Bending, I bow my head
And lay my hands upon
Her hair, combing, and think
How women do this for
Each other. My daughter’s hair
Curls against the comb,
Wet and fragrant–orange
Parings. Her face, downcast,
Is quiet for one so young.

I take her place. Beneath
My mother’s have I feel
The braids drawn up tight
As a piano wire and singing,
Vinegar-rinsed. Sitting
Before the oven I hear
The orange coils tick
The early hours before school.

She combed her grandmother
Matilda’s hair using
A comb made out of bone.
Matilda rocked get wood
Chair, her face downcast,
Intent on tearing rags
In strips to braid a cotton
Rug from bits of orange
And brown. A simple act,

Preparing hair. Something
Women do for each other,
Plaiting the generations. 
~ Gladys Cardiff

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