After Sam Sax
And I am humming in an ankle length cotton dress
hanging sheets to dry on a thin wire.
A group of girls with swollen, brown nipples braid each others hair
while you watch, nod and direct their fingers over and through, over and through
even the memory of their muscles must be unlearned and retaught
by your singular truth—how to hold a spoon or crack an egg.
We are sitting on the cusp of Spring.
We are always sitting on the cusp of Spring.
I remember what it was like to be them—the girls—
pungent and ripe and apologizing for every audible movement
but also looking out at the infinite tongue
of a middle-America highway and feeling joy.
I don’t know what happened.
Maybe, the only reason we fall in love
is to see what we look like to someone else.
I remember when I first came here, you told me the laundry was my duty.
You said you liked how precise I was with cloth, praised the way I hung and folded.
I developed an affinity for bedding.
And after the night of drying, we would unclip the sheets from the line
lay them out on the field – make love and fall asleep in the breeze – all before even going inside.
We never had any clean sheets.
It was our favorite joke.
Soon, you stopped caring and I lost purpose.
I waxed and waned into a cup of bitter tea.
I have started to meditate on all of the other things I can do with a sheet.
How I can twist it to be rope or drape it over my sitting body.
When you told me that you admired the way I scrubbed a toilet
I heard “everything you touch becomes new.”
When you tell me to kill the chickens, though I have never so much
as swatted an insect, I will practice wringing my own ankles.
I am afraid that outside of here, is just another here. I am afraid I will spend the rest of my life
hoping to build myself in the vision of someone else.
What am I, if not yours?
What do I do with my hands when they are just hands?