Whenever I pull my hair into its usual ponytail
I remember waking up and feeling your nose
pressed into it, your breath warm against my ear. I tell
myself that even though I am scraping my hair back
to keep it away from fire and chemicals, to stop it
getting stuck against my neck and sneaking down
my shirt, my fingers are still tracing
the same path that yours took. Later, getting breakfast,
I wonder how my hands could be so lucky.

Two years ago, I cut my hair as short as my parents
would let me, a punishment for things I had
no words for. In pictures from that winter,
my hair hits straight and short, my face is
too thin, my eyes are glassy. Since then, I’ve let
my hair grow. It’s been slow. Interrupted by
hunger and disease. I’ve cursed the baby fuzz
around my face, twisted hairs until they broke
during midterms, let grease and dirt cake
on my scalp and then spent hours in hot water
trying to boil out every last droplet of sadness.

My hair is the wrong length now, neither long nor short
enough, neither completely curly nor entirely
straight, caught between red and brown, but the way
you touched it that morning was as if you knew
every story woven into its keratin, knew what
a complicated, tangled miracle it was. Nothing about
our bodies is simple. No scar or fiber has an easy
history behind it, but they all flow together
in the end, coalescing into sunlight, twisting across
bedsheets. Our biochemistry is as effortless as dreaming.


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