It was Edna who taught me how to braid hair, who held my own long strands in front of me, pulled & twisted,
until I learned how to watch myself without feeling tender
or shaken that something of mine could become a new thing,
that I could pull my hair & change myself. My sister took all that dark dedication upon herself, tugged the brush through my head,
demanded that I keep very, very still. In the mirror
I see only plaits that jet out from my skull.
I picture myself dead in this way, as if I’m frozen in water, plants stolen from my grandmother’s garden, pieces of aloe, bits of lantana
working through the wild arcs & tresses the color
of a bird’s foot dipped in her jar of ink.
On her desk, a gold box holds stamps. I take the tiny foot, write letters from the other side. To my sister I say, I miss you like an ache
inside my eyes & the eyes must see & to see is to know & to know
is to feel & to feel is to be—but to be without you, what a terrible angel
hosting darkness—no longer really knowing what it means to be or to feel or to know, but recalling mostly hair & words & she
who showed me how to bind some fragment of myself,
how to secure what the wind catches, tears apart.