Maya Williams

Effort Has to Rely on The Oldest

I forget about the sounds of the comb
crunching out knots or the slick sound

of grease in and near the scalp
until I hear my sisters twiddle their fingers

with each strand of my hair.
Why don’t you ever do your own hair? they ask.

Although they have gotten better in how to approach the topic,
their facial expressions mirror the ones they make

when a fart releases itself in a room
whenever I reply, Because I don’t want to.

It is normal for me to not want the same desires
as my sisters. I think my sisters believe

I should have been the one to facilitate
their crown’s beauty instead of the other way

around. To facilitate how they ought to scrunch their curls
after a shower. To flat iron their hair and have them

witness the sizzling alignment of temporary straightness.
To rub the dryness out of their edges with

Pink Oil. To be the one who gets joy
out of investing the time and effort.

Maya Williams (ey/they/she) is a Black Mixed Race suicide survivor and poet. Ey is Portland, Maine’s seventh Poet Laureate. They have published in venues such as Homology Lit, glitterMOB, Occulum, The Portland Press Herald, Black Table Arts, and more. You can follow her work at

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Fall 2021