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