henna stains

by Mahta Riazi

there is no forgiveness
in the way Fereshte
slathers henna into my scalp
I have never felt a love that pulls at my roots
so bitterly
there is an intimacy in this anger
she holds not in her face
but in her finger tips.

moments ago
I said something I should not have said
though it is trying to avoid trespass
in a home bursting with forbidden names
we walk not on eggshells
but on damp clay that smears silently across carpeted floor.

henna stains leave an earth-red scent that hovers over everything
despite the hours we spend on our hands and knees
scrubbing
praying
it is no use.
Fereshte says
I used to be somebody, you know
and I tell her I know
she says don’t look at me now
and I don’t dare turn back
my neck aches in stillness
the dough she kneads
a crumbling masterpiece.

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