Scrimmage in West Texas

My useless right arm,
dead-weight in its navy-blue sling,
disquieted Claire,
an unforeseen consequence
of yesterday’s practice
under a brutal scorched-earth El Paso sky.

Let me wash your hair, she said.

My squat, 9th grade linebacker legs
barely enabled me to park
my wavy auburn mop
under the steaming hot water
of our ancient high-top farmhouse sink.

The kitchen light flickered overhead
while the drone of errant houseflies
matched the cadence of my
sister’s slender fingers
as she massaged my scalp.

She worked quietly, slowly.

Claire’s lean frame stretched, extending itself
over, above and around me.
I puzzled over the fullness of her breathing,
the Granny Smith-scent of her unruffled skin
hinting at some hidden galaxy on the far reaches
of everything I thought I understood.

My sister: warm and soft, an astonishing mystery.

The second application of shampoo
yielded a lighter, airier lather.
She nudged the faucet spout ever so slightly,
ratcheting up the heat.
Water just shy of scalding, yet tolerable somehow.

Neither of us spoke a word.

Another insect —
its low buzz circling above us —
joined its brethren in lackadaisical flight
as my sister toweled my head dry,
the palpable touch of her hands
moving in that same