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dulsie sleeps


Afternoons, the teacher in his lounge, we wait for her blazing
sleep. She compacts herself at her desk. We watch hundreds
of her slow breaths, see in them sexual
evidence. We know why she naps.

It is not just punishment, but recognition
of her singleness when Torie Loving takes scissors
one afternoon to Dulsie’s hair, severs it, shags it
in eight slices, so the leftovers spike, twig,

the mass shudders and drops, and Torie lunges
for it, snatches it up, sniffs it,
binds it in brown rubber bands, plunges
it into her backpack, leaves the room.

Dulsie sleeps through the haircut with small, hard,
ignorant obstinacy. She wakes when the teacher comes back.
Her face gleams, sharpened, as her hand seeks
her hair, combs and, when the hair ends, keeps combing.

No one tells. We all, even Dulsie, even Torie Loving,
serve five nights of detention. Weeks later,
Torie brings in a needlepoint pillow
“ Stuffed,” her whisper, “with human remains.”

She shows off her project above her head.
She’s stitched a white, bright, whiskered, big-eyed face,
and, in turquoise and umber floss, all capitals, “HARP SEAL.”
She smiles, picks hairs from the pillow, drops them.

The whole class turns toward Dulsie, but she is sleeping.