I am sitting upright. at the height of your elbow.
You are hidden in green curtains and you want
the back of my hair. the place where it coils
around your knuckle. You position yourself, as
if there were any less clover in the light
through the curtains. It’s a strange pattern
across your eyelids. If I were older, I would
reach to shut them. I would say it’s okay, we
don’t ask. But now your face. Only the shrub
of heavy fabric covering the windows, or paint,
or sorrow in your fingertips, the grip of which
sits me. What girl could ever save
light at the tip of her fingers. I am, your
particular theory. There are no flowers. There is
no hard candy in your lap. But then
the man who brings this heavy lighting would also
bring cut-up dolls and switchblades. That would be
his uniform. I understand this. If I could speak
I would name the doll for you. call it a lily. a lilt.
call it some name other little girls might need. You
and I don’t need this. We have the color of stems.
We have the dark of this room. I am so much older
than three. I am your arbiter, here.
Outside me, this family keeps you.
Your mother stacks church fans in a curio.
Your sisters press another foster girl’s hair. The man,
who prefers you call him by name, has the eyes of a mole.
His glasses fatten the kitchen. He laughs at anything
anyone wants. If I were older I would tell you to dream
of cooking him. I would tell you that helps. I would tell
you to start with the eyes, scoop out the furtive sockets
together, and twist in rhythm
the lemon, rub
deep heat peppers under rib, but I am
small. My words are not spoons.
I will spend some years
asking boys to cut fingertips with me.
And they will say
what you would say, now. likely. This yank,
your fists in my hair
that which might ooze from the throat
of a doll I love. Her skin is leather and thick.
You can see the straw of her scalp.
You can still click her eyes shut and watch her
drip into the ruffles of a sundress.
The tangle, eventually. which dries
to a pine. an imperfect collar of
moss. that we will wear forever. that will bog
your body and keep it with me, the soot of which
tastes of dirt and worm. Now, it’s not. where
you sit, still growing over everything, at the nape
of my neck. And though I am small
I have said yes now. And wake
and wake and wake in the blown grass of light.
from play deadFind more by francine j. harris at the library
Copyright © 2016 francine j. harris
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.