As most women age,
crawl across their scalps, marking
the snowy passage of time.
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
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.