She was a preacher’s kid who wore her hair in a mass of tiny braids
twisted and piled on her head like a stack of wheat.
The boys called her Corn Flake and she didn’t seem to mind.
Her room was lacy with a Holly Hobbie comforter and 1981 curtains.
Laid out on the altar of her dresser, a score of arrowheads cushioned
on a folded blue scarf, not like the dull chips my father and I found
on our hunts through plowed fields, but polished and whole.
One day, alone in her room, I picked up the largest one. Bright flint,
red, perfectly notched. I ran my finger across the dark-veined surface,
pressed its coolness to my lips, and stuck it in my pocket.
Today the arrowhead might lie in an unmarked grave of a shoebox
with photographs of friends I’ve misplaced, a ring that hasn’t fit me in years,
a yellowing bit of paper bearing the words to a song
a boy once wrote for me.
Thirty years after I took it, she came into my kitchen in a dream, grown now
but wearing a dress I remember. She stepped toward me and held out
the arrowhead in her palm, tilting it so I could see. She told me I must forgive
myself for all I could not be, even then.