Her Hair Like Ivy
The ivy grows stronger in neglect,
scales the walls, becomes reptilian:
beauty does that, unleashes like
the uninherited. This is why she cut
off the wave of her hair in one stroke
and held it out like freshly caught prey.
But her father sent her to a summer
in her room, making her wear her hair in a bun
until it grew back as long as her spine
to divide her. In the fall she danced
the landler in full regalia with her brother,
her father pressing the accordion
in and out like oxygen. Her hair
whipped around her in the twist
of their arms, their push and pull,
our applause into prayers:
We were the girls who loved her most,
who had combed her cornsilk hair,
who knew how we were
always trouble to ourselves.
All day she’s suckling,
a feral thing
that would eat itself
to death. She has become
what she once fed
under the wind chimes,
something that cannot
look at me, or is it me who cannot look
at her? The world in this light
is the truth of it, why
some girls cut themselves.
Close enough, her breath is the inside
of the cocoon we opened,
old books where flowers
are pushed in like tattoos
highlighting the longing.
Nicole Greaves holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and a certification in secondary English from Bryn Mawr College. Her poetry has appeared in The American Poetry Review: Philly Edition, Jacaranda, Calliope, Cleaver Magazine, Acentos Review, Friends Journal, Matter, and she was recently a finalist for the Coniston Poetry Prize held by Radar Poetry. Her work has also been awarded prizes by The Academy of American Poets and the Leeway Foundation of Philadelphia. In 2003, she was the poet laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Much of her work explores themes relating to tensions around acculturation, gender roles, and class. She teaches at The Crefeld School in Philadelphia.