Two Fat Braids Crossed at the Crown
Mishearing you holding out the gadget plug,
I joke Discord?
Yes, I’d like a little more in general
though not in the delicious sinkhole of our seven-year marriage.
I’m talking about a counterculture.
I’m nearly forty.
I’ve only recently figured out how to fix my hair
(two fat braids crossed at the crown)
and with what (coconut oil melted in its glass jar on the radiator,
rosemary or apricot oil if the ends are really thirsty).
In my 20s my 45-year-old boyfriend told me stories about the 60s,
his lover who wore Victorian camisoles and cars screeched to a halt as she crossed the street.
You could get Victorian whites in the thrift stores then;
it was like 50s overcoats to us now, stodgy furs yearning
to become bohemian on some rosy shoulders.
He also told me about sleeping in French graveyards and wearing a velvet blazer
to the Fillmore East: those were things you could do then, things I missed.
Once married and nearly forty and the mother of people,
how much time can you devote to subversion? Or to porn?
I can hear you in the bathroom with the _______________
We are pets.
I want to be foxier, a white buffalo child-woman like the old hippie named me
when I was working in the food co-op during grad school.
All those lushly empty hours spent dunking heads of lettuce in ice water in steel sinks,
or running up and down hills in the snow fantasizing about childbirth,
or hitting the snooze button for hours while listening to the BBC World Service.
I am trying to be friendly.
I am trying to be more connected than correcting.
I am trying to remember to kiss you at least once a day in a surprising manner
but it’s surprisingly hard.
Really, any manner would be surprising, because mostly I kiss the baby,
who was born ugly—purple and hairless and skinny—
but has lured me by now into a wholly irrational devotion,
a kind of mesmer. I say awful things to him—
who loves you so much? pretty pretty pretty?—
and he holds me by my braids,
wants me to rub him across the face with my hair.
This is my affair with your son, who looks quite like the best of your father sometimes,
who died this time of year when I was pregnant with this baby,
and the police called you from Ohio and I brought the phone to where you were
breaking down boxes in the basement of our newly rented house overlooking the sea,
and then you had to go and be kin.
My whole life I have wanted to wear history on my body
and politics and books on my face.
Soon my face will be too old to be blank enough to carry any other message than its own.
Arielle Greenberg is the author of the poetry collections Slice, My Kafka Century and Given, the creative nonfiction book Locally Made Panties, and the transgenre chapbooks Shake Her andFa(r)ther Down. She is co-author, with Rachel Zucker, of Home/Birth: A Poemic, and co-editor of three anthologies: most recently, with Lara Glenum and Becca Klaver, Electric Gurlesque. Arielle’s poems and essays have been featured in anthologies including the Best American Poetry, Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers and The Racial Imaginary. She writes a column on contemporary poetics for the American Poetry Review, and edits a series of essays called (K)ink: Writing While Deviant for The Rumpus. A former tenured professor in poetry at Columbia College Chicago, she lives in Maine and teaches in the community and in Oregon State University-Cascades’ MFA.