A patch of nothing the size of a nickel above the nape,
smooth moon, the beginning of myth, the spread
of skin and each morning’s sheddings at the feet,
each little swirl, a parable, unblessed.
Forced to lose the one crow-shined feature
I’d been allowed, each week another round found,
spots, pale and rubbery, merge in time
until pearly clean on nearly half my head.
My child cries herself to sleep, distance swarms
the husband’s face. To wear the freakery out loud,
chronic by design. All is not well.
I’ll try anything: mountain onions on the head, or ginger coins
cut thin, pressed in, three drops of lavender and rosemary
into a carrier oil, ice packs, or steroids.
Thirty injections leaving thirty divots in the skin.
The doctor says my loss takes on the pattern of a snake
known for its aggressiveness, a greater chance I’ll be left bare
and made to join the lowly dogs that roam the outskirts
and scour the trash at dusk.
The Oakland pastor said it was Jesus who let in the dogs.
Here I am. Get me out of here.
You are not your hair. At least you are not sick.
So many have it worse than you. Be glad of it. Hair
falling like random noise. Can you? Can you hear what I do?
O pine woods, God help me nest down in your straw,
hide my head, take in your windless evergreens,
sleep away a story I never could have dreamed.
A patch of nothing, I live without my strength.
In a compost heap a strand of hair
the one thing that won’t break down.
Every shift of light turns me. I mistake
veins for hair, the edge of water’s spread,
scratches in the tile. I dread the feel of them between
the Vs my fingers make, wisps caught up in my lips.
There is no teaching here, just a body I won’t forgive,
and these terrors tangling the tongue.
If I go bald,
I’ll make myself
small, slip out
before the sun to run
beneath the moon,
find again the pleasure
in the warm
stressing of my bones.
Once home I’ll sit
before my cup and sip,
That first tongue, an animal let in. Black silky hair
planted across my witch-girl arms, legs,
near everywhere, skin awash with health.
Now the strangeness of a crow at rest
upon a needle cross,
paused before the dreaded circling.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.