—So, one by one I pull the lice from your red hair.
One by one I try to split them with my fingernails;
no use, they hold on
as they were taught to. Still, they glisten
like heavenly sparks in the morning light
of the bathroom.
I have to pull extra hard on many of them,
use the turquoise, fine-toothed comb
provided by the pharmacy.
They hold on with all their strength:
each has its individual hair to love,
each pus-colored creature
has a genius plan for not leaving you.
I fling the lice out in the air,
thinking how the world despises them,
the other mothers of Berkeley,
and the teachers who have not appreciated their beauty.
And though I’ve had to poison them again,
I’ve always understood them,
I also wanted to get that close,
wanted to cling to you in just that manner,
even go back to heaven with you so we won’t
have to address this problem of the separate
of outer and inner.
I hope we will have our same bodies there
and the lice will have their same bodies,
that each hopeful tear-shaped egg
will be allowed to cling forever, not be pulled
between love’s destiny
and a lesser freedom—
From Bright Existence. Copyright © 1993 by Brenda Hillman. Courtesy of Brenda Hillman and Wesleyan University Press.