when I was 8
Curled up on my mother’s carpet
In front of space heater we’d use when there was no heat
Sitting next to strangers on the 426
Riding on the orange line to all the stops I’ve missed
Buried in my brother’s sweater
Lying on my first love’s pillow
Swimming in the kitchen sink 
In front of my bedroom mirror, dancing
Somewhere in my backyard
tangled in dandelions
covered in dirt
Split between two roads
both dead ends
Left stranded in a bad joke 
Right on the edge of a sink
Hanging by a thread
holding on

Michelle Garcia Fresco is an Afro-Latinx poet and Spoken Word artist based in Boston. She is currently a Junior at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, double majoring in creative writing and sociology. Believing in the power of poetry as a medium for social justice, Garcia’s writing is often inspired by the women in her family, social and racial injustices in America, coping with mental health and loss, as well as her Dominican roots.

“Places My Hair Stayed When I Didn’t” is the winner of the 2021 Roadrunner Poetry Prize.

Brenda Delfino, who served as our poetry judge, wrote: “Through the ordinary unseen corners of daily life this poem captures the intimate history of place, the memory—like strands of hair— each line layered with personal meaning and the unseen bits of self left behind. This list poem flourishes in its form, the attention to sound and line break are apparent. The lack of punctuation and short condensed lines reminds of the genius unseen labor in Lucille Clifton poems: the possibility of multiple readings and the power to say much with few words. There is revelation, heartache and humor—the necessary ingredients for an unforgettable poem.”

The Roadrunner Review nominated “Places My Hair Stayed When I Didn’t” for Best of the Net.