The two fine hairs above my left nipple
are colonists from my Grandmother. She
smiles across the room, long gray hairs shift
on her chin. I feel the messengers move
on my skin as we talk. Her tongue, strongest
in her anger, clicks, shapes her words. Her lips
narrow with use, round vowels, push them toward
me. My breath blows them back. Speaking Spanish,
her soft c's slide across the room: slippers
scraping the tile. I smile. The teeth in my
mouth are hers. She squeezes me, checks. I am
the daughter of her youngest, grandchild
with the sharpest tongue, whitest teeth. Hers
rot as mine grow. Her smile shows the gaps.
* * *
My father jokes, "You will be her someday."
My temper's bad. He's seen hers. He felt her
hands on his face, hands bruising his arms.
He knows she thinks of her painted nails
as claws. He knows the look of his brother's
burned skin. His mother told him I shouldn't
have been born. He's seen his son's reddened face,
scrub brush resting in the sink. Her word, "clean."
He knows the power of a voice, the strength
of old names, how the shape of the mouth can
wound. Old women are not always kind. They
still can slap, and strike with fists, can curse, can
be as cruel from bed as they were with feet
firm on linoleum, throwing burned pots.
* * *
We do not expect this kind of violence
from mothers, hands wet with dough, or ourselves.
We think a curve in the body, soft flesh
widening the hips, softens wills, wrings souls
clean of anger. In the picture gleaming
on the wall she is young, smooth, lips colored
red, to match the nails on the hands her chin
rests on. Her lips, wider on the bottom,
are mine. The same black eyes stare into mine.
I plot a revolution of unlike.
I grow stronger in her weakness. The two
hairs stretch longer in her presence. Seeing
me at the end of her bed, her lips part
"Mira, what a fine figure my granddaughter has,"
she says, admiring herself.