“Holding On” By Brenda Hillman.

on

“So, one by one I pull
the lice from your red
hair.

One by one I try to
split them with my
fingernails;

no use, they hold on
as they were taught
to.

Still, they glisten
like heavenly sparks in the morning light
of the bathroom.

I have to pull extra
hard on many of
them,

use the turquoise,
fine-toothed comb
provided by the
pharmacy.

They hold on with all
their strength:
each has its individual
hair to love,

each pus-colored
creature has a genius plan for not leaving you.

I fling the lice out in
the air,

thinking how theworld despises them,

the other mothers of
Berkeley,

and the teachers who
have not appreciated
their beauty.

And though I’ve had
to poison them again,

I’ve always
understood them,

I also wanted to get
that close,

wanted to cling to you

in just that manner,
even go back to heaven with you so
we won’t

have to address this
problem of the separate you-and-me,

of outer and inner.
I hope we will have
our same bodies there
and the lice will have
their same bodies,

that each hopeful tear-shaped egg will be allowed to
cling forever,

not be pulled between love’s destiny and a lesser freedom.”

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