Parts of me are burning
in dad’s ashtray.
Tuffs of coiled hair
engulfed in flame.
Clink of hot-comb against stove.
Crackle of fire against pomade.
The house is smoky with
the burning of my hair
the flattening into submission
the taming of the wild black
the Saturday ritual.

My sister’s hair does not burn,
loose curls falling into each other
like simple
like first born
like the pretty one.
Long plaits in pastel ribbons
beating against her cheeks
as she runs all silk
and smooth and easy

Her hair is like water,
will pour loose,
come undone from
her easy plaits.
Difficult hair is like clay.
When set on fire,
it takes any shape it is molded into
and stays.


Jasmine Combs is a 22 year old Black woman poet and spoken word artist from Philadelphia and has competed in poetry slams both locally and nationally. She is the 2015 Grand Slam Champion of The Philly Pigeon, 2015 National Poetry Slam semifinalist, and 2016 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational international champion. Jasmine recently received her BA in English from Temple University and is a Babel Poetry Collective alumni. She is currently an organizer for The Philly Pigeon Poetry Slam and the Spoken Word Editor of The Fem Lit Magazine. Her work has been featured on SlamFind, Button Poetry, Blavity, and Apiary Magazine as the Stung Writing Contest winner. In 2014 she published her first chapbook Universal Themes. Follow Jasmine on Twitter.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.