spraddled legs 
                        spidery blue skin
                                                  a conflagration of tears
a living touchstone
by which to measure
generations of women


now voiceless
                        now wordless

I am perched behind you
attempting to part the dark
runnels of glinting hair


you wince


uneasy     I want to say it is     the fault of the comb
the merciless teeth      too close together
such a vast lie will not forgather     without breath


you await
                                          for the real pain to begin


with tenterhooks     I grapple     flesh and bone
take hold     windblown strands
gone so far     awry


I hum     a discordant lullaby
thrummed     low in the throat
stories that have already begun     taking on veneer


children with fathers     raised     no better than bastards
a play cousin     a sister & an ex husband    questions of loyalty
a pistol in the choir stand    a heart & the philosophy    you broke it, you bought it
keening wraiths scraped free of the womb     to escape violent flames
the ululant one     who relinquished loving     women for one man


even though I see the slippage
                   my fingers keep moving
                                             and though I am tempted


I will not begin again
                   I say I am nearly finished
                                                and ask if it’s too tight


you continue weeping
          and shrug
                       unerring shoulders without blame