Women

by Elizabeth Oxley

My ancestors lie beneath the earth like floorboards

holding up the living. I hope never to lie so straight.

I've spent my whole life learning how to bend.

I once wore tight yellow braids and dresses

 

with smocking. I learned to read silverware

like tea leaves: small forks meant salad, three tines

 

meant cake. I kept my spine pointed north

and made perfection my prison. I am trying hard now

 

to come undone, to find the wild in being a woman.

The sun rises with no apology. Coyotes sing at twilight

 

because there is no shame in having shadows. Soon,

it will rain. I'll reach down for my ancestors, release them

 

from corset and glove. I'll tell them what I see: lightning

that strikes like a jagged yellow braid, going where it wants.

Originally published in Peregrine, 2016