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ESPERANZA'S HAIR / Peggy Shumaker Near the square in the dead part of town the widow of the herbalist hums. Still lovely, she tends him, then scents her long hair. She allowed the embalmer his ceremony, but sent the bearers away. The herbalist won't get out of his hammock. He listens to her because her hands rub his feet. He dreams of her hands, long and narrow as a man's hands, bringing gunboats of potatoes, spinach, shrimp steaming to their table. He dreams of her hair glued to her skin, after they use her body. You sang, she says, wet my mouth, numb my nose and skin. We have this beginning. I remember you brought me canned goods, plates. But you told me wrong. I tried to get away. I packed my combs, but the raft wouldn't hold. The river took charge of my articles. The grape-colored water stirs small hosannas. I do not deny that this gift of denial is a real gift. But the heat-engines in my body take special pains, like a sailor's letter. So I wash my face under a corner lamp. I twist my hair up for you. That's why. I never thought there was a history to it. The Missouri Review ยท 77 ...


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