Tortoise Shell Pins « Back

When I put up my hair with tortoise shell pins,
I think of other hair twisted and held up by many pins
over a beautiful armature of wire and hair to cover
a shiny circular radiation scar. A scar made to burn
away the brain cancer of my Grandmother.

As I visit her friend and my mother's stepmother,
the grandmother rituals are comforting.
She had been dead for twenty years
but the rituals remain alive, passed mother to child.
Talk to pass the hours...health, husbands, childbearing.
Comfortable talk about new shoes,
The gardening of clematis. Purple or yellow? she asks.
The comfort of the ripening half bushel of tomatoes
soon to be canned.
Conversations about quilting, patchwork patterns.
You're the one who is good with the colors, she says.
Hope to hope, about fruit, Penney's sale, the fabric.
She questions. Did you get enough to eat? How is
work coming? This is the cult of small town femininity
and I belong to those home perms, the barrowed
clothes, the recipes for the covered dish, and a mother
whose idea of the good life is clean sheets,
a guest towel and a cup of tea.

I feel so at peace in this world
as though I am an imprinted duckling
knowing exactly how to behave
except for the mourning when I am pinning
the french roll up on the back of my head
with those tortoise shell pins.