The summer I was ten a teenager
named Kim butterflied my hair. Cornrows
curling into braids 
behind each ear.

Everybody’s wearing this style now, Kim said.

Who could try to tell me
I wasn’t beautiful. The magic
in something as once ordinary
as hair that for too long 
had not been good enough
now winged and amazing 
now connected 

to a long line of crowns.

Now connected
to a long line of girls
moving through Brooklyn with our heads
held so high, our necks ached. You must 
know this too – that feeling 

of being so much more than
you once believed yourself to be

so much more than your
too-skinny arms
and too-big feet and
too-long fingers and
too-thick and stubborn hair

All of us now
suddenly seen
the trick mirror that had us believe
we weren’t truly beautiful
suddenly shifts

and there we are

and there we are

and there we are again

and Oh! How could we not have seen
ourselves before? So much more

We are so much more.


Copyright © 2020 by Jacqueline Woodson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Absolute’ was written about the beauty, obviously, of Black and Brown girls, and it’s based on a true story. The first time I got my hair cornrowed, I saw my amazingness, which my daughter, of course, says I’m conceited to even say. I want Black and Brown girls to walk through this world knowing how amazing they are. Knowing how brilliant they are. Knowing how magic they are. So this poem was written for, and is dedicated to, each and every one of them.” 
Jacqueline Woodson