Lesson of Admiration

Clara peels the potatoes.
She had her hair cut very short
so when she worked the land
the teary locks did not blight the grass.
‘Bad luck for the crops’ concluded father
one afternoon as he watched the news bulletin.

He switched the television off and
put the lights on.
He measured the length of each eyelash
and declared that ‘yes, indeed, they did stop us
understand the real life’.

Nobody could disagree with a scientific discovery.
Father took the scissors out of the cupboard
and laughed at me
as he dropped Clara’s plaits on the living room carpet.
My black plaits never grew after that.
The hair developed inside my lungs.
At night, I spat the growing particles out
and hid them under the floor boards.

Father believed the news as, he said, ‘we all
had to believe in something certain,
which can be seen with the naked eye,
in real things’, like the soiled potatoes
spread on the dinner table.

On Thursdays, we peel potatoes,
kneeling in silence by the water pipes.
Father sits on a stool to watch
my weekly exercise of admiration.
He checks the peels stained with droplets of blood
and laughs again.

My bald head tilted above the sink looks at Clara.
My hair comes
out of my mouth,
out of my chopped fingers,
floats in the air,
to cover her skull.

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Photograph: John Stadnicki

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