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Poem with Black Hair

Mother, you pick up after me. Every hair

that has fallen from my head, left behind

like ancestral tablets

when running west, your old name, the taste

of hunger, inheritance. Almost the size

of a baby, made entirely of me — dead

hair all over the house. So much of it

you could have run it through your singer

and made a fur coat. Or a blanket

at the very least. You kill yourself

in this way, she says to me,

Don’t you know it’s eating you

from the inside? Draining what sustenance

you make from snow fungus, lotus

seed, goji berry. Mother, drink with me.

You have given up painting, spend your days

stitching American jeans. Do you dream

of passing the days in the orchard again? Making

the color orange from persimmon, painting

the fat goldfish that live in the old well?

Remember that old house, first house,

where we slept on an open porch, lived

off of the goodwill of other people, ate

whatever fruit fell.

You could make something out of whatever

dirt we landed on, could have made

elixir from moonlight.

Mother pick up the brush again, untangle

my hair, pot it with angelica root, ginseng

and honey date for sweetness. No,

we will not leave this world hungry.

Mother, I pluck at the world with my silvery legs,

make the poem for you —

spidernest on my head that I swallow every night

to remake in the morning. All I want

is to wake up in this world and weave.

Joanna Ng is a poet from Fresno, California. She received her BA and MA in English from the University of California, Davis. She is currently an MFA student at the University of Mississippi. She writes poems about the junction of language, labor and place, and the ghosts that live in those spaces. She writes poems to speak to the dead.