Flowers Pressed to My Head

by Desiree C. Bailey

The mirror is not a home. Not the roof-slant of sunlight. Or a
soft whistling sitting on the hill of the morning. A window pane,
a storefront window wiped clean: not home. I try to find myself
there, in the light. There is nothing. But phantoms crooning,
mouths wide, terrifying as lakes.

The mirror is not home without you. You hung the flowers, drying
away from the light. The table and its leaning leg, its eggshell blue.
You brought the bread. You wrote the dates on the underside of
black and white photographs. Laid down the dust on the books.
Without you: bare wood and nails.

I stood, stacked before the door like bricks. Stripped of gold and
scent and sewn-in hair. Brittle, thirsting. Who will call to me, nested
like this? Bare and unadorned is not me. Is not me.

All that stuff: plumes for the ego. I heard myself say it while stacked
at the door. And the voice couldn’t have come from the dying paint.
Nor the wood nor the woman, pinned to the wall. I remember a man
with hair hanging long, unknowable vines. I heard him say there
is no me. There is I and I, which is you too. You and I intertwined.
Snaked, rubbing skins. I’d like to stitch myself to the divine. To
stitch myself, there must be no me. I must cover the me to make
room. I must dig and bury the me. Which is to say I am floating on the light.

The head is the seat of the spirit. The head is where the spirit enters.
Where the spirit is housed. The head needs a covering beyond what
we were born with. Some wear hats. Like those women in church
who clasp hands and fan the air. The women who will catch you.
Who will hold up your body when the spirit weakens your knees.
Some wear scarves. Or wraps. I wear strands and strands sewn
by blistered hands. I wear a crown of hair. A throne for the spirit.
When I walk they fall to their knees. When I walk they turn heads
and kiss lips and call out praises. I, divine. One with the pavement
or gliding on tar.

Deep breaths to cough up the rust. To bleach out the sully. Morning
finds me so, in a rush to clear a room for you. Deep breaths to cough
up the rust, clumps of hair shoved in by the mothers and their
mothers. Fathers, way across the sea even when they are planted on
the front porch. I wish I had a front porch, a home for the rocking
chair, but I am scrambling for borrowed pieces of land, boxes with a
few holes punched in. How deep the wound. So many tiles crowding
the sky. How can I see my divine? If I can’t see her then I’ll make
her see me. I will snip and stitch the strands. Round and round onto
a stocking cap. I will string beads in the singing light. Sever the
strands into the destined shape. End to end, a rope to the base of
the sky. End to end, a family line.

This mound of strands is an invitation. I am bride and devotee. I
am a horse. I have moved through the training. I will not go mad. I
am vessel. I can dance the hollow beneath the skin. I can pour the
rum for you to drink. I line my forehead with your favorite flowers.
I will dance the broken toed dance. I will leap in the likeness of your
flight. Bring me to the brush and I’ll tap out this rhythm. Carve out
a space with a comb. Dig, dig. Or climb. Up and down is the same.

Goddamn I’m pressed against the light. Bone-white. Or is it bone-
straight? What color is the divine? My head is heavy. I cannot hold
up my head. Where are the ladies? The women dressed in white?
Hold me up, against.

Wind-blown. Bone-straight. Bone-white as the breathless. Strung
bone up to make music out of wind. The whisper of the divine at the
meat of my scalp. Touch me like I am a vessel. Like I am the horse.
In the morning. In the river mist of oil sheen. In my chest, a village.
Fill me I am hungry. I am stained to the pavement. The measured
strands, silver in the light.