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Hand Over Hand
By Tina Johnson
Genre: Poetry Level: Adult
Year: 1997 Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

Hand over hand she braided
her daughter's hair each morning
pulling herself along the dark
chain to the pale linen curve
of her neck, where she would place
her hand for a moment.
Behind them, sunlight curled
through the window like a sleeping cat.

In the closed room where she kissed
her goodbye the girl's hair fanned
wildly across that horrible pillow
as if years of discipline woven
into richness, plait upon plait,
had been only a dream.

After dinner
after her husband brews tea
in the bruised light of their kitchen
she opens the evening window.
A sharp slice of moon dangles,
she breathes the smell of wet
gravel, woodsmoke, cottonwood.

Every night she stands there,
watching as rain hammers sheets
of tin against rigid mountains
and hemlocks toss their heads
side to side.

She opens her arms
and tourniquet night wraps close
holding back sorrow until the sun
rises high in the fanning sky
on a burning rope of grief.

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