Braiding

 

P.B. Adams

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 111 in 2007.
 

The child’s hair
is the color of spice
grandfather made
a living by, her eyes
dark as coffee
father sold in the market
everyday, energetic hopeful
eyes that are quiet
darkness now.

You can’t scent
death in the desert,
the air is that dry,
and her picture
in the evening
paper is that dry,
you can’t smell
her place on the corner
of those nameless
broken streets–

but you can taste
the wormwood
bitterness of her days,
the sweet spices spilled
irretrievably amid grains
of sand, the bloodline all
poured out like anointing
oils from a ewer, all lost
irrevocably amid the crude.

Now the child keeps
the mother, her spice
hair attracting a few bold
young ladies. She defies
the wagging fingers,
the unveiled curses
her thin hands resolutely
twining and entwining,
playing hide and seek
among the clove
and cardamom, weaving
through the family
tapestry, reciting Qur’an
under her breath.