Loading icon

Mehndi

Poetry & Prose | December 8, 2014

As most women age,

wiry hairs

crawl across their scalps, marking

the snowy passage of time.

They’re white

 

dwarves, stars in their final

evolutionary stages. My mother,

on the other hand, douses

her head with henna –

daily, I notice more and more red

 

hairs springing from her

temple, their numbers amassing, moving

in – crowding out the jet black

she was born with, her head catching fire

in slow motion, each fading hair

 

a wick set

aflame, combustion of aging startled by

silence, flames raised by generations of shared compliance,

inert words turning into fading hair.

 

To me she is ancient as any white dwarf star.

She is my mother, here in this pleasant August heat,

but she is my grandmother

too, whose head was struck with the same light,

 

and her mother before her and the myriad

women before them, each a red

giant, celestial bodies forming the earth bound constellations

of my history. Dotted stars whispering

their patterns, pre-arranged oppressions

 

pre-inscribed.

It’s their night

under which I flourish, their heat

under which I roast, their ancestral red that

under my skin boils.

 

I refuse to receive

this inexorable henna red, silence

for survival without any choice in the matter

– instead painting my lips bloody by choice,

beating that hue relentlessly into my words –

refusing to re-enact silence.