at night as I gather my hair my mothers watch me unknown women who crossed waters paper boats made from lost census records taking planting raising moving dark earth over and over coaxing food from dust feet and face unwashed canning peaches singing along with cicadas

my own mother is there she who was never a mother despite trying so many times I gather her along with her mothers

they watch as my dark ocean is pulled together a dark bowl of moving currents and hidden tributaries the stories are there but the language gone

at night I gather my hair gently

my mothers are there whispering I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry