When I Had Long, Dark Hair
by Makensi Ceriani
My mother braided it into spider webs,
tourniquets, a bird’s wing;
French bread. Even a queen’s crown.
Her fingers spread and layered, sometimes for hours,
snaggled strands from knots and snares—
she cursed my tendency to swim in dreams
for salt caught hair in clumps
and twisted all into thick seaweed,
as sleep whirl-pooled my head
against the cotton sheets.
Her hands then combed me back
into my body on land,
weaved me into her skin-heavy myth:
her dry palms rasped, a pressure and push
to keep my neck bent forward
as she traveled down the rope she made
to tie me to her. Hairspray choked the air
and the sides of my throat stretched taut,
struggled to breathe under the finely misted net
that promised a firm hold. I never knew
what it meant to leave the grotto of our home
without being tamed and tightly tied up.