a lesson about mehndi (laundromat poem)

henna flowers
cover her fingers to the tips;
brown & red climbing cinnamon skin
as she sorts clothes;
darks in the machine next to mine;
lights one machine over

i gasp at the patterns
on her hands & she tells me about eid,
her husband still in addis ababa;
here 2 months & we meet
not across a desk, or in line at the store;
but level, because i see her difference
& call it beautiful

i abandon my magazine
to share her story, barely 17
& half the globe away from home
in america, surrounded by
this too much of everything

she is in school now
& mumbles as if this is something
to be ashamed of, or is it
me misreading backwards body language:
eyes down while listening
& looking up only
while she paints her words

intricate as that mehndi
staining her hands

***for Aamina, whom I met in a laundromat ages ago.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
This entry was posted in Art, child bride, New Free Verse and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to a lesson about mehndi (laundromat poem)

  1. jmgoyder says:

    I love the way you catch these moments!

  2. Shah Wharton says:

    Wonderful – I was with you and your laundry, staring at the finger flowers :)

  3. Anna Stewart says:

    Absolutely gorgeous…the first three lines grabbed me but the poem never let me go. Loved it beginning to end and really liked the circular format ending again with the image of her hands.

  4. This is so beautiful… I love how you explained the art of the person you see.

  5. Lena Corazon says:

    Susan, you capture a single moment in time so well. I could really envision the young woman you describe, and the gorgeous henna tattooing on her hands. I love the bit “we meet…level, because I see her difference.” Just lovely. :D

  6. Beth Camp says:

    Just before her daughter was born, my daughter had her belly painted with henna in a lotus, life-giving design. Your poem captures so much of beauty, personality, culture shock and hope. Well done!

  7. nelle says:

    That she was in school, big like. That she averted her eyes, I know the experience all too well.

  8. ladynimue says:

    Beautiful .. just like mehandi patterns are .. I love that for all festivals !

  9. This is beautiful and vivid.

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