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Her Long Red Hair
by Deborah Russell

You will not read about me standing
near the edge, of the rice field,
where rain mixes with earth,
in just the right amount.
It's not about how I stood
near the road where morning sun
rubs a warm scent in the moisture of my skin.
Or about how greens and golds were fresh in my eyes,
how small pearls of rice bore dewy weight.
It can't be about how the heaviness
seemed to pull my vision outward, beyond the field,
to distant mountains - but they will remain distant,
at least, for a while.

This couldn't be about my daughter-
how difficult it was trying to find a way
to explain an episode of temporary blindness.
This poem isn't about how it seemed right
to tell her now or how if I did not tell her,
she would resent me for keeping the secret.
It couldn't be about how nearly five years ago,
her father had tested positive for HIV.
It's not the matter of her age because
she must be old enough, after all,
she is fourteen.

This poem certainly isn't about me, daydreaming
as I sift flour for dumplings.
Or that my family loves chicken and dumplings.
It certainly is not about how I roll the dough thin,
to work a day's anger out, with each stroke.
It can't be about how, by the time the broth boils,
I'm calm enough, to make the required neat, clean slices.
This poem is certainly not about how good it is
to have everyone home for dinner. And most certainly
not about how I smile at that thought,
while dropping the pieces one by one, into the pot.

This poem is not about the times my mother
showed her disapproval, or about that familiar smirk
- or even about how that smirk was impossible to live with,
it's not about the one expression I expected
and strangely depended on. This poem is not about
the way our relationship was always strained,
it's not even about how there used to be hope
that things would magically change.

This poem is not about her beautiful, long red hair
or how it had withered to thinning white.
This poem is not about her eyes fading
from azure blue to pastel grey.

This poem is not about the way mother's smirk
was unchanging or ever-present then -
to the end; and even now
in this old photograph.

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