Ribbon Time: The Week Before

The women of the family still immersed in their prayers, 
As the shrine surrounds them with patience and half-darkness,
Between the murmurs and the two of us
Stand iron fences, a dusty ground and some blue tiles.

Almost visible tears in his eyes, 
Not sadness, just the wind - my father.
Nothing to be afraid of, he sighs, just a red ribbon.

My eleven years old mind gets offended.
The older brothers of mine clear as a schoolbook:
Sterilized hypodermic syringe, a government certified paramedic,
Centuries old traditions and our young, modern republic.

My friends jubilant, nasty firecrackers:
The barber, the old barber slices it,
With his dull, rusty razor, shaky hands, hairy, wrinkled!

Emerging from the shrine
My great-grandmother, my grand-mother
Black shadows, ghosts, vague.
My mother lovingly crisp
As she pulls down her scarf - soft, white.

My father taps the end of his cigarette 
On the light brown packet.

Tilting slightly my ceremonial cap
With a smile hesitant between mischief and tenderness,
What about a blue one, he says,
Instead of red?