Gladys Cardiff



Bending, I bow my head
and lay my hands upon
her hair, combing, and think
how women do this for
each other. My daughter’ s hair
curls against the comb,
wet and fragrant — orange
parings. Her face, downcast,
is quiet for one so young.

I take her place. Beneath
my mother’ s hands I feel
the braids drawn up tight
as piano wires and singing,
vinegar-rinsed. Sitting
before the oven I hear
the orange coils tick
the early hour before school.

Prayer to Fix the Affections

O Ancient One,
your web hangs down from the pines.
I am of the Owl clan.
I have been to water,
my dress is of red clay.
He moves at the edge of you,
binds us with your threads.
The center of his soul shall be my soul’ s center.
Our paths shall be white forever.
Where we move the paths from every direction
shall recognize each other.
We are one never to be parted.