Konch Magazine - Three Poems by Tennessee Reed
             ODE TO THE VEGAN
that’s how I describe vegans
They shove their cause into your face
the way they accuse meat eaters
of shoving our cause into their face
They want conferences
and hospital cafeterias
to be one hundred percent vegan
or in their words,
“Everyone can eat vegan food;
not everyone can or wants to eat meat.”
Not everybody wants to or can be vegan
What about diabetics or pre-diabetics
who can’t have a carbohydrate, starch
and sugar overload?
What about poor people or homeless people
who can’t pick and choose what they eat?
To them veganism is a privilege and a fashion
not based on health and ethics
Poets and lecturers compare meat eaters
to slavery and the Holocaust
even though animals are a different “animal”
than slavery and the Holocaust
If we don’t think that way we are called “speciests”
Slaves and Holocaust victims were killed because of their identity
Animals are killed because their meat tastes good
Animals eat other animals
Are they like the Nazis and slave owners, too?
Do vegans not realize that plants feel pain?
Is it because plants don’t have ears
even though they can hear themselves being eaten?
Is it because they don’t look you in the eye
when you dry them off from the rain
or wag their tail when they see you?
Is it because they don’t sit in your lap and purr
or respond when you talk to them?
I wonder what the people
in the Somalian famine think of this?

It started in my mid-twenties
and bothered me from the start
People told me not to wear jeans
because I looked like a teenager
(I had graduated from college
and graduate school)
They told me I looked
“innocent” and “inexperienced”
(even though I had traveled all over the world
and had three books of poetry published)
They carded me at the Las Vegas airport
(I was one month away from my college graduation)
I was at a conference for English teachers in Baltimore
Someone told me I looked twelve
(I was twenty-five and in between college and graduate school)
People would tell me that I’m “cute”
People told me when I said
that it bothered me
when they tell me
that I look like a teenager
“It’s a compliment,”
and “maybe you should dress up more
and put some make-up on”
or “you’ll like it when you’re older”
Here it is fifteen years later
On my fortieth birthday
someone at the gym told me
I look eighteen
I heard myself saying,
“Thank you” in a sarcastic tone
When I got my hair cut in June of 2017
for my grandmother’s 100th birthday party
A close friend told me, “You look like a little girl”
I responded with, “That’s not the look I was going for”
Sixteen and eighteen were twenty-two and twenty-four years ago
I would like to keep it that way

It’s an important issue
as you can see
I did cut my hair to my shoulders
shortly after I wrote my first hair poem
in 1992
It rained all of the winter and spring
of 1993
I put a relaxer in it
and started putting heat in it
because my hair was frizzy all of the time
I did the buns
and the hair scrunchies to match my outfit
It reached my waist
in the fall of 1994
then started to breakoff
It was burnt, weak, dried out
and full of split ends by the spring of 1995
from all of the relaxers, heat
and the way I was brushing it
I didn’t moisturize it
like I had done for the previous three years
I should have done the big chop
when it was time to graduate from high school
but I didn’t
For nine and a half years
it stayed dry and brittle
going from collarbone length
and armpit length
as it kept breaking off
and through more relaxers
and one color treatment,
which my hair hated from the start
It felt like straw
In the fall of 2004
I got it cut to above my shoulders
I ate better, took vitamins,
moisturized it and left it alone
It got to my hips three years later
It stayed healthy until I relaxed it again
in the spring of 2013
I don’t know why I did that
A year later my hairdresser noticed
it had to started to break
especially at the crown
Two and a half years later
my hair was back to square one:
dry, brittle, weak and full of split ends
Nine months later I gradually cut it off
I transitioned from relaxed to natural
with hair masques,
cutting out relaxers
and barely using heat
and then in June of 2017,
for my grandmother’s 100th birthday,
I got it cut to above my shoulders
It feels and looks much better
I don’t know if I will grow it to my hips again
That was my 1992 goal