after Sarah Lao
On Sundays, we kneel before an altar
of dying faces, afternoon contouring
our brittle frames. I count gods in the white
you order away. What I don’t say
when plucking your age in light
feathers: every family is a fractured
hairline. & ours sleeps in the valley
between your widow peaks. I inherit
your fading rivers, ends fraying
from years of neglect. Before bedtime,
I comb through its rippled lineage,
tracing matriarchy back to its roots
in the unfastening of a daughter’s locks.
Fluency, in this language of locked-
jaws: an undressing. We wear our hair like scarves
& silk nooses, little furred tails
warming our throats. Like leftovers,
my girlhood flays its bruised offerings
on the floor where you taught me to shear
my waist. To wilt against a man’s sheer
gaze & birth him my name. You ribbon
lullabies from these leashes. So I reach for yours.
It falls through my fingers like jasmine incense.
Or a forgotten raven’s wing.
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