Old Grey Friend
We unearth old bottles, the unbroken one
our treasure – suddenly bees bubble up
bursting behind us as we fly out of the woods.
Elbows and knees pump,
ramparts of open air can’t hold back the picadors.
We said it must’ve been your flaxen hair,
flashing like a matador’s cape.
Dad scoops mud, smooth and cool
in his mason-rough hands.
He hums low, soothes your stinging welts,
raises an eyebrow at me.
The cool tap water
baptizes our bottle,
washes away the bottle dump dirt –
fills it with weight.
Red food coloring drops,
unfurl into the world of water,
their tiny, wispy banners
blend into a tide of bottled sea.
On the sill’s ledge, in the sunlight
it stands, blood-red brilliance.
from my bed I’m transfixed
by our ruby-baptized bottle dump find
and I wonder how those piercing rays
can cut right through glass
without causing any pain at all.
My mother spent silent after-dinner hours
standing behind all three of us,
one at a time, by the kitchen sink.
She dipped her comb into a glass,
the edge upon which the comb’s teeth played,
droplets trailing in tonal drips,
over and over the same wet path.
The comb was her instrument.
It twanged and pinged the vessel of water,
while we each took our turns at the counter,
while we each sat on a stool in front of her,
while we each waited, our long hair hanging down in whispers.
My friends that summer had shown off their new shag haircuts,
the latest rage, boy haircuts –
Women everywhere were burning their bras.
It was on the six o’clock news,
and Dad would not allow it, none of it, and
Mom’s transistor radio told of it.
Our mother toiled over the three of us,
One at a time, in silence those nights –
standing over us, our backs to her work,
separating the strands into girly bundles,
wetting, combing, coiling, and winding,
pressing each twist of hair into a tight-set pin curl fist
to our tender, scrubbed scalps.
She, crisscrossing Bobby pins, giving us a headful of x’s
placing and pulling the hairpins swiftly from her teeth
with fingers which smelled of bleach,
digging in to assure the secure fit –
to ensure the perfect result.
-Bonnie J. Toomey