Rico Craig- “Babies in Her Hair”

At stations you’ll be offered bags of walnuts
through the train window. Take them,
split the shell with a pocket knife. Share
them with the ancient woman who peels
boiled eggs with arthritic intensity.

As her blackened finger casts shells away
she will reveal the ridged silver ring
above her knuckle. Touch it for luck.
When her son returns with bottles of beer
take one. The plains will keep moving,

windows will rattle, air will thicken. Step
into the corridor, slide the cabin
door closed. The horizon is an eyelash
on the haze. Lean your head out the window
into the air, smell the diesel tang.

In the next cabin they’ll be playing cards,
watch, play if you must, there’s time
to pass and not much left to lose. Drink
their brandy, it will quarry your doubts.
To leave, show them cigarettes

and step into the corridor. When
they follow, offer smokes, watch
their embers burning. They’ll talk
around you, exhaling mountains
into the sky. The plains will keep

moving. You’ll be held at the border
as the chassis is changed. Don’t
sleep, your dreams will flare with strange
sounds. The border guard will come,
declarations hidden in his hat,

he will ask for documents. Your papers
are written in a hand you know, ink
the colour of a daughter’s hair. The city
is not in sight. Soon you’ll be locked in your cabin.
Breathe with the old woman as she combs

babies from her hair. They’ll drop, fine as insects,
to the ground, translucent embryos
in motion, crawling for the gap
beneath the door, a subtle swarm
disappearing into the sunlit corridor.


Rico Craig is a teacher, writer, and award-winning poet whose work melds the narrative, lyrical and cinematic. Craig is published widely; his poetry collection BONE INK was winner of the 2017 Anne Elder Award and shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize 2018. To find recent writing visit https://ricocraig.com/