Amy Elisabeth Smith
ERIK'S SISTER'S BABY COMES TO STAY
My uncles swaddle me in newspaper
and in whispers swear me for better.
They know I'm born with black hair
meant to leaven itself plain, and it does.
There are no aunts, but they show me
women's clothes. They sleep me prone
and fussy in a pine cabinet, the hems
of long skirts brushing the tip of my nose.
They teach me to cinch a ponytail
and how to disarm a shotgun
and a man. They show me how
to give in so I learn when to say no.
They reassign a beard brush
for my hair. I get silky from scalp
to split end and become more beautiful
with bits of their stubble laced in.
I was born for these men.
The women in my family would cure me
in custom and smoke me stiff
in twin beds. But my uncles made me
level with the grain. They made me
dole out every sliver myself.
I know how to find my angles
and because of them, they're flush.
Amy Elisabeth Hansen studies poetry in the MFA program at Northern Michigan University. She is an associate editor of the literary journal Passages North and works at the NMU Writing Center. Her most recent work is forthcoming from Menacing Hedge, Up the Staircase Quarterly and Cream City Review.