One Poem at a Time -5-

I don’t ask very much of poetry. I simply want it to feel like I wrote it myself, but be far wiser, far truer, far simpler, far more artful than I could make it. This one qualifies.
Black Valentine
I run the comb through his lush hair,
letting it think into my wrist
the way the wrist whispers to the cards
with punctuation and savvy in a game of solitaire.
So much not to be said the scissors
are saying in the hasp and sheer
of the morning. Eleven years I’ve cut
his hair and even now, this last time, we hide
fear to save pleasure
as bulwark. My dearest—the hair says as it brushes my
thighs—my only—on the way to the floor. If the hair
is a soul-sign, the soul obeys our gravity, piles up
in animal mounds and worships the feet. We’re
silent so peace rays over us like Bernice’s hair
shaken out across the heavens. If there were gods
we are to believe they animated her shorn locks
with more darkness than light, and harm
was put by after the Syrian campaign, and
harm was put by as you tipped the cards
from the table like a child bored
with losing. I spread my hair like a tent over us
to make safety wear its twin heads, one to face death,
the other blasted so piteously by love
you throw the lantern of the moment against
the wall and take me in with our old joke, the one
that marks my northern skies, “Hey, babe,” you say
like a man who knows how to live on earth. “Hey,”
with your arm around my hips, “what you doing
after work?” Silly to ask now if the hair
she put on the altar, imagining her power over
his passage, was dead or living.

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Filed under Poetry Month 2010

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