Cistern

No, it's simple, you mustn't worry.
She won't mind, you'll see when we get there,
it will be all right. She's never in a hurry.

It's the last working cistern anywhere
in the neighborhood, really the only one
I've ever seen. She's washed her hair

in rainwater and dried it in the sun
for fifty years now. Her hair's still brown
except for a silver streak. She keeps it done

in braids, but when I'm headed for town
sometimes I stop to see if she needs
anything, and I'll find her, settled down

in a patch of light coming through the trees
surrounding the house, washing her hair
with a galvanized bucket at her knees,

and a gourd dipper. It's pleasant there,
and sometimes I'll fetch another pail
and wash my hair, too, and she'll share

shampoo, and pour the rinse, and I'll flail
about till she hands me an extra towel.
We laugh a lot. Her skin is soft and pale

like the water, she says, all vowels
and no consonants. Once I stayed there
all afternoon - picking wildflowers,

waiting till the wind had dried our hair.
We looked in the cistern, too, and saw our faces.
I'll go call her now. I know she won't care.


First published in Cincinnati Poetry Review.

Cistern
Monday, April 24, 2017
Topic(s) of this poem: friendship,neighbors,summer time
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