by Amy Nicole Robb
You ask me for braids
hands held out in prayer
locking rubberbands around your fingertips.
I shift my weight against the arch of the couch
and together we brush knots from the back of your head.
Sleep still twisting and turning your soft tangles
into a nest of locks and curls.
You yawn and I smell dreams on your breath.
The sweet slippings of hope and sunlight
beaming across last night’s mumblings
of snakes and watermelon,
as I carried you back to bed—
your own bed—
for the third night this week.
My own breathless yawn
settles into the ache behind my eyes,
the tightness in my throat,
the sinking in my stomach,
and creases itself into a humming smile.
Together we cringe
when I pull too tight
weaving the feathers of your hair
into taut criss crossing ropes.
The book in your lap drops to the rug.
You smack the part of your hair,
brushing the back of my hand like a warning.
For a moment
I can’t breathe.
Your silhouette sharpens
against the glare of the morning sun.
Shadows shifting your tiny face
closer to shapes
I can’t recognize.
You start humming a song
I can’t quite grasp
a new tune just out of my reach.
I squeeze your hair into my palms,
blink the glitter of your future from my tears,
and twirl each strand like an apology.