Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Secret of Youth

Last night I asked my mother to cornrow my hair
A skill I had been practicing since last summer
But always ended with a tumbleweed excuse of a braid

My black has always resided in braids
In tango fingers that work through tangles
Translating geometry from hands to head

For years my hair was cultivated into valleys and hills
That refused to be ironed out with a brush held in my hand
I have depended on my mother to make them plains

I am 18 and still sit between my mother’s knees
I still welcome the cracks of her knuckles in my ears
They whisper to me and tell me the secret of youth

I want to be 30 sitting between my mother’s knees
Her fingers keeping us both young while organizing my hair
I never want to flatten the hills by myself
I want the brush in her hand forever


Copyright © 2020 by Micah Daniels. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My poetry is often about my complex relationship with my parents and my black identity. One of the main components of me and my mother’s relationship that has lasted through the years is her doing my hair. I’m almost nineteen and unfortunately still don’t know how to braid. One of the ways I feel my mother’s love the strongest is when she does my hair, and the poem describes a bit of that experience.”
Micah Daniels


Micah Daniels

Micah Daniels is a student at University of Illinois at Urbana -Champaign. She is from Oak Park, Illinois.

Date Published: 2020-08-05

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