Jasmine Oil by Roya Backlund

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Jasmine Oil

Whenever my mother and I walked together
along jasmine covered pathways,
she would suck the air in and tell me
“This reminds me of Iran,”

a place she has not returned to since she left it
at the age of sixteen.

If her hair is as long as it is now, I thought,
how must it have blown in the wind then?
If she is as gorgeous as she is now,
what must she have looked like

as a child, wandering through ancient streets, breathing in
the constant flow of aromas
that have kept the cities so ageless?

When she moves, it is all “woman”
that spills from her. She doesn’t understand how much I envy her,
and won’t believe how full she is

because as I was becoming one too, she felt her fullness emptied
as cancer clawed the hair away from her head
and put her to sleep so it could slither away
with her breasts,

leaving her with nothing but a pile of memories. A shell
she needed to re-learn how to love.

Her hair did not grow back the same.
This new mane belonged to a different person,
a woman she did not recognize,
and her soul shook inside this stranger’s body.

I am now forbidden from cutting my own.
My hair needs to grow longer until it becomes
endless. My mother taught me to rub jasmine oil
into the tips of it

and to let it down like Rapunzel so that she can climb
back into a city that she knows
and breathe in what has kept this woman
so ageless.

Roya Backlund

Roya Backlund is a recent graduate of University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in English literature as well as a Los Angeles-based film actress. She will be publishing her first collection of poetry this summer. More of her writing can be found at bellydancingsmoke.tumblr.com.