Clare Labrador

Mother combs my hair
with her fingers as if blood is pouring 
out the back of my head,
my dying smells like sea–
star petals on the windowsill.
She combs my hair 
without pulling, 
without sculpting to the sound
of her wailing dreams, without 
uprooting my anxieties.
The sickness makes its way in 
through patterns I’ve etched
into my forehead,
If she emptied her hands 
of this weight, my face 
would fall from the ground, 
scattering below her feet again. 
Mother holds my head to hold 
my wakefulness steady 
until the medicine dissolves 
into my bloodstream, until I have learned 
how to use my own body,  
stop these hands from digging 
nails into each morning
I want to touch.
My head is the only part 
of me I haven’t spoon-fed
to my illness, 
Mother holds my hair
as if I’ll find a way 
to take everything back.