Corn Rows

She’s braiding corn rows
decades back her family worked
long rows of cotton.

Her fingers twine hanks
as if no sore thumbs ever
bled from the spiked bolls.

It's a job, she says,
cutting free from stiffened knots.
She toys with her plaits,

lustrous, then jerks them,
choking out the nagging dead
who prick her fingers:

their stripped backs braided
with lashes, ghosts like bulged sheaves
bunched for the crossing.