Dorianne Laux

Our mother would make two pony tails on either side of our heads with red rubber bands, so tight our ears ached, then dip a comb in a glass of water and run it through our thin blonde hair until it wept, then lift her index finger and rake the wet hair around it before she slid it out leaving a long damp curl. If we squirmed, and we did, she would snap the wet comb off our bare arms which blazed with scored red lines. We had to sit still while our curls dried, straight in our chairs in our matching pink dresses, our white, white socks, our black patent leather shoes, staring at the paint-by-number framed on the wall: a barn, a fence, cows stranded on a patch of green in the distance. I studied the paint-by-number clouds drooping over the church steeple on the yellow hill, a thin white, so thin I could see the numbers through them: zero, zero, zero, as if God had given everything in the world a value and the poor clouds had none, made as they were of vapor, mere water and air, good for little but gazing at as they changed shape, each new one as useless as the last.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Dorianne Laux’s most recent collection is Only As The Day Is Long: New and Selected, W.W. Norton. She is also author of The Book of Men, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize and Facts about the Moon, winner of the Oregon Book Award. She teaches poetry at North Carolina State and Pacific University. In 2020, Laux was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.