April is National Poetry Month, and we’re honored to share a poem, “Cornrows,” from the Queens Poet Laureate, Maria Lisella.

Are you an aspiring poet? Queens Library would like to give you the opportunity to share your verses with the world! Learn more here.








by Maria Lisella

Cheryl’s cornrows are
a maze of braids that crisscross
her round head topping
her dark, Trinidadian neck.

Her mother jelly-coats
her coffee-colored fingers to move
rapid and sure through nappy, crinkled hair.

She pulls one rope of hair
over the other, over the other,
over the other, until
the braids are locked down tight
with barrettes, ribbons, and bows.

Around the corner at Jean's Beauty Parlor
white women plop into wide leather chairs
as metallic chemicals crimp and whip
their soft hair into prim tootsie roll curls.

Across the street, Sylvia’s is crammed
arm to shiny bronze arm with Black women
pressing their hair — make it straight, straight,
straight, shiny, smooth as seals — take the nap out.

Cheryl and I watch Angela Davis,
who never lived in Queens,
the land of smooth and straight,
cry out of the TV.

She raises her fist past a brazen halo
of naturally kinky hair —
letting her ‘fro fly loud and free,
as if her hair said, "I will not hide,
I am trouble, see me now."

Cheryl's cornrows, a puzzle of braids
locked down tight, tight, tight.
I touch my smooth hair,
a single rope down my spine
wishing all the while
best friends could look more alike.