washing curtains at 2am

I often wondered how quick

My mother was prone to rid

Of the mud steps that trailed

Behind us after we’ve played and skipped

Under the apple trees and dirty fields

How her hand was so fast enough to wipe

The dust before it got too cozy on the tables

The cobwebs never got a fair chance to display

Their well-knit patterns on the corners of our ceilings

Or the places you never imagined to reach

I often wondered how much more gleam

From the windows and the looking glass

Would come from the fussy, fervent rubbing

Our collars remained free from the sweat stains of our neck

With us having worn them to the bone, stitch, thread

How her fingers had the time to separate themselves

To seal gaping holes throughout our home

Our wiggly toes stayed behind sewn socks

Elbows behind the stitched walls of passed down sweaters

Without a typical trade to go and clock into

As our father always reminded us about the bread he won

The sun would still find her awake, and retired before her

On her heels, on her knees, stirring meals, scrubbing stains

The skin off her knuckles peeled

Her nails brittle and torn

And yet there she was, sun dancing, dust beating, storms roaring

On her heels, on her knees, stirring meals, scrubbing stains

I understood, the day I found my back bent over the washing tub

At the back of our house

Under the moonlight and hooting owls

Washing curtains at 2am

Fervently, urgently, restlessly, ravingly

With the hope that the water running down the drain

Will wash away the blood

That was pooling between the spaces

Of my broken heart

the lover who didn’t speak

many lovers have passed

have asked too much about

things unrelated to the dialect of our bodies

many lovers have opened their mouths

too wide for me not to ignore the sounds

of exaggerated courtships and conquests

too wide for me not to see the teeth

stained by peppered stories of pursuits

but this man, this man in particular

oh, he’s a mouthful alright

in the right places, at the right time

with a language that’s not mine

but the hair standing on my skin comprehends

with neither translations nor explanations

undeterred hands that hold their own language

at the centre of his palms

and they speak to me

sing to me

conversing with me

in tireless twists

moving me on a neat page of cursive inscription

until those proficient hands

bring me as close as one can be

to the soft poetry that flows from the lips

of the gods

when he gets home

and when he gets home
he will tell you
that the dust in your weary eyes
made him look elsewhere
for a twinkle that was once there

when he gets home
he will say to you
the webs on your scalp
made his fingers run through
the fresh curls of another
like the ones you used to have

when he gets home
he will tell you
that the silence between your teeth
had him out searching
for your missing laughter

when he gets home
he will say to you
that the wrinkles on your fingers
sent him to softer hands
like the way you used to brush his skin

when he gets home
he will tell you
that the limp his own body gave him
was of your doing
that a cure was elsewhere

when he gets home
reciting all the things
you no longer gave him
and the smell of all the places
he had found them
when he gets home
you’ll be long gone
finding all the things
he could no longer give you