A wooden box sits underneath her bed, pushed back against the dark, clasp thick with dust.
Inside, a pearl-like sheen and clump of hair, dark brown when what grows on her head is grey.
She lifts the mass and specks fall loose: a seasoning of scalp, dried blood, red pepper flakes.
He pulled it out when he came home from war. We were newly-wed. I, his chosen enemy.
A photograph fades in her hand, his plate-wide face a stamp of light, ghostly uniform, medal at his heart.
She lays her curls back in the box. Looks up with rheumy eyes, then shrugs. It calmed him down –
to smoke. His head went back. I took it as a sign to leave the battlefield and tend my wounds.
Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Aryamati Prize, the Segora Prize, a Bread and Roses Poetry Award, the Fosseway Prize; and joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2019. Her poems have been published widely, and a debut collection, Her Lost Language (Indigo Dreams Publishing) is one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales); and a Jhalak Prize #bookwelove. A forthcoming collection, Map of a Plantation (IDP), will be published in April 2021. Twitter: @jennymitchellgo.