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.