‘Yosra Strings off My Mustache’ by Melissa Lozada-Oliva​​

Philippe Pamela Dungao

I think about the most womanly thing we’ve ever done and it’s live, anyway

There is nothing quite like the bond shared between women of colour. How we navigate our desires, our heartaches, and also our joys in a world that has left so little for us. How we carry the shame in our identities and our bodies and fold them within ourselves. How this bond comes in many forms—often times unspeakable, in small acts, quietly.

In Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s ‘Yosra Strings Off My Mustache,’ it comes in the form of hair removal and the roll of string tucked in Yosra’s pockets. The poem paints a scene of two women in a bathroom, huddled together with a string between them to thread off the strands of hair that “looks like the subtitles to a foreign movie with an actress [she] will never look like.” Here are our bodies, made abject/foreign/other, all within the context of desire, of loving, and being loved. Here is a scene that feels more intimate and more tender than what a public bathroom often holds, touching all the ways we have been taught to carry ourselves. It feels both like exile and sanctuary where two women—Yosra, Middle Eastern, and the speaker, Guatemalan-Mexican—find some semblance of escape from the world outside, learning how to “forgive every space [they] enter.”

If the act of hair removal is likened to the ways women of colour experience race, womanhood, and femininity, it too extends as a metaphor for the care and love we share between each other and how it may look. “This isn’t opression,” Lozada-Oliva tells us. “This is I got you / I believe you / I always have.” Her voice is comforting. I am thinking about what it means to write off the shame we carry in our bodies, how then can we pluck it off strand by strand like the body hair in Lozada-Oliva’s poems, how then each pull is an act of care, and how letting it grow is love, too.

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