Watching my mother cut my grandmother’s hair
Each month this house shrinks with forgetfulness
In August they were on the patio
In December the living room
It is March the windows
are open & my grandmother’s
favorite rocking chair is pressed close
to the kitchen sink Lean back
as far as you can says my mother
with a warm white pitcher in both hands
When she pours the water
my grandmother cries out Her sweater
darkens with the shape of her spine
and my mother will apologize all night
Run her sweater through the dryer
twice But for now my grandmother’s hair
is scattered across the floor like moth wings
& she says she does not remember
the last time she had a haircut My mother
decides not to remind her I search
for her favorite tube of red lipstick
& the perfume she’s always only called Oscar
(as though she & this bottle are great friends,
dear friends, & they must catch up soon)
She is always pleasantly surprised to see me
Always marvels at my tattoos as if they have just
flown onto my body through the screen door
Asks when I grew up Asks when I’m leaving again
Asks when my grandfather is coming back
from the morgue But not right now Right now
I am rolling the crimson over her mouth
& holding the mirror up for her My My
she says I look like a new woman.
Counting mosquito hawks
In the house where I grew into my own
shadow, I’m drawn to the dining table
and its lack of natural light. In the morning,
the room surges with mosquito hawks.
Where are the mosquitos? I ask as they hover
over every lightbulb, the Christmas ornaments
my mother has left on the fixtures
for three years straight. They dig
their minor gangling legs into the plastic gold.
Bloodless prey. A kill so easy it’s no fun.
When was the last time I was touched? I ask, as if
it’s been any longer than a week. J hugged me
before I went upstairs to pack. My mother rubs my back
every time I think too hard about how lonely we all are.
The cat chews on my hair to wake me up. And last night,
a mosquito hawk rested itself on my chest—my heartbeat
startled it into flying off again. To think: I scared something
with my being alive. Another moment I shouldn’t take for granted.
Watching the news unravel on my device
as if it will knot itself together into certainty.
As if I will blink & everything will change.
& maybe it will. My cat bites me lovingly
on the wrist, reminding me to look up.
My spine snaps like scissor blades
as I remember the windows I still
have to open, countertops that still
need wiping down, the plastic I will still
inevitably tug out of her mouth, still
brittle food I will spill in her bowl. Still,
she lies her head next to mine, my phone
humid next to my handprint. At eye level,
I want to tell her about everything outside
of this house. I want to tell her about the city
I left in a two-day blur, the friends I have not seen
in fifty days. I do not want to tell her about
the dying, the man on the television I have wanted
to tune out for four years, the cardboard signs
I wish I had never read. Instead, I tell her
about being nine years old, watching her
nurse under my bed every night until her mouth
was as strong as anyone’s. Thirteen years later,
I tell her, and you are still constant.
Baking bread with Joni Mitchell stuck in my head
We have been doing this for thousands of years,
I tell myself. And yet with the rising cloud
in my hands, I’m petrified. Is this how my parents
felt? Is this how my parents feel everyday?
Precious, ancient thing, I don’t want
to ruin you. I don’t want you to faint
outside the oven or watch you become
a third degree burn, a mouthful of cracked teeth.
As I press my hands against you, like I’m taking
your temperature, I sing you a lullaby. I want to knit
you a sweater, want to write you a love letter—and you turn out
perfect. Warm clothes over a yellow dress. Someone
must have kneaded this into me, you know.
Not just this instinct, but this love for anything
I can hold gently in my silver-soaked hands.
Sing into my mouth
Going through every room to exhaust every candle, wondering
what the moon will look like now that we’re so lonely.
I know there will be a time when this, too, feels distant.
But even that is uncertain. I inventory the moments
I miss: handprint-shaped sweat on my shoulder. The coffee
that drinks the hours. Asking every summer, do you think
all humans are allergic to grass? The skin of my hands, unweathered.
The fly-fishers shin-deep in patience. The front patio
of the bar I always swore I hated, yet kept slipping back to.
That ritual moment of collection in the movie theater
bathroom after the credits have rolled. My best friend’s bicep
brushing against my bicep as we both reach for our forks.
I know the world has not stopped just because we have. I have been
touch-starved for years; that does not mean I have ever
been numbed. I look at the moon—she doesn’t even know
what loneliness is. Someday, I still won’t be so lucky.
*Title borrowed from “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by Talking Heads
Book recommendation? Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
This was the ﬁrst novel I read in 2020, and I almost wish I could read it for the ﬁrst time all over again right now. It takes place in Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, and weaves a web of phenomenal characters who have everything and nothing in common. This is an engrossing, thoughtful read, especially for those who might be thinking about and missing their communities.
Lyd Havens is the author of the chapbook I Gave Birth to All the Ghosts Here (Nostrovia! Press, 2018). The winner of the 2018 ellipsis… Poetry Prize, their work has been published in Ploughshares, The Shallow Ends, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Lyd is currently an undergraduate at Boise State University, where they are studying creative writing and history.